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coz1

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I don't think I've ever seen the slots fill up that fast, Avernite, not in any time I've run these rounds over the years. And I'm not sure the time gives anything away...unless you know all the European night owls. ;) Thankful to see such a quick desire to see this project forward.

I am looking forward to this next round, to be sure.
 

coz1

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Just a reminder to our authAARs that today is the deadline for submissions. If I have them all this evening when I get home from work, I will post them tonight. If not, I will post them at some point tomorrow. Watch this space. :)
 

Gen. Marshall

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I'm looking forward to this round's submissions - and what the authors made of the wide subject!
 

coz1

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We have all four submissions and on time, I might add! :D Love it when that happens. Give me a chance to post each one and then the floor is yours to offer constructive criticism of what worked and what did not. Remember to be polite as always and most of all enjoy!

Recall that our topic is...A Game.
 

coz1

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Author #1


Green Bishop


As I sat in the waiting lounge reading the day's news, only the goosestepping of the local militia and the shrieking of the speakers disturbed my repose. My fellow travelers paid as little attention as I. Our time would come, no doubt, but, for now, our downcast heads proclaimed, it had nothing to do with us. Not paying attention is a survival strategy.

Attention: Green Bishop report to gate 3. Launch is in 5. Repeat: Green Bishop report to gate 3. Launch is in 5. Attention: Gate 1 is a go! For Empire and Glory!

A new arrival sat down beside me on my right. Dressed in his finest, he could not suppress his excitement, and began badgering me with questions. Fresh meat. So young, and yet so dumb. Probably volunteered, the sucker. I stared fixedly at my paper, hoping he would catch the hint.

Attention: Green Bishop report to gate 3 immediately. Launch is in 4. Repeat: Green Bishop report to gate 3 immediately. Launch is in 4. Attention: Gold Captain urgently needed as replacement in lane 7 or takeoff cannot proceed. Report status to Gold General immediately, Gold Captain. Attention: Gate 12 is a go! For Empire and Glory!

The man in gold to my left sighed and indicated with his eyes that he would need some personal space to unfold from his seat, so I shifted myself to the right dumping the newcomer to the ground. The man in gold unfolded and rose to his full height, gave me a respectful nod as of one professional to another, and manfully strode off towards gate 7, leaving his paper behind.

The fresh meat on the ground yammered, awestruck, about how he had always wished to join the gold ever since an unsupported gold squad brought down Cerulean the Ice Maiden during the war of 2049, and how it was a great honour to see a captain of the gold in person, and how he hoped to prove himself worthy by service in the blues, and how... I shut him up with a blow from my crozier.

Sure, it is always a good day when one of the masters bites the dust to lowly peons, and it makes for a good story, but the young ones always miss the point: gold squad might have brought down the Ice Maiden unaided and enjoyed her body as the legend goes, and I would be the last to complain about their actions as the masters deserve everything they have coming, and then some, but, if so, they had to have been really quick about it. They were wiped out only seconds later by the green counterstrike. And that's the point. On the battlefield, lifetime is measured in seconds.

Attention: Volunteers needed for surprise insertion at gate 4 regardless of colour. Please report availability to local colour commander. This could be YOUR chance for fame and glory! Attention: Lane 4 nuked by Sandra the Hellbringer. Casualties total. Red squad prepare for deployment at Gate 4.

The fresh meat shook off the stun and began staggering down towards gate 4, oblivious to the cardinal rule: “Don't get noticed, don't volunteer, don't stand tall”. No doubt I would see him again soon, battered from the experience, and that would be the beginning of wisdom.

I picked up the captain's paper and checked the odds. Unfortunately they agreed with my paper – Bloodworm the Terror and Poopy the Pirate were heavily favoured as the opponents for lane 3, with Baradur the Earthbreaker supporting the green. Now, Baradur is not a bad master, as the masters go, he does not taunt us, drain our souls to fuel his magic, or sap our vitality to restore his mojo, and make no mistake, we all respect the masters when they fight on our side, if nothing else then because they are protected from anything we can do to harm them, but his attack has “collateral damage” written all over it. Apparently it is a real crowd-pleaser when he wipes out both his own side and the opposition. If there is one thing I hate more than the masters, it is the crowds: Civilians taking illicit pleasure from the war.

Attention: There has been an accident in lane 7. Enemy action suspected. Casualties currently unknown but expected to be high. Blue Emergency Team please respond to gate 7 immediately for weaponry and launch. Attention: Gate 4 is a go! For Empire and Glory! Attention: Green Bishop report to gate 3. Launch is in 2. This is not a warning. I cannot believe you are pulling this shit again, Green Bishop. Move it, dammit!

Fresh meat materialized out of the thin air on my right side, looking rather the worse for wear. Fireball to the face by the looks of it, always a danger when up against the Hellbringer.

I unfolded and rose to my full height, then strode purposefully towards gate 3, disdaining the looks of awe from the militia and the lesser peons. We are all peons in the eyes of the masters and the crowds, but some of use are lowlier than others and, likewise, some of us are mightier. Perhaps I would manage to survive long enough to get in a couple of good swings at the enemy, wipe out a few peons and, who knows, perhaps even harm a master? Unlikely, perhaps, but I had done it before and I live in hope. Or perhaps it would be a quick one and I would be eliminated swiftly, letting me return to my paper - every cloud has a silver lining.

Hope is the only thing that is left to me in this endless war.

As I reached gate 3 its controller counterfeited a smile and told me there had been a change of plans: The changeover rule had been invoked and I was to exchange places with a colour-equivalent for the duration of battle.

Wondering what the hell I was getting myself into now, I marched through the gate to a last scream of “For Empire and Glory!” and found myself in a library together with nine strangers rather than in a lane on a field of battle with my squad. Eight of them were sitting or standing, attempting to look at ease but all intensely focused on the ninth, a tall man in a deerstalker waving a meerschaum pipe.

“I accuse the bishop in the green robe of committing the murder of the mistress-in-red in the blue bedroom with an axe”, he said, poking the pipe towards me.

This was going to be a tricky one.
 
Last edited:

coz1

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Author #2


The Abbé de Beauchêmont sighed. The clock on his mantelpiece showed it as being nearly midnight, the ornate numbering only just visible in the heavy candlelight. The soft music of a harpsichord floated through his open window from the garden below. He smiled as he recognised the tune, humming to himself absentmindedly.

He stopped himself, suddenly becoming very aware that he was procrastinating. Picking up his draft, he read it through once more. A thin smile stretched across his lips as he reached the end. I am, and remain, a lowly writer of doggerel to your divine gift of wit. Yes – he was rather proud of that one. Superficially obsequious; truly caustic. The abbé folded up the letter and sealed it. I'll be sure to get that fool de Fêréchard to deliver it in the morning, he thought as he slipped into his nightwear. He walked over to the open window, hesitating as he thought of closing it. No, he decided, after all the trouble I went through to get these rooms—? He pulled the bedclothes over his elderly frame and closed his eyes, straining to pick out the harpsichord's melody as he sank further into sleep. It was not long before he gave in completely, lapsing into a soft sleep, music still dancing lightly around the room.

-:•:-​

The Comte de Frémont awoke to a heavy knocking at his door, begrudgingly opening his eyes and greeting the day with a pre-determined contempt. He propped himself up under the sheets and glanced to his right. Wonderful, he thought, eyeing the curvature of a young woman's breast under the silk covers, it wasn't a dream. He rubbed his eyes and turned his attention once more to the knocking, which had sounded again. His visitor was clearly not one for waiting.

"Entre!" he called wearily, though he wasn't sure whether he was weary from having just woken up, or the night before.

A small, toadyish man dressed in gaudy fripperies entered the room bowing. De Frémont smiled a dark smile. Years of experience in courtly intrigues and politics meant that he knew exactly what this person wanted. Nevermind, he thought, I do need some entertainment this morning.

"Bonjour, Monseigneur. I trust you are well this fine morning?"

"I am well enough. Was it not Rousseau who said that happiness was a good cook, a good bank account and a good digestion?" The comte shot the visitor a wry, questioning look – fine-tuned over years spent trying to intimidate the plethora of insipid courtiers that existed within the palace.

"Yes, monsieur, I believe it was," the visitor stammered, "now if monsieur would be so ki—"

"You see," the comte interrupted, "I have always thought him wrong; what are all those things if not shared with another?" With this, he turned to look at the paramour sleeping next to him, her chest rising and falling softly as she breathed. He smiled, his eyes giving away a lecherous desire, taking his time before turning his attention once more to the visitor. "You must forgive me," he began once more, "I know you don't like to be kept waiting, do you marquis?"

"I— I beg your pardon, monsieur?" By now, the visitor was a sweating wreck of tasteless nervousness, all composure crumbling in the midst of the his host's domineering nature.

"I merely commented on how I know you don't like to be kept waiting." The comte paused, a fake look of confusion creeping mockingly across his face. "I'm sorry, I thought I had the pleasure of speaking to the Marquis d'Impatience." The visitor's look of confusion was genuine.

"Only that's the impression anyone would have drawn after that impressive knocking display earlier. Don't you think, marquis?" The last word was spat out with a deliberate iciness. The visitor could only manage a pitiful nod, his eyes shifting frantically between the door and the comte. "I'm sorry, did you just say something?"

"Yes, Monseigneur. Pardon, Monseigneur," he stammered.

"Good," de Frémont began almost blithely before switching to a tone of utmost seriousness. "Now tell me what you want and piss off." The visitor handed the comte a sealed letter, before leaving as quickly as courtesy allowed.

De Frémont rolled his eyes as he scanned the top of the letter. Not another letter from that damned abbé. The comte had met the abbé once a few years prior, when the two had shared a prostitute. There hadn't been much time for a proper introduction, but the comte reserved a certain contempt for everyone who saw fit to write to him, especially those who saw fit to write four times in a fortnight. These things can be dealt with later, he thought, rolling over in bed. Now I have more important business to which I must attend.

-:•:-​

The parlour was busy with the low thrum of people going about their business. The abbé turned his head around instinctively as a shout rose from a card table in the corner of the room. A young man shot up from his chair and pointed at an opponent, displacing his finely powdered wig in the process. No doubt some young suitor too big for his own boots, he thought, casting a wandering look beneath the table, if, indeed, they are his own boots. The abbé gave a discreet, closed-mouth laugh. Piquet causes more trouble than its players are worth.

"Monseigneur," the abbé didn't stir, still examining the hideously ornate buckles on the shoes of one of the piquet players. "Monsieur!" De Beauchêmont shot round, turning to face two well dressed gentlemen, each splayed lazily over a finely upholstered sofa. "Pardon, Monseigneur. It's your turn," offered the older of the two in a tone verging on patronising. The abbé tried to look apologetic.

"I do apologise, Messieurs. Where were we?" In truth, the abbé had little interest in the people with whom he was sparring, but complied anyway. It was what etiquette demanded.

"Have you been paying attention?" challenged the younger.

"I'm afraid not, Monsieur. My mind has started to dally of late." He drew the words out in a droll fashion.

"My my, Saint-Saëns, I didn't think men of the cloth were ones for dalliance." Saint-Saëns let out a short, haughty laugh.

"Very good, Gregoire. Very good."

"I wouldn't count in it, Messieurs." De Beauchêmont retorted. You arrongant swine. "Now, shall we proceed with some expedition?"

"Fine. Taste, haste; sanity, vanity."

"And the verse form?"

"Octosyllable."

"I question my own sanity,
For, lacking decency or taste,
These men obsessed with vanity
Expand their minds with little haste."

The abbé's two opponents laughed the fashionable closed-mouth laugh.

"Very good, monseigneur," offered Gregoire.

"Thank you. Now, if you do excuse me, I must be off," said the abbé, not surprised that the two hadn't grasped the sardonic nature of the verse.

"So soon?"

"Yes, stay. Or are you leaving for fear of being subject to my wit?"

"Believe me, Monsieur, I have no such worries. I am subject only to God and the king." A polite laugh came from out of the abbé's view. Good, we had an audience. That quip will be doing the courtly rounds for a few days yet.

The abbé turned for the door, his eyes shut – half out of smugness, half out of relief to be away from such half-wits.

"The thief should know from whom he steals." The voice was low and assured, the kind of time that sent a whole room crashing to its knees. The abbé clenched his eyes shut tighter. Merde! That bastard comte has arrived.

"Monsieur, what a lovely surprise it is to see you." De Frémont looked unconvinced, continuing as if the abbé hadn't spoken.

"Let me see... 'The king is not a subject.'" The abbé got the impression that de Frémont was acting the part by pausing for a moment's thought. "Benjamin Jonson, playwright for King James I of England. He died in, what, 1637? I'm afraid your little quip came at least 150 years too late, monseigneur." De Beauchêmont closed his eyes and sighed as the now rather sizeable assembled crowd began to laugh.

"Very good, Monsieur!" one of them cried. The abbé recognised the voice. The fickle bastard! It was Saint-Saëns.

"Bravo!"

"Encore!" offered two more. The abbé opened his eyes, took a deep breath and prepared his retort.

"It is little wonder." He paused, very deliberately.

"What is?" De Frémont was almost shocked that the abbé had dared speak. Almost. His tone was more inquisitive than anything else, as if waiting for some inferior punch line.

"I had always pitied you, but now I see I have no need."

"What do you mean?" The comte was less composed now. His tone was more sincere.

"I had always thought you were a half-wit because you have a smaller brain than the avergae man. Now I see I was wrong. Your brain is normal size," he paused for effect, "it's just full to the rafters with trivial tripe." De Beauchêmont lingered on the dental sounds, almost spitting at his rival. By now the crowd was crippled with laughter, enjoying the spectacle more than any game of piquet. The abbé afforded himself a short, smug smile.

The comte turned puce, but only for a moment. He didn't dare let the court see him visibly affected by such a low remark.

"That too would explain a lot for me, monseigneur." He began his counterattack in earnest, not even pausing to allow the abbé a chance to reply. "I had always thought your language in our correspondence was somewhat dumb." The last word was forced out, the comte catching his rival's gaze and holding it intently. "I have seen mewling babes with more advanced idiolects. I had always thought that you, too, were something of an idiot. Now I realise you were just patronising me." The crowd gasped in wonderment.

You prissy hog's tit! The abbé remained calm and unflinching, though anyone well-versed in the art of verbal jousting would have been able to tell that he was composing himself.

"Do you affront my honour, Monsieur? Would you ridicule me in front of this crowd? Please, there are women present." The abbé could sense something much bigger was drawing near. The comte didn't bother turning around to reply.

"You of all people should know that I always like to help women see the wilder side of the court, shouldn't you, de Beauchêmont?" De Frémont paused, swinging himself round to face the abbé with a well-honed sense of showmanship. "Or should that be 'Debauchermont'?" The crowd gasped, almost scandalised, but enjoying themselves nonetheless. More so, even. "Enough of this pitiful sparring. Our words grow duller by the minute." The comte eyed his sword of rank. "Let us move on to something more...scathing."

By now the room was hysterical, a loud buzz of excitement emanating wildly from the crowd. The abbé spoke up over the cacophony.

"Damn!" He feigned annoyance. "It would seem my wit is the sharpest thing I possess. What am I to do if not soar with that?"

"Die?" A women shrieked, scandalised as the affair reached a brash crescendo. An older, powdered member of the noblesse de l'épée called out from the crowd.

"Monseigneur, you may use my sword." A small parting appeared in the crowd, allowing the courtier to pass the object to the abbé, who took it with a reticent reluctance. He weighed the blade in his hands, turning it about and inspecting the ornate detailing on the hilt. He almost wanted to laugh at the perversity of a man of the cloth engaging in a duel to defend his honour.

"Merci." He gave a discreet to the noble.

"Madames et Messieurs, I do apologise, but I fear we must adjourn to the courtyard." De Frémont offered confidently "I wouldn't want to ruin the curtains." The assembled throng was too excited to laugh, instead making for the doors in an oddly calm fashion.

-:•:-​

The abbé and the comte stood about six feet away from each other, each eyeing the other's sword intently. Neither had yet raised their sword to the en garde position.

"What is it to be then, monseigneur? Name the terms."

De Beauchêmont considered for a moment before replying.

"The winner shall be the first to draw blood." The comte scoffed without interrupting. "The winner shall be vindicated in the eyes of the court, and shall be crowned the court's principle wit." De Frémont looked suitably half-interested.

"And the loser?"

"The loser, Monsieur, shall have suffered the ultimate ridicule, and must leave court forever in disgrace." A collective gasp of shock rose from the gathered crowd. Many had not braved the outside world, and were watching out of windows. Those who had followed the duelling pair had crept ever closer to the two until they had formed a semicircle around them. The courtiers stood waiting for the comte's reply.

"Fine." He said betraying no emotion. "I trust you have your affairs in order?"

"Naturally," the abbé retorted with a wry gaze. "But enough of this verbal sparring. It is time for the dance to begin." The two raised their swords into the en garde position, pacing about each other, waiting to see which of them would begin proceedings.

It was the comte who launched himself into the virginal lunge, jabbing his sword straight at the abbé's torso. The abbé parried and countered with a reposte, striking just above the comte's left shoulder. The comte dodged the attack, and countered once more, his blade landing to the right of the abbé's hip. Five minutes quickly passed, then ten. Parry followed reposte, which preceded parry and reposte again. Though neither was alien to heavy physical exertion, both men quickly began to grow weary. The older abbeys Beauchêmont strained not to give in and wipe his brow, sweat bead and collecting in his eyebrows. His blows struck progressively lower down the comte's body, until he was in danger of inflicting ridicule of a different kind.

The younger comte was able to keep his blows higher, forcing the abbé to strain himself just to parry, though his footwork soon became less nimble. His steps became increasingly careless, pushing just to keep himself balanced. He let out a determined, feral grin, a harsh grunt that expelled all force of his psyche into physical exertion.

He thrusted one final, defiant time, a wry grin spreading across his face as he did so. As his blade neared the abbé's torso, the comte sensed his hour was near. He could see the arcs of crimson blood spouting from the abbé clearly in his mind's eye, all the while, his smile spreading further across his face until he carried a misplaced look of arrogance. By now, his mind was occupied with images of the abbé in pain on the floor, the scene becoming closer and closer until reality until—

The comte landed in an ugly heap on the stone floor, his hands rushing up to his should in a primal attempt to numb some of the pain. He tried desperately to ignore the sharp heat pulsing from his ankle, his eyes clamped shut. Half of him wondered if his eyes were shut in fear; the fear of looking up and seeing a sweating old man standing victorious over you, of the gathered crowd once so lively hushed into an embarrassed silence. The abbé was first to break the silence.

"Hold out your finger." The comte could barely comprehend what was happening around him, complying without thought. Slowly, his arm prised itself off his shoulder and his hand unfurled. The abbé nodded and lifted his sword, pricking the comte's outstretched finger just enough to draw a small dot of blood.

"That's not the first little prick you've given someone, eh abbé?" the comte panted, short of breath after the spar.

"I would answer, but sadly physical exertion isn't conducive to repartee at my age." The comte gave out a short, genuine laugh.

"With that, I shall leave, if you would help me up."

"No, Monsieur." The comte looked incredulous, the abbé quickly continuing to explain. "Naturally, I shall help you up. But I do not wish you to leave. Who are we to call ourselves civilised men if we spurn each other according to games of wit?" He gave the comte a warm smile.

"Bravo, monseigneur. That was worthy of Voltaire himself."

"It's the compassion, Monsieur. What is wit without compassion?" De Frémont paused in thought for a pregnant period before answering.

"Beyond a game, monseigneur. Beyond a game."

Fin
 
Last edited:

coz1

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Author #3


Dear Syome,


I do not have much time so I’ll be brief. Wang is up to something. He keeps mumbling « peppered strawberries » over and over for a week now. This does not bode well. Every time he became so focused, or rather, obsessed, he brought dire or crazy news to the Mage Conclave.


He just finished an absurd treaty called « The Wizard », a collection of sophisms and argumentative shortcuts about magic. Hopefully, he realized the error of his analysis about mages and magic. Knowing him, he might just write a second edition with even crazier ideas in it. Or worse, the undead armies will be attacking us soon again…


Dagarath of the curious flame noticed me of his strange(r) behavior. Already, the Mage Conclave is arguing about the veracity of his treaty. I believe Tsaleigha and Seolla disagree with his ideas. I do not know of the Elements’ opinion.


I just hope that my suspicions are wrong, lest we all become entangled in his crazy game. The stakes will be incredibly high this time. It’s as if we are on the brink of a revolution...



Maegwynn of the western winds​



Esteemed colleagues of the 4th Fire Circle,



It is with great pleasure that I read Wang’s treaty “The Wizard”. I have to say that I agree with him. Entirely! I suggest you all buy a book and read it from the first page to the last as soon as magically possible. It is that good, believe me.


The main thesis of the treaty stipulates that each wizard perceives and utilizes magic differently. This means that each person has a different potential and affinity with magic itself. If each person could know from the start which magical element he is best attuned to, we could save a huge amount of time in training alone. Wang nicknamed it the “peppered strawberries” factor… Yeah, don’t ask me how he came up with that expression.

Anyway, the point is, Wang is researching for a way to decipher this factor. When he does, I’ll be the first to seek him out on how to do it. Never more will I be stuck with useless apprentices that enjoy wasting my precious time with their incompetence. I’ll take great pleasure in fragging their ass with my fireballs. I can only hope that he will discover the secrets of his factor soon.


As your mage representative in the Conclave, I’ll pressure the other delegates to vote a motion concerning this new treaty. I am pretty certain that Yukiri of the volatile air will be favorable to Wang’s ideas. Doncella of the restless earth remains deep in thought for now. I have given up on convincing her. Our own colleague, Dagarath of the curious flame, might be interested in supporting the motion to aid the Fire School. I will have to criticize one article from the treaty: one that states that a wizard must be willing to kick the gnome when necessary. As funny as it is, I know that Dagarath is sympathetic towards the gnomish people and so I shall be as well. Regardless, if we apply at least some of Wang’s ideas in our magical government, it would spark a new beginning.


I am very tired of teaching the fire arts to ungifted students. These maggots care only about who can conjure the biggest fireball. Fools! I’d gladly put a stop to their inferior spell casting prowess if only President Lhivera of the mathematical frost would allow me! They don’t take their lessons seriously and they only waste my time! They can stay weak and stupid if they want, but I have good apprentices that are only waiting for me to teach them. Noble birth or connections would no longer be the main reasons for the candidates’ choice. Only their potential in fire magic would.


If only the magical delegates of the Mage Conclave would grow enough balls to apply Wang’s propositions… Then, we could sort out the bad from the good, the casual from the hardcore, and the rabble from the elite! This is all for the benefit of the Fire School and the whole magical community as a whole. I will have more information once the Conclave reconvenes this week. Confound this idiotic political game! The motion must pass!

Semirage of the southern cape​



Cardinal magic journal entry no.981


I finally completed the analysis of the second edition of Wang’s treaty. I must say that I am impressed that he wrote so much. I always expected my Element colleague to be all talk and no substance. Then again, managing a successful business like Wang Water ™ already proved that he could lead a project to terms. I will have to ask him more questions about his personal life once I get a few minutes with him. I must not forget to also finish my paper on magical leadership for the Wizard Tribune, another paper on the magnetic true north, give a copy of my arcane pudding recipe to Doncella, pick up my sister’s spawn lings tomorrow... I’m probably forgetting a thing or two. I’ll remember it, or someone angry with me will remind me. Let us go back to the main subject before I forget my ideas.

I suppose Wang’s thesis has some truth in it. After all, I taste my own arcane magic like I was drinking fresh lemonade with some drops of sugar. To realize that Dagarath tastes it like peppered strawberries is quite fascinating. I have to remember to ask him how each element tastes differently for him, for pure magical knowledge and research, of course. I must agree that each wizard perceives and utilizes magic uniquely. In a way, it’s like claiming that everyone is different from each other. No one can argue with that postulate. Where his argument starts to fall apart is when he cites other great wizards’ experiences and establishes them as irrefutable proofs of what a wizard should and must do. We can all learn from example, true. But even the greatest wizard makes mistakes and the greatest of men tend to accomplish things in great measures, both good and bad. One is never too cautious like my master used to tell me. Wang would probably say: “One is never too magical”. How Wangellian that notion is.


This leads to Wang’s first argument: “A wizard should take example from a great figure of magical legend, adored by the people, refer to him in times of great ceremonies and speech, while frowning upon its mistakes. A wizard learns best by remembering what caused great wizards to rise to magic as well as their fall into mediocrity”. Of course, Wang’s definition of mediocrity means being robbed of all magical energies. He has such an obsession about being in contact with the magical web at all costs. While it’s nice to revere our ancestors, times change also and circumstances change. It is impossible to relive the past with the exact same conditions in the present. Just five hundred years ago, Artemis of the radiant water, the first woman to become a notorious wizard, entered the Conclave and even became president. Her contemporaries probably thought of it like a revolution. There’s also the rise and fall of kingdoms and empires that occurred so many times, which I do not feel the need to include details in this entry. Even if one would base their life on Cassidius of the bright arcane or Valeria of the eastern gate, both renowned wizards in their respective times, that same person could never live to their full potential. Ultimately, each individual must find their own path, least they become a mere shadow of their predecessors.


Thus, the concept of free will occurred to me. Wang stipulates that the “peppered strawberries” factor must never be ignored, or a person will never unleash their full magical power. The factor states that each wizard has a natural affinity with a particular school of magic and that this affinity seals their training. I chose the arcane school because at the time, I thought the purple sparkles looked pretty. Kids don’t really look at the big picture, do they? Now, I believe I made the right choice back then because it was I wanted most. If one individual, regardless of their talent or potential, is forced into a choice he didn't want, is he going to unleash their full potential? When the heart is not there, neither will the spirit nor the body... even less the magic. If Wang had included the simple yet essential notion of free will in his argument, I might have been inclined to agree. His narrow-mindedness convinced me otherwise.


There is one more argument I feel the need to dismantle from the treaty. Wang describes magic as a wild energy force, one that is very hard to master. He compares magic to luck, one that must be taken into consideration even if it’s an illogical concept. As such, only the audacious wizards will manage to attain greatness because the audacious will seek to master magic, a wild and unpredictable source of energy, while the scared wizard will never soar to reach a higher level of mastery. I agree with the first premise, since one must be willing to take risks, though calculated ones, in order to move forward, whatever the path one took. Here’s where it gets more delicate; the second premise. After comparing magic to luck, he then uses a second comparison: a woman, the fairer sex. I will cite him to elaborate: “For magic is much like luck, even more like a woman. Magic, like the woman, better lends her aid to the adventurous than to the cautious, as she finds them more attractive and exciting than the cautious wizard, who is seen as boring and unconfident. Therefore, it is far better to be daring than prudent, as the great wizard will be allowed to tap magic without restraints and be able to manipulate her even more easily. In the end, the means justifies the magic, as long as the wizard’s output is increased to its maximum.” I believe the citation speaks for itself on how ridiculous his second premise is.


First, it is a grave generalization to portray each woman as an unstable being that will fall for the first silver tongued charlatan that will cross her path. There have been many examples in the past of female wizards that attained greatness on their own abilities rather than by marriage or favoritism. Second, how can he compare a woman to the web of magic? Magic is indeed a volatile and unpredictable force, but there has yet to be the smallest shred of proof that it has a will of its own, unlike women. Third, there’s been no conclusive evidence that a wizard’s magic output is further increased by “duping” magic or becoming a beacon for it. As each wizard is different, their level of training, discipline and potential are all different as well. Current studies all come to different conclusions as of this present day, and Wang’s claim is no better than any of them.


I do not believe a further demolition of his other arguments is necessary to make my mind on this matter. I will vote against the motion, regardless of Semirage’s enthusiasm to apply some of his arguments into actual magical laws. I tactfully reminded him that this wasn’t a game, as this resolution could very well bring about great many changes. Our colleague disagrees with me, but I sincerely hope the rest of the Cardinals will support me on voting no to this motion. The ideals of our magical community must not be sullied in the obsessive pursuit of magical power alone. I urge you all to consider my words thoroughly and make an enlightened choice.

Seolla of the northern quadrant​



Cardinal magic journal entry no.982


Hmmm, so the mind writing device could be malfunctioning? All right, noted. Maegwynn is furious about the treaty, no surprise here. She always detested Wang for some reason. Not my business I suppose. Semirage is favorable hmm? No surprises again coming from that elitist fire mage of the elitist Fire School. Wow, Seolla really wrote a lot today. I’ll just skip the wall of text and go straight to the conclusion... Ah, so he’s going against the motion? I see... He probably deconstructed every paragraph like a boy would disassemble a toy. I need to think. Things do need to change around here like Wang wants to tell us. There are too many old men in the Academy. At the same time, he seems so drastic about it. Does change has to be this radical? Do we need to start a revolution? I just want to keep practicing my magic like before... My family is already firmly seated in the upper echelons. There’s no need to change the whole society. What a bore, I want to drink tea. Even then, something keeps scratching and clawing at my convictions. My intuition tells me to reconsider and to abandon my prideful reflexes. Wait, is it on? Anyway, let me pour my thoughts on paper.


I also finished reading Wang’s treaty. I’m ambivalent towards his true aims. If gaining more power means being firmly seated in our elite inner circle, I’m all up for it. Even if it means adopting some of his more controversial ideas, like allowing magic to temporarily seize our will to increase the flow of energy. I have tried the experience a few times and it is quite glorious. It feels... liberating to be one with magic and follow her every whim. Of course, I have what we call... a failsafe. One must never forget that above all else, discipline is the one factor that distinguishes a good mage... from a great mage. This failsafe is a treasured item from my family: a pocket watch. One mere look at it and I recall the proud accomplishments of my bloodline. After all, magic has always been strong in the East. This object reminds me of who I am. Even when I am in the deepest of magical trances, one look is enough to break free from the yoke of magic savagery. Discipline is the key to master every facet of our art. Pride comes as a close second, but even pride can become a crutch. Discipline separates the strong willed from the animals. Pride reminds us who we are. Tradition is the virtue we bestow to our children.


The legacy of my family speaks to me of tradition, virtue and pride. Grand-father used to say: “Discipline. Discipline. Discipline.” Before entering the Conclave for the first time, Mother reminded me of our family’s credo: “We all look at the same sky.” It seemed like such a mundane phrase back then that I never put much emphasis on it. In times of reflection, it is these simple words that bring forth the truth and the wisdom we seek. If Mother meant that even the most powerful wizard remains a simple mortal woman, then I understand completely. I will not live forever and for our legacy to live on, I must keep in mind that the next generation will replace all of us someday. I must always work in their best interests as they will work in the best interests of their children as well, forever.


Father sent me a letter once he learned of my pregnancy. He was overjoyed that our family will welcome a new member. I still have 8 months to go before I deliver my first child. However, this new life within me is changing my views on many things. The magic community is deeply rooted in their conservatism and their archaic rules. These old men will pass on and be replaced by other old men. This must change. Seolla fails to look at the bigger picture; he merely counters his arguments and believes it will be enough to reject his true thesis. Rhetoric gives him a point, but pragmatism speaks louder in the end. His thesis is mostly true, so there’s no need to argue Wang’s opinions and silly comparisons. What we should focus on, is on how to use this information for our whole benefit. Not everything has to change. Tradition, pride and work guided my family on the East’s upper balcony, but some things ... must change.


Which brings me back to Wang’s treaty: I took offense when he mentioned that magic was much like a woman. Doesn’t he already know we are the better half? However, I know better than to waste my time on petty insults and small details. So many wizards thought themselves better only because I had longer hair and a voluptuous body. The looks on their faces when they learned that I, a woman wizard of the highest caliber and of noble birth, would enter the Conclave as the representative of the East, was utterly... priceless. I reminded myself of this glorious memory when I read this dreadful argument. Once I calmed myself, I looked at the bigger picture of his treaty. And he is right. It does not matter whether a wizard’s origins is humble or noble; we all perceive magic differently and it is our determination that matters most. There is a flaw in his reasoning. Even if the higher potential wizard would receive the best education possible, if the heart is not there, nothing will make her strong. The weak is lazy, undisciplined and unfocused. The strong is arduous, disciplined and focused. I do not really care for the rest of the treaty. However, the thesis and those 2 arguments must be corrected. I could never look my future daughters in the eyes proudly if I put my signature on this abomination.


False reasoning or not, my intuition tells me that Wang’s vision is the answer to a better future. I will seek a meeting with Wang and request he makes some changes. If he accepts, I will vote for the motion. If not, I will support Seolla’s judgement. My colleague may be reluctant to change, but he is wise. There’s also Yukiri who has been pestering me every day about eating dinner with him in his private chambers for almost a month now. As always, I’ll deny him the pleasure, but I will speak with him about the treaty. If he wants to talk about another matter, I’ll gladly return to my husband’s garden. I might as well spend private time with the man I chose, so that he would choose me, instead of an Element wizard. I can scarcely comprehend how Doncella can tolerate their company. Poor girl...


Phew, that’s enough thinking for one evening. The day has been long; I should hurry back to Anaxandre. With any luck, he’ll have some warm tea waiting for me, as always. It must be my future daughter who is sapping all my magical strength lately. I suppose that’s a good sign. The little girl will one day be my heiress and I sincerely hope her potential in lightning magic is as great as mine. Darling wants a big family and I’ll be happy to give us a big, beautiful and magical family. At the very least, one among all my daughters will be strong enough to inherit our legacy. After all, the magic has always been strong in the East.


Father, you’ve always been a man of few words... When you did speak to me, I seared every word in my mind. “Tsal, your mother is right. We do all look up to the same sky. The truth is, only the clairvoyant can look past the clouds.” I remembered what you said that day. I looked past the clouds and saw beyond. I know I am making the right choice, because my choice is always the right one. Now, to see how the game will play out next session... I predict a sound progressive victory. I shall raise my cup to magical progress.

Tsaleigha of the eastern skies​


P.S. Phew, I might have beaten Seolla’s entry today length-wise. I’ll recollect my thoughts later this week... I’m too tired to keep going. Dear Elexendria, I long to hold you in my arms and daddy does too. I want to go home and drink tea. Must remember my appointments tomorrow...



From the desk of President Lhivera of the mathematical frost



Once again, I am summoned from my study in order to resolve an issue between the Elements and the Cardinals. Once again, I must leave behind my important artifact researches, not to mention my not so relevant dissertation for the Ice School congress this week-end, to find a solution to this petty dispute. When am I supposed to finish my magical calculations about the properties of ice crystal resonance or the relation between ice and diamond? Perhaps in the week of the four magical Thursdays at this rate.


Of course, knowing my own good luck, the yays and the nays are now equal and they expect me to choose a side. Perhaps I should have a discussion with Wang before I cast the 9th vote. Prudence remains the best course of action. Is this why I have been elected as president? Mayhap I’ll unleash a few icicles in the common house and watch the elders’ reaction. Worst that will happen is nothing will change. If I get evinced, I’ll be able to return to my icy studies. If I am not, at least it would be amusing for a little while.


However, something clearly isn’t right about all this... Wang of the profitable water, I’m sure that this time, this isn’t merely a game of politics for you. What are you really after? This cannot be simply a vote to stir our more conservative colleagues. Ever since you’ve been chosen as the representative of the Water School, each amendment you tried to propose caused unnecessary chaos in the commons. No need to hide it, I know you have been smirking during the debates.


This time however... There’s more than meets the eye. The text is well written, there are actually valid arguments and the vote is split... You even managed to sway Tsaleigha of the eastern skies, a fervent traditionalist. You are betting more than just your position as in the Conclave here. The game is increasing the stakes. I will know more after I squeeze some answers from my liquefied colleague. Oh yes, I should consult my Elements delegates as well; still four other argumentations to read, even if I already know the spoilers. Protocols aren’t fun. Sigh, at least, ice magic is cold, pure, and beautiful. Magical politics remain a game of ugly grey and uglier gray compromises.


Lhivera of the mathematical frost​
 
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coz1

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Author #4


The cell doors opened with a rattle and screech. Guillaume looked up from his letters to see the visitor. Henry stood between the two sets of bars, carrying a chair casting his eyes around the small brick room that had been Guillaume’s home for the last six days. His face twisted into the slightest expression of disgust with every sniff of the dungeons. Even for lords, accommodations suffered a lack of proper cleaning down here.

“Afternoon, or is it morning? I cannot tell down here. My sense of direction has been murdered by this cell to the point where even the window does not help,” he offered as the beginning of the conversation.

Henry turned to take a momentary glance at the window Guillaume was speaking of. In truth it was more of an archery slit, and a thin sliver of light passed through it into the dungeon.

“Afternoon. That window faces to the west,” he said, walking into the cell.

Guillaume put down his letters and sat up in his bed. A wooden plank supported by two chains, it groaned as he moved. Henry stopped at the table and put the chair down opposite the one that had been given to Guillaume. Before sitting down, he gestured at the man on the bed to come sit with him.

On the table was a box that had been brought by a guard a few hours earlier. It was covered in alternating squares of black and white, and Guillaume could see the seam where it opened up to create a chessboard. It had taken him a moment, but he had figured that the pieces were located inside. Henry proved him right by opening the box and revealing two sets of chess pieces in clean rows.

“One more game, Guy?” Henry asked as he picked up the white king.

“I see no reason why not.”

Given no choice, he took out the black king. Of course, that was how they had always played during their time with the count of Mortain. The pieces were assembled on the table in silence and the board was flipped.

“Shall white go first, or should we flip a coin?” Guillaume asked.

Henry dug through a pocket in his cloak until he found a single golden coin.

“Heads or Arms?”

Guillaume thought for a second. He eventually made his decision based on the fact that going against the head had landed him in his current situation. Henry flipped the coin. It landed with a faint thump on his palm.

“Heads. It seems you go first again.”

They placed their pieces on the board, Guillaume flipping another coin in his head. It came down offensive, and so, when the game began, he immediately moved a knight forward. Henry responded the way he always did, by slowly building up a jagged wall of pawns to oppose him. In chess, like in life, he had never learned to appreciate the damage Guillaume’s knights could do given an opening in the infantry line. Maneuvering his rooks into position as he did, Guillaume opened the battle with a strike at the wedges in Henry’s defense.

“Attempting to recreate Vitres?” Henry asked, breaking the silence.

“Perhaps,” Guillaume answered, smirking as he remembered their first engagement.

Henry had marched an army toward Rennes at a stunning pace. Only Guillaume’s army had been close enough to intercept him. By the small hamlet of Vitres, his knights had smashed through Henry’s battle line and forced his old friend to retreat, leaving King Philippe safe again for the first months of the war.

“You should remember that I learned how to counter that strategy.”

A quick set of moves later, both of Guillaume’s knights were dead. A rook and a bishop had somehow taken them. The memory of losing his knights pushed to the surface. The sudden cry as pikemen appeared from nowhere on their flank at Courgains. Out of six hundred noblemen who had charged into Henry’s lines, only twenty four had limped back with him after the infantry came to their aid. The smell of their blood and the sound of their screams still haunted him in the nights that followed, when his friend’s army was hot on their heels and news trickled in of King Louis’ continued advance on Rennes.

Now that same reversal was playing itself out on the board. Henry’s pieces moved forward over the wreckage of his attack, slowly but surely eliminating his stranded bishop and unorganized pawns. Luckily, he had one more trick up his sleeve. His two rooks, who had been patiently waiting in the wings, struck at the flanks of Henry’s advance. On the left, it was more like striking from behind. He relished the havoc they wreaked over the next few turns.

“How did you do it?”

Henry’s question was sudden and vague, catching Guillaume off guard.

“Do what?”

“At Azé. You managed to maneuver half your force so that it was behind me as I crossed the river.”

Now Guillaume knew what Henry was talking about; their final clash of the war. Henry’s superior force fording the river as Guillaume’s remaining archers desperately tried to pick them off and his infantry even more desperately tried to hold the crossing.

“I never maneuvered them there. I simply dropped them off before we crossed, hiding them in the foothills about a mile away.”

Henry seemed genuinely surprised.

“How did you know my scouts would not find them and your army, divided, would have been cut to pieces?”

“During the chase, I noted that you had become faster. Every time we stopped, it took you less than a day to catch us again. If you had been acting as careful as usual, there was no way you could have done that. I threw the dice, guessing that you would continue to ignore your flank in favor of reaching me.”

Henry nodded respectfully at his answer, smiling as he did.

“Checkmate,” he said, moving his queen.

Guillaume looked down at the board. It was true. Henry had put his king in a position that made escape impossible. Guillaume had been too concentrated on what his rooks were doing to the main assault to remember that the game consisted of more than the amount of damage he could do.

“It seems you win.”

The memory of those final moments at Azé came flooding back to Guillaume. The rider and the horn that stopped the slaughter in the river, carrying the news that Louis had marched into Rennes at the head of thirty thousand men and captured his king. The white flags going up all around Henry’s embattled army. The victorious roar as he rode up to accept Guillaume’s surrender.

He flicked his king, toppling the treacherous piece. It rolled off the board and the table, coming to a halt with a soft thump in the hay that covered the floor.

“I always had trouble remembering the king.”

Henry laughed as he scooped the remaining pieces off the board; “It seems you still do.”

They flipped the board and carefully placed the pieces back in their slots. When Henry slammed it shut, there was a long silence where the two men stared into each other’s eyes. Both knew where the conversation must go.

“The King…”

“The King…” Henry said, “…wishes you dead. However, as one if his most trusted lords, I have managed to somewhat lighten your sentence.”

There was another silence, until Guillaume raised his eyebrows in question.

“You will be stripped of your lands and titles. You will be banished from France.”

Guillaume slammed his fist on the table.

“How is that any better than death!?”

Henry grinned. It only made Guillaume’s blood boil that much faster that his old friend, even with all that had happened, could not even pretend to be sad for his fate.

“Guillaume. Calm down. You see, over the course of this war, I have learned one thing; how to play the long game. I have made some arrangements. A man I know will take you to Calais and from there across to England,” Henry said, his expression becoming serious again, his voice lowering to a whisper as he leaned across the table and over the board.

“There you will be welcomed in the court of King Edward. Louis’ support is weak, and his lords know this. The thirty thousand men he took Rennes with? No one will admit it, but they were all the men anyone was willing to give to him.”

Guillaume leaned in, intrigued and suddenly full of what he could have dared to call hope.

“What are you saying?”

“I am saying that someday, maybe in two months, maybe in two years, you will receive a message from me. It will tell you to cross the Channel, and you will, with fifty thousand Englishmen. In France, you will be joined by myself and a coalition of other lords. With the support of England, we cannot lose. Edward will be King of France, and we will reap the rewards, my friend.”

Henry dared to smile again at the last sentence. He got up, scooping the chessboard under his arm. Then he walked out of the cell at a brisk pace, turning on his heels once he was outside.

“You will be called to hear your judgment soon, Lord de Montfort.”

The cell door closed with a rattle and a screech. Guillaume picked his letters up from the floor. Lying back in his bed, he looked at the light of afternoon sun as it dropped behind the mountains. Alone again, he smiled to himself and began to sing in a whisper.
 
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J. Passepartout

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AUTHOR #1

I rather liked this one. The pacing seemed good, and information doled out sufficiently to have a clear idea of what is going on, but not so clearly as to spoil the mysterious fun. I assume this is the perspective of someone located in the game, a mere intelligent automaton being forced to act in something like Star Trek Holodeck simulations, but it could be any one of a set of mildly nasty goings on, and the effect of that sinister gang of masters forcing people to fight contrasting with the absurd names like Poopy the Pirate is good. I don't have much negative to say on first reading, save that I would be more amused if the deerstalker man's accusation was shorter and more along the lines of, e.g., "I call Bishop in the Library with the Ax." Contrasting the pomposity of the library and the dress and the shock of being there, with how people accuse in Clue (or always did in my family, so grain of salt there.)

I will move on to the other authors individually, reading one at a time so that I have each one fresh in my mind as I review it.
 

Wyvern

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Author One

I really liked the story, definitely my cup of tea! And the ending, although a bit jarring in the context of what had come before, did made me smile. The weak point I felt was the "fresh meat" paragraph. This would have been improved if we'd be shown, rather than told, about the recruit character's wish to join the Gold etc. I felt there was a need for a short conversation there between him and Green Bishop, to better show things. Otherwise I really liked the story and it didn't go on too long.

Author Two

Author two took a very ambitious approach, trying to pull off conversational wit and put-downs via character conversations. Something that is extremely hard to do, and didn't really pull it off for me. It was well enough crafted, but I think the story/plot was just too slow and could have done with skipping the first half and starting shortly before duel. You want something to stir the audience immediately in a short story, and I didn't get that with this one. I also felt the Comte was jarred out of character when he tells the Marquis to piss off. For a disdainful aristocrat, that dismissal just didn't fit his character. it should have been something more eloquent and biting.

For me, the highlight of the story was the duel itself, which was well told. I still applaud the author for taking on such an audacious challenge, even if I felt he didn't quite pull it off, and it was a little bit too long.


Author Three

For author three I have two recommendations - Proof read, and keep a short story short. This one when on far too long. The first introductory letter had two glaring sentence errors, which jarred my interest to read further, yet the next two letters/essays had none of these mistakes. For me though, I'm afraid I just didn't find the premise of the story very interesting, and struggled to read to the end. The subsequent letters after the first one were much better written. Sorry I can't say much more, this was unfortunately my least favoured story.

Author Four

I loved this one. An excellent short story, paced brilliantly over the game of chess, and very well written. I don't really have any constructive criticism to level at it, so will just say, bravo. My favourite of the four, and written by someone well polished in his craft.
 

Avernite

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My remarks:

Author one
I feel this author copied a bit from the Ender's game book. At least, that's what I immediately associate the story with, even if lots of stuff is wrong compared to the book (for anyone who didn't read the book, I won't elaborate). Being able to trigger a memory of what I consider a good book is an excellent way to make someone like your story. But the ending, I think, made the story. Grizzled and cynical soldier dumped into Clue!

Definately nice, though. All I can complain about is that the one Master to have fallen is apparently a woman. It can work, but it is rather stereotypical and all. Also, I have no idea who wrote it...

Author two
Well, it sure was a game. But I somewhat kept looking for a deeper meaning, and so felt a bit disappointed when there was none. I did feel the sneers had a mix of juvenile added to them, which seemed a bit... unfitting. Wyvern touched on a specific one, but to me his example felt fitting to the whole. Which, I think, is a slight miscalculation.

I also took rather long to grasp just how the Comté lost the duel. I am still a bit unsure.


Author three
I felt the story didn't quite flow. Had I seen a few books about these people, I might think ti fitting, as the story is otherwise good - but the flow isn't quite fast enough. The back-and-forth between the letters might have been more pronounced, to tie them into the whole more. As-is, they all are more tied to the unknown treatise, which makes sense in reality - but, as I said, makes the flow a bit harder to get.

Author four
I felt the game-to-history metaphors were a bit over the top, and would almost have liked it more if the two old friends had simply been chatting about the good old times, rather than their important points all accidentally happening in the one chess game.

Apart from that, I thought the story was great.
 

coz1

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Been a busy week and change for me so good to see the entries getting some press, as it were. More please. :) These writAARs are hoping for some feedback. The easiest part of this project is running it. The hardest is writing for it. You guys get the best...the meat in the middle. ;)
 

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I've been meaning to offer my thoughts for a while now – it seems I've never been able to get around to it. I think I'll do all four at once and keep things concise. Only ever getting two or three done on my part isn't the best ;)

Critique and feedback incoming shortly!
 

Peter Ebbesen

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Ah yes... the Guess the Author thread. Forgot all about this :eek:
Ditto. Been busy with EU4, real life, and the sun. Not necessarily in that order.

Oh, well, GTA during the second half of summer has traditionally had a very low attendance as most posters' attention is on other things. At a first glance, the entries look intriguing, so I'll see if I can get some sensible commentary up by this weekend. :)
 

DensleyBlair

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Author Four

Really, very good. Deftly written throughout, and some fantastic dialogue. It felt very real, and I liked the amiability of the conversation. It certainly made a change from so many of the occasions on which one will find a gaoler or victorious lord with something against a captive – as if his misfortune has offended him.

One thing I would level with this piece is the pacing. Pacing, I find, is aways hard to do with a piece of this length, but I felt that the conversation seemed too brief – too clipped, to steal a word from my last entry. As has been mentioned, everything seemed to echo a battle of some sort, which was a nice approach to take, but was perhaps slightly overdone.

I also felt that the ending seemed a bit rushed, though I think as far as endings go it was a fine one indeed. I laughed actually when I read 'Lord de Montfort.' This isn't the first trouble they'll be causing, I'd wager – even in this timeline. I only hope old Eddie is more successful this time around ;)

Author Three

Coming soon – this looks like a long one...

Author Two

Ditto...

Author One

I will admit straight away – up until the last sentence, I really had no clue (no on intended) as to what I was actually reading. As far as writing is concerned, it was fine. I didn't notice anything glaring during my casual read through – and I'm not going to be bothering with too close an inspection this time around.

It all seemed rather familiar in the surface; grizzled, cynical veterans of some ongoing (and one assumes never-ending) war deriving fun from the wide-eyed fresh meat. Fine. It pottered along nicely – actually, it was well-paced and a good length – but I'm just concerned that very little really happened. Nothing really clicked, and it was more like an opening to a far longer story. I must admit, I've written previous entries as if they were prologues of sorts, but experience tells me that that isn't a liberty one can take in this setting. People need action or intrigue or something – and, whereas there was lots reported to have happened, that isn't always enough.

And then the final twist – I took it as some sort of 'game centre' or something, with our 'hero' being some sort of game piece. And then he ends up in a game of Cluedo. An intersting premise, for sure – and one which could be very well developed further on another occasion, but that was my main problem. It seemed like a prologue.

That said, the piece was well written, and were it a prologue I would certainly be intrigued enough to read on further.
 
Last edited:

coz1

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Great to see some more responses to this! As stated, summer and the release of EUIV is taking some eyes and time away from other projects so I am going to keep this open for critique longer than I might normally. Keep it coming, folks. I and most assuredly our writAARs appreciate it!
 

J. Passepartout

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I was planning on reviewing some more over the weekend but I unexpectedly was invited to go to West Virginia, so I will try to get around to it in the next day or so.
 

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Well, finally got around to the new round!

Here's my tuppence:


Author One.

This was a very ambitious concept for a short, I think, but there's a Gibsonesque shorthand at work throughout which helps to establish character and setting briefly and immersively. Personally, I feel I'm more of a describer, so I've never been able to pull off this kind of style - for the most part you make it work, however. The style is quite engaging; what I feel is somewhat lacking, however, is the substance. It reads as a long internal monologue by a character familiar with your world's rules, introducing the reader (who is placed in the position of the 'fresh meat') to the rules of that world. We're being led on to expect some of the brutal action that the Green Bishop hints at having experienced in the past, but when we finally get there we are treated to the dafuq surprise-ending.

Don't get me wrong: the Clue bit was a great twist; I loved it. But it seems like the foregoing could have been fleshed out a bit more. (A caveat, though: I'm not sure this is entirely a matter of substance rather than style. It may just be that I was expecting more out of my usual descriptive stylistic preferences, whereas it was a conscious choice on your part to keep our exposure to the world fragmented through those Attention: announcements.) Again, though, really ambitious concept with nice execution.


Author Two.

The writing style in this one was much more to my taste and understanding, and the dialogue was quite good. The duel was handled well, and you managed to convey the action admirably through the perspective of de Fremont as unreliable narrator. (Avernite makes a good point that this might make things a bit confusing, though.) However, the story never really quite clicked with me. To me it reads like a right proper pastiche of late Bourbon France, with stylistic trappings and characterisations that felt like they would be at home in a Monty Python sketch or a Blackadder episode, but which we were ostensibly supposed to be taking seriously. (Or, at least, as seriously as the characters themselves were.) The references to Rousseau and Voltaire didn't much help matters.

It did take awhile to get into, from my end, and it wasn't particularly conducive to my suspension of disbelief. Again, though, in spite of all of the aforesaid I did enjoy the descriptive style.


Author Three.

I'm a bit more sympathetic to this story than some of the other commenters here have been, though I'm in agreement that it went on way, way too long. The reason I'm more sympathetic is because I've been working on-and-off on a sword-and-sorcery story which involves magickal affinity and ability being subject to the four humours, and thus to the magian's personality. I also really like the setup of the story, consisting as it does of a series of letters and journal entries revolving around a theme which is kept hidden from the reader.

That said, the way to do this sort of setup is through excerpts, particularly in the case of Seolla and Tsaleigha's letters. I'll be completely frank - I hated Tsaleigha. Hated her writing style, hated her vainglory and narcissism, hated her disdain for her colleagues. The fact that you were able to evoke such strong reactions in the first place through nothing more than a journal entry is the mark of a highly talented author, but to be honest, there were points when reading Seolla and Tsaleigha's letters where I was skipping to the end to see how much more I still had to read. In a short story, that's not the sort of reaction you want to evoke. It strikes me that you could have made generous use of ellipses in both the above cases to convey the full effect you wanted without coming off as interminable.

Still, brilliant concept here, and on this point I think a good portion of the foregoing criticism of this piece is somewhat unfair.


Author Four.

For a piece which leans heavily on a number of arguably-overused devices (the Noble Prisoner Playing With His Captor, along with War Is a Game and the Game Is Chess), this one was exceptionally well-done. You get the sense that there is a real camaraderie with these two, even when they happen to be on opposite sides of a war or a chess game, both pursuits in which both are well-practised. The punctuated dialogue interspersing the action is believable and evocative. This part I think was really well-handled. I agree with DensleyBlair, though, when he says that the ending felt rushed. The twist ending with his surname was great - I didn't laugh out loud, but I confess I did crack a grin - but to me it seemed there was a bit missing, or perhaps Henry could have used his dialogue throughout the course of their chess game (after all, he is playing the 'long game', right?) to lay out his plan for Edward's victory rather than dumping it all in his expository farewell at the end.

Of the four of these current entries, this was easily my favourite one, though. Bravissimo!
 

Peter Ebbesen

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Author1: Life of a Creep in a Defense of the Ancients Rip-off

This is where following industry news pays off, so this is for the information of the other GTA commentators that perhaps are less well informed about other game genres. :)

I don't know what specific game it is, but I know the genre. It used to be called the DoTA genre after the Warcraft3 mod that started genre, now it is known as the MoBA genre (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena), because anything that earns anybody as much money as League of Legends has earned Riot Games deserves a genre name of its own, and in particular one that doesn't risk an attack from EA/Blizzard's lawyers. This story is shown from the point of view of one of the game pieces, a creep.

The Green Bishop, the Gold Captain, the Fresh Meat – they are all creeps, the weakest of the weak. Spawned at portals in waves and following predefined paths (the lanes), fighting any enemy they meet on the way using simple logic, and dying miserably. They can only harm the opposition.

The Masters are the champions: player-controlled avatars in the game world. They are much more powerful than any creep, have many more abilities, and their actions cannot be predicted (because they are player controlled). They die frequently as well, but nowhere near as often or to as little point as the creeps, who are mainly there to provide the battlefield with roadkill. They can harm the opposition and their abilities can either help or harm their creep allies, depending on how sadistic the champion's designer was.

The audience... Okay, I have to give this one a pass. My guess that whatever game this refers to (if it is not an imaginary MoBA game) has spectators – either players watching in spectator mode or electronic crowds like those in many sports games. Something like that?

The idiotic jocular or powerful sounding names for the male masters, the sexually charged or diabolical names for the female masters – it is all in the tradition of the genre. To quote the awesome ”Female Armour – How Practical is This” QT3 thread, ”an unofficial LoL tournament in Iran has banned the following 36 female champions from the game” - apparently LoL has followed the tradition and has female champions of two types, ”cute” and ”sexy”.

So, with that being said, I liked this entry. It is either (as I put in my headline) the life of a creep – what the game might look like for somebody who lives in a MoBA game world, and answering the interesting question of what creeps do when they are not being slaughtered in the battle arena, or, alternatively and perhaps darker, describing a sort of world of which the genre is a pale mirror, just like classic monarchy warfare is mirrored in the game of chess. Perhaps these creeps are all volunteers or draftees for the endless war, who could have lived more sensible lives if they hadn't joined?

The treatment of the female master who fell to unsupported creeps (truly an ignominous state of affairs – any champion should wipe out creeps without problems) is, alas, completely in line with the sexual undertones of most MoBA games I have seen reviewed or post-mortemed, but I must say that that particular segment of the Fresh Meat's reasons for looking up to the Gold fell flat for me. It was going for a cheap laugh, and for me, it was just too cheap. (And I wrote the ”My Inevitable Greatness” AAR until I got sick of the puerile writing, so I know what I am talking about!)

My advice to the author? Don't do it.

While the passive nature of the writing worked in underscoring the dreariness and futility of the situation, I can't help but feeling that a bit of conversation between the Green Bishop and the Fresh Meat would have helped the middle bits of the story. Then again, creeps in MoBA games don't talk, so perhaps it is only those new to the game (as it were) that find enough energy and interest in the situation they are in to waste energy on talking.... but it would have improved the piece. Even just a few comments followed by a good putdown and then a blow with the crozier would have added much needed life to the story.

Finally, I loved the Cluedo ending. For a MoBA creep to be all alone while participating in a Cluedo game, now, that is going to be tricky indeed. :D




Author2: Drama! Action! Poetry in Motion! A Game of Wit!

I liked this one despite its length. I do wish that the author had worked more on the witticisms that drive the story. They were good enough for the job, but they lacked that sting that makes a great put-down such an awe-inspiring thing to hear and to watch being delivered. A bitter wit is something that is so terribly difficult to write, so I must applaud the attempt even as I wished for more.

Like Wyvern, I think this story would have been significantly improved by skipping the introduction altogether and going straight to the court scene. Keep it short, keep it snappy, and keep it to the point.

Overall, I am satisfied with the writing and editing and I saw little to comment on, save, perhaps, this:

In the introduction we are told that the Comte is ”eyeing the curvature of a young woman's breast under the silk covers ”.

Now, while I'd be the first to agree that this is a splendid activity that definitely beats answering the mail, I cannot help but think that unless the author intended the reader to draw the conclusion that the Comte was a born mathematician, something that the author does not build on in the following paragraphs, the sentence could stand some editing. :p

This one is tied with Author1's story for my favourite entry this time.




Author3: ”Wow, Seolla really wrote a lot today. I’ll just skip the wall of text and go straight to the conclusion...”

Seolla had it right. The point of the game – or even the notion that a game is going on – is left for the final paragraph.

Now, lord knows I've been guilty of the ”what the hell is he writing, how on earth can it be on topic? Oh, it all makes some sort of sense” school of writing before, including in GTA, but I seldom make people wade through pages of text first.

Thus, two pieces of advice.

First, for GTA, you should write a teaser, a scene or two, something that people without an excess amount of patience and who are not predisposed to like your writing, but are predisposed to give it a chance, can read, understand, and perhaps appreciate. If you write something longer, you need to catch people's attention at the start and never let it go.

For the political game, you have five points of view, using a total of 30 paragraphs that mainly just go on and on, digressing all over the place, seemingly to no narrative point, and without the sort of surprises or drama that might keep the reader attentive. For GTA this is merely maddening, but if I read something like that as an opener in a short story, I would skip the remainder. Proper editing and rewriting could profitably cut this by 50-80% and still leave the reader with the same feeling of the story.

If you do write something that long and with that many digressions wanting to keep the general for of various journal entries, chopping it up in smaller excerpts of one or two paragraphs and spending more time on the various wizards bickering about what the other wizards think rather than each having his own long thought-stream based on the the original work and whatever else he might be thinking of would probably work considerably better. Rack up the tension and drama, and the readers will come.

Second, and this is another curse with which I am all too familiar in my own writing, you need better proofreading and editing. These are all minor issues that I might not have noticed if I had been engrossed in the story when I read it, but as I was not – as I was wondering where you were going until I skipped to the end, discovered the point, then returned to the top to read again – I took notice.

”Dagarath of the curious flame noticed me of his strange(r) behavior. ” - ”noticed” → ”notified”.

”Wang is researching for a way to decipher this factor” - ”for a way” → ”a way”.

”I’ll take great pleasure in fragging their ass with my fireballs” - ”ass” → ”asses”. Do they only have one arse between them?

”If only the magical delegates of the Mage Conclave would grow enough balls to apply Wang’s propositions” - ”grow enough balls to” → ”grow some balls and”. This one is humorous in so many ways. The difference between what is immediately recognized as the idiom ”grow some balls and” and ”grow enough balls to” is significant. Especially when you've already established that these are wizards we are talking about. :D Of course, if you really meant what you wrote, a punchline joke to the setup would have been deeply appreciated.




Author4: Chess. Why did it have to be chess.

The author uses a tried and true approach, chess used as a metaphor for war. Unfortunately, he overdoes it. Having a game of chess turn out to track with the last battle fought between the two contestants is too cute by half. I feel sad for saying it, because the piece is overall well written, but it just doesn't work for me.

On the positive side, the author shows a deft hand for dialogue. It is just that given the premise of an imprisoned noble chatting with the noble friend who defeated him, and who has a plan for reversing his imprisoned friends fortunes, the story could have been so much more.

I mean – let's say that tying the last battle into the current chess game is a must. Then, instead of the game step for step reliving the past and giving them an excuse to think about it, think how much more interesting the game would have been if the game started by matching up to the battle and then gradually took another path, while the players thought of how things matched and how not, what they had learned, and how they drew inspiration from other actions – showing by their thoughts that they learn from their mistakes, while still revealing the backstory. You could have Guillaume using his favourite strategies first mathing history first, then having to improvise based on how he knew Henry thought, and still being beaten by Henry, who had learned to adapt and play the long game, catching Guillaume from an angle he had not anticipated, because Henry had grown.

THEN the ending with Henry playing the long game would seem much more appropriate. These are not people reliving the past, they forge a new way.
 
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