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.

Jena Baxter’s Tolor Interviews Nameless


I met Jena Baxter through her Veiled Memories tour, and we’ve since become good friends.  She’s helped me with questions, and worked on explaining some of the ropes about getting word out with my books.  The interview I’m linking you to is by Tolor, Jena’s Beran in Reflections.  How the pair of them managed to get Nameless to sit down and answer their questions is beyond me.  It’s still a fun, quick read though.

Character Madness Monday is Back

This Week Tolor Interviews Nameless

from The Followers of Torments, series,

by K. Caffee

It’s been a while since the last character interview. This will be the first of five character interviews from this series. Be prepared for a treat. Nameless speech pattern is strange to follow at first, but he has become a much loved character by many, and it becomes easier to follow after settling into the differences.

Tell us about your story

What “story” is?  Life is.  Live, die, born, become.  Is story not to anyone.

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.