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

Jena Baxter’s Tolor interviews Raonal

 

I met Jena through a blog tour T.J.’s Virtual Blog Tours did when she released Veiled Memories.  Since then, she’s been a wonderful mentor, and has helped me learn some about the marketing side of writing.  When she offered to host a series of character interviews, I was delighted.  This is the last from that group.

Raonal is a pukah, so when you head over to see what he has to say, please pause and read the disclaimer that precedes the interview.  It’s there for a reason.

 

Character Madness – Interview 5 of 5: Raonal Tiornestake

This Week Tolor Interviews

Raonal Tiornestake

The Final Interview

from

The Followers of Torments, series,

by K Caffee

Author’s note:  Before you start reading Raonal’s interview, please be aware that he is what is called a pukah.  They are a faerie cross between the fae and any other creature.  Unlike most fae, the pukah have one flaw that always shows up after their faerie side awakens – they cannot tell the unvarnished truth.  They make great listeners, but if they tell you anything be advised to take it with a shaker of salt.  There may be truth buried in what they are telling you, but figuring out what it is can be more of a challenge than you expected.  Raonal’s way is about what you can expect – neither worse nor better than average.

Tell us about your story

My story?  You want to know about my story?  Well, you had better make sure you are comfortable.  It won’t take but a moment to tell, but a life time to listen to.  You see, I was born before anyone walked the face of the world to a farmer’s family that raised rye, wheat, oats, barley, apples, cherries, plums, and pineapples.
We were poor in wealth, but rich in love.  Isn’t that what everyone likes to hear?
(Raonal, he’s asking about your story with Nameless!)
Oh, THAT story.  It’s one of sorrow, pain, joy, and love.  Alpha is a strange creature, though not too far from what I am, but different enough to be the same.  It’s the others around him that really make up the tale, though.  He has no bearing on what happens, which made it really boring.
(Raonal!)
What?  It’s the truth.  He brought me into his pack as an equal, then left and left me in charge.
(I’d ask Akantheldama about that, before making any grand statements to that point.)
‘Dama?  She knows I’m in charge.

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

Survival

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

Out of the Darkness: Chapter 2 Discussion

The Child is Collared

The child has grown, and his owner is beginning to think in terms of getting some useful return on him. He has not yet achieved his full growth, but it is now time to look into his training years.

For starters, we have to introduce him to the fact that there is a much, much bigger world out there than his little cell. That was such a fun scene to write. Trying to balance the sudden introduction of deliberately directed sound, light, and the child’s ability to understand it was an interesting exploration of my own imagination.

“For starters, his master entered directly into his life. Secondly, his eyes were opened to a much wider world. The day the top half of his door was wrenched open, his eyes were forced to endure the painfully bright, greenish flamed, foul smelling torch that was thrust into his cell, revealing to himself and to those present the scrawny, underweight wraith of a child he had become. ”

Now that he knows there is more to explore outside his cell, I figured it was time to start working on who how he worked with others. This was a bit tricky for me, because I really, really wanted to keep him confined to the “not so nice” role, but I didn’t want him to be rebellious – I may like tormenting the character, but I didn’t exactly want to have him scraping through on the edge of his life because of his attitude. The balance was finally struck with this bit here:

“Finally, the first water-blurred form, convinced he was dealing with a witless idiot, decided to try one more tactic before giving up completely. He pulled the torchbearer closer, and turned so the two of them could be seen together facing each other with a small distance separating them. Barking a word, and waving with his hand at the torchbearer, he waited for the actions to follow the command. It was very prompt, and the torchbearer approached. Seeing this, the child immediately grasped that idea of what they were doing. Eagerly, he approached the door, to be closer, and listen to more. The speaker barked another command, and the torchbearer stepped away, and the child mimicked them. This was repeated several times, until the child was stopped by the lower portion of the door, and the speaker finally had to teach him the “stop” command. Though the child had not spoken, he did show that he was capable of hearing, and the speaker finally decided to try to get a word out of him. Pointing to the flame on the torch, he slowly spoke the word “light” in a dialect of Elvin that was uncomfortable to hear. When the child did not speak, he tried several different languages, each one simpler than the last, before the child finally attempted to mimic tentatively the last, and simplest of all. In the harsh, simplistic language of the Trolls, he mouthed the word several times before finally managing to croak out a rough word similar to what had been spoken “L-lg-lgiht” he choked out, almost swallowing some of the sounds. ”

OK, so he can learn quickly. A good thing to have. Especially in the conditions I have created. As he begins to discover more about his surroundings, it is time to show more of how his young mind works. This was easy to accomplish – I thought, and is revealed here:

“Though it was not a complete vocabulary, it was enough for the child to comprehend what was being said around him. Often at night, after the door was shut to the painful and wondrous world outside, the child would stand for many glass with his ear pressed to a spot in the center of the split between the door halves where sound could penetrate, though not well, and listen. Mouthing to himself each word he heard, and when it was silent outside, he would vocalize all of them. Making his voice take on an almost exact mimicry of the speaker as he vocalized the words to himself with their unknown meanings, he heard the odd inflection in his own voice, and began the long process of training it out. “

With the ability to listen and respond, it is now time to take on the rest of the realm he is in. Not to mention, he still has yet to begin any sort of work that may repay the time and resources his master has invested in him. So, now it is time to introduce the next phase of his learning. That is accomplished here:

“”Silence!” the Master turned to look into the cell, “Come, child. Let me see you move.”
Not completely understanding the entire order, because of the way the words were strung together, he did understand “come” and “move” explicitly. With promptness, he stood, head remaining bowed, and approached the Master, then not knowing which way to move, stepped left when he reached the door, until he was clear of even the widest sweep of the bottom half should it open. So as not to receive a short portion for tripping over the remaining bedding in his cell, as he had done twice during his speech training, he carefully picked up his feet, and set them down on the almost completely composted straw of his floor.
The Master smiled when he saw the natural grace with which he moved, and nodded. Turning to the teacher, “He’ll pass. Tonight he is Silk. Withhold lunch.”
With that, he turned away, leaving the torchbearer and teacher behind. The latter turned to him with a look of something he was to understand after much thinking and more experience as amazement.”

The pattern of unexpected, and unusually fast learning for him is carried throughout the rest of his training – first in his gladiatorial work, then latter in what is expected of him as a fighter.

With the character learning about the outside world, there was one aspect that would need to be addressed. This was the matter of time, and how the character grasped the concept. Because he has lived in near total isolation so far, but many of the passing characters referred to this concept, I had to figure out how much he really understood it. Once again, his youth and rearing came to the rescue, as seen in this piece:

Not having any concept of what “tonight” or “lunch” was, he sat on his bed for a time to contemplate the strange series of events he had just undergone. Of particular curiosity were the unknown words, but without more experience, or further context, he could not puzzle them out, and so gave up. Instead, he turned his attention to play, and was soon involved in the mimicry of the scene he had just witnessed and participated in. His voice continuing to lose more of the lilt as he practiced the words over and over in mimicry of Zertzese and the master.
Though word games were often good for many glass of interest to him, the unfamiliar words and sense of expectation soon made the game pall. But he could sit still even less. He took to pacing his cell, pounding more of the excrement loaded compost into dirt as he began walking faster and faster until he was running as fast as his small world would let him.
When he finally tired, and slowed, he returned to the door, and pressed his ear to the spot that had proven best to listen from. For as long as his weary legs would hold him, and his aching back allowed, he listened. But today was unprofitable, as neither voices not foot steps were heard. Not the faint hum of muffled conversation, or the roar of the place above. It was not until his belly began complaining that he gained an inkling of what “withhold lunch” meant. Not knowing what was to happen, because he knew that “food” filled his painful, growling middle called his “tummy”, but this lack of food causing the painful “hunger” – what caused the painful, growling middle – was baffling. Was “lunch” a portion, a number of portions, or forever? And, was this “withhold” another word for the “lack” he was experiencing. ”

Then, when he does get a chance at food, we get to see just exactly how ugly the culture really is. And, we get to find out more about just how resilient the main character is as well.

“As the searing pain began to scream into his head, he eyed the feast warily. His hunger gone, driven from him by the band he had placed around his neck, and the searing pain it engendered. For two glass, he was consumed by it, but as with any child – introduce something young enough and it will become normal quickly. For him, it took only two glass to adapt to the new sensations, and his hunger soon overpowered even his fear and pain. When he gave in, he devoured the meal from the known to the unknown – starting with the bread, ending with the wonderful surprise of the water. ”

 

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 1 Discussion

Warning, this may be a little long.  Actually, ALL of these may be a little long.  I don’t know how to write anything actually short.  So, pull up a chair, set up your popcorn, and make sure your drink is full.  Here we go!

“As with all stories, they must start somewhere; often beginning with a notable deed or achievement. With him, we will start with his first and best achievement:
He survived. ”

Chapter 1 deals with the main characters infancy, and reveals how cruel and callous the culture he was born to was with their slaves. From the time he was born, the main character is forced to struggle for his survival without any external guidance from anyone to help him understand what is going on.

Since, he has to survive in order for the story to progress, I did give him a few bits of help now and again, such as this piece of chance:

“Only chance placed his mouth close enough to the nipple so that after a few attempts, he was able to find it through the filthy, grime coated material that covered it, and allow him to suck. Thus was his first meal accomplished. Thus was the first decree of his life forged: Take what you can, when you can.”

But, I also worked at forging a character who would be hard enough to live, despite the odds. Thus, he can grow physically. And, it sets the stage for later scenes where it is necessary for me to be cruel in order to move the story along. (And, I admit, it is so much FUN to legally torture someone, I just prefer adults to infants. I am so glad he lived long enough.)

One of the most fun aspects of his personality to explore as the story develops is his extremely sharp learning curve. I get to start with him as a toddler, such as is shown in the following snippets. I also get to lay down another bit of his personality’s foundation:

“Still he hung tenaciously to life, and progressed like all infants from snakelike crawling, to true crawling, and into toddling. He took his first steps at eight months, and never crawled again, no matter how badly injured, or how exhausted he became. Though his physical skills developed quickly, he was very slow with developing his speaking skills. He had no one to mimic, nor did anyone speak to him in order for him to begin associating words to meanings. In his mind, he had the impression of items, movements, or feelings; things that had been left for him or that he sensed, but did not have spoken words or even hand gestures to give these concepts meaning.”

“He readily grasped the cause and effect connection between the bruises, and reduced portions though he had never been educated. His mind was sharp.”

And, for a bit of humor I am finally getting back around to using in a later book:

“One last look at the first ten years of his life, a spot of humor he was to remember in later years with pride. It happened after one of his first attempts to burn off his excess energy after a meal by climbing up the walls in his dark tomb. He had fallen from some five feet, and hit the stone manger with his shin, leaving a hand-span sized area of pain. It made getting up off the floor difficult for many days. After the first day, he solved the dilemma by using some of the softest, least prickly of his remaining floor covering to fill the hard object with the dip in it to the brim and began using it for his bed. He thought the raised sleeping place a great invention, not knowing that if he had been raised with a mother he would have had a much better bed, until being moved to his own cell where a bed was a reward earned. This bed, or one like it, was to be his until he earned his freedom, even as the stone stall, or one similar, was to be his cell. The small two foot by four foot, sharp cornered stone manger was to grow ever smaller for him, as his body grew to its full height over the years. Always, he would manage to curl up and force his body to wedge into the small space, as comfortable there as most are in a queen or king size bed.”

 

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

 

Interview with Nameless

Part I: Let’s Start at the Beginning…

  1. What’s your name?
    I have one not.
  2. Give me your full name…
    How can I?  I given one not.
  3. Do you have a nickname? If yes, what is it and how did you come to have it?
    Called I Nameless, The Nameless One, Shallius, Avessnymous by no one, everyone, anyone. Ask you why know want?
  4. What species are you? (Human, werewolf, etc? Or are you an alien?) I know you have some special gifts that aren’t entirely human.
    Some say Pukah, some say Powrie, Pukah say pukah. Hers am I, enough known is.

(Editor’s note:  He is a pukah, so don’t expect to understand when he actually says the truth.  He’s not your usual pukah, but the race cannot say an unembellished truth to save their lives.  It would be like an angel cursing God, or a demon blessing the Devil.)

Gifts?  What are Gifts?  Healers love me, fighters like me, Light surrounds me always or never.  She has cursed me, so never Her gifts do I bear – the webs that I call, the language of Her smallest children, of her Ascended Children, of Her to understand.  Where I look, others my bidding do.  Others can see the mists, I cannot, though told should I able be.  When speaking, I truth tell with eternity to pass into forgetting you.

5. Where/when were you born?
Remember it clearly.  It was darkness that glowed pretty colors.  It was beautiful.  And silent, always it was silent.
Remember not.  Fight, fight, always fight.  Fight learn, fight provide, entertain live.  Live eat did.  Surrounded always was.

(Editor’s note:  He was born in the slave cells of the Sumja Sija Arena.)

  1. Okay, now…do you believe that you are good or bad or are those terms not definable?
    What is good?  What is bad?  Fight good do.  I eat.  I live.

Part II: Tell Us More About Yourself…

  1. How would you describe your personality?
    What She asks, demands, I am.  Nothing more.
  2. Would you say you’re someone who can handle pressure? What’s a good example?
    Finals lived I. Eat I do, survive I do. More wish hear?  Fight, fight, fight, fight, always fight.  Live I do, more?
  3. Do you get along with others?
    I train Silk, I live Silk.
    (No, he does not play well with others.  He tends to break his toys.)
  4. Who are your main enemies, people you would like to see stopped from whatever they are doing?
    Those who profit wrongly from the matches.  When Clans grow big, matches use grow small.
  5. How about allies?
    What are allies?
  6. What is one things that you would like to see happen in the immediate future?
    To be Called.  I am Hers, serve as Her Child.

Part III: Hypothetically…

  1. Suppose that you could become any creature you know of. What would you pick, and why?
    I am enough.  Her Children choice can be, will be, am.
  2. One of your enemies in question 13 just complimented you. What is your response?
    Thank you. Wager against will?
  3. One of your friends in Question 14 just insulted you. What is your response?
    What friend is?
  4. If you could change anything about yourself…
    Nothing.  Everything.  All of me is perfectly wrong.
  5. Tell me about where you grew up…
    Painfully dark.  Painfully loud.  Safe for all who encounter.  Polite to each, rude to none.  That I do not remember.

Part IV: Now We Get Personal

  1. What’re your parents like?
    I have no parents.
    (Editor’s note:  He was orphaned at birth, and wet nursed on an old ewe.  His father is someone special, but you don’t discover who until the end of the series.)
  2. Do you have any siblings?
    What are those?
    (Editor’s note:  He does not.  Even his half-siblings from his mother were dead before he was born.)
  3. What’s your occupation? Do you like it?
    Owner now, then slave.
    (Editor’s note:  He is a Runner now.  He won his freedom, which is the difference between an Owner and Runner.)
  4. Are you seeing/dating anyone?
    Mean you what?
  5. If not, did you ever think about getting engaged or married and to whom?
    What that is mean you?
  6. Tell us your biggest secret.
    Secret? What mean you?
    (Editor’s note:  He is a pukah – a faerie half breed – with all the gifts and abilities that includes.  Unlike most, however, he did not develop fully when he awoke, and so does not have a complete animal shift.  However, even in his hominid form, he keeps most of his shift’s attributes.  If he would have developed properly, he would have had the unusual shift of an oversized spider, the attributes he has relate to this – fully developed poisoned fangs, the ability to spin webs, and unusually acute senses (more than his environment can account for), and a body that can withstand an extremely high amount of damage.)
  7. Your worst fear? You don’t have to answer this one if you don’t want to.
    To be Called by Her. I live for Her, I die for Her. Alone not am I from Her.
  8. Tell us one thing you’re the most proud of and why?
    I live.  I eat, I live.  Many days living was a trial.

Behind the scenes: Language development

Amber Eyes

Language Development

This post may be a tad longer than the others, because it is so central to the way Nameless talks (or doesn’t, depending on who’s reading the books.)

There are a host of articles on the web discussing the fact that a language delay is always present with a mental disability.  Mind you, these articles are focused on children who have some socialization with others – their parents, siblings, day care, school, or play mates.  Only a few articles approach child development from the perspective of the child having no socialization, which is the cause of the language delay.  When this happens, it is not the mental development that hinders language development.  It is language development that hinders mental development.

Again, go back and read The girl in the window carefully.  Though Dani was 7 when she was adopted, due to the neglect that led to the lack of language development, she had a rather severe mental disability.  One that she still hadn’t over come by the time she was 10.

Even the other verifiable case of a feral child found in the US, another girl named Genie, was unable to overcome her disabilities despite extensive work by psychologists and other therapists working in conjunction with her foster parents.  The rare cases when a child learns to speak after being “rescued” often involve children who were between two and three years of age when their neglect began, or they were lost to the local wilderness.

That leads to the next look at the crafting of Nameless.

There is still an ongoing debate about when the critical window of development closes for language.  Even though someone who already speaks can learn it at an older age (such as middle school, high school, or college) this is because the foundations for at least one language have become embedded in the person’s psyche from birth.  For Nameless, I took the outer most edge of the disputed range, having him introduced to language around age eight.  Needless to say, this led to a host of problems for he and I to overcome.

The first, and most obvious, was how he was introduced to languages in the first place.  Most feral children without language, do manage to grunt, or make some type of sound they’ve heard in their environment before.  Since I knew I’d need a character who could speak, I’d already laid the foundations for verbalization before I knew about the issues that come with a feral child.  (Lucky me?)  I was able to build up from there, though keeping it plausible was not an easy task.

A more subtle concern was figuring out how to maintain the intelligence necessary for the child to survive once he matured into adulthood.  Almost everything I read indicated that feral children often behaved similarly to autistic children, which would not prove to be a good thing within the story’s premise.  That’s where I bent the rules a little bit.  Though Nameless doesn’t do everything perfect (the obstinacies that come with a high intelligence, or mental disabilities was one of the things I held on to), he does learn very quickly.

I’d already had him problem solving with age-appropriate solutions, so making the change from an internal drive to solve a problem to an external was not that large of a leap.  However, there still remained the issue of language fluency to go with this.  Just because Nameless learned to speak did not mean he grasped the concept of grammar and syntax.

To be honest, if I had stayed any closer to the truth, Nameless probably would never have been able to speak a complex language.  Something reliant on point and grunt should have been the maximum he could learn to speak, though he would understand others.  I chortle whenever I hear people complain about the way he mangles the English language.  I think readers would rather have a mangled, cryptic dialogue than one along the lines of “he pointed at the object he wanted and grunted excitedly.”

I may be a good storyteller, but I doubt my skills are up to being able to keep that type of dialogue interesting very long.  Not to mention, I’d wind up having a murderous time with the big, bright, shiny repetition button.

That’s it for this week, so I’m going to turn it over to you.  Do you have any questions about what went on behind the scenes so far?  Please leave them in the comments below, and I’ll do my best to answer them.

 

Next week, I’ll start addressing another behind the scenes aspect:  Infant Survival

Behind the scenes reality: Feral Nameless

Critical Windows of Development

Since I’m dealing with a character who not only holds center stage, but also has to be able to accomplish quite a bit, I knew that I would be bending plausibility a bit here.  In part because I was having to bend the rules a tad about how much can be learned outside the acceptable critical windows of development.

Just what are these windows?  As The Science of Waldorf Education these are time periods of time during development that the brain is open to a particular type of experience to result in a particular talent, and after the window closes, this talent can no longer be learned.  OK, let’s break this down a bit more, since the example provided in the article doesn’t exactly make sense for a fantasy book.

The basics, like walking, grabbing, and imaginative play all have toddler and early childhood windows.  Making sure Nameless experienced these was an interesting challenge – he had no one to model his behavior against, nor did he have much environmental stimulation to drive him into achieving these milestones.  A little fancy foot work, and being able to think outside the box allowed me to include these achievements.  The main achievement, the one that seems to determine if there is a “human” within the character, however is the one I had the most difficult with – language development.

That will be the discussion for the next installment.