After reading all the duels and such, the theme of it really inspired me to write something. I paused working on my story game to write this story. If I remember correctly, the challenge was to have a horror genre with a smart villain. Now this doesn't exactly meet those requirements in a traditional way. The overall setting is based on the same canon of my current WIP (The Fallen Gods: Siege at Aurella, feel free to peep it on my sneak peak). I used the same parameters for the duel requirements by making sure its under 2500 words. As always CC is welcome. Hope you enjoy!
It has been three months since you embarked on your adventure to protect your client, Talibah. Over the course of this time, you’ve been through struggles and loss. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, your love of Talibah has grown through the hardships of your journey. She has been ruthless hunted by the Tyrant of Serkov. Your attempts at keeping her hidden have always been met by assassins or betrayal by someone apart of your party. The party numbered a dozen at the beginning of your travels, but has slowly been diminished as time went on. People you’ve known for a majority of your life, gone in a hail of arrows or fled as the odds seem to ever stack against you. Some of them even sold you out in exchange for their life. To them, it seems the young woman is not worth the risk. You would have thought the same, if your feelings had not got involved. As of now, there is only you and your love.
“We have arrived,” Talibah says to you. Her bronze skin shining in the morning sun. “Are you sure you want to do this?” Worry is vividly painted across her face.
“I am sure. This is the only way to stop your pursuers.” You reply. You stand in the forest on the edge of the village of Serkov. The village is mainly constructed of wood and surrounded by a large wooden wall with a road that leads to a large gate. There doesn’t seem to be many people patrolling or on guard on the wall at all. “There seems to be no one home. And it’s not as impressive as I thought it would be. It looks like he spent all his money in trying to track you down.”
“Serkov has never been a wealthy village. As you know, it isn’t even on any maps that have been made in recent years. The Tyrant just seems to have endless connections. I am sorry that it has come to this, Allek. I didn’t know the length he would go in order to bring me back.” She grasps onto your hand. Your heart begins to race.
“I have to do this. We cannot keep running. The Tyrant will fall this day.” You stare at her knowing that this may be the last time you have the chance to fully appreciate her beauty. She comes closer to you and kisses you lightly on the cheek.
“We have come a long way together, my love. We will either be victorious or be together in death. I love you.” You see tears beginning to form in the corners of her eyes. You hold her against your body.
You begin to reminisce about your times spent together. The first time seeing her at the tavern in Aurella looking for protection. You didn’t know what you were getting yourself into but you needed the money desperately to pay off some debts. The money came after a few weeks, but she offered long-term employment. She looked so afraid to be alone; you just couldn’t say no. Fast forward to trying to hide along the northern ridges in the Drakenholt Mountains. You nearly died from sickness, but there she was right next to you. You don’t think you would have survived if she didn’t take care of you. Most recently, Randal has died during an assassination attempt on Talibah’s life. He was your best friend since your time in the militia and he stayed with you because he knew you believed it was the right move to see this through. You didn’t think you would be able to recover from his death, but she stayed and slowly helped you through your grief. The time you have spent with her was short, but it was the most you have ever felt loved before. You do not regret your time with her because every moment has brought you happiness and has grown you into a better person. She has become a bigger part in your life than you care to admit and in order to have the rest of your life with her, you must end the Tyrant.
“I love you too, Tali. I promise to end the Tyrant for you.” You wipe the tears away from her face and prepare yourself to confront the Tyrant. You double check your quiver and bow. A full quiver. You sword sits in his sheathe on your hip, freshly sharpened from last night. You are physically ready. Mentally, is another story in itself. You have no idea what to expect. You’ve never seen this Tyrant, nor has anyone heard of him when you were trying to obtain information. However, now that you see his keep, he must be a small time thug. He is stubborn in pursuit of Talibah, but still small time compared to the other warlords in this area of the country. You and Talibah break your embrace and begin to walk down towards the front gate of the keep.
“I know you’ll keep a look out for me, but we don’t know what to expect, so please have your powers ready,” You say to her while you ensure everything is correct on your armor.
“Of course, I will,” she replies. She is touched by the God of Fate, Yvette. Her power comes in the form of good luck and brief sight into the future. If there is an ambush or some hidden plan, she has a good chance of knowing about it before it can be sprung. You have no magic prowess yourself, so her help will be welcomed no matter what it is. “Do you trust me, Allec?”
“Of course I do. You have always been there for me. We have been through too much together. I trust you with my whole being.” You say back.
“Then you will always have my love. No matter what.” She smiles at you.
The two of you stand before a great wooden gate that leads into the village. No one is seen in the area, however you can tell the area is well kept up with. You push against the gate, and to your surprise it opens.
You are greeted, not with soldiers or arrows, but with an empty town. The rows of houses lead up to large keep in the center. The gate closes behind you.
“Do you see any ambushes or anything,” you ask.
“Allec, just relax there is no one here,” she replies.
“You mean they all got up and left?” You continue to stand ready.
“No. I mean there has never been anyone here.”
“I don’t get what you are saying.”
“I’m sorry, my love. I have just been so impatient. I couldn’t wait anymore. It’s like I have been forced to take it slow. People have said that I have lived my life in the shadows, if that’s true then this is something I just cannot hide in the dark” Talibah says to you with a smile on her face.
“Impatient? What do you mean?” You drop your guard. “What is going on here?”
“There have been so many tricks and lies my lips have spoken. All in the hopes that they would lead me to you one day. Through out all this time, I have plotted these situations and tested the motivations of others” She walks towards you. “Every plan I’ve made could be compared to a grain of sand in an hour glass.”
“What are you talking about? You’re not making any sense!” You stand there in confusion.
“This, Allec, this is where we will start our life together! This will be the greatest of my machinations, our life together.”
“Machinations? What about the Tyrant? What about all those attacks!?” You begin to shout at her as she continues to speak in riddles.
“Don’t you see, my love? There was never a tyrant. I did all of this because I love you. I did this because we belong together.”
“There was never a tyrant? What about everything that has happened? Are you saying you planned it all?” You say to her, almost speechless.
“I did. It was a burden I had to bear, for us. I am not just touched by Yvette. I am a fateweaver. The past and future are my tools. I can shape life as I see fit. My one purpose in life is to be with you. I did all of this for you. For us. Don’t you see? We are fated to be together. I constructed this village for us years ago.” She reaches out to grab your hands and waits for you to return the gesture.
“Years ago? We only met a few months ago! I just don’t understand. Why did everyone need to die? Why the big charade? All of this could have been avoided!” You refuse to grab her hands, appalled by what she is saying.
“This was the only way for you to be mine completely. I tested the motivations of those in our group and they were found wanting. They would not allow us to be together. You had even seen some betray you!” She lowers her hands, realizing you won’t grab them. “I have lived a very, very long time. I have known of this moment for all of it. The future is mine to define.”
You turn around and feel your head spin as various emotions run through your body. She has lied about everything. She was never in real danger; she planned all the danger. She sent those assassins after herself. She killed your friends on a whim because she believed it was the right thing to do. The last three months have all been planned years in advance. Who knows how long she has had a hand in the fate of your life. This is all too much for you to bear. “I can’t do this. I thought I knew you. I-,” you hold back a sob, “I loved you.”
“You can do it, my love. Through all the pain and complications, I will bear the burden of this. Let me take care of everything,” She pauses, just realizing what you said. “L-loved? You no longer love me?” Her voice is shaking and you see teardrops beginning to form in her eyes.
“I-I do still love you. I mean I don’t know Tali. I just don’t know right now. What you’ve done is insane. I can’t even begin to fathom what is happening.” You stare at the ground in front of you, trying to process everything.
She takes a deep breath, attempting to calm her shaky voice.. “I know it is a lot, my love, but I told you for a reason. I know I could trust you with the truth. I needed to tell you because I could not bear lying to you anymore. This is our village. Serkov can be anything we want it to be. We have our large house and start a small village out here. The land is beautiful and the ground is fertile for farming. It can be a new beginning for us. We can start over. Please, Allec. I’m still me.”
It has been a long ride for it to come to a moment like this. You want to lash out at her for killing your friends. You want to curse her for placing everyone in that danger. You want to scream to the sky your frustration and sadness. But you don’t. Out of everything that races through your mind, your affection for her remains the same. You still love her. Through all of this, you love her. You realize, with her in control, you both were never in any real danger. She did all of this for you. A new village. A new life. A chance to start over. You turn around to her and wipe your tears. She looks at you with hope that you can forgive her.
“I- I love you, Tali,” you hold your hands out to her.
“Oh, Allec, I love you too.” She jumps into your arms and kisses you.
You stand ready to live your new life with her. You trust her enough to know that fate will never have anything bad in store for your new life together.
Thanks for the feedback.
Yeah I agree that phoenix line is probably the most cliche thing I have ever put into writing. I probably could have used the remaining ~500 words I had left to place the beginning of the story a day prior as they travelled to give the reader a better sense of their relationship. I'll keep that in mind. Thanks!
There doesn’t seem to be many people patrolling or on guard on the wall at all.
Thank you for the feedback.
I see the repetition now. I was honestly really eager to get to the "big reveal" that I see now that I could cut words down by eliminating the redundant sentences. Like I said with ninjapitka's review, those words could have been better used to portay a better grasp of these characters and develop a real bond between them besides stating that there is. Thank you for the article. I remember glancing over it before my time away, but it's time to break this habit.
Also, yeah I didn't think it would win in the sense of a horror duel. The main "horror" I felt when putting this together was knowing that fate couldn't be changed. The fate of Allec is and always will be at the hands of Tali. Since she claims to have lived a very long time, whose to say that she didn't have a hand in ensuring he came to existance? She knew every decision that needed to be made to achieve this outcome. Fate vs Free Will is a hell of thing.
Others have made a bunch of good points about this, but I thought I'd give my little review.
-Woah! What a great twist, I was really impressed at that bait and switch. Obviously given the theme most readers will assume the Tyrant is the true antagonist, but the reveal of his non-existence was a gut punch. On the same subject, Tali is a cruelly competent character who has motives which are understandable if not agreeable: I think most others will agree that a good motive makes an Antagonist far more fun to read, even if it isn't one we can relate to. Tali truly carries this story and I'd like to see some more of her at some point.
-What little worldbuilding that was teased seemed fun. I'm sure this will pay off in your actual CYOA when that comes out.
-Generally there's some decent description here. It can't be too complex due to the word count, but it's serviceable and paints a picture.
Things to improve:
-There are some logical flaws in this plot. Those gates open by themselves, which seems like it makes sense since at that point we still think the tyrant is real. I was under the assumption that the town had been rigged to blow and two guards had been instructed to close the gates for you. But there are no guards and there is no tyrant. So how did the gates close? Are they automatic? If they are then this is some good worldbuilding, if not I'm confused. Speaking of inconsistency, how has nobody moved into this village that is seemingly undefended ? How did Tali even make it? Or did she slaughter the inhabitants before you arrived? She seems ruthless enough. Regardless, the acquisition of the village stuck with me after a six hour shift so clearly I'm invested in the characters.
-There are a few grammatical mistakes, which is understandable. Here are the ones I found.
Overall this feels like the appetiser to a delicious dinner: I can't wait to read and review the CYOA set in this world. Well done.
I'm glad you're so interested. I hope my story game can live up to your expectations. Tali was a really fun character to write and I would love to add her into some other material. If she were to make an appearance in a CYOA, it would probably only be as a side character of some sort as her nature would render the game pretty linear. But who knows what the future will hold. I had this concept of her in my mind for awhile and when I started to read the duels and everything it helped me fit her into a story that would make sense.
As for the flaws, I think I could've taken more time to proofread and actually look it over word for word, instead of just skimming the lines. So I'll make sure to improve on that. I think most of it came from my mind going faster than my hands could type, resulting in the "large house and start" issue. And the magic gate closing was supposed to be deleted. At first, I wrote that Tali closed the gate, while Allec continued into the town, but decided they should remain open and keep the two together as to not give away anything by all of a sudden having Tali close the gate. I think it would've been suspicious since you're in the bad guy's home. Why would you politely close the gate at your enemy's house?
The town itself, well Tali has been busy in the years before meeting Allec. It could have been a number of reasons, including yours. Maybe she did slaughter them all before going there? Maybe she hired people to make it, then killed them to keep the location a secret? Maybe she spent all her time making it by hand, a labor of love? We are all just pawns in The Fateweaver's schemes.