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The Boy and His Game

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Old 02-27-2013, 08:46 PM
MBNewman (Offline)
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The newest revision of the first chapter of my novel The Brookrow Bastard
WC: 3000

I: The Boy and His Game


Not every question can be answered, and some are never meant to be.

An old friend once told me this, a long time ago. I quote this to describe life—my life, to be exact. You’ve heard the tales of the Brookrow Bastard, I’m sure, though they gleam with exaggerated half-truths, diluted by word of mouth. If the truth is what you seek, then you are not here for such tall-tales.

The reality of it all, however, is far darker than the tales of how the Brookrow Bastard became sealed in infamy.

I will answer your questions, but first ask yourself if they should be.

Some would call me a murderer, and a thief, and a criminal; to these accusations, I cannot object. I have earned each of them, after all. In my days I have seen things no man should see, and done things much, much worse.
I am not a saint, nor a man of honor, though I am not some wretched demon, conjured from the depths of the Infernal Abyss. I am no scourge or blight on this world, as many would have you believe. I am just a veteran of the cruelty of man, a survivor of the cold streets, and I have waged war with the gods. Though my foes have been many, none have deterred me.

I wasn’t born a killer, no one is. We are products of our environment, molded by the decisions of others. I was told that the gods predetermined the paths that we take, that everything happens for a reason. My life, as I would learn at a very young age, was destined for suffering, and I could see no reason. I had the makings to become a productive, gods-fearing member of society, but that is not the path that had been laid for me.

I wonder sometimes, when I am alone with a bottle of brandy, why things had to end up this way. In my drunken stupor, my mind always wanders back to my childhood, and how it was torn from me.

My name is Killian Todd, and I am the Brookrow Bastard.

*

I gazed out at the muddy, murky rainwater that covered a good portion of the road. Despite being bathed in golden glow of the nearby oil lamp, I could not see the bottom. Even then, how could I resist? No boy of my age could; it’s just in our nature. My lip curled into a smirk, and I knew without a shadow of a doubt what my next action would be.

I had been traipsing around the Merchant’s Plaza in Dockside around midday while my mother tended to her stall. I had made it a few stalls away from her, but still within her line of sight, as was expected of me. I was not afraid to roam the plaza, despite the ominous clouds above. The gods had always been fickle with good weather in regards to Irianna, as there were always more rainy days than dry, and this was shaping up to be one of the former.

A crack of thunder signified the storms return, and I stared up into the overcast sky as the rain began to fall again for the second time that day. This was no mere drizzle. This was a storm rolling in from the Western Sea, stretching for miles and miles out over the ocean.

I did not believe that this storm would end any time soon.

Having grown up in Irianna, a port city that clung to the foaming shores of the vast Western Sea, I was no newcomer to the storms. They were exciting, and dangerous, and completely enthralling to me. When the rain came, I was overjoyed. While I do not care for such storms now, they had been such a wonder to me back then. The world had seemed right when there was a torrential cascade falling from the heavens above my city.

During these heavy rainstorms the streets would often become prone to flooding, and one of the precautions the Imperials utilized to prevent such disasters were drains scattered across the streets. These drains led to the sewers beneath Irianna that flushed the water back into the Western Sea. These drains often left large puddles in the distances between them that were sure to bring a bit of sport to an otherwise boorish walk.

In all of the years that I had spent walking from my mother’s stall in Dockside to my home in Irianna South, I had never once resisted a chance to make a jump.

I made this childish urge into a game that I had invented solely to make the lonesome walks somewhat bearable. To win, all I had to do was make it my destination—without getting my feet wet. There had never before been a time that I had made it; always misjudging a leap and landing ankle-deep in the frigid water. This time was different, I believed. I wasn’t sure why, but I saw victory when I glanced upon my simpering reflection in the rippling pool below.

“Careful, lad,” warned a passerby, inclining his bowler cap adorned head towards the puddle, “might be that you never make it back out.”

Breaking my concentration on the puddle, I cast a friendly smile at the traveling stranger, and steadfastly responded, “I’ll make it! Ain’t a puddle out there too far for me to jump, sir!”

The man had a son who stood at his side, perhaps a few years my senior. The boy sneered venomously at me, and scoffed at my words. His pitch black hair was a stark contrast to the bright blue eyes that narrowed at me. The boy was not just watching me, he was studying me; analyzing me, and after a time he came to a conclusion about me.

“I bet he’d never make it.”

The boy’s remark caught the attention of his father, who gave a short chuckle. The man flourished his hand my way, and said, “I believe he very well could make it. The boy sounds sure of himself, after all.”

“It’s too far.”

I gritted my teeth, and stood tall. I wasn’t about to be belittled by him or anyone. “If I say nothing’s too far for me, then nothing’s too far.”

The boy turned his gaze from me, sighing in disdain. “There’s no chance,” he muttered airily.

“I’ll do it right now, if’n it’ll show you what’s what.”

The son sneered again, folding his arms, and waiting patiently. “Go on.”

“Mayhaps I shall!”

“You’re surely a lot of talk; not much for show.”

I had no choice it seemed. My pride would not allow me to let this go, I was just too stubborn. I was going to make it, I could feel it. I glanced between the man, his son, and the ample puddle. I nodded my head once briskly, and removed the jacket from my shoulders, tossing it onto a nearby cart.

“Pull on your reigns, boy, and hold a moment,” the man called after me. “I have a proposition for the both of you.” From his pocket the man drew an iron Token, holding it pinched between finger and thumb for us to see. “How’s about this: If either one can make it over the puddle, that one gets to keep it. If either one get their feet wet, they get nothing.”

The son and I locked eyes. There was no need for verbal confirmation; from the looks we found in each others eyes, we knew that that the game was on. The boy advanced towards me, a cocky smirk plastered on his face, and certainty evident in his swagger.

The rain was not relenting, and I had to shield my eyes to get a clear view of just how far I would have to jump. It was not far enough to sway me, despite the added deterrence of an audience. If I could make this jump, I would not only win this bet, but I would also have made it almost all the way home with my feet still dry; it would be a personal record. Two birds with one stone, I thought to myself. The pros outweighed the cons; it was decided, I would go for it.

Besides it would feel good to wipe that smirk off the boy’s face.
I glanced back at him. “You sure you can make this jump? Wouldn’t be very pleasant if you were soakin’ wet, seeing as how it’s a might bit cold out; what with the breeze and all.”

His eyes narrowed again. “I’ll go first.”

“Be my guest.” I held my arms out towards the puddle.

The boy was certain of himself, but I was not so sure. I knew what to expect, I was a master of puddle jumping. He didn’t have the right stance, he didn’t have the leg muscles for it, he didn’t back up far enough; my criticisms were endless. I did not express them, but I wore my own smirk in spite.

The boy took off like a bolt, and did a little hop, planted both feet on the ground and sprang out over the puddle. Up into the air he went, high above the ground. An impressive distance, and while I commend his efforts, the boyfell short of his goal. His feet slapped against the puddle, splashing water all about; a final touch to the boys undeniable failure.

“Ah, no!” came the father’s cry. “Come on, Morin, haven’t you got more spunk in you than that? That was barely a respectable distance.”

The boy stepped out of the puddle without a word. He did not wear the anger on his face; he bore no expression. He watched his father with cold eyes as he shook the water off his feet, but said not a word.

“Ah, some son of mine, you are,” the father chuckled, playfully.

While the boy, Morin, seemed begrudgingly intent on removing the water from his shoes, I was preparing for my attempt, gleeful that I was only one grinning now.

Serves you right, I thought. Now watch a master at work. This is my game.

Only one more obstacle lay before me, only one more to cross before I would achieve an all-encompassing victory. The last puddle betwixt me and my glory was the largest of them all. I braced myself at the opposite end of the puddle, aiming myself for the nearest visible cobblestones. If I could make this leap, there would be no question that I was the master of my own game.

The bards would surely sing of the tale of the boy and his game.

This puddle was more than a barrier, it was a threshold. When I would cross it, I would be bringing myself into a life of misery and woe, though I did not know it then. So, sure of my skills, I took a few steps back and let my body fly. I soared over the rippling pool below, having only the slightest inkling as to how deep it could have been at the its center.

I soon realized that my own journey would be brought to a quick and unexpected end, as I was struck across the head, and fell from my high pedestal, and was humbled all the way back to the ground. Before I knew it, a flurry of water fast enveloped me, and I found myself thrashing about in fear and shock at the puddles depth, trying to find a footing. When my foot touched the bottom, I calmed immediately. The water had not been all that deep, and my panic had come all from my head. When I stood again, I waded in water only up to my thighs.

My head hurt, but it was tolerable. The pain was not what enraged me, I was upset that I had lost, and that the boy had been the cause. The icy sting of the frigid breeze did nothing to improve on my sour mood.

“What was that for?” I shouted, putting a hand to the side of my head.

“Morin!” the father roared, at his son, charging after him. “What’s going on in that head of yours, boy? Eh? You can’t just go off and throw your gods-be-damned shoes. What in the thousand layers of the Infernal Abyss were you thinking?”

The father cuffed the boy upside his head, and aimed a finger his way. “Do not ever let me catch you doing something as foolish as this again. You embarrass me, son.”

The boy watched his father quietly, eyes trailing him as he made his way over to me. The man helped me up and out of the puddle. Morin met my glare with that same cold, unwavering gaze. My breath was labored, and scowled at him; bringing a light smile to the boy’s face.

“Oh, Killian!” came my mother’s call as she rushed over. As she approached, she immediately began to look me over, as was he maternal duty.

“I’m fine,” I said, shying from her hands.

“What happened here?”

“Apologies, ma’am,” the father said, removing his cap respectively. “My boy can get out of hand at times, and it seems your son was on the receiving end of his mischief.”

The boy did not waver under his father’s stern expression, standing defiantly with arms folded. He seemed pleased by the attention.

“Well, apologize to the boy, Morin,” he barked.

There was no response.

“Morin!”

Still no answer came from the boy.

“Well, then,” the man grunted, hands on his hips. “Again, I must apologies for my son. He can be handful at times, and he doesn’t seem much inclined to think of the consequences of his actions.” The man directed his last comment towards his son.

“Boys will be boys, as they say,” my mother said.

The man smiled at my mother; a bright, toothy smile. “Where are my manners? I am Corvin Vilente, and this is my son Morin. And who might you be, madam?”

My mother took the hand he offered. “Meredith Todd, but you may call me Meri.”

“It is certainly a pleasure, Meri,” he imparted, bending over to place a gentle kiss upon my mother’s hand. A respectful gesture, one my mother was perhaps not used to, as her face positively beamed. She let out a light chuckle, and her nose crinkled as she smiled.

“Well, you certainly are a gentleman.”

“Think nothing of it.”

Turning his attention to me, Corvin extended his hand, and I took it. My small hand was encompassed by his, but I held as firmly as I could nonetheless.

“A firm grip, that’s good,” he said, meeting my gaze. “What is your name?”

“Killian, sir.”

“Killian, that’s a good name,” he said. “Well, Killian, I must thank you for being so understanding.”

I released his hand, and shrugged. “It’s nothing, sir.”

He took a sharp intake of break, and raised his hands in regret, saying: “I must admit, I wish our meeting could have been under better circumstances than such. Please, if there is any way I can make this up to you and your son, do not hesitate to impart.”

“I’m sure it is quite all right, sir.” My mother gazed upon me for confirmation, and after another glance Morin’s way, I nodded. She smiled, and said, “No harm done, it seems.”

“I insist. I feel obligated to make it up to you.”

The man was certainly gentlemanly, and quite charming and charismatic, and my mother had not smiled and giggled like this before. I did not understand the idea of attraction then, but my mother was caught in his snare, it seemed. At the very least, he had garnered her attention.

“What could possibly be done to atone for such a heinous crime?” she asked playfully, the jubilance evident in her tone.

“Well, first things first,” he announced, holding the coin out for all to see. “I believe this particular circumstance demands that I give this shiny Token here to the boy. This seems a fair recompense for some honest sportsmanship.”

“My, we couldn’t possible take so much coin, sir,” my mother resisted, but even she gazed upon the coin with desire. I may have been young, but I knew that times were hard for us.

Corvin’s smile widened and he placed a hand on my shoulder. “Nonsense, Meri, your boy has earned it. I made the deal, and I am a man who honors his word.” He pressed the iron coin into my palm, and closed my hands around it, springing my lips into a light-hearted grin once more.

Despite having taken a dive into the water, victory had been mine nonetheless, and that was acceptable. As an added bonus, I had wiped the smirk right off the boy’s face.

Morin turned to his father, arguing matter-of-factly, “He didn’t make it. He didn’t win. You said that the rules were—”

“One more word from you, my son…” the father growled under his breath, trailing off to leave his son piecing together the threat.

The boy did not take kindly to this, and walked himself out of the situation. The man turned back our way, and gave a sheepish smile. He inclined his hat once more, and said, “It’s been a pleasure doing business with you, young master; and to you, Miss Meri, a pleasant evening. Perhaps if I find myself in the area I shall come browse your wares one day.”

“That would be most acceptable, Mister Corvin,” my mother said, brushing her sable hair back into place from where the wind had unsettled it. “Good day, sir.”

I watched the father and son retreat down the road with the shadow of a grin on my face. The winds were sweeping heartily through the streets now, carrying a frigid chill with it.

My mother shivered, and placed her hand around mine. “Come, Killian, let’s go close up the stall and head home.”

With my fingers clasped around the iron Token, I followed my mother back across the plaza with a gleeful step in my stride.

*


Last edited by MBNewman; 03-21-2013 at 05:37 PM.. Reason: New revision.
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Old 02-28-2013, 01:01 AM
kc1082 (Offline)
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This is good from what I've read so far.
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Old 02-28-2013, 05:32 PM
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I thought it was excellent. Written very well, and it kept my interest once I got into the action. Nicely paced.

My only criticism would be the use of older English words like 'betwixt' instead of 'between' -- but maybe that's just my personal taste. I found it distracted me and took my mind off the narrative and put it on the words instead.
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Old 02-28-2013, 07:57 PM
MBNewman (Offline)
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Originally Posted by Konan View Post
I thought it was excellent. Written very well, and it kept my interest once I got into the action. Nicely paced.

My only criticism would be the use of older English words like 'betwixt' instead of 'between' -- but maybe that's just my personal taste. I found it distracted me and took my mind off the narrative and put it on the words instead.
Hey thanks for the reads, guys! And as to the dialogue, I keep finding myself jumping betwixt the two all the time. I agree that I need to find some consistency, though.

It's a bit rough at the moment, as it's a recent rewrite. I tried to focus on a more in-the-moment approach this time, as my previous draft was fairly wordy in its narrative during the intro.
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Old 03-04-2013, 06:38 AM
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Very well written. The action is vivid and I can feel the tense atmosphere. I liked what I happened to read
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Old 03-05-2013, 05:55 AM
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Yes your writing is good and you create tension. I enjoyed the read.
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Old 03-12-2013, 12:15 PM
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I like what I've read. It has a nice noir/30's mob feel to it. The only problem that I have with it is the following:
and if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my life that I would want you to take to heart, it’s this: Keep your friends close, and keep your enemies close enough to meet the business end of a dagger; may be the only way to survive these dark days.

Some would call me a murderer, and a thief, and a criminal; to these accusations, I cannot object. In my days I have seen things no man should see, and done things much, much worse.
I feel like this could be cut out and it would remove a feeling of cliche noir backstory. But that's more my opinion, I like my noir to have smash cut feel to the opening, like Dark City or Inherent Vice, even Miller's Crossing. But that's just my two cents for how I like my noir. Maybe intermix the internal dialog with the story to pull the protagonist along into what he would become, starting at this small event.
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Old 03-21-2013, 05:39 PM
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I've made some major changes to the book, and a few to this chapter alone, hopefully for the better. Thanks all for the views!

Last edited by MBNewman; 03-21-2013 at 09:55 PM..
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