Cool prompt, but I'll be working my piece for the Ancient Ruins Battle through October. Although, hmmm, I might have a sub story within that storygame that would work. Greed and wrath do come into play. And I do need to edit it down to 2,000 words since I don't want to spend more than two game pages on it.
This story wasn't good enough for Bucky.
I wish my story was as good as Cricket's
My stories will always be better.
How dare you rub that in my face!
by Avery Moore
I like to rub Oreos in my face. ^_^
I don't feel like responding to your message.
But do you feel like responding to my massage?
Rub that in my face!
Your timing on this stuff is always bad.
I expect this complete ignoring of the forums from noob scum and Ford, but geez at least scan them when you come back.
Yes, there’s a major cross site contest going on between CYStians and CoGites at Infinite Story.
Well, I need two thousand points. Do you know how hard it is to climb from 1500 to 2000 points around here? A spectacular storygame will only net me 100. One hundred! I need at least the bribe of some meaningless points in order to write a story.
And I've got a good one, too, about Lust and teaching the sins to my class, and a red-haired student who came up to me after class and asked me when my office hours are; I looked at her with contempt and told her to make an appointment with the writing center, and she blocked my way and said, no, she actually needed my help. So, reluctantly, I made an appointment with her. She showed up early, and she said, this is one-hundred percent true, as I approached my office the next day, that she was going to write her essay on lust, and she wanted my opinion on "two things." I opened my office door.
Anyway, that's the start of the story I would have written.
If I did the math right, my storygame has netted me 410 points overall. It's all in the presentation and timing is everything.
I give a shit Greed GREED IS BORING... I AM ALL ABOUT SEDUCTION AND WRATH. Greed is all about old bald man with an erection dysfunction
That goes around accounting money to forget he is old and tiny.
They often are greedy as Greed is LUST for money and RIchies
THE REAL REASON HANNIBAL LOST THE BATTLE OF ZAMA
The great Carthaginian general Hannibal surveyed the dusty plains of Zama from his vantage point atop a hilly crest. Below him sprawled the mighty Carthaginian army - ten thousand ferocious warriors whose courage and savagery had made them the triumphant conquerors of Rome. Hordes of vicious beasts: lions, elephants, and rhinos stomped eagerly as they awaited the impending battle, the taste of bloody death already in their mouths. Hannibal's prized African Cavalry stood resplendent in their shining armour as the sun rose slowly but inevitably over the distant mountains.
Squinting through the orange rays, Hannibal discerned an undulating mass of red and silver emerging from the lifeless desert that stretched before him. Soon we shall meet, Nemesis, Hannibal said to himself as he wondered what the scourge of Carthage, Scipio Africanus, would look like. He turned expectantly to the ancient soothsayer who came hobbling up the rocky path behind him.
"How goes the augury old man?" asked Hannibal anxiously. The usually confident commander was desperate for a favourable omen, for recent tidings in the capital Carthage had given him cause for grave concern. An edict had arrived from the King only two days earlier that had stripped the once supreme general of his absolute authority over the army. He was now ordered to consult a civilian body, the Carthaginian Committee Responsible for Warfare (CCRW), for advice on tactical military decisions.
The soothsayer hesitated. He had served the general faithfully for many years. A great burden lay upon his heart and he sighed.
"Sir, the Gods present an omen that is...favourable," was the reluctant reply. The old man retreated hastily from the crest.
Hannibal exhaled deeply. The furrowed brow that had dominated his visage for days eased into an expression of relief, then scorn. This CCRW is of no concern, he convinced himself. I shall control those ignorant fools and I shall crush Rome. He withdrew from the crest.
Hannibal marched purposefully towards the collection of characterless faces that stared at him as he approached the makeshift committee headquarters.
"The Romans are approaching," he mentioned casually to the group, "I'm going to join the forces on the frontline. You stay here and write your ‘reports’.”
A thin, severe-looking woman dressed in grey and holding a black dossier shot a withering glance towards Hannibal.
"Very well," the woman replied warily, "Proceed to the battleground post haste but be sure to inform the Committee of all strategic command decisions. Mr Fidel has been assigned as courier to monitor progress and to carry dispatches. Remember, insubordination and failure to follow Committee protocols will not be tolerated."
"Oh, I'll remember," Hannibal sneered contemptuously to himself as he mounted his steed and rode off towards the battle lines. I'll remember your insolence. Soon my forces will crush the Romans and I shall, once again, be the glorious conqueror. Then I will crush you all.
As Hannibal reached the front line the Roman army was nearing striking distance. The courier drew up next to the general and surveyed the scene before him. The young man demanded Hannibal send a request for orders to the CCRW.
Hannibal: Roman attack imminent. Request permission to commence elephant charge.
CCRW: Request pending. Concerned about composition of animal charging party. Discrimination against other members of the animal kingdom. Suggest alternate species be located to alleviate elephant favouritism.
Hannibal: Have located 88 zebra, 14 lions, and 74 antelope. Request permission for animal charge.
CCRW: Request granted.
Hannibal: Problems encountered during animal charge. Lions killed several antelope. Antelope stampeded, and terrified elephants trampled prized African cavalry. Advise.
CCRW: Consider engaging infantry.
Hannibal: Request permission to engage elite African infantry division.
CCRW: Request denied. Important to follow Committee guidelines on quota restrictions. Infantry force must comprise 20% XX Chromosome genotypes, 10% non -African ethnic minorities, 20% mentally and/or physically challenged persons (including vertically challenged persons, persons with challenged perception of reality, persons with challenged ambulatory skills).
Hannibal: Problems encountered in organisation and outfitting of infantry division. Dwarves are tripping over their tunic hems; women are complaining that tunics are inappropriate and of sexual harassment from other soldiers; paranoid schizophrenics are convinced that Roman carrier pigeons are hidden in their leather jerkins; and cripples are encountering difficulties in hopping through the sand. Please advise.
CCRW: Sarcastic tone detected in previous report. Insolence will not be tolerated. Failure to meet Committee guidelines effectively noted and recorded in your personal file. If difficulties encountered, appoint interim committee to address grievances. Meanwhile, continue with battle.
Hannibal: Infantry division has engaged Roman battleline...finally. Permission to commence wholesale slaughter of Roman soldiers urgently requested.
CCRW: Permission granted on the proviso that background checks be carried out on Roman individuals to assess suitability to be rendered life-challenged.
Hannibal: Opportunity to inflict extensive casualties has passed. Slaughter of Roman infantry rendered impossible due to enemies' long histories of early childhood trauma, lack of social skills and lack of access to educational materials. In accordance with Committee guidelines, a vote was carried out with a consensus indicating that a slap on the wrist and the suggestion of group counseling would be more beneficial than slaughter. Stalemate has been reached. Please advise.
Hannibal soon spotted Fidel rushing toward him down an embankment.
"Where's the latest dispatch?" inquired the general with an unmistakable note of urgency in his voice.
"There isn't one," replied the rider bluntly. "The Committee is on its morning coffee break.”
"Coffee break!" cried the disbelieving warlord. "But my men are dying!"
Fidel stared blankly back. "It's against regulations to work all morning without a break," was all he intoned.
The general threw his arms aloft in despair as he looked at the carnage and destruction around him. His once magnificent army, now without orders, became engulfed in chaos and was cut down in the confusion. The Romans spared their bitter enemies no quarter; dwarves, cripples, women and antelope alike; all cut down in a frenzied orgy of slaughter.
"But the old man said I was favoured!" the general cried as if to the heavens.
"How could you let this happen?" Fidel demanded suddenly.
"How could I let this happen?" was the startled, indignant reply. "I didn't let this happen, it's the fault of your cursed committee, your insane quotas, your, your... insanity! You and your committee will hang from the ramparts of Carthage for what you've done, I'll make sure of it.” He raised his clenched fist with conviction.
There was a strange, prolonged silence.
"I don't quite think so," replied the courier slowly.
Hannibal looked puzzled.
"You just don't get it do you," he sneered suddenly, "You're either with us or against us. Your seer was with us. Oh pretty soon you'll come to understand that there is no middle ground. You're either with us or you're dead," he said with a note of finality.
The young rider then produced the black dossier from his jerkin that Hannibal had seen the Committee secretary holding. He turned towards his horse and tossed the document to the confused general as he mounted the steed.
"You might have believed you would eventually be defeated by the sword of your enemy but I think you are about to read that the pen is indeed mightier than the sword you poor misguided fool."
With a triumphant shout Fidel pivoted his horse and raced off towards the distant Committee column that was in full retreat across the dusty plains.
Hannibal peered slowly at the black dossier that he now held in his hands. In gold on the cover was stencilled `In Case of Failure'. The dejected warrior untied the strap and unfolded the leather.
CCRW: Failure to attain decisive victory over Roman invaders noted and attributed solely to poor leadership. A noted unwillingness to conform to Committee protocols and guidelines, a continuing belief in a hierarchical leadership structure, an inability to effectively network and delegate in a group leadership system and obvious difficulties in meeting quota restrictions - all these faults were instrumental in causing the rout of our army. From this moment onwards the once distinguished general Hannibal is formally stripped of office and henceforth banned from ever entering the city of Carthage again by order of the Carthaginian Committee Responsible for Warfare.
The once proud and mighty warlord took one more look at the devastation that lay around him. He mounted his horse and fled the dusty plains of Zama.
Rome, unencumbered by committees, went on to conquer most of the known world. Carthage became insignificant and Hannibal? Certain rumours circulated of a new adviser to Roman Military Operations - a certain Hannibalius Anticommitticus - but this was never proven. One thing remained true however - never again did Hannibal set foot in the city of Carthage.
Is an oldie but a goodie - sharing something from last year
Should've eaten his liver with a side of--
Oh wait, wrong Hannibal.
Gonna have to check with the CCRW, just so we can make sure that liver is up to standard with the Dietary Committee's regulations.
I write this letter of appeal due to the fact that I deserve an explanation as to the rationale behind my grade of "zero" on my final paper for my Shakespeare class with Professor Gower. In all honesty, I worked really hard all semester, including alongside a private tutor to ensure that I would do well on that course. My tutor is a senior at Fitchburg State University. She majors in English.
When I received the grade for my final paper, I emailed the professor. He had already taken three days to grade it which seems a lot to me. He then finally responded to my email without addressing me by name or signing his name after calling my paper "extremely difficult, if not impossible, to understand." When reading that, it truly hurt me a lot. I felt made less than, like a subhuman, like stupid. Nobody has that right to say that. I wondered if I should even be here. I never take the angry route, and I am not, I'm hurt in my feelings. Maybe my paper doesn't deserve an A+, but a zero? Does any of my work matter? Do I matter? Is all my time effort money with a tutor nothing? I'm a human being and I deserve some respect.
I challenged myself and I was put down really hard. Therefore, I demand that I receive at least a B+ on this essay because of all the effort I put into it.
I write in response to your letter regarding your experience with Professor Gower. I have reviewed the final essay in question. I have extracted a single sentence from it that we can use as a representative example:
Furthermore, the whole plot of comedy and there is a bold flight of imagination of the
playwright, and the viewer's ability to succumb to the game required the imagination of
the artist, imbued with it, forgetting all the requirements of the understanding above
naturalness when plausibility.
I have chosen one of the more readible of the sentences herein. Frankly, I find it a bit of a head-scratcher. The essay as a whole is twelve (12) double-spaced pages, and I cannot locate any sentence in it that I would be able to paraphrase. It seems to me that Professor Gower's comment that your essay was "extremely difficult, if not impossible, to understand" was in fact generous.
Consider this bit,
Dullness townspeople best notices Baek, put the main actor of the play - a weaver basis donkey head.
"Weaver basis donkey head," I repeat. It appears to be constructed in essentially random order. Therefore, I am rejecting your request for a "B+," upholding Professor Gower's zero, and in fact, I am going to notify your major adviser and request that you be directed to receive instruction in essay writing next semester in addition to your regular courseload.
That is very unfair and inappropriate to make fun of my essay that I worked very hard on. Maybe you don't think it should be a "B+" and I can accept that, but some people are good writers and some aren't. So I will settle for a "C" which seems fair and a "C" is not even a good grade. Twelve double-spaced pages should get a "C" because it shows effort, and by the way, I talked to my entire hall and they all agree with me. You need students to have a school and if we all left it wouldn't look so good. If the essay is not good, it is Professor Gower's fault, by the way, he is supposed to TEACH us these things. So I don't understand why if I don't know something I'm the one who gets punished here.
Thank you for your recent email, which caused me to pick up your essay again and consider it more closely. I ran it through Google Translate and then googled the results and realized that the reason the essay is gibberish is that you took a scholarly article written in Spanish and put it in a translation program, hoping to avoid being caught for plagiarism.
Therefore, as you have handed in a completely plagiarized essay, we do not need to talk about particular grade, as I am recommending expulsion based on your attempt to deceive over the course of our conversation. I understand that you may be very disappointed by this, but, as you write in your essay, "On the way, penalties miraculously 'for lovers inevitably suffering' patient in the trial so to be proper and dignified is for shameful." Words that can sustain us all, I think, in these difficult times.
I will settle for a "D."
Based on a true story?
Very much so. It's sort of a "best-of" version.
I just grabbed a school at random for realism's sake, and to hide the fact that the real school there in the actual communication was Framingham State. Oops!
This is a bit of bonus lore from my Ruins project, a ghost story around the campfire type thing (hence not in second person.) It revolves around greed - specifically, people being gung-ho about murder if they think it will get them shiny things. It's not all on one page in the game, and can be ended prematurely in some paths, or even told deliberately wrong depending on prior choices.
The Death and Rise of Nekalus the Wise
This is a tale from the Blood Age: before the endless war, before the shattering, even before the great Kingdom of Ogdull spanned the continent. In this era of blood and ignorance, two powerful kings of neighboring mountains held summit. They wished to form an alliance together against the people of the plains. They called their magi together: the counselors, advisors to the king; astrologers; diviners; magicians; and elders, respected wise men; to determine what time, and in what manner, the pact would succeed.
After seven nights of seeking the gods, they returned before the kings with their answer. Petolis the elder, the lead diviner of the kingdom of Almot, spoke for them.
"This case is an unusual one, my Lords. The gods will not accept the mere marriage of your children or the usual exchange of hostages, treasure, and slaves. The gods require, as a mark of your alliance, that you build a great bridge to span the valley between your kingdoms. This marvel shall be called Valtava. You shall each commission a statue, one of the god Ver and the other of the goddess Adana, the gods of blood and peace, to set at either end. Then, the gods will be appeased. They will bless the union of your kingdoms, and you will easily conquer the people of the plains."
This proposal seemed good to King Buwis and King Almot.
"Wait." Petolis continued, "There is more that the gods have shown us. The bridge is to have five arches and six posts rising from the valley floor. Inside each post you must entomb, alive, a sacrificial child. But these children may not be slaves or servants, nor may they be taken by force. The children must be willingly given up by their mothers. This sacrifice will strengthen the bridge, and while it stands, the alliance will hold."
"That is more troublesome." King Almot replied, "but it can be done. If pride in their kingdom and the joy of the gods does not sway them, perhaps the promise of coin will."
Construction began, and over the next three years the two kingdoms bent their will and resources to completing the colossal bridge, Valtava. In time, five children were brought and sealed, their mothers paid handsomely in return. The coffers slowly emptied to fund the workers and materials; there was little to spare for another bribe.
The bridge was nearing completion, and King Almot searched for a final sacrifice. He sent messengers throughout the kingdom. He personally gave appeal in the town square. Finally, he went house to house, begging for the mothers to think of the kingdom and of peace. But no one was willing. "Take someone else's child," each woman said to him, "not mine."
King Almot finally returned home, dejected. The bridge would be completed in four days, but there was no offering. How the gods would reject him, and King Buwis be enraged! He headed for the harem, seeking comfort.
"My liege." A woman met him in the hall before he reached the apartments, a veil hiding her face. She led a boy of about ten by the hand. "I am your handmaid, consort Raya, and this is the son of your own flesh."
"Raya, yes." He struggled to remember her, for there were many women who passed through his harem. "What is the name of the boy?"
"Nekalus." She whispered, and he realized the veils were there to hide her tears. "I know of your need. These past three years our kingdom has finally seen peace, a peace I would not have end. You gave this joy to me, now I give him back to you."
"Father." The boy said, "I will go with you to be walled in. But before I am entombed, I would ask: are you sure your wisemen read the signs aright?"
"They must have," the king replied sadly, "for they all agreed on what was to be done."
"The thoughts of many does not make the right." The boy shook his head, "If it is seems good to you, bring me before the magi. I would ask them three questions."
King Almot arranged the meeting, and the boy addressed all who were wise and devout in the two kingdoms. "Tell me," Nekalus said, "What is the lightest, the sweetest, and the hardest thing in the world?"
The magi debated for three hours, but at last chose their solution.
"Your questions are simple." Petolis said, "The lightest thing in the world is the feather; it floats on air and water. The hardest thing is the diamond which survives fire and carves stone. Lastly, the sweetest thing is honey, for it cheers the tongue and enlivens the mind."
"It is your answers which are simple." Nekalus retorted, "The collective intellect of two kingdoms, and you cannot think beyond the base elements? Earth, Fire, Water, Air, Body, Mind - what of the Soul?"
"Give us your answer, young prince," They challenged, "If you believe you are wiser than the gods."
Nekolas sighed, "The lightest thing in the world is a newborn child in his mother's arms. She is lifted above all pain and care when she holds him, and he can never be heavy. The sweetest thing is the mother's milk to her baby; the nectar sustains his life and fills his heart with trust. And the hardest? The hardest thing in the world is for the mother to willingly offer her child to be entombed alive."
"My son!" King Almot rushed to him. "Is there no way to spare you?"
"The child is wise." Petolis said, "Wiser than us all. But wisdom alone cannot save him; the gods have already spoken."
"Give me the three remaining days, then." The king proclaimed, "He will share my table and be crown prince, and Raya will be First Queen. Then, I will be the one to case the metal and stone around him, that I may share the sorrow of his mother. I see, now, that I may ask no sacrifice of my people that I am unwilling to give."
It was done as the King requested, and four three days Nekalus lived as crown prince. When the time came for the entombing, the child went in silence. The King build the brick and bent the outer metal sheets by his own hand.
As the task was near completion, Nekalus spoke to his father from the growing darkness. "A moment of happiness is more than some receive in this life, and I have had ten years and three days. I will greet the next world with content. Take care of my mother, and our people."
"I promise." King Almot said, tears choking the words, then slotted the final stone.
On that day, Prince Nekalus the wise came to be entombed in Valtava. His body could not have lived long without food and water. Yet it was not the end, for his soul did not die.
For King Almot, the years passed with riches and triumph. The people of the plains were defeated, plundered, and enslaved. The people erected a great statue to the god Ver, building a furnace into his belly. The women saw how Queen Raya’s dedication had been rewarded with wealth and power. In the lust for similar gain, they offered their children in the fires of Ver, hoping for greater blessings to come. Almot became the dark blood-kingdom of legend, and later the black heart of Ogdull.
For Prince Nekalus, the years passed with loneliness and horror. He grew, but his bones crumbled. He felt all the dark deeds of the kingdom, but could not feel the rays of the sun. Darkness was before him every day, and he could not leave his prison. He heard the cries of the children and the slaves and the oppressed. He saw his parents descend into bloodlust and madness. Yet what could he do? He was only one soul, a soul bound to dust!
For the people of the two kingdoms, the years passed in prosperity. It seemed the gods had blessed them. Fame, wealth, security, slaves, find goods from far off lands – there was nothing they were denied in return for the lives of their children. It was a opulent peace, forged in blood and stoked by fire.
For the bridge Valtava, the years passed in infamy. The bridge stood strong, a marvel among the works of men, and allowed swift travel between Almot and Buwis. But it also was cursed. Those who crossed over Valtava in the daylight heard moans and pleas, and those who crossed at night heard sobs and cries. Strange wind would whisk over the bridge, mixing leaves with vapors of mist, even on clear, still days. Those who held ears to the deck swore they could hear a fluttering pulse, like the heartbeat of a small bird. Then death came: several accidental falls; a brain-fever where victims hallucinated being buried alive, or plummeting endlessly, until their hearts gave out in fear; and a pair of suicidal lovers jumping off, hand in hand. Eventually, the people feared to cross Valtava. The greatest wonder of the Blood Age became a desolate statue.
Whispers of a powerful queen swept the land. And though the people of the mountains increased their sacrifices and pleaded to the gods, the armies of Queen Lanya drew closer. First, she took the outer towns; small cities that gave Almot tribute in exchange for protection. Next, she took the plains and the northern valley. From every side her armies closed in, until Almot and Buwis were under siege.
But the bridge still stood! The people would not surrender. King Almot saw their false hope in the symbol of Valtava, just as he saw that the bloodthirsty gods were silent. From the treasure vault below his castle he chose a great axe, a magic blade of mighty power fabled to cut through anything. Alone, he headed to Valtava.
“I know you live on,” he said, “in some way, you live. My son, please save my people! Save your mother! I will free you in exchange.” He slashed every pillar open, ending at his son’s. The bridge creaked and swayed. Through the opening, the king could see the dust and bone of his son. “How I wronged you, my child!” he whispered.
The wind picked up, entering the small chamber and dancing with the remains. A ghostly man coalesced in the darkness.
“Father,” he says, “I am no longer a child. I have grown in this dark prison, and become more than mere flesh.”
“If I could take it back –“
“But then we could not save the kingdom now. There is no reward without sacrifice. Are you prepared?”
“I will give anything, even my own life, to save the people,” King Almot promised.
“It is well, for that must be the price.” The spirit of Nekalus entered his father, and the spirit of Almot was forced out, blowing away on the wind and leaving only the soul behind. Nekalus stretched out his hands, and the dust of his bones merged into two small objects at his command; a distaff and a spindle. The departed soul of the king wrapped itself about the distaff. Five other threads of pale green light joined it – the souls of the other murdered children. Dozens, hundreds, thousands of souls came rushing towards him from the edges of the kingdoms.
With these souls and the tools of his bone, he wove a fine thread as he walked to the peak of Mt. Almot. Like a puppet master, he let the threads loose from his hands onto the wind, and where they fell the dead arose under his command. Decomposed men and women rose from the graveyards. The flesh-stripped skeletons of wild beasts from the fields howled. The ash-golems of cremated children stood awaiting his command.
But his army did not attack the Queen. Perhaps, Nekalus had been driven mad by decades in the darkness. Some say he wanted revenge for his cruel fate. Others fear he lost control of the souls he commanded. Whatever the truth, he turned on his own people. One in six were killed, including all the magi, save Petolis.
Nekalus slowly walked down the mountain in the body of the king, blood and death in his wake. He gave the order to open the gates and welcome the incoming Queen. Before her, he knelt, swearing his allegiance. The armies of the dead knelt with him.
Valtava cracked and fell.
This was a lovely read, feeling like a bit of scripture or a parable or a foundational myth from some other world.
I was engaged all the way through--except for one bit, which I want to ask you about. The bit with the light/sweet/hard in the middle. That was the only part where my focus wavered. It's not that I didn't like it as a piece of writing, but a) I thought it was a little on the nose. Your narrative makes the agony of giving up a child clear without that moment, and I thought having it be so explicit there lessened the effect, and b) the scene of the kid showing up the wise men with simple-yet-penetrating wisdom felt too formulaic to me. I'm not 100% convinced you need that bit. But perhaps you just want to evoke that "I've heard this story before" feeling that sometimes old tales inspire.
As a minor note, I wondered why you needed the five other children who appear to be given up with relative ease (there may be lore reasons why!) because your focus is so much on the agony of any parent giving up a child. Or perhaps you just don't linger on that emotional pain. It's just that this: "In time, five children were brought and sealed, their mothers paid handsomely in return" reads oddly with this: "Finally, he went house to house, begging for the mothers to think of the kingdom and of peace. But no one was willing. 'Take someone else's child,' each woman said to him, 'not mine.'" The impact of the latter is, I think, lessened by the former.
I thought the way you started, with a storyteller's "This is a tale from the Blood Age..." was wholly engaging. It declares itself a tale told, and an old one, and the style is riveting.
Here's where I wanted more: "Whatever the truth, he turned on his own people." That goes way fast for such an emotional turn. "One in six were killed, including all the magi..." I know you don't want to linger on the details of battle, but I wanted something more. Some vivid detail. Some memory of a particular action. Some gouge in a cliff that's still there from the battle, according to the wise women. I don't know.
Thank you for such an engaging story for me to wake up to, Camelon!
P.S. The wording is that they need a sacrifice of "a child." I pictured a baby, or at most, a 2-3 year old. So when a ten-year-old shows up, I was quite surprised. But a ten-year-old is a child. Is a twenty-year-old a child, then, for purposes of this bridge? Is a forty-year-old, or a sixty-year-old with living parents?
Thank you for your thoughts. :) It's true I don't need the other five kids, I hadn't thought of that. It's an artifact from my earlier summarized version where he was slower to build his army of undead. The king wasn't his father in that version either. But if I get rid of the extra kids, I should be able to shave off quite a few sentences and phrases in the front half, which will give me space to expand the last part. I wanted to keep it around 2,000 words total so rushed the end more than I would have liked. It originally was longer and I cut it down, so I can pull a little from my older drafts. Plus, it would make more sense to have the trend of the women being willing to sacrifice their children begin with Queen Raya entirely.
The wisemen/boy interaction was inspired from a short tale in a book of Jewish folklore I have in my library. It's a much happier story - the wisemen are dumber, and the king decides to spare the boy and make him an advisor or something. It would be a bit hard to change the plot there at this point, though, considering the scenes I've written around it and plotted branch points in other paths. (E.g. in one path you can lie and say the advisors spared the boy, which potentially has an effect on another character's life.) He's also supposed to be a larger-than-life historical character, so tales of him have been embellished and added to through the centuries. Sort of like how a lot of oral cultures that later write down their stories interrupt larger narratives to focus on popular scenes. I could edit it slightly so the rhythm doesn't emphasize/linger in that part, though.
I've always thought of 'child' as referring to anyone below puberty, with very young children being also called a or infant. I read a bunch of immurement stories from around the world when putting this together, and older children and minors were common victims. Sometimes adults, too, like in the Building of Skadar. https://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/hbs/hbs06.htm Maybe I can find a spot to throw in a line clarifying that they need a sacrifice who is not yet an adult, or a child under sixteen, etc.
Gower already gave a great response, so I'll just mention the dialogue punctuation.
First, funnily enough, Gower wrote an article about it, so here is the link.
Secondly, I might be wrong about this, in which case someone will (hopefully) notice and call me out on it. Also, I'd say that it didn't detract from the reading experience, and I know some people don't care about it precisely because it is noticed by a lot of people. Further, since this is being written for something with a fast approaching deadline, going over what is written to change it might not be worthwhile, in which case just keep it in mind for the future.
Anyway, here we go:
"I promise." King Almot said ...
It should be:
"I promise," King Almot said ...
This is because 'King Almot said' is an attribution, and if the thing being attributed isn't a part of the same sentence, it doesn't make sense. You do punctuate correctly in a number of places, so I'm not sure if it was just a typo that you would catch, or if it is like that because you are unaware of the rules (which is something that applies to many people, from what I gather [it certainly did to me, and still does to some extent]).
Another thing worth looking into, but which I am much more unsure about, is where the dialogue follows this format:
"Text." Attribution, "more text."
e.g. "Your questions are simple." Petolis said, "The lightest ..."
As I understand it, this works, because you can have attribution in front of the dialogue. However I do wonder if your intention was more akin to:
"Your questions are simple," Petolis said. "The lightest ..."
Also, I'm under the impression that when it is all one sentence, something like this:
"Give us your answer, young prince," They challenged, "If you believe you are wiser than the gods."
Should instead be:
"Give us your answer, young prince," they challenged, "if you believe you are wiser than the gods."
Since the second quoted part is a continuation, that is, part of the same sentence as the first quoted part, and so it won't be capitalised for the second part.
I'm partly tempted to take these dialogue punctuation questions to Gower's office, but I feel like waiting till I acquire some more is better.
Anyway, here is an older site I use a bit as well for when it comes to dialogue punctuation: http://theeditorsblog.net/2010/12/08/punctuation-in-dialogue/Just putting my cards on the table, heh.
(The capitalized I was just a typo. I'm having to crank things out pretty fast for the contest, so I've caught more than a few when proofreading.) For the King Almost line, I wasn't quite sure how to do it. Normally, I would use the comma. But in this case, it was a longer sentence including action, and what he said was a complete sentence. ("I promise." King Almot said, tears choking the words, then slotted the final stone.) I also wanted the emphasis to be on the final part, not the dialogue, and didn't like the weaker pause of a comma right there. So I wasn't sure whether the period or comma would be more appropriate in that specific instance. I think you are right, though, as 'King Almot said' doesn't work unless what he says is in the same sentence. That line I will probably reword, anyway, as it's too close to the "King Almot promised" line later on.'
I do sometimes put the attribution before dialogue to vary it up in long pieces. But I like your suggestion better, rhythm wise, for switching the comma/period at the start of the magi's answers.
"I promise." King Almot said, tears choking the words, then slotted the final stone.
Yeah, that first period definitely has to be a comma; otherwise you end up with a fragment for the second sentence.
Seeing this: I also wanted the emphasis to be on the final part, not the dialogue, and didn't like the weaker pause of a comma right there.
It comes across to me as a potentially valid reason to break the rule, but is it? What are the rules for breaking rules?
Come to think of it, that might make for an interesting discussion...but I'm not at the stage where I break rules (intentionally), so I wouldn't add much to it beyond broad conjecture; still interesting to think a bit about.
You can break any rules you want, of course, but that's a weird one to break, and it wouldn't have the stated effect.
The comma there reads as a full stop for anyone with even a casual familiarity with dialogue, so it would be unusual for it to affect anyone as a "weaker pause." A comma before a closing quotation mark preceding attribution indicates a full stop unless the sentence being quoted continues after the attribution.
I think if there's a weakness being detected, it probably has something to do with the words, not the commas--that would be my suspicion.
Likely, it's not one of my favorite sentences. There are a few spots in my revision that I'm experimenting with different word order or cutting dialogue entirely. (E.g. could be "King Almot promised, his tears blurring the last sight of his son, and slotted the final stone" or "The king nodded, tears blurring his sight as he slotted the final stone." Etc. Letting it percolate for a bit while I work on other parts of the story.