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Author Topic: The Blood of Queens (Urban/Modern Fantasy)  (Read 151 times)
AndyJ
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« on: February 10, 2019, 08:36:46 PM »

The air crackled with the sound of fully automatic gunfire. Alex plugged his ears as he jogged past the firing range. New recruits, it seemed. The ground was littered with hundreds of smoking brass shells. In spite of the mess, the paper targets at the end of the range had less than a dozen bullet holes. These weren’t very experienced shooters. He bit down the urge to comment. New recruits or not, most of the girls probably had noble parents who could make his life hell. He kept his head down and rushed toward the barracks. In his haste, the boy crashed right into a pair of young officers.

“Sorry,” he muttered. Alex didn’t make it two steps before one of the women grabbed him by the arm.

“Sorry? Really, half-blood? That’s all you have to say for assaulting a military officer?” snorted the officer clutching his arm. Both were about 20 years old, four years Alex’s seniors. The one holding him had a short ponytail of blond hair. Her blue eyes cast an indignant glare. The girl behind her was practically identical in appearance. Purebloods, of course, always looked the same to him.

“Forgive me miladies. I had no intention of harming either of you. I just-” Alex yelped in pain as the girl’s grip on his arm tightened. Her knuckles had crystallized into diamond, forming an unbreakable vise. Wonderful, she was an energycaster as well. Alex considered crystallizing his own skin to break free but restrained himself after one glance at her vicious smirk. She was baiting him. Even the briefest use of his own powers would have the two of them claiming Alex had attacked them like a rabid dog. Everyone would believe them.

“Oh shut up,” snarled the diamond-fisted bitch. “No one cares what you say. Right Lieutenant Simmons?”

“Yeah,” the second woman said halfheartedly. She stood tall, as any self-respecting officer would, but her eyes shifted as if seeking an escape route.

The officer holding Alex ran her free hand through his unkempt black hair. She grimaced at the dark strands clinging to her palm. “You really don’t seem to understand just how precarious your position here is, half-blood. Even the tolerant people of Angley have their limits when it comes to ungrateful beastlings with foreign blood.”

Alex said nothing.

“Listen, I’m feeling… merciful today so I think I’ll leave you with just a warning.”

The warning turned out to be a diamond lined knee to the stomach. Alex’s lungs felt like they had imploded under the force of the blow, leaving him wheezing and groaning on the ground while the two walked away. The one who’d kneed him was laughing raucously, while her compatriot looked back with what might have passed for an apologetic glance. Alex scoffed at the thought. No pureblood would feel pity for a black haired half blood like him.
***
Another wooden enemy burst into flame as Alex slammed a smoldering, diamond coated fist through its head. The burning splinters flew everywhere, forcing him to harden the rest of the skin on his exposed upper body. The debris bounced harmlessly off his crystalline torso. He let his flesh return to its normal state as soon as he could, huffing and gasping for breath as he did so. Turning so much of his body into inorganic crystal for so long had rendered his torso a cold, clammy sheet of numb and tingly flesh. He didn’t care. The blood would come back into his muscles. There were still three more combatants to kill.

The last target erupted into a spectacular mushroom cloud, with some fragments clattering off the concrete ceiling nearly fifty meters above Alex’s head. He looked around at the massive concrete dome room which enveloped the sandy field lined with military training dummies. Somehow, even all this was getting too small for his increasingly explosive training bouts.

“I take it you’re feeling quite spirited,” a loud voice said. The woman who had spoken stepped into the opposite end of the arena. She was a tall woman in her thirties with silver white hair and violet eyes. Her ornamented military dress uniform looked, fittingly enough, made for a princess.

“Lady Charlotte.” Alex dropped to one knee and bowed his head.

“How many times do I have to tell you to knock that off? I don’t miss being bowed to. One of the few things I like about not being a Princess anymore,” Charlotte said. She waved her hand upward, beckoning Alex to stand and walk toward her. He felt unduly exposed wearing nothing but a pair of ragged training shorts. As if sensing his trepidation, Charlotte let out an amused chuckle. “You do realize most Knights given a male squire quickly break him into being a bed fixture don’t you? Here.” She tossed him an oversized black cloak.
Alex snapped the cloak out of the air and wrapped it around himself. “I’m not afraid of something like that. If you ordered me to…” He felt his cheeks burn red.

Charlotte scoffed at him. “It’s a joke, Alex. I’m not a perverted animal.”

“I wasn’t trying to say that,” Alex replied.

“Goodness, what’s gotten into you? You’re awfully timid and submissive.”

“It’s nothing.” Alex wiped a bead of sweat off his forehead and walked toward where he’d hung his tunic.

“Who was it this time? How bad were you hurt?”

Alex grit his teeth. He understood why Charlotte had to ask. He still hated it, though. “I don’t know her name. She was blonde.”

“Very helpful,” Charlotte deadpanned. “Other than you, I’m not sure there’s any non-blondes around this entire base. I’m still working on getting permission to dye your hair blonde so you’ll blend in with the pure-bloods better.”

“They’d still make me wear my black armband.”

Charlotte let out a tired sigh. “It’s better to wear that thing than to get shipped off to the South Sea Isles.”

Like all the other half-bloods who take their armbands off. That part went unspoken, but it was a clear threat nonetheless. Alex felt his eyes twitch and tingle as defeat washed over him. His whole body slumped as it deflated with his heart. “I know,” he muttered. A firm hand grasped his left shoulder.

“Next time something like that happens, fight back. You might get in trouble, but take it from me, there’s always a way to wriggle out of it.” Charlotte gave Alex an encouraging wink and patted him on the back. “Now get yourself cleaned up and presentable.”

“Presentable?” Alex tilted his head in confusion. It wasn’t like the officers to care about their grunts’ grooming.

“We’re not meeting with any of the Commanders, Alex. We’re getting a mission directly from the Crown, and the Queen isn’t quite as used to… unkempt soldiers.”
***
Their limousine was already parked next to the chain link fence separating the military base from the civilian city. It was the most luxurious thing Alex had ridden all week. More than a few passing Angleyan civilians, mostly in business style silk suits and dresses, cast wary glances and murmured among themselves when they saw Alex and Charlotte pass by. He stuck his left arm out just a few degrees higher than it would have naturally fallen, making sure they could all see his solid black armband.

“They’re probably gawking at me Alex, don’t flatter yourself. And even if they were focused on you, they’re just commoners,” Charlotte admonished.

“Commoners?”

“Merchants to be specific. They dress in fine clothes and drive the shiniest cars to hide it but they’re not highborn.”

“But they’re pure Angleyan,” Alex said.

Charlotte let out a sigh. “People put way too much stock on the importance of bloodlines because of those idiot Priestesses in the Church of Angley, as if a Church set up by an ancient mortal Queen is some divine institution. Take away your black hair and put colored contact lenses on and no one would even notice you on this island. Gullible idiots like that don’t merit your attention or care.”

Once inside the car, Alex took a deep breath as he looked out at the haughty blonde women and men walking the streets outside. They marched into fine dining restaurants, marble lined fashion boutiques, and jewelry stores flanked by armed guards and adorned in elaborate robes and suits of polychromatic silk. They really were trying to look like nobles. Why? How did they tolerate such impractical clothes day in and day out?

Alex had been forced into a tight, body hugging green silk dress uniform scarcely half an hour ago and he was already going mad. Not only was it impractical, it squeezed his body too tight for him to even breathe comfortably and its coarse silk threads itched like a swarm of biting flies. Only a woman could have designed such a demeaning, uncomfortable male outfit.

The first thing Alex noticed upon stepping out of the limousine was the absurd extravagance of the Palace. Everything from the white stone pillars supporting the sprawling royal palace to the gold plated statue of the First Queen holding a greatsword above her head gave the imperial grounds an almost otherworldly glow. Alex had seen pictures and videos of so many ceremonies here, yet he could have scarcely imagined stepping onto the grounds himself. He looked down at his left arm to ensure his black armband was secure. Nearly every palace guard, decked in shining plate armor with swords in their hands, glared at him with contempt. Only his armband would keep them from seizing him on sight.

“Don’t gawk. These women have killed unarmed guests for an errant grimace. Can’t be too careful when guarding the Queen, apparently,” Charlotte said, nudging him toward the door.

The interior of the palace was every bit as opulent and well guarded as the outer grounds. The white walls were covered with ten foot tall oil paintings- some well drawn, others completely nonsensical streaks of greasy dyes. A row of diamond chandeliers hung from the ceiling all the way down the hallway toward the door to the council room.

“It’s been three years since I’ve been here. Can you believe I once called this home?” Charlotte muttered. A sad, nostalgic glint filled her normally sharp and focused violet eyes.

“My Lady, with all due respect I’m not sure now’s the time to be melodramatic,” Alex replied.

Charlotte chuckled. “Look who’s calling me melodramatic. Always the witty squire, aren’t you boy?”

“I thought that’s what you liked about me Milady.”

Charlotte bristled at the formal title. “Don’t make me regret that choice.” The two of them shared a laugh.

The conference room, furnished with a table for twenty, had only one occupant when Alex and Charlotte entered. The Queen of Angley, the ruler of over a quarter of the world’s population, sat unattended at the head of the table with a bored glaze over her violet eyes. A stray band of silver hair covered her right eye, giving her the appearance of wearing a thick metal hood.

“Lady Charlotte,” she said flatly without looking up.

“Your Majesty.” There was no love lost between the sisters. They didn’t even make eye contact as they addressed each other.
Alex didn’t know where to look. All he could think to do was curtsy and take his seat as was customary in the presence of his betters.

“Is this about our latest menial task?” Charlotte asked.

“You think I’m as stupid as mother? I remember what happened when she provoked you.”

Charlotte grit her teeth. “Are we really going to talk about this again?!”

“I’m just saying you tend to swing your sword before you think. By the way, you’re welcome for that Royal Pardon. I really was debating whether to just let the Royal Guard execute you.”

“Sure you were,” Charlotte hissed.

“It really wasn’t easy, you know. I had advisers hounding me for weeks telling me you were going to stab me in the back afterward. Anyway, seeing as you’re getting all knotted up about this, let’s just focus on what I really wanted to discuss with you.”

The Queen held up a tablet computer for Charlotte and Alex to see. Not that Alex could focus much. His head swirled with hundreds of questions. A Royal Pardon? Just how much trouble had Charlotte gotten herself into? Were it not for the formality of the occasion he would have shouted all his questions at once. Instead, he clenched his teeth to quell the stirring in his belly and throat. Eventually, with no small struggle, Alex forced his mind back to the present. On the screen of the Queen’s tablet was a picture of a disheveled middle aged woman with dark skin and greying black hair.

“The Mad Bear,” Charlotte said. “I thought you said it was something important this time, dear sister.”

Alex’s ears perked up. The Mad Bear? The notorious woman must have been causing serious trouble if the Queen and Lady Charlotte were talking about her. And the prestige that would await the woman or man who could catch her could make him a Knight of his own. His head pulse from the sound of his own racing heart. Finally, just for once, something in his life might go right. He reached a hand toward his back where his sword would have hung, only to remember he had been disarmed upon reaching the Palace gates.

“It is.” The Queen’s voice interrupted Alex’s thoughts. He had to force himself to sit still and be attentive lest he ruin his chance. “So far local authorities have tried three times to find and capture her and all of those attempts ended in floundering failure. I don’t see why you’d be complaining about this latest project. Unless…” Queen Victoria raised an eyebrow, “... you’re also afraid. And here I thought you were by far considered the greatest swordswoman in the Empire. The things they say you could do against a hundred Dannic soldiers-”

“- are hyperbole,” Charlotte snapped.

No they’re not, Alex thought.

The Queen shrugged. “Only because we’ve never tried it. Don’t worry, I don’t intend to start another botched invasion of the Federation.”

“Don’t flatter yourself. A war with the Federation now would end in a massacre. Our massacre. If our great empire can’t bring a ragtag clan of savages in the mountains to heel with the largest navy and air force in the world, how do you expect it to fare against a modernized military superpower like the Federation?”

Alex could tell Charlotte was having fun picking her sister’s words apart. Her lips were curled up slightly and her eyes glinted with satisfaction. The Queen, on the other hand, was growing more uneasy as she tapped her fingers furiously on the table. Her lips had tightened into a thin pink line and her brow glistened. It made his already wavering gut flutter like paper in the wind. Hopefully Charlotte wouldn’t jeopardize the Queen’s offer of potential glory. He needed the Mad Bear. He needed to earn his Knighthood. Judging from the glares exchanged between the Queen and her elder sister, Alex wondered if he should say something to diffuse the tension. He decided against such a reckless action. A half blood who spoke out of turn was unlikely to leave the Royal Palace unscathed.

“And that’s where you come in sweet sister. If you really are the peerless prodigy they say you are, I’m sure you would succeed where our colonial agents have failed.”

This was it! Alex clenched his teeth to avoid an outburst.

Meanwhile, he heard Charlotte let out a scoff, as if the whole conversation were a nuisance to her. “You need me, don’t you?” she said. “To hunt down some bandit you can’t seem to find with your own stooges? How long were you up last night pulling your hair in frustration just thinking about that?”

“We need each other, sister.” The Queen’s cool, monotone voice revealed no emotion. “You defeat this rambling beast of a woman and I’ll be sure to consider… elevating you.”

“By what? Releasing me from my vows? Don’t be absurd. Even you don’t have the authority to annul an oath to the Order. I’m a Black Knight for life, and the Chief Marshal at that. There is no more elevation for me.”

“Even if I were to offer you a seat on my war council?” A heavy silence descended on the room. Charlotte pursed her lips and nodded, waving a hand to urge the Queen on. With a smug smile, she continued. “For too long the Black Knights have been subject to the whims and wishes of Generals and officers who have no inkling of the commitment and sacrifice their own subordinates must offer. Even I, pragmatic as I try to be, can’t always account for the mad stupidity so many generals seemed to have learned from our mother. If, however, the Commander of the Black Knights were to be elevated to equal rank as the Generals that once commanded her sisters and brothers… I think that would address such grievances nicely.”

“And should I fail?”

The Queen shrugged. “You sound scared sister. I won’t have cowards advise me on war.”

I am not a coward, and I will prove it with the Mad Bear’s head, Alex thought.
Logged
kaperton
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« Reply #1 on: February 11, 2019, 03:28:19 PM »

The air crackled with the sound of fully automatic gunfire. Alex plugged his ears as he jogged past the firing range. New recruits, it seemed. The ground was littered with hundreds of smoking brass shells. In spite of the mess, the paper targets at the end of the range had less fewer than a dozen bullet holes. These weren’t very experienced shooters. He bit down the urge to comment. New recruits or not, most of the girls probably had noble parents who could make his life hell. He kept his head down and rushed toward the barracks. In his haste, the boy crashed right into a pair of young officers.

“Sorry,” he muttered. Alex didn’t make it two steps before one of the women grabbed him by the arm.

“Sorry? Really, half-blood? That’s all you have to say for assaulting a military officer?” snorted the officer clutching his arm. Both were about 20 years old, four years Alex’s seniors. The one holding him had a short ponytail of blond hair. Her blue eyes cast an indignant glare. The girl woman behind her was practically identical in appearance. Purebloods, of course, always looked the same to him.

“Forgive me [comma] miladies. I had no intention of harming either of you. I just-” Alex yelped in pain as the girl’s woman's grip on his arm tightened. Her knuckles had crystallized into diamond, forming an unbreakable vise. Wonderful, she was an energycaster as well. Alex considered crystallizing his own skin to break free but restrained himself after one glance at her vicious smirk. She was baiting him. Even the briefest use of his own powers would have the two of them claiming Alex had attacked them like a rabid dog. Everyone would believe them.

“Oh shut up,” snarled the diamond-fisted bitch. I'd be careful about using the word "bitch" on the first page. It will come across as misogynistic to many readers and could make dislike Alex off the bat. Now later, when we know him better, we'll be in a position to determine whether we're on his side when he calls someone a bitch. Personally, I bristled at that word when I read it, especially coupled with the use of the word "girls" rather than "women" to describe 20-year-olds, and the suggestion that one of them could make a false allegation of harassment against him. “No one cares what you say. Right [comma] Lieutenant Simmons?”

“Yeah,” the second woman said halfheartedly. She stood tall, as any self-respecting officer would, but her eyes shifted as if seeking an escape route.

The officer holding Alex ran her free hand through his unkempt black hair. She grimaced at the dark strands clinging to her palm. “You really don’t seem to understand just how precarious your position here is, half-blood. Even the tolerant people of Angley have their limits when it comes to ungrateful beastlings with foreign blood.”

Alex said nothing.

“Listen, I’m feeling… merciful today so I think I’ll leave you with just a warning.”

The warning turned out to be a diamond lined knee to the stomach. Alex’s lungs felt like they had imploded under the force of the blow, leaving him wheezing and groaning on the ground while the two walked away. The one who’d kneed him was laughing raucously, while her compatriot looked back with what might have passed for an apologetic glance. Alex scoffed at the thought. No pureblood would feel pity for a black haired half blood like him. Sometimes you say half blood, sometimes half-blood. Sometimes you say pureblood, sometimes pure-blood. Pick one and be consistent.
***
Another wooden enemy burst into flame as Alex slammed a smoldering, diamond-coated [hyphen] fist through its head. The burning splinters flew everywhere how about a single word for "flew everywhere", such as exploded, scattered, etc? , forcing him to harden the rest of the skin on his exposed upper body. The debris bounced harmlessly off his crystalline torso. He let his flesh return to its normal state as soon as he could, huffing and gasping pick one for breath as he did so. Turning so much of his body into inorganic crystal for so long had rendered his torso a cold, clammy generally, one adjective is better than two sheet of numb and tingly which is it?flesh. He didn’t care. The blood would come back into his muscles. There were still three more combatants to kill.

The last target erupted into a spectacular mushroom cloud, with some fragments clattering off the concrete ceiling nearly fifty meters above Alex’s head. He looked around at the massive concrete dome room which enveloped the sandy field lined with military training dummies. Somehow, even all this was getting too small for his increasingly explosive training bouts.

“I take it you’re feeling quite spirited,” a loud voice said. The woman who had spoken stepped into the opposite end of the arena. She was a tall woman in her thirties with silver white hair and violet eyes. Her ornamented military dress uniform looked, fittingly enough, made for a princess.

“Lady Charlotte.” Alex dropped to one knee and bowed his head.

“How many times do I have to tell you to knock that off? I don’t miss being bowed to. One of the few things I like about not being a Princess princess anymore,” Charlotte said. She waved her hand upward, beckoning Alex to stand and walk toward her. He felt unduly exposed wearing nothing but a pair of ragged training shorts. As if sensing his trepidation, Charlotte let out an amused chuckle. “You do realize most Knights given a male squire quickly break him into being a bed fixture[comma] don’t you? Here.” She tossed him an oversized black cloak.
Alex snapped the cloak out of the air and wrapped it around himself. “I’m not afraid of something like that. If you ordered me to…” He felt his cheeks burn red.

Charlotte scoffed at him. “It’s a joke, Alex. I’m not a perverted animal.”

“I wasn’t trying to say that,” Alex replied.

“Goodness, what’s gotten into you? You’re awfully timid and submissive.”

“It’s nothing.” Alex wiped a bead of sweat off his forehead and walked toward where he’d hung his tunic.

“Who was it this time? How bad were you hurt?”

Alex grit his teeth. He understood why Charlotte had to ask. He still hated it, though. “I don’t know her name. She was blonde.”

“Very helpful,” Charlotte deadpanned. “Other than you, I’m not sure there’s any non-blondes around this entire base. I’m still working on getting permission to dye your hair blonde so you’ll blend in with the pure-bloods better.”

“They’d still make me wear my black armband.”

Charlotte let out a tired sigh. “It’s better to wear that thing than to get shipped off to the South Sea Isles.”

Like all the other half-bloods who take their armbands off. That part went unspoken, but it was a clear threat nonetheless. Alex felt his eyes twitch and tingle as defeat washed over him. His whole body slumped as it deflated with his heart. “I know,” he muttered. A firm hand grasped his left shoulder.

“Next time something like that happens, fight back. You might get in trouble, but take it from me, there’s always a way to wriggle out of it.” Charlotte gave Alex an encouraging wink and patted him on the back. “Now get yourself cleaned up and presentable.”

“Presentable?” Alex tilted his head in confusion The question and the tilting of the head are enough, not to mention the following sentence. It wasn’t like the officers to care about their grunts’ grooming.

“We’re not meeting with any of the Commanders, Alex. We’re getting a mission directly from the Crown, and the Queen isn’t quite as used to… unkempt soldiers.”
***
Their limousine was already parked next to the chain link fence separating the military base from the civilian city. It was the most luxurious thing Alex had ridden all week. Shouldn't that go without saying? Most people don't ride around in limos. More than a few passing Angleyan civilians, mostly in business style silk suits and dresses, cast wary glances and murmured among themselves when they saw Alex and Charlotte pass by. He stuck his left arm out just a few degrees higher than it would have naturally fallen, making sure they could all see his solid black armband.

“They’re probably gawking at me Alex, don’t flatter yourself," Charlotte admonished. "And even if they were focused on you, they’re just commoners,” Charlotte admonished.

“Commoners?”

“Merchants [comma] to be specific. They dress in fine clothes and drive the shiniest cars to hide it but they’re not highborn.”

“But they’re pure Angleyan,” Alex said.

Charlotte let out a sigh. “People put way too much stock on the importance of bloodlines because of those idiot Priestesses in the Church of Angley, as if a Church church set up by an ancient mortal Queen queen is some divine institution. Take away your black hair and put colored contact lenses on and no one would even notice you on this island. Gullible idiots like that don’t merit your attention or care.”

Once inside the car, Alex took a deep breath as he looked out at the haughty blonde women and men walking the streets outside. They marched into fine dining restaurants, marble-lined [hyphen] fashion boutiques, and jewelry stores flanked by armed guards and adorned in elaborate robes and suits of polychromatic silk. They really were trying to look like nobles. Why? How did they tolerate such impractical clothes day in and day out?

Alex had been forced into a tight, body-hugging [hyphen] green silk dress uniform scarcely half an hour ago and he was already going mad. Not only was it impractical, it squeezed his body too tight for him to even breathe comfortably and its coarse silk threads itched like a swarm of biting flies. Only a woman could have designed such a demeaning, uncomfortable male outfit.

The first thing Alex noticed upon stepping out of the limousine was the absurd extravagance of the Palace. Everything from the white stone pillars supporting the sprawling royal palace to the gold plated statue of the First Queen holding a greatsword above her head gave the imperial grounds an almost otherworldly glow. Alex had seen pictures and videos of so many ceremonies here, yet he could have scarcely imagined stepping onto the grounds himself. He looked down at his left arm to ensure his black armband was secure. Nearly every palace guard, decked in shining plate armor with swords in their hands, glared at him with contempt. Only his armband would keep them from seizing him on sight.

“Don’t gawk. These women have killed unarmed guests for an errant grimace. Can’t be too careful when guarding the Queen, apparently,” Charlotte said, nudging nudged him toward the door.

The interior of the palace was every bit as opulent and well guarded as the outer grounds. The white walls were covered with ten foot tall oil paintings- some well drawn, others completely nonsensical streaks of greasy dyes. A row of diamond chandeliers hung from the ceiling all the way down the hallway toward the door to the council room.

“It’s been three years since I’ve been here. Can you believe I once called this home?” Charlotte muttered. A sad, nostalgic glint filled her normally sharp and focused violet eyes.

“My Lady, with all due respect I’m not sure now’s the time to be melodramatic,” Alex replied.

Charlotte chuckled. “Look who’s calling me melodramatic. Always the witty squire, aren’t you [comma]boy?”

“I thought that’s what you liked about me [comma]Milady.” Put a comma before someone's name, or whatever they're being called, when someone is addressing them.

Charlotte bristled at the formal title. “Don’t make me regret that choice.” The two of them shared a laugh.

The conference room, furnished with a table for twenty, had only one occupant when Alex and Charlotte entered. The Queen of Angley, the ruler of over a quarter of the world’s population, sat unattended at the head of the table with a bored glaze over her violet eyes. A stray band of silver hair covered her right eye, giving her the appearance of wearing a thick metal hood.

“Lady Charlotte,” she said flatly without looking up.

“Your Majesty.” There was no love lost between the sisters. This is one of those "show, don't tell" things, and you are showing it, so no need to spell it out. TheyThe sisters didn’t even make eye contact as they addressed each other.
Alex didn’t know where to look. All he could think to do was curtsy and take his seat as was customary in the presence of his betters.

“Is this about our latest menial task?” Charlotte asked.

“You think I’m as stupid as mother? I remember what happened when she provoked you.”

Charlotte grit her teeth. “Are we really going to talk about this again?!” [no exclamation point]

“I’m just saying you tend to swing your sword before you think. By the way, you’re welcome for that Royal Pardon. I really was debating whether to just let the Royal Guard execute you.”

“Sure you were,” Charlotte hissed.

“It really wasn’t easy, you know. I had advisers hounding me for weeks telling me you were going to stab me in the back afterward. Anyway, seeing as you’re getting all knotted up about this, let’s just focus on what I really wanted to discuss with you.”

The Queen held up a tablet computer for Charlotte and Alex to see. Not that Alex could focus much. His head swirled with hundreds of questions. A Royal Pardon? Just how much trouble had Charlotte gotten herself into? Were it not for the formality of the occasion he would have shouted all his questions at once. Instead, he clenched his teeth to quell the stirring in his belly and throat. Eventually, with no small struggle, Alex forced his mind back to the present. On the screen of the Queen’s tablet was a picture of a disheveled middle aged woman with dark skin and greying black hair.

“The Mad Bear,” Charlotte said. “I thought you said it was something important this time, dear sister.”

Alex’s ears perked up. The Mad Bear? The notorious woman must have been causing serious trouble if the Queen and Lady Charlotte were talking about her. And the prestige that would await the woman or man who could catch her could make him a Knight [I can't tell if this is a stylistic choice, but generally you wouldn't capitalize titles unless it's used before the person's name. e.g., the queen vs. Queen Mary] of his own. His head pulse from the sound of his own racing heart. Finally, just for once, something in his life might go right. He reached a hand toward his back where his sword would have hung, only to remember he had been disarmed upon reaching the Palace gates.

“It is.” The Queen’s voice interrupted Alex’s thoughts. He had to force himself to sit still and be attentive lest he ruin his chance. “So far local authorities have tried three times to find and capture her and all of those attempts ended in floundering failure. I don’t see why you’d be complaining about this latest project. Unless…” Queen Victoria raised an eyebrow, “... you’re also afraid. And here I thought you were by far considered the greatest swordswoman in the Empire. The things they say you could do against a hundred Dannic soldiers-” The way to write dialog interrupted by action is "Unless"--Queen Victoria raised an eyebrow--"you're also afraid.

“- are hyperbole,” Charlotte snapped.

No they’re not, Alex thought.


« Last Edit: February 11, 2019, 03:34:05 PM by kaperton » Logged
rivergirl
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« Reply #2 on: February 16, 2019, 11:23:54 AM »

The air crackled with the sound of fully automatic gunfire. Alex plugged his ears (placed his ear buds in? or is he attempting to jog with both fingers in ears which is very difficult to do) as he jogged past the firing range. New recruits, it seemed. The ground was littered with hundreds of smoking brass shells. In spite of the mess, the paper targets at the end of the range had less than a dozen bullet holes. These weren’t very experienced shooters. He bit down the urge to comment A comment isn't something you say as you're jogging by. You holler, cry, shout, rebuke, but not comment. New recruits or not, most of the girls probably had noble parents who could make his life hell. He kept his head down and rushed toward the barracks. In his haste, the boy the word 'the boy' give me pause here. In retrospect believe you are talking about Alex, the man who is an experienced shooter. I'd say he crashed, instead of the boy crashed. (ok coming back after reading from down below. I see he's a teenager) I'd squeeze in a hint above about his age. He bit down the urge to laugh. Alex had been at the academy for an entire year....use of the world boy makes me think you've introduced a new character. crashed right into a pair of young officers. I love that i'm in this character's head right away. I can see the scene.I don't understand how ever how someone can just run into a group of women. this needs more explanation. was he distracted by something and looking the other way?

“Sorry,” he muttered. Alex didn’t make it two steps before one of the women grabbed him by the arm.

“Sorry? Really, half-blood? That’s all you have to say for assaulting a military officer?” snorted the officer clutching his arm. Both (both who? Alex and the officer or the addition of another officer? i'd spell this out: Both female officers..were about 20 years old, four years Alex’s seniors. The one holding him had a short ponytail of blond hair. Her blue eyes cast an indignant glare. The girl behind her was practically identical in appearance. Purebloods, of course, always looked the same to him.

“Forgive me, miladies. I had no intention of harming either of you. I just-” Alex yelped in pain as the girl’s (Like Kaperton below, use of the word girl seems wrong. these are 20 yo women) grip on his arm tightened. Her knuckles had crystallized into diamond, forming an unbreakable vise. Wonderful, she was an energycaster as well. Alex considered crystallizing his own skin to break free but restrained himself after one glance at her vicious smirk. She was baiting him. Even the briefest use of his own powers would have the two of them claiming Alex had attacked them like a rabid dog. Everyone would believe them.

“Oh shut up,” snarled the diamond-fisted bitch. “No one cares what you say. Right, Lieutenant Simmons?”

“Yeah,” the second woman said halfheartedly. She stood tall, as any self-respecting officer would, but her eyes shifted as if seeking an escape route. I don't understand why this officer should feel unsafe.

The officer holding Alex ran her free hand through his unkempt black hair. She grimaced at the dark strands clinging to her palm. It's vital that every word is believable. If she recoils at the sight of hair on her hand, why on earth does she run her fingers through his hair. Maybe she gives him a violent kiss because she's secretly attracted to him, or leave off the grimace at the hair “You really don’t seem to understand just how precarious your position here is, half-blood. Even the tolerant people of Angley have their limits when it comes to ungrateful beastlings with foreign blood.”

Alex said nothing. (Yes, but what did he feel??)

“Listen, I’m feeling… merciful today, so I think I’ll leave you with just a warning.”

The warning turned out to be a diamond lined knee to the stomach. show us, don't tell us Alex’s lungs felt like they had imploded under the force of the blow, leaving him wheezing and groaning on the ground while the two walked away. The one who’d kneed him was laughing raucously, while her compatriot looked back with what might have passed for an apologetic glance. Alex scoffed at the thought. No pureblood would feel pity for a black-haired half blood like him.
***
Another wooden enemy burst into flame as Alex slammed a smoldering, diamond coated fist through its head. The burning splinters flew everywhere, forcing him to harden the rest of the skin on his exposed upper body. The debris bounced harmlessly off his crystalline torso. He let his flesh return to its normal state as soon as he could, huffing and gasping for breath as he did so. Turning so much of his body into inorganic crystal for so long had rendered his torso a cold, clammy sheet of numb and tingly flesh. He didn’t care. The blood would come back into his muscles. There were still three more combatants to kill.

The last target erupted into a spectacular mushroom cloud, with some fragments clattering off the concrete ceiling nearly fifty meters above Alex’s head. He looked around at the massive concrete dome room which enveloped the sandy field lined with military training dummies. Flow is very important. Watch those long sentences. It's okay to spell things out to your reader: He looked around the massive concrete dome. Between the rows of wooden training dummies, were piles of shrapnel and wood blah blah blah and Somehow, even all this was getting too small for his increasingly explosive training bouts.training bouts doesn't work for me. Maybe: Somehow, even all this was getting too small for his increasing strength and unpredictable explosions.. or whatever works.. 

“I take it you’re feeling quite spirited,” a loud voice said. The woman who had spoken stepped into the opposite end of the arena. She was a tall woman in her thirties with silver white hair and violet eyes. Her ornamented military dress uniform looked, fittingly enough, made for a princess.

“Lady Charlotte.” Alex dropped to one knee and bowed his head.

“How many times do I have to tell you to knock that off? I don’t miss being bowed to. One of the few things I like about not being a Princess since princess is not part of a title, like Princess Charlotte, it doesn't need to be capitalized here anymore,” Charlotte said. She waved her hand upward, beckoning Alex to stand and walk toward her. He felt unduly why unduly? it seems duly to me...exposed wearing nothing but a pair of ragged training shorts. As if sensing his trepidation, Charlotte chuckled. The fact that she chuckled tells us she's amused. let out an amused chuckle. “You do realize most Knights don't capitalize knight for the same reason given a male squire quickly break him into being a bed fixture don’t you? Here.” She tossed him an oversized black cloak.
Alex snapped the cloak out of the air and wrapped it around himself. “I’m not afraid of something like that. If you ordered me to…” He felt his cheeks burn red. (i didn't understand that bed fixture sentence at all. had to read several times

Charlotte scoffed at him. “It’s a joke, Alex. I’m not a perverted animal.”

“I wasn’t trying to say that,” Alex replied.

“Goodness, what’s gotten into you? You’re awfully timid and submissive.”

“It’s nothing.” Alex wiped a bead of sweat off his forehead and walked toward where he’d hung his tunic.

“Who was it this time? How bad were you hurt?”

Alex grit his teeth. He understood why Charlotte had to ask. He still hated it, though. “I don’t know her name. She was blonde.”

“Very helpful,” Charlotte deadpanned. “Other than you, I’m not sure there’s any non-blondes around this entire base. I’m still working on getting permission to dye your hair blonde so you’ll blend in with the pure-bloods better.”

“They’d still make me wear my black armband.”

Charlotte let out a tired sigh. “It’s better to wear that thing than to get shipped off to the South Sea Isles.”

Like all the other half-bloods who take their armbands off. That part went unspoken, but it was a clear threat nonetheless. Alex felt his eyes twitch and tingle as defeat washed over him. His whole body slumped as it deflated with his heart. “I know,” he muttered. A firm hand grasped his left shoulder. Don't understand this para. at all or his sudden feeling of defeat. I think some things need to be spelled out here.

“Next time something like that happens, fight back. You might get in trouble, but take it from me, there’s always a way to wriggle out of it.” Charlotte gave Alex an encouraging wink and patted him on the back. “Now get yourself cleaned up and presentable.” next time something like what happens? Are we talking about the incident with the officers? things need to be spelled out better.

“Presentable?” Alex tilted his head in confusion. It wasn’t like the officers to care about their grunts’ grooming.

“We’re not meeting with any of the Commanders don't capitalize commanders--same reason, Alex. We’re getting a mission directly from the Crown, and the Queen isn’t quite as used to… unkempt soldiers.”
***
Their limousine was already parked next to the chain link fence separating the military base from the civilian city. It was the most luxurious thing Alex had ridden all week. More than a few passing Angleyan civilians, mostly in business style silk suits and dresses, cast wary glances and murmured among themselves when they saw Alex and Charlotte pass by. He stuck his left arm out just a few degrees higher than it would have naturally fallen, making sure they could all see his solid black armband.Watch those long sentences. They really interfere with your flow. The sidewalk was filled with Angleyan civilian who gawked at Alex and the princess as they passed. Like the rest of the citizens of Angleyan, their clothing was spun from the finest silks and wools blah blah blah

“They’re probably gawking at me, Alex, don’t flatter yourself. And even if they were focused on you, they’re just commoners,” Charlotte admonished.this didn't really sound like an admonishment, just a said.

“Commoners?”

“Merchants to be specific. They dress in fine clothes and drive the shiniest cars to hide it but they’re not highborn.”

“But they’re pure Angleyan,” Alex said.

Charlotte let out a sigh. “People put way too much stock on the importance of bloodlines because of those idiot Priestesses don't capitalize priestesses for the same reason in the Church of Angley, as if a Church set up by an ancient mortal Queen is some divine institution. Take away your black hair and put colored contact lenses on and no one would even notice you on this island. Gullible idiots like that don’t merit your attention or care.”

Once inside the car, Alex took a deep breath as he looked out at the haughty blonde women and men walking the streets outside. They marched into fine dining restaurants, marble lined fashion boutiques, and jewelry stores flanked by armed guards and adorned in elaborate robes and suits of polychromatic silk. They really were trying to look like nobles. Why? How did they tolerate such impractical clothes day in and day out? Great descriptions here. I can see it!

Alex had been forced into a tight, body huggingcarefully choose your adj. use too many and it interferes with your flow. You tell us below it's tight. green silk dress uniform scarcely half an hour ago and he was already going mad. Not only was it impractical, it squeezed his body too tight for him to even breathe comfortably and its coarse silk threads itched like a swarm of biting flies. silk is anything but coarse. re-think this. Only a woman could have designed such a demeaning, uncomfortable male outfit.  clap

The first thing Alex noticed upon stepping out of the limousine was the absurd extravagance of the Palace. Everything from the white stone pillars supporting the sprawling royal palace to the gold plated statue of the First Queen holding a greatsword above her head gave the imperial grounds an almost otherworldly glow. Alex had seen pictures and videos of so many ceremonies here, yet he could have scarcely imagined stepping onto the grounds himself. He looked down at his left arm to ensure his black armband was secure. Nearly every palace guard, decked in shining plate armor with swords in their hands, glared at him with contempt. Only his armband would keep them from seizing him on sight. You are very good with letting your reader see the scene.

“Don’t gawk. These women have killed unarmed guests for an errant grimace. Can’t be too careful when guarding the Queen,don't capitalize queen apparently,” Charlotte said, nudging him toward the door.

The interior of the palace was every bit as opulent and well guarded as the outer grounds. The white walls were covered with ten foot tall oil paintings- some well drawn, others completely nonsensical streaks of greasy dyes. A row of diamond chandeliers hung from the ceiling all the way down the hallway toward the door to the council room.

“It’s been three years since I’ve been here. Can you believe I once called this home?” Charlotte muttered. A sad, nostalgic glint filled her normally sharp and focused violet eyes. sadness isn't a glint, neither can i see the princess muttering. she just says it.

“My Lady, with all due respect, I’m not sure now’s the time to be melodramatic,” Alex replied.

Charlotte chuckled. “Look who’s calling me melodramatic. Always the witty squire, aren’t you, boy?”

“I thought that’s what you liked about me, Milady.”

Charlotte bristled at the formal title. “Don’t make me regret that choice.” what choice?The two of them shared a laugh.Neither do i understand why they are laughing.

The conference room, furnished with a table for twenty, had only one occupant when Alex and Charlotte entered. The Queen of Angley, the ruler of over a quarter of the world’s population, sat unattended at the head of the table with a bored glaze over her violet eyes. A stray band of silver hair covered her right eye, giving her the appearance of wearing a thick metal hood. Unless her hair actually looks like a metal hood, don't put these images in your reader's mind. Just say her silver hair fell over her eye. You'll have to correct the description of her eyes however because Alex won't be able to see the color clearly

“Lady Charlotte,” she said flatly without looking up.

“Your Majesty.” There was no love lost between the sisters. (show us don't tell us)They didn’t even make eye contact as they addressed each other.
Alex didn’t know where to look. All he could think to do was curtsy and take his seat as was customary in the presence of his betters.

“Is this about our latest menial task?” Charlotte asked.

“You think I’m as stupid as mother? I remember what happened when she provoked you.”

Charlotte grit her teeth. “Are we really going to talk about this again?!” Get rid of the exclamation point. Use them very very very rarely. How do we know Charlottes teeth are gritted? this story is told from Alex's point of view. Just say Charlotte's jaw muscles clenched or something observable.

“I’m just saying you tend to swing your sword before you think. By the way, you’re welcome for that Royal Pardon. I really was debating whether to just let the Royal Guard execute you.”

“Sure you were,” Charlotte hissed. Unless it's really a hiss like sound, don't use hiss. too many variations of hiss, grunt, croon, ect... will mark you as a rookie writer to an agent. Just say 'said' unless something else is the only possible fit. If you want to show anger, show us, body positions, facial expressions, ect...

Sorry, im really done here. I don't know what's going on. While you are great at showing us scenes, you need to spell things out more plainly to your reader.  The sisters had been feuding for years, ever since blah blah blah... Also spell out Alex's gifts better above. (Ever since Alex was a boy, he'd been able to morph his body blah blah. It was the way of his people blah blah) I'm a chapter in and I really don't know what sort of facility Alex was at or really what the problem is. If he's there training to be a squire for a knight or something, just say so. Explain clearly why there's so much contention between the mixed bloods and the pure bloods. A lot more explanation and this would be a great story. good luck
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