Out of the Darkness: Chapter 13 Discussion

Heading into this chapter, we’ve finally seen the MC get away from the daily threat to his life.  Things should come easy to him, right?  Well, they should.  But, I’m not going to let them.  He still has so much to learn about living, forget the little things – walking around without orders, talking to people, or even thinking he’s their equal.  All of that has to be learned too, but there’s something even more basic.

Remember, he’s been trained to kill anything that touches him.  Or anything that moves like it’s threatening him.  Or anything that comes within arm’s reach.  And, he’s not supposed to kill it quickly, but make it an entertaining spectacle.

He’s also managed to miss out on most of the simple things in life – how to talk intelligently, how to interact with others (nice, mean, bully, or any other way).  And, now that his heritage has fully awoken, he’s also dealing with another strike against him – though at the moment he doesn’t know about this yet.

So, I know he’s got to get away from the Arenas into some type of paid work.  For this, he’s about out of place as the Meercat above – mostly with the “Now what?” mentality.  He was signed into the guards in the last chapter as a raw recruit.  Over the Captain’s personal objections, but who’s going to argue with a goddess that says, “This is” in person?  So, the long, hard process of socializing the savage begins.

Now, he’s expected to look like, walk like, talk like, and act like a guard.  All in one setting.

If you snorted your coffee, don’t be ashamed.  I chortled my soda many-a day when writing this section.  And, it became even worse when I got my hands on information regarding how feral children react to such situations.  Sure, you can bring anyone out of a nasty funk by keeping them around others, making them part of the group, and generally ensuring they are included.  But, that’s just it.  No one wanted Nameless around.  He spoke funny, he dressed (or in some cases undressed) funny, and he was obviously death on two feet.  Just exactly what he had been trained to be.  Now, he was told he could not kill, and he had to conform or else.  (Or else what?)

Here, I’ll share a snippet of just how strange Nameless is to the “free” world.  Just, please, do not take a swing of your drink before reading.  Keyboards and monitors don’t do so well with wet sprayed on them.

“The squad leader was happy to turn this strange man over to the quartermaster for the time needed to get his uniform made up. He had expected the newly named Nameless to dress before following him through the public corridors. No one in his experience enjoyed parading naked in public. Nevertheless, the strange man the captain had just signed into the force had not batted an eye when he was ordered to follow, and to bring along his possessions. He had scooped them up (along with the bowl, but the quartermaster would see to its return), and done just as he had been instructed to do.

Nameless followed docilely enough, not looking left or right as if he did not care who saw him in his undressed state. Uncertain if this was sheer bravado, or if the man truly did not have any modesty, Demak added another item to the growing list of things this stranger was going to have to learn if he were to survive in the free world. Surely, slaves – even fighters – were subject to modesty! However, seeing the look on the quartermaster’s face had been well worth his own personal embarrassment for having to escort someone who had clothes… just not on them… through the general population of Headquarters.”

Once we’ve got Nameless suitably dressed (and, yes, there is a bit of humor to go with this as well.  You just have to read to find out what), it’s time to send him out for his first day of work.  For the other guards, this is hard work – walking your beat for a quarter of the day.  For Nameless this is a joke.  Though he is conditioned to obey a recognized superior implicitly, the Captain didn’t even consider this.  So, things start to go awry quickly.  Nameless was told by the Sargent to go with this troop.  And, if the Captain doesn’t remember to treat the new recruit carefully, you can well imagine just how well the rank-and-file will remember this information.  So, Nameless is sent out under orders to stay with the troop, but no one explains to him about the chain of command.  (Any military, para-military, or police force in the crowd?  How honest is it that your chain of command becomes so ingrained you don’t think about it?)

Things again get interesting (Again?  Maybe should have said “stayed” since the problems haven’t really eased any) after Nameless is inserted into the troop for his patrol.  There’s a very brief glimpse of how people move between social strata, though this was not intended.  Saglen (the patrol leader) used to be army, now is in the Guards.  But, he wants his unit to have the same snap and polish as a crack army drill squad.  And, Nameless has no idea what lockstep is, much less how to march in formation.  Oh, what joys!

Oh, and there’s a few other things that crop up here as well which are worth chuckling over, and wind up sending the squad back to headquarters with Saglen in a royal fit of temper.  Right into a full blown riot.  The squad fears for its life, and Nameless is in heaven.  Now, he can finally fight.  Saglen tries to put Nameless in the protected end of his riot line, but Nameless insists on working solo.  Remember waaaay back when, before the finals?  When Nameless was sent out in that small-ish Arena to learn about group work?  Yeah, that lesson didn’t stick around too long.  He’s always fought alone, and he thinks he will always have to fight alone.  He’s never had anyone there to lean on, to work with, or to talk to.  So, he has no idea what Saglen is trying to do for him.

After things settle down from the riot, the issue with Nameless’ heritage finally has a chance to shine.  Oh, was it a nightmare to figure out how to write the conversation too!  Ask a question, answer the question, then turn the answer on its head so that it’s not answering the question truthfully, yet contains a shred of truth.  All of this with Nameless’ particular syntax mangle.  OK, methinks I complain too much.  I had a blast writing this entire chapter.

I’m going to sign off, with one last excerpt so I don’t go a spoil the whole thing.  Happy reading.  If you are intrigued enough, you can always swing by Smashwords or Amazon and pick up your copy today.  Honestly, I don’t mind.  You can even try a sample before you buy.

“Can’t you answer anything straight!?!” The Captain exclaimed, his frustration of a bad day falling over onto Nameless.
Talk am straight. Question ask, answer do not make right wrong?
“Gah! You are worse than any urchin we bring in. I am going to ask you simple yes and no questions. Answer with the correct answer. Understand?”
“Were you with Saglen?”
“Did he bring the patrol back to deal with the riot?”
Nameless shrugged, not knowing why the patrol had come back.
“Did you know about the riot?”
“Did Saglen explain about riot procedure?”
“Were you told to join the riot line when he saw the mob?”
“Were you told to stay out of the fight?”
“But, you joined in anyway?”
“No? The fight mysteriously moved to where you were, drew you into itself, and then pulled you back to the center of the street?”
“Hardly. I was outside when I saw your troop come up. Now, carefully, fully, in sentences I can understand, explain to me how you came to be in the middle of that row. It ought to be interesting to hear what you say.”
Troop join, long walk long. Boots bad, feet good, boots lost. Long walk long, left-right, left, right, straight walk, listen watch, bright hurt, walk, stop. Fight start, here was, there was, here want, here am.” Nameless moved his hands to indicate that he had been outside the fight when it started, but he had moved himself into it. “Fight did, harm none as ordered. Fun had, better feel, end, walk you talk.

Out of the Darkness: Chapter 12 Discussion

In chapter 10, things are coming to a close in the Arenas.

The chapter opens with Nameless’ acceptance for the Ascendance trials, which is the only way out of the fights for anyone who has been condemned to the Sands.  I drew heavily on actual history when I decided to set this chapter up, trying to give it a sense of reality without taking the story too far off course, or making it unbelievable.

There’s a little back story that went into this, which I didn’t write into the actual narrative.  When setting up the Trials, I wanted to have the accepted fighters have a natural progression of selection.  I wasn’t sure how many would be reasonable for entry, though the story itself indicates anyone can be put forward, so long as their master has enough prestige, they are sponsored by a runner (though a few exceptions are made from time to time), and the fighter’s schedule is almost impossible to fill because no one wants to go up against them.  This ensures that recognized champions are the only ones who escape, and that the strongest, meanest, and toughest are skimmed out of the Arenas to keep the fights entertaining.  Similar to Roman gladiator fights where the champions can fight their way to freedom, or earn enough gold to buy their way out of the bloodshed.

However, once I knew there could be only one survivor from the fights, I was able to build a ladder-style ranking back down to the quarter final level.  So, this chapter starts with the broader candidate pool, and winnows it down through a series of fights to the 16 remaining fighters who enter the quarter finals.

With that in mind, I also had to figure out how to set up the trials so the fighters would actually make it to the end, yet not be unbelievably exhausted.  For this, I went through a huge amount of information on the big Roman circuses, looking specifically at the multi-day ones hosted by the Ceasars in celebration of birthdays or anniversaries.  Most of those indicated the fighters were sent out against untrained opponents early in the day, and the skill levels increased as the day progressed.  Rather than have the Trials cycle on a daily basis, I decided to have the matches run straight through, from unskilled into the skilled.  I knew that the fighters would need to have some rest (and food) during the event, and so this was set up with the rest rotations occurring after the fighter came back in from a fight.  This let them face the unskilled with the most rest, then start to wear down their endurance as the skill levels of the opponents improved and the pool of candidates thinned.  On paper, at least, it would appear the rest times did not increase, as the fight lengths should have increased as the skill levels became closer to matching.  However, in reality, how often does the paper schedule actually translate the way you expect it to?  It didn’t in this case either.

As the skill levels between the fighters came closer to parity, the fights became shorter.  Since only one fighter left the Arenas, this also meant there were fewer fights to stretch the time as well.

I know, I’m being mean to the fighters.  The culture is even worse, though for the moment only a glimpse of how ugly it is has been seen.

Once the unskilled fights were out of the way, the next step was to figure out how to structure the last rounds.  For this, I sat down with Excel, dice, and the list of fighting styles I had established.  I had 16 matches to set up for the quarter finals, which meant 15 styles to select.  I also wanted to set up the approximate times, so I knew just how exhausted the fighters were.  A little more research brought to light that even a long gladiator fight usually was no more than 15 minutes (quarter glass in the book), so that meant the quarter finals would consume 4 hours.  That’s a long time when you’re waiting on a fight.  Since I had established how each of the candidates were superbly conditioned for an extensive series of matches, I then quickly worked back through the math to find out how long they would have been on rotation to this point.  I was stunned when I realized it only equaled 8 days.  That much bloodshed in such a short amount of time.


I also worked through the math for what type of schedule the remaining 16 fighters had seen to make sure they hadn’t gone over the typical six to eight matches in a given 12 hour period.  Up to this point, if I remember my spreadsheet properly, I was still in the clear.  Now, it was time to really start turning the screws on these poor fighters, and put them out of their misery.  And, so with the styles selected, the times set up, and the ladder ready to go, it was time to start rolling the dice for the first pairings, and the winners of the quarter final matches.  That’s how come there are some strange pairings at this point.  It was rather interesting to figure out how the victor could have won when you have a spear vs a net, or a trident vs a sword.

After the quarter finals, the semi-finals were up for grabs.  This time, at least the pairings were a little more selective, and so those scenes were a little easier to wright.  However, here I had to take into account just who had how much rest since their last match.  This is when the general exhaustion of the preceding days finally comes into play.  Knowing that the fighters are tired, means I know they will be making mistakes.  Once again, the dice came into play to help establish what types of mistakes they made.  The more mistakes, the more injured.  The more injured, the more mistakes.  What a wonderful cycle of destruction I got to wage on these fellows.

Everything finally wraps up in preparation for the actual final fight with Nameless still on his feet, but much of his “vim and vinegar” knocked out.  The remaining fighters are given a large meal, a chance to sleep, and a Healing so they can provide the maximum amount of entertainment before the victor leaves the Arenas forever.

Out of the Darkness: Chapter 11 Discussion

The finals.  The ultimate time for any fighter that has survived the Arenas.  In this chapter, we get to see why these matches are so important.  Why the fighters are willing (most grudgingly, to be sure) to endure such a long, hard, wearing run of matches just to get there.  It also brings the first phase of the Silk’s life to a close – one way or another.

Oh, by the way, I have admitted before now that I’m a cruel writer when it comes to my characters, right?  If not, then feel free to yell about half way through this chapter.  Normally, when a fighter wins their finals, they are given quite a sizable financial nest egg to start with.  This does not mean they are free from the next phase of their lives, but at least they can afford to start it.  I left a nasty surprise for our victor.

Fine, I’ll admit it.  The Silk wins.  It’s not exactly a spoiler, is it?  I mean, where would the story be if the main character were killed off this early.

But, he doesn’t get all of the normal rewards.  And, I’m not sure if that was a favor… or a new torture.  He’s got so much to learn.  More now, with less forgiving circumstances, than when he entered the Arenas in the first place.  He’s also having a minor identity crisis.  Outside of the Arenas, he has no idea who (or what) is is.  So, as we enter into the next phase of his life, he has to forge an identity from what he does understand.  This isn’t the easiest thing to do for anyone, and he has fewer tools to work with.

There is one last interesting bit that gets introduced – right at the end of the chapter.  The layout of the City, and how the people within each of the districts interact.  Some might be culturally based, but there is definitely a noticeable caste system, even beyond the walls.  And, it is up to our intrepid character to figure this out before he finds himself on the wrong side of everyone.

Out of the Darkness: Chapter 10 Discussion

You have hung with it this long?  Congratulations.  Usually, I hear back that others have been lost long before this.

As if you haven’t noticed, I’ve broken just about every rule in the book so far.  And, I don’t stop in this chapter either.

The biggest one is that we haven’t gotten away from the battle zone yet.  No, I’m not giving anything away, if you’re still here.  We really haven’t.  However, with a chapter titled “The Ascendance Trials” I think you get the hint that things are coming to a head for our dear character.  And, if you guessed, yes, this phase of his life is coming to a close.

This is the announcement itself:  ”  “Fighter, presumed twenty-nine.  Accepted on entertainment, brutality, and honor to our Web Mother.”  ”

After many years in the Arenas, his master can no longer keep his name out of the candidacy pool.  The opening of the chapter was fun to right, because we still have no name for the poor man.  The closest he gets is “Gartal’s Silk”.  Somehow, I’m pretty sure that’s not a name anyone would want to be saddled with.  Especially since he’s not dedicated to his master, but to his goddess.  Yeah, I had fun with this.

We get to see a little more of the City itself.  Though it is underground, that does not mean it is bereft of beauty.  I tried (and probably failed) to let everyone walk the streets as the slave was paraded around, seeing the sights for the first time.  In the comments later, let me know if you think I succeeded or not.

“The fighter saw for the first time the ethereal, dark beauty of the Melkreschen Realm, though he did not know what he saw was beauty:  forests of crystalline trees carefully nurtured, shaped, and grown in a silicon parody of the wood producing trees in the Sunlit Lands; homes and buildings made from sheets of the purest emerald, quartz, sapphire, amethyst, carnelian, and obsidian; torches – both green and orange – placed where they would best reflect in the ambers, peridots, citrines, and fluorites; each one spaced at aesthetic distances from one another, each color complementing the next in heart stopping beauty never seen in the lands above.”

Outside of discovering the City, we also get to see some of the comradare (or lack there of) that goes on in the communal cells of the Death Sentence cages.  For the first time in many years the Silk is forced to endure an open cage, rather than the isolation he prefers.  And, because he is so strange – even for one of the champions – he is the butt of unmerciful teasing before the matches even begin.  With his lack of social skills, this leads to many misconceptions about him, and to a lesser degree – bullying.  Big mistake for his eventual foes, right?

When the matches start, I had quite a bit of fun.  Not just in planning how the matches evolved, but in how our intrepid Silk approached them.  After all, when you plan a marathon event, you should start with the easiest parts first, and work your way to the toughest.  In this instance, I elected to keep from going to the EASIEST type matches, but the ones I started with were a bit of a let down.  Don’t worry, they get harder… and harder… and harder.


Out of the Darkness: Chapter 9 Discussion

OK, this ought to give you fair warning about what’s going on in this chapter.  Humor is not my strong suit – it tends to develop from the situation, rather than from a deliberate attempt.  (Yes, think of Data or Spok, maybe even Elron, and you’ve got a pretty good idea.)  However, since things have been so dour, intense, and depressing, I figured I’d try to toss in a little bit of levity in this chapter.  So, with the start of “Rise to Freedom”, I went back to the best source of comedy you could find – animals.

The poor Silk, trained to fight other fighters now finds himself facing chickens, geese, turkeys, and other small animals.  And, he’s not even allowed to kill them – he has to CHASE them and elicit certain responses from the spectators.

I did warn you, I’m a cruel author to my characters, right?

There also is a little further training with weapons, though as this is a small part, and not a central theme to his fights, it is something mentioned, then passed over.  The primary focus here is the fighter’s development as a entertainer.  After all, most gladiator fights, even in reality were entertainment, not just fighting for the sake of killing.

Towards the end of the chapter I finally got a chance to bring out and highlight one last interesting bit of his personality – he’s a bit of a berserk fighter.  It doesn’t show up all the time, because of the strictly enforced obedience, but there is a scene where it really gets a chance to shine through.  Though, his master is not happy about it when he comes down.

“The fighters stalking him paused in their pursuit.  They noticed his obsidian eyes which now dominated his pale face.  In fear, they scattered, which brought a look of cruel anticipation to his face.  No longer were they opponents to be humiliated – now they were moving prey to be devoured.

Selecting his next victim, everything around him began to fade.  Nothing else mattered to him now, except that his selected victim died.  He lost all trace of finesse, of doubt, or worry over his personal safety as he pursued the fleeing fighter.  ”

And now I have all the toys I could want in my toy chest to play with for the rest of this installment.  Oh, what fun!

The last piece of the foundation for the character is put into place – his minor abilities granted from his heritage.  Though the abilities are from his own lineage, he believes they are from his goddess, solidifying the foundation together that he is only her living avatar, and all he does is by her will.  This provides a wonderful foreshadowing of events to come.

Out of The Darkness: Chapter 7 Discussion

Heading into Chapter seven, things are finally beginning to physically change for our dear nameless protagonist.  He’s reached the age when his fairy blood begins to awaken, and his master will discover just what type of fairy he’s got on his hands.  So far, the brutality, isolation, and cruelty encountered by the slave should be enough to waken his heritage in such a way that he will forever remain the the Arenas, no matter if he wins or not.  However, that would have been the easy way out.  What type of fun would it be to read about someone who enjoys killing for the sake of killing?  Instead, there’s a twist in the story here, and it sets up for events later down the line.

The changes don’t come out all at once, but rather piecemeal as the child discovers them on his own.  The focus is still tightly regulated to the point of view of the child, and the opportunities for actual dialogue are still limited.  There’s a little more outside history brought to light, and I did try to keep a light hand with it.  It is pertinent to what’s happening, which made it a bit of a challenge to introduce it without falling off into pages of research notes.

There is a continuing thread of development for Nameless – he’s not just a well oiled killer.  He’s beginning to show some actual thoughts beyond the personal fences he put up to protect himself in his environment.  No longer is the tenet “This is”  and “This is the worst I’ll ever be” enough.  Now, he is beginning to consider something more.  Something bigger than himself.

You can see it in this snippet here:

“When he had finished his meal, and stacked the plate in its usual place by the door to his cell, he returned to his thinking spot.  His thoughts centered on last night’s matches, and the crowd’s responses. He did not consider the probability that he was playing into anyone’s hands, or that he was different. He only knew that he had failed to win an approval from crowds and his master continued to be pleased with him.

He had enjoyed playing with his opponent.  The sense of expectation for the next move, the way his opponents had shown fear in their eyes before he had even moved in to finish them.  The thrill he had felt actually increased his enjoyment the cat-and-mouse game he had established. And, somehow, his opponent’s fear had also given him a power he was just beginning to recognize as something to garner. ”

He still has no idea what is going on outside of his very small world, but he is beginning to develop an idea that there is a world beyond his cell and the Arena.

For the actual development of the character, I was faced with several key issues:

  • The traditional faerie sensitivity to iron – Even in a prehistoric world, there is going to be some metal that is the bane of the faerie types.  To make it easier on myself, I cheated and introduce forged iron.  Yeah, I know.  It’s cheating.  Guess what?  This is my story, so I’m using iron.
    • The sensitivity is highlighted here:  “.  Even as his fingers struck, the sword once again found purchase on his body. Down his ribs the sword skittered, leaving an open gash much larger than it should have for such a weak blow. As the swordswoman collapsed, so did the child. He balled up, his face contorted in a rictus of pain from the cold iron which had found him”
  • Physically aging the character – with the age he is, he should have hit his full growth.  However, being from a race that can live a very, very long time, the question arose about how he would appear.  Would it be child-like, or more teenage?  Maybe even a babyish adult?  Except for the obvious elements needed for him to have survived as long as he has, I decided to leave most of this up to the reader.  There were more important physical aspects I needed to focus on.
  • Physical changes – from almost every game system I’ve run across when dealing with a race that has a blood quantum that awakens, there almost always winds up being some type of physical change.  I decided to keep that for this work, though the foundation I work from allows for these changes to remain hidden from casual view.  It was more interesting to create a more limited effect.  It also ties the character deeper into the overall religious structure within the world/realm that I’ve built.
    • With most of the elements that weave through the story I did my best to keep them understated.  Such as what happened here: “The tide of physiological changes had crested would not be stemmed. Despite the foul conditions he lived in and the poor diet he lived on for so long, the changes had reached a point where they were self-sustaining until the rudimentary new organs were fully mature. Had he lived the life of freedom, as most fey did, the physical changes would not have become apparent – only manifesting when he wished them to, rather than becoming actual alterations to his appearance. Under the conditions in which he had awoken, the manifestations were permanent and often unnoticed.”
  • The issue of how well conditioned he is for the live he is living – granted, he has not been exposed to anything else, but even for someone who has been through similar circumstances, he is unusual.  He enjoys the life he has, and has the driving need to be the best.  With the only competition he has being his past performance, he drives himself unmercifully to obey, to please, and to live by the strictures others have instructed him to live within.  This can clearly be seen in the snippet
    • When he reached his cell in the Death Sentence, he entered without being ordered, to the slight disgruntlement of the cell’s manager. He now knew this routine well.  Like a well trained animal, he did not fight the necessity of being in the smaller confinement before he could have his fun. This was the part that he savored. It gave him a chance to build his own edge for the fights to come – time to hone his desire and hunger, time to see something besides the solid walls of his stall-cell.  It also gave him time to harness his anger at the fate he had been given from birth – to always fight for something he did not know, understand, or comprehend. Time to renew his own personal promise to himself that he would obey, and in obeying.. live.

Out of the Darkness: Chapter 6 Discussion

The child has now learned what it means to be a fighter.  He did not escape his first foray into this without injury, and was taken back to his original cell to be magically healed.  He awakens to find himself being observed and tied down to his manger/bed, but is soon freed after a short visit by his master and some other.

With the return of his preferred solitude, he shows just how much he has learned with this passage here:

“He started on his routine, again using calisthenics, rather than running for the initial work. He drove himself even harder, knowing now what he would have to face. As he worked through his routine, he pushed himself to move faster than before and strike at the shadows with more force. As the torch guttered to its death, he practiced the techniques he had learned from his training to deal the same. The movements were now so much muscle memory, his mind was able to go over the fight from the Arena he had just endured. The agile maneuverings of his enemy, his own responses to their moves – both the ones that brought him proper defenses and those that brought him injury.  His thoughts ran along pathways that were beginning to develop the tactics and strategies that he would use in the rest of his Arena career. As his mind worked through the maze of ideas that were spawning, his body shifted into the blend of techniques suggested by the mentally replayed fight.

Against his mental shadows he continued to work for many glass. When his meal arrived, he stopped to eat. After he had eaten in the same methodical way he had worked that morning, he tried to resume his work, but his stiffened muscles refused to cooperate. He found himself having to return to the warm up and stretching exercises again to loosen his body back up. Frustrated because of this, he fought to increase his speed yet again without sacrificing any of the precision he had learned. He sped through the first part of the day again, and approached the afternoon’s routine after several more exhausting glass. The routine he had started the day before began to flow through his mind, and his body followed in the complete darkness that was his first world. His muscles were finally loose and responsive, and the food he had eaten for the meal began to give him the energy and urge to fight – the blend of herbs in the meat proving to be as effective with his physiology as they were with any other. ”

We also discover that the fighters fight because of something more than just their training or desire for freedom – there seems to be something in the food they are given that makes them more aggressive and gives them a desire to go out and fight.

More of the culture is revealed with the response to his second fight – short, brutal, and bloody.  But, the crowd’s do not approve.  They don’t approve at all.  As he is being sent out to his next match, he is given an instruction that allows him to show his adaptability – does he listen to the person who ordered him, or does he ignore it.  By rights, he could have gone either way.  Let’s see how he decides:

“”Make it last this time! Don’t cut it so short. Living is only part of it. Bore them, and you will die, Silk!”

The surprise almost caused him to stumble as he stepped out into the soft, giving Sands. He had never been given such succinct advice by anyone before. And he was forced to make the snap judgment if it was an order to be followed, or one that the speaker had any authority to give. Replaying the words as he searched the Sands, he decided that it was something he had to follow.  He interpreted it as though it had to do with movement from the cell to the Sands. But how to obey nagged at him as he recovered his balance smoothly, and continued out to the center to await the start of the next fight. ”

He is beginning to think for himself, but there is no real direction for his thinking, except brute survival.  He must survive his fights – he has been so ordered, and that is what he will do.  He doesn’t know any other way to show his obedience.

In this fight, we get to see more of his adaptability, as his chosen amalgamated style is highlighted.  He has to shift his style because of an unexpected injury, and along the way he has to figure out how to please the crowds.  One of the ways he was doing so is highlighted here:

“His face losing even more of the boyish innocence that had marked him just two days prior. The attitude change was visible even to those in the lower seats of the stands, causing the crowds to roar their approval. It was a rare treat for them to see a boy become a man in the Arena.

Often the fighters that were introduced to were men much before their time; as such it was always a gamble on their endurance, not on their mental state. ”

The scene closes with a high point of his new career – he becomes known for the brutal way in which he finishes off his opponents.  He may toy with them, but when he finishes them off, it is abrupt and bloody.  It also has a terrifying finality about it, as can be seen here:

“When the end came, it was sudden; a similar repetition of the child’s debut. One moment, the two were contending for dominance over each other, their bodies clashing into each other, hands and feet flying almost beyond visible speed. Then suddenly, the child was standing alone, the opponent he had been pounding on collapsing slowly at his feet. Blood flowed from the nose and throat where the larynx had been exposed to the air of the excitement which had built around the two during the match. ”


That’s it for now.  Until next time … keep those pages turning!

If I’ve peaked your interest, you can find a copy of Out of the Darkness on

SmashwordsBarns and NobleiTunesScribd, and Amazon

Out of the Darkness: Chapter 5 Discussion

The, as yet, still nameless main character has been in training a while.  And, he has begun to show an implacable dedication to what he considers his writs about life.  When he is told to do something, he does it until told to stop.  So, is it unusual that when he is in the Arena, he trains?  He does this so much that even during his allowed rest time, the trainer has to make a decision about how to handle this child.  He can discipline the boy, and drive him into resting at the expense of letting the other children take advantage of the food bearing slaves, or he can focus on distributing the food and let the child train.

I elected to have this little by-play remain in place because I felt it was necessary to firmly establish the child’s dedication to accomplishment.  In part, it would allow me to have the child show some creativity, but also in part because I knew even at this early of a point in the story that the child could not be like any of the others.  It was not critical for him to be stronger, faster, smarter than the others, but this mindless dedication comes into play a little later on.

Here you can see that by-play:

“He did continue to be last in line during the training sessions when food was served, because he had established that he would focus on his perfection, not on his stomach. Vergol had tried reprimanding him over this particular idiosyncrasy even going as far as withholding the portion, but had never managed to prevent the Silk from continuing the habit. As such, he had finally given in, and set the plate for the odd child aside until everyone else had been fed. In part the child did this because it ensured he got the drink his body craved so desperately first, but also, it gave him up to an hour of extra practice to finish working on perfecting some technique. And in this time he could also practice the amalgam of styles he was developing, because there were none who had the time or desire to cuff him for not using the pure techniques. In this, again Vergol had tried several times to make a change in the child’s patterns and failed.”

He has managed to figure out at least the three basic parts of the day, but once he has started on a routine, he continues through it without deviation.

I also used this section to begin foreshadowing that the main character was not gong to be the same as most of the other characters.  While, true to life, some people can handle pain better than others, in this case, it is for a different reason.  Here is an example

“The administered cuffs just did not seem to reach this child the same way as the others. His ability to soak pain was amazing to all who knew him, and unnatural to those who only heard of it. His tenacity of routine was just as out of place for one who could only count seventeen years of life, but he seemed to be one who was not meant to be counted amongst the “normal” at all. ”

Now, with the child’s drive for perfection isolating him from his training group, he is quickly advanced into other groups in an attempt to keep him out of the actual Arena combat for a little while longer.  However, his drive forces his Owner into a tough decision, and he enters the Arena early.  But, because this is done under duress, we get to see a little of the culture here.  Cruel – yes.  Callous – definitely.  But, they also want to be entertained.  Death is common, but how that death is accomplished is what brings the masses to their feet and gets their blood pumping.  Much like Rome, this culture has a blood lust that will not be denied.  So, we come to this passage:

“Gartal did manage to wring some concessions from giving in to the pressure.  Most Fighters had to fight in a round robin style debut – fighting until they either were killed, or collapsed. Because of his age, and the fact that Gartal had such a reputation from running three fighters who had become champions, he was able to limit the number of initial matches the child would face  to no more than five per day. It was thought this would be enough to tax the child, but not enough to overextend him beyond his ability.”

All right, there is more here than culture, you also get to see how one of the secondary characters thinks.  At least where the main character is concerned.  It does help to build a little more mystery around the child.  After all, if his Owner is willing to cash in some of his political clout to preserve this one fighter, what makes him so special, right?  As the action of the plot begins to transition from the focus on training into a focus on the fighting, the mentality of the child is brought out a little more.  The question of how his dedication to a routine is answered, because his routine is abruptly disrupted by his change in status from boy-child-trainee to boy-child-fighter.  Now, instead of training all day, he is an athlete expected to be at his peak when he performs at night.  His answer to this is highlighted here:

“His natural ability to accept things as they were once again enforced itself in his mentality. He stolidly waited in his cell for the unknown to happen, and reveal what the new way was. However, even then, his body was used to being pushed hard to its limits on a daily basis.  He was unable to remain still for long so began to go through his techniques, as if he were actually in the Sands. The only part of the routine he did not follow was the run that always came first. The space available in his cell was no longer large enough to allow this, causing him instead to modify the hard cardiovascular workout to a more intensive, but sedate method.  Through trial and error, he quickly developed his own style of calisthenics. He did not know why the run was important, but he understood and enjoyed the feeling of invigoration he felt after the run was complete.  He also enjoyed the feeling of invincibility when he took the seemingly extra energy given from the run and turned it to his pell work. The other thing he did not follow exactly was the weapons drill he had started, but not mastered. He could force his limbs to follow the movements, but without the weight of the practice blade in his hand, he could not temper his body to the extra weight. For once, his ability to perfect a technique on his own from remembering what he had been shown failed him. ”

And, also, he is given a few minor flaws – make more real.  He doesn’t push himself as hard as he thinks he does when he is by himself.  It takes someone other to make him perform at his best.  He also does not have a superhuman ability to some how mysteriously make his body work empty handed as if it had a weapon to work against.  It was the small things like this that made crafting this section interesting for me.  Finding the little nit-picking things to bring out that showed him to be something other than perfect.  One of the imperfections I enjoyed writing the most in this book was when the child had to figure out what clothes were.  For those who have toddlers or other youngsters who are just now starting the process of learning how to dress themselves, please let me know how close I got to the actual process your little ones used the first time they tried to dress themselves.

“with the visual instruction he now understood that he was to pull something over his head. Something that would cover him as some of the Steels had been covered from neck to ankle. Elated, because he thought this was a sure sign of approval, he swarmed over to the pile and picked up the topmost piece. He began pulling it on, trying to pull the pant leg over his head, and struggling to understand where his arms were to poke through to cover his body properly. The girl laughed, and soon another sound joined her bright bells of laughter. The deeper rumble of laughter came from his master; he noted this when he finally managed to bunch the pant leg up enough to sit uncomfortably around his neck.  The rough material reminded him for the first time in many years about the pain he was constantly experiencing. As he looked at his master, one leg of the trousers bunched around his neck, the other dangling ridiculously over an arm, the waist hanging oddly from his shoulder, ”

When he finally enters the Arena as a debut fighter, there are many things that are similar and different from what has been shown before.  Now, the child is facing his own possible death, as well as the necessity of killing others.  Since this is what he is trained for, it seems pointless for everyone to keep ordering him to win, but it is often shown that knowing how to kill someone does not mean the person or character has the will to do this.  Here, the child’s dedication to his routine, his single-mindedness to obeying the letter of his orders, and the isolation he was reared in all come into play.  With all of these factors working together and supporting eachother, the scene is set for what happens here:

“As he located it, the flag fell, and he found himself obeying the last order he had received without thought. He launched himself at the nearest opponent, his arms beginning the open sweeps of his official form. He felt his wrist impact a solid bony limb, and not bothering to discover if it had been a head, arm, or shin, he spun. His foot lashing out viciously towards the midsection of the man who had come within range behind him. The shock told him he had made a full impact. Even then, he had turned to face the next opponent, and found himself facing someone who was not just better trained, but faster in the same style.”

Needless to say, he wins the fight.  After all, if he didn’t, there would be no main character to write about, would there?

Most of the rest of this chapter deals with the actual fight itself.  Though not quite a blow-by-blow recounting, there is enough gory detail to satisfy many thriller readers, and to turn many stomachs of the more genteel fantasy readers.  However, it also establishes the tone for the rest of the book – bloody combat, the harsh reality of fighting for survival, and the uncomplicated desire to live.  It also begins to highlight the fact that the main character, while the result of his training and rearing also is the product of his own personality.  He is NOT a nice boy.  He thrives on the bloody by-play of the Arena to which he has become exposed, and willingly allows himself to become dedicated to.

Now, with the scene coming to a close, it is time to evaluate what the child’s future potential may be.  He has taken several injuries that should have been debilitating, and yet he remains standing.  Up until the last paragraph.  Here we see the child succumb to his injuries, once more providing a sense of realism:

“As the body of his last opponent crumpled, so did his own. He was not awake to hear the adulation that was heaped upon him.  It was rare that a child’s debut should have such a clear-cut victory.


Until next time …. keep those pages turning!


If I’ve peaked your interest, you can find a copy of Out of the Darkness on

SmashwordsBarns and NobleiTunesScribd, and Amazon

Out of the Darkness: Chapter 4 Discussion


This is a transition chapter. It focuses on the child’s mental ability, and begins drawing out some of the role play information. It presents a child with an eidetic memory who is a masochist. His powers of concentration are also highlighted a little more, such as what is noted in this scene:

“Because of his isolation, he had never learned to wolf his food to keep another from eating it. So when the food was delivered to his darkened cell, he often would be deeply involved in a mental drill of the moves, and what they were to look like, often he ignored the food until it was cold. Sometimes, the same portion that had been delivered the night before would still be sitting just inside the door and untouched when the breakfast portion was served.
He had learned well that perfection was the driving force of the Arena, and so drove himself mercilessly to achieve it. Day by day, week by week flowed by him as he perfected not just what he was taught, but also what he was teaching himself. In his sparring sessions, he learned quickly what the weaknesses of his official forms were, and from observation which other forms were viable against each other. In each case, his agile mind adapted the moves he had learned by observation of the opposition. His mind was sharp enough and active enough to now memorize everything from seeing it only once. The trained eidetic memory that he had developed worked almost in over drive to replay scene after scene when he was returned to his cell. Little did he know that such intensive mental work was unusual to any fighter, even others who had been raised in isolation. Especially after they had been introduced to the concept that there were other beings out there with whom they could interact. But his young mind was still rigidly held to the mandate that what was, was the only way it could be. ”

It is also noted that the child is a fast learner. How fast, however has not yet been completely shown.The foundations laid down in Chapter 3 have begun to take root, and the small sapling can be seen in the above example. Also, his iron will is becoming more prominent. The will that allows him to continue on when his body tries to give up.

So far, the child continues to seem like everyone else, just a little tougher, a lot more stubborn, and so driven even his master worries over how fast he is progressing.


Until next time… keep those pages turning!

If I’ve peaked your interest, you can find a copy of Out of the Darkness on

SmashwordsBarns and NobleiTunesScribd, and Amazon

Out of the Darkness: Chapter 3 Discussion

The child finally has been installed by his master into the place he is deemed to fit. He quickly acclimates to the new situation, and is not left long to wonder what exactly is expected of him now. Being the obedient child he is, he obeys only those he has been told to, and ignores everyone else. Because of this, his master takes him to his first day of training. And, what a day it is!

“Vergol smiled then – a cold smile, revealing his enjoyment of the children’s discomfort. When the wails ceased, he nodded and then turned his full attention to the children again. “Young you are yet, but enduring you can be. Run. Run as if your very lives depended on it. For they do. The last one across the thread when ordered to stop shall be dinner.”
The older, more experienced ones did not wait for any further explanation, but took off from a dead stop to a full bolt, their focus reflecting their fear. The child who had been punished left with the last five to start, following the others, as where he was to run had been left vague. Vergol watched the children, evaluating each one present according to their castes. The Steels, bred from known champions and wearing solid bands of the metal without any visible seams, were expected to show the greatest potential. These young fighters carried the expectations of their Owners or Runners to become champions in their own right. The single Silk – a child of unknown or unexceptional parentage showing unusual abilities already, wore a band of silk spun by Her Children that reacted with normal body heat to form a corrosive, acid-like substance. He was expected to show some unusual potential. However, expectations for a long life for him in the Sands were low. There were no Locks – those children bred from unremarkable fathers and wore cheap, hinged collars with a heavy lock on it. Sometimes Locks were adults who had been sent to the Sands only to feed Her Children, but most often, these slaves were reserved for the Menials. Each child was watched and appraised as they strung out; the oldest and tallest in front, working down through the ages to the youngest and shortest in the back. Surprisingly, Gartal’s boy child was ahead of his size and age mates, though he seemed to be less fed, and under strength when he had entered the Sands. As the first lap drew to a close, he even drew ahead of two others who were older than him. His strides evened out, his balance adapting to the Sands. Each step was firm, yet springy, and his motion was loose and easy. As he passed, Vergol saw the barely healed mass of wounds on his back, and marveled at his ability to continue without giving in. As he ran lap after grueling lap, his face hardened in concentration even as his breathing grew ragged from the sustained effort of running in the churned and furrowed Sands from the runners ahead of him, and the laps already completed. “

This was just the start to his day. It got worse from there. MUCH worse. After being run until he was continuing on from sheer will, he was then put through an initial meat grinder to determine what type of fighter he was destined to be trained as. This particular child was a small boy – small of build, small of stature, but had more endurance than any considered natural. Such as what is seen here:

“He kept the children working at their unarmed work until even the most conditioned of the older ones were lagging so much that even Silk enhanced cuffs were no longer effective. Finally, he called them back to attention, and the children gratefully sagged into the proper stance, their chests heaving, their limbs quivering. Even the hardiest of them were grateful at this time for the respite from the constant movement. They had been pushed to their limits for the last four glass, still not having received a meal from the prior waking period, and the lack of food was beginning to be felt by all.
“Walk two laps, then return to me to receive your meal, and a drink.” he called, looking toward the hall where several Menials were standing holding large trays with the children’s meal. As the children staggered off, he waved the tray bearers closer, and then turned to watch his current crop, estimating what each would need for a bare essential to continue work. When the trays arrived, and he had finished his evaluation, he turned, and began portioning out the smallish hunk of preserved meat to individual plates, adding even smaller chunks of the coarse black bread made with weevil infested rye flour, beans, and other unsavory additions. He did not dip out the drinks yet, as the trays were stacked two deep in plates with the completion of the first task. As the children arrived for their meals, he doled out the plates as a miser would dole out copper from their hand to a beggar. He ensured that everyone was looking, and could see the size portion given to the one ahead of them.
Those who were familiar with the routine took what was handed them dully before turning away to sink down by their pells and begin stolidly eating their way through the portion allowed them. Those unfamiliar showed their disappointment or amazement in the portion sizes when they received their plates, lingering by the head of the line until Vergol looked at them threateningly. Then they moved off quickly as he reached a hand as if to take some away. They flopped where they could in no particular order, sitting ungracefully in the Sands to begin working on their own measly portions. When it seemed all were served, Vergol reached towards the mugs to begin distributing the drinks, but found one plate remaining. Surprised, he looked around, counting heads, and saw Gartal’s boy by the pells, repeating several of the moves he had been shown, and had been having particular trouble with. Amazed, he walked over, and tapped the boy on the shoulder to get his attention. Immediately defensive, the boy reached up and locked the thumb of the hand that had touched him, and twisted violently. More in surprise than pain, Vergol dropped to a knee, his other hand coming up to reverse the thumb lock, but the boy released and stepped back. His eyes snapping into focus, then down when he saw who was before him. His face reflecting his consternation at his own action, his eyes showed his fear. The first emotion anyone had ever seen the boy show.
Vergol rose to his feet gracefully, not acknowledging the almost dislocated thumb joint, and looked him over carefully. The boy was on his feet by some unnatural act of will. If he was reading the muscle quivers correctly, and the ragged breathing, this boy should have been prone on the Sands many glass ago. But something, some inner drive, was keeping him standing, and Vergol determined to himself he would find this drive and break it. ”

As the child’s training progressed, his trainer sought to break his spirit and his determination. Because he was a lower “caste” than the other children, less was expected of him, but more was demanded. He survived the day, and was only too happy to return to the darkness that he considered natural at the end of the first day in this phase of his young life.

“The indeterminate effort of making his feet and body obey him while he was on the soft sand had taken its toll on the limited reserves he had, and though he did not know it, the pain still searing into his neck from his collar was also adding to his exhaustion. An exhaustion he did not even realize he was experiencing. He only knew that he still had more to do. His master would order him to action, and he knew that he would have to obey, such was the creed he had learned so well, and had reinforced again and again in the training just past. When his master turned away from his inspection, and ordered him to follow, he stepped off, fighting to keep his pace even, to show a strength that he did not have, hoping he could prove to himself that he could do whatever was asked of him. As he stepped forward, his legs betrayed him as his knees tried to give way. He forced them to hold his slight weight, but the heavy, off tempo tread had not gone unnoticed by either of the two adults who were watching him.
Unsteadily, he followed his master back to his cell, and was instructed to rest well that night, and to follow the slave that came in the morning to bring him back to the Arena. Dully, he nodded, not fully understanding what “night” was, nor that the routine he had faced so bravely today would be repeated for the rest of his foreseeable life.”


Until next time … keep those pages turning!


If I’ve peaked your interest, you can find a copy of Out of the Darkness on

SmashwordsBarns and NobleiTunesScribd, and Amazon