This month brings you a scene from the second draft of Storge, specifically the inciting incident in chapter 2. It is a fight scene, so content warnings for blood and two “on screen” minor character deaths. It’s 1470 words, so nothing tooo long. I’m super excited to share this with you since it’s one of my favorites and I’ve only ever shared isolated lines before, so please let me know what you think!
Every butcher, baker, farmer, tailor, merchant, laborer and beggar packed themselves into the cramped arena stands to experience the spectacle. Seldom did they see bloodshed beside their own, and they would not waste the opportunity for entertainment. Stuck as they were, Grace strained to see over the crowd. They held their breath against the stench of body odor and fish that baked into the air under the hot evening sun. Luca fought the urge to take off his long-sleeved shirt to cool off, but the sight of the Atilan viewing boxes made him think twice. He tugged the edges down over his wrists instead.
Venders hawked their wares to the crowd, hoping to make some extra money off the event by selling the oily, salty snacks of dried meat. The advertising cries drowned when the crowd rose in a sea of shouting as guards dragged the rebel Master onto the sand. He didn’t take arrest easily. Blood and sweat shone on his bald head and dripped down his bare, lash-scarred back. They chained his hands behind his back, but it didn’t stop him from straining against his bonds. It took three soldiers to force him to move. Jeers sounded as the people of the city unleashed their pent-up frustrations and anger.
The High Atil strode onto the raised dais that stood in the exact center of the arena and raised his hands for silence. Gradually, the crowd hushed and anticipation replaced the fervor. He sneered at the rebel leader and slowly stretched out his arm, pointing his index finger towards the ground.
Welcome to the world of Laoche! This is the home of all the stories in the (appropriately named) Laoche Chronicles, including a main trilogy (that has yet to be named) and the prequel, Storge. I first came up with the story in middle school, and as I learned more about the writing process, realized that I would need to write the prequel first to set everything up for the series. Now, I’m returning to my original concept, and revising it, which includes some updated worldbuilding and a new approach to my process.
All of this would be explained in-story as well as the reader follows along with the main characters going about their lives and navigating the conflict, so this isn’t strictly necessary to know before getting into the story. However, I’ve found that explaining it in an informational way like this helps people understand what on earth I’m talking about online, so I wanted to share. I also hope that a case-study like this will help be an example of what works (and what doesn’t) when you’re making a high/epic fantasy. 🙂
To start I’m going to share a map, so that all of these locations actually make sense.
When I first revisited this story, I realized that A) I’d lost most of my notes when that thumb-drive got stolen in 10th grade, and B) Most of it was pretty cliche, since I was 14 when I came up with it. So I pitched everything but the premise and my three favorite characters to start over from scratch:
The Premise: Madelyn (a mage with malfunctioning magic) and Seth (ex-prince of Arga) discover a magical artifact that changes how they view magic, and shifts the balance of power in the world, then have to deal with the ensuing fallout.
It was far too lovely a day for a riot, but not even the cool breeze flapping the fabric of the trader’s multicolored tents could prevent Luca from taking advantage the fact that there was, in fact, a riot. No one was quite sure who noticed the Atilan erasing and inscribing the new tax decree onto the massive slab of sandstone that served as the city’s news board. No one was really sure who started shouting obscenities first. No one was entirely sure when the Atilan threw magic into the gathering crowd. No one was completely sure how many Debilan they had injured.
It mattered little now. The body of the Atilan messenger lay motionless in the street.
Luca ducked and dodged through the throng. Red-faced shop keeps chanted curses against their rulers for this new grievance. He fixed his eyes on the ground, searching for valuables dropped in the scuffle. A dull gleam of polished stone caught his eye. He snatched the prize and stuffed it into his satchel without stopping to check what he had found.
As the Atilan guards flocked to the scene, Luca glanced up at the brief distraction, and so did the wealthy-looking merchant standing to his side. The shouts rose to a roar as workers charged onto the platform. The smells of blood, sweat, and anger hung in the air as the bodies pressed together. Someone stumbled into the merchant. Coins tumbled from the purse that sat in his open hand. Luca stooped to pick them up before the man could stop him and mumbled an apology. Shoving the newfound loot into his knapsack, he flipped the cover shut, escaped the crowd, and hurried along a twisting side road. Luca ducked under the outside staircase of an old tenement building, searching for any onlookers. Satisfied that everyone else was off protesting, he sprinted up the stairs and onto the flat roof.
A girl waited for him in the shade of a makeshift canopy, focused on the brouhaha below them. She was young, with ruddy brown and freckled skin and curly dark brown hair in a braid that reached her waist. Her simple dress had long lost its creamy white color, and it was torn from an old fight. When she heard Luca mount the stairs, she tore her attention from the seething crowd to look up at her brother.
“They attacked the Atilan!” she hissed. “Did you see that!?”
“Kills the mood, huh?” Luca beckoned his sister towards him, away from the edge of the roof. “I thought I told you to stay out of sight.”
“If riots are distracting enough that you’re safe to go stealing, then I’m sure I’m safe aaalllll the way up here, watching your back.” She glanced down at the street before moving closer to him. “Find anything good?”
Luca nodded and flopped down next to her as he dumped out the bag, pushing back his hair as it fell into his face. They pocketed the coins first, before sorting through the rest of the oddities. Grace occasionally looked to the street. With mages conjuring a wall of magic, the guards pushed the rioters out of the plaza. A couple lingered to watch them collect the messenger who stumbled to his feet, disoriented but not wounded. The watchers scattered when the largest of the three guards pulled his seax knife from its sheath.
Grace frowned and turned her attention back to their work. “Most of this stuff is junk. Enne would probably like this button. Pretty pattern, and you can feel the texture. Does it match the ones on the frock she’s making?” She held the button up to the early morning light, and the shiny metal glinted in the sun.
Luca shrugged in reply before handing her the stone he had picked up, eyes gleaming with hope. “What about this?”
As Grace took the pebble, her eyes widened in surprise. Her fingers shocked with magic, and she dropped the thing back into Luca’s hands like a hot coal. “A charm! Not a powerful one, so don’t let me have it. Where did you find that?!”
“A few paces from the shops. My guess is that one of the Atilan dropped it in the scuffle.”
“Do you think they’ll come looking for it? If we’re caught-“
“No. Look, it’s so small. They won’t miss it.”
Grace nodded in agreement, when a sudden loud voice interrupted from behind them. “I don’t suppose you were planning to return that?”
The two kids jumped, spinning around to face the newcomer. Perched on the edge of the roof was an Avian. They were bird-like people who lived in the canyon cliffs along the river, and this one was taller than most, standing at seven feet tall. Four huge wings folded behind his torso – two at the shoulders and two at the waist. The reddish-brown plumage that covered nearly his entire body, save the palms of his hands and face, mirrored the color of the clay dirt of the desert. He wore a vest and loose breeches with several pockets that seemed stuffed with all sorts of strange things. Belted around his waist hung a stained artisan’s frock. Another harness strung over his shoulder, between his wings, and around his hip so that it could hold a large assortment of chisels, hammers, and knives. He wore no shoes; his taloned feet curled over the ledge of the roof to keep him balanced as he hunched over the two kids with his hand extended for the charm. Solid bronze eyes with sharp black pupils set deep in a human-like face, squinted in anger. The feather tufts at his ears pressed back against his head.
Luca clasped the charm to his chest as dread and panic mounted. He shifted his weight onto his feet and braced himself against the stairs, ready to run. He pulled Grace to his side, not for her own protection, but for restraint. She snapped into a fighting stance, and had her hands balled into fists, though they stayed by her sides. Neither answered the question.
The avian seemed to notice their discomfort. He forced a smile and lowered his wings, as if trying to appear nonthreatening. Luca, still threatened, forced himself to smile back. The avian repeated his question. “Are you going to return that?”
Hundreds of years ago, the avians used to be a nomadic group, but the cliffs of Maaren’s canyon provided the perfect place to build more permanent structures for weathering storms and resting en route. At the time, the land was controlled by the Atilan, and though they didn’t posses the technology at the time to retrieve the precious metals and magical elements from the cliffs, they didn’t want to give it up either. For a time it looked like the clash would turn violent, but the humans, knowing they could be devastated by attacks from the sky, and the avians, not wanting to resort to that violence, came to a different agreement…
Welcome to the world of Laoche! This is the home of all the stories in the (appropriately named) Laoche Chronicles, including a main trilogy (that has yet to be named) and the prequel, Storge. While all of these stories take place in the same world, Storge focuses on a conflict in one specific reason – a powerful city-state called Maaren. Because this is a sociopolitical conflict, I mainly focused on worldbuilding the class system, government, and religions of the city, and that’s what I’d like to discuss in more depth today! In the future, I’ll elaborate some more on the lore, magic system, and flora and fauna of the world in the future, but for now this will focus on the main topics that are relevant to the understanding of the story.
All of this would be explained in-story as well as the reader follows along with the main characters going about their lives and navigating the conflict, so this isn’t strictly necessary to know before getting into the story. However, I’ve found that explaining it in an informational way like this helps people understand what on earth I’m talking about online, so I hope this can also be useful as a reference guide of sorts!
The scariest part of the season was the exams. The library sat like an empty tomb, devoid of any life as the campus citizens escaped to revelries and momentarily forgot their impending day of reckoning. She set up in the window seat, spreading papers around her as the chai at her elbow growing colder by the minute from the draft. As the leaves turned to wreaths of gold and garnet, she found her mind drifting to more magical times and her fingers straying to the battered storybook at her side. Studies forgotten, she lost herself in the imagery and ink.
He haunted the forest. Every year, without fail, tourists disappeared with the cold weather and seasonal stories of spooks. Children would double and triple dare each other to brave its borders. He watched them scatter with amusement as he hiked through his home. He scavenged the dead branches for firewood, picked the last of the allspice berries for the life that they carried, and build small altars to the Creator as he passed to win its protection for him and his sister. Superstition. Spirits. Maybe this year would be the one he met the ghosts that supposedly protected this wood.
He studied in the graveyard, for both reminder and motivation. Exhaustion dulled the sharpness of his wit and the peace of the place pulled him towards slumber. He didn’t wear a coat against the cold. Too close to failure, so close to success, the stakes driven into his heart – keeping his family fed, and safe, and warm was all that mattered. There was never enough time. He wondered how the names around him used their time. What would he be doing if he weren’t here? His page stretched empty before him. Why did he always have more questions than answers?
He didn’t need a mask or a costume. The stranger slipped among the crowd of the pub to the small stage and set his fiddle case on the ground. Fingers danced over the strings and the popular tune floated over the chatter. The bow flashed. For a moment he forgot his curse. The melody tumbled over itself and rushed to a crescendo. They wouldn’t remember him tomorrow. By the end of the performance, brown replaced the red and new scars dotted his face but he didn’t feel them. A walking ghost. They would remember the music, but never his face.
He spends the afternoon building – the house he inherited made the better for those that would visit. Lights to lead the way, mulled cider to warm and welcome, and treats for any who asked. The winter would be hard but he would make sure his people would have a reason for hope, for fun, and for community, before retreating to their dens. Soon, ghosts, monsters, and characters of all sorts would come by his door, his sword would be ready at his side. And when the young heroes and princesses arrived, he would bow to those greater than he.
I’m excited to be able to introduce some of the main cast of The Laoche Chronicles! I put up polls on my tumblr and IG earlier this week, and you all chose “modern drabbles” for the Halloween Special post, so I hope you enjoyed these! I wanted each of them to be exactly 100 words and a story-accurate snapshot into these character’s personalities while sticking to the spooky theme, which was a really fun challenge since I’m not very used to writing short fiction. What do you think? Which character’s piece was your favorite, and which do you want to learn more about? Let me know in the comments, and have a very Happy Halloween! 🙂
Role in the Story: Antagonist and Catalyst, the new Master of the Anarchists
Esil grew up in the insurgent band of Anarchists – a group of violent criminals that follow a cult of old, dead, and forgotten gods and have vowed to take down the Atilan, no matter the cost. When the previous Master is captured and publicly executed by the Atilan, he is responsible for the following counter strike that kills the rest of the high court and dozens of Debilan in the crossfire.
Soon after, he takes on the mantle of his leadership and his team begins doing their best to cause problems for the new queen, Lyss, and the Laine family. Viciously loyal to his friends, vengeance-driven, and a cheerfully destructive force, his actions soon lead to consequences none of them could have imagined.
Author’s note: this post has some minor edits to reflect changes in Lyss’s backstory decided on while revising Storge. This does not significantly affect his character or the overall plot, but I wanted to maintain consistency across my posts.
I’m sure you’ve noticed a change in art style between the previous character portraits I’ve shared and this one. That’s because the others were commissioned for me by my best friend! I plan to commission the artist again to complete portraits for my villains and side characters who we didn’t request the first time, so until I can do that, I’ll be drawing the character portraits as placeholders.There’s one more character post that will summarize several important side characters, and then I’m going to get into some worldbuilding lore!
If you’re new to the site, then more character art can be found on my Gallery page, and the rest of the character portraits and introductions can be found under the Storge page. Since next week is Halloween, I may take off posting for a week to participate in family festivities, but I’d also like to upload a special themed post if possible. Watch my tumblr (@ettawritesandstudies) and my IG (ettagraceauthor) for polls if you want a say! Thanks for reading!
Role in the Story: Antagonist and Tyrant, the self-appointed Atilan queen of Maaren.
At the start of the story, Lyss is a well-known Atilan woman who is married to one of the members of the Council. During an anarchist attack in the arena, the council is mostly killed, and in the moment of crisis, she seizes power and becomes the self-appointed queen and sole ruler of Maaren, disregarding the Trials and her council entierly.
She begins to answer the anarchist threat and search for the magical Debilan children who exposed their power trying to save people during the attack. The other Atilan either support, or are unwilling to cross her, and as she becomes more and more bold, it becomes clear the Anarchists aren’t backing down either. Because of her actions, soon the avians and the Laine family are pulled into a conflict they had wished to avoid. She’s a powerful magic user, compelling authority, clever manipulator, and a dead-serious threat to any who would stand in her way.
Author’s note: This bio has been rewritten to reflect changes made to her backstory during my edit of Storge. If you read the previous version, disregard that, because this is the most updated iteration of her character. This does not significantly affect the overall plot of the book, but it does make her story easier to tell and improves the worldbuilding and her intimidation as a villain and I wanted to reflect that here as well.
I’m sure you’ve noticed a change in art style between the previous character portraits I’ve shared and this one. That’s because the others were commissioned for me by my best friend! I plan to commission the artist again to complete portraits for my villains and side characters who we didn’t request the first time, so until I can do that, I’ll be drawing the character portraits as placeholders.
If you’re new to the site, then more character art can be found on my Gallery page, and the rest of the character portraits can be found under the Storge page. Next week, I’ll share Esil’s introduction, then I’ll have some side characters and worldbuilding lore to share with you, so stay tuned for that in the coming weeks. Thank you for reading!
Role in the Story: Leader, responsible for the trade of her city and the well being of her people.
Chara is an extremely driven and determined Avian who will work herself until exhaustion to achieve her goals. She’s a public servant, first and foremost, and her focus is entirely dedicated to helping her city and friends however she can use her power and position to do so. She’s idealistic and prizes fairness and justice in her work, and doesn’t approve of people seeing her shaken. Chara keeps meticulous organization and appearance in order to uphold the facade, even if she’s stressing over her responsibility to keep her people well-supplied and well-fed.
Despite her ambition and devotion to her work, her heart is ultimately with her loved ones, and she prizes the work of her brother, Acheran, and the company of her friends in the Laine family.
This is the last of the character introductions for the main characters in my current WIP, Storge, which is in its editing phase! Next up are introductions for my two villains, as well as a list of several important side characters. In the meantime, you can find the other character introductions linked to the Storge page of this blog, and more art on the Gallery page. Thanks for reading!