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Thread: Faith United

  1. #11
    upon the cheek of night

    EXP: 206,434, Level: 19
    Level completed: 88%, EXP required for next Level: 2,566
    Level completed: 88%,
    EXP required for next Level: 2,566


    Breaker's Avatar

    GP
    36,030
    AP
    0
    Name
    Joshua Breaker Cronen
    Age
    30
    Race
    Demigod
    Gender
    Male
    Location
    Corone
    The trees and grass became a blur as I raced toward the Coronian port city. Worry flitted through my mind like a razor-winged butterfly, carving fresh concern wherever it lighted. Birds and small animals scattered from the thunderous sound of my approach, and insects stirred in the slipstream of my wake. I had never run so fast, not in training, not when I outpaced a stallion from Suravani’s Oasis, and not when I ran for Am’aleh. Kinley was different. Kinley was special. She needed me.

    I looped around Gisela’s outer wall in a matter of minutes, faster than an Alerian steam wagon and almost as loud. My metal boots pounded the earth, leaving deep treaded prints. For once the salt air was not a welcome smell. It struck me in the pit of my stomach, a sick foreboding note of dread.

    My eagle eyes could see far out over the waves. The sun stood low in the sky behind the city, casting the scene in dull twilight. Wind whipped the waves high enough to bring curling white to their caps. A lone craft braved the waters, a longboat rowed by six familiar men. The deserters. The ringleader stood at the prow, clutching a quaking and screaming McKinely. Her screams carried over the water, loud enough for my sensitive ears to hear the panic in her voice. The deserter struck her across the face and stuffed a rag in her mouth, and I forgot all caution and dove into the sea.

    Uncertainty flooded my mind as I fully submerged, kicking with both feet, scything through the water like a dolphin. Who could have manipulated me to give my own men such a command? Khal’jaren? The sage god would certainly have the wisdom to find a way to cast a spell on me. I shuddered to consider a second possibility, but it crept into my mind like seeping gas. What if Am’aleh was responsible? The last time I questioned her I’d been ever so wrong, and paid for it with a portion of my power. But who else would demand a death at sea? Unless that was what Khal’jaren wanted me to think.

    I surfaced and cut the waves with powerful, confident strokes, gaining on the longboat. As I rose with a swell I saw the ringleader tying McKinley’s wrists behind her back and laughing to his compatriots. Evidently I’d picked the right men for the job. My teeth nearly cracked with the force I ground my jaw. I would not hesitate to kill them.

    As I drew within a hundred yards one of the rowers spotted me and lifted a warning cry. The leader did not hesitate. He tipped McKinley into the sea and the longboat veered off, heading back to port.

    I am the ocean…

    I paused, treading water. Kinley bobbed like a cork, struggling to free her hands.

    I am the sea…

    That voice. Am’aleh’s voice. I had not heard it in so long. The way it emanated from the back of my mind, it might have been a memory.

    Wherever you may flow, always return to me.

    A woman of water took shape around Kinley, cradling her, keeping her head above the surface and smoothing back her soaked auburn hair. Am’aleh was there… saving my mortal lover. I could see her smile in the sparkle atop each wave. I could hear her laugh beneath whipping wind. I relaxed, swimming forward slowly. There was no need to rush…

    “Josh!” A different, equally familiar feminine voice screamed. “Help me!” The words vanished in a stream of gurgling sounds.

    The vision flickered. Am’aleh vanished.

    McKinley had freed her hands and torn the gag from her mouth, clawing at the waves to keep her head above water. She was failing. Horror struck me harder than a bolt of lightning. What had I seen? Where had my goddess gone?

    A third possibility invaded my mind like an auger. What if Khal’jaren was not to blame, nor Am’aleh? What if all the godly notions had been constructs of my overactive mind?

    What if I was going mad?
    Last edited by Breaker; 01-20-2018 at 11:27 AM.

  2. #12
    upon the cheek of night

    EXP: 206,434, Level: 19
    Level completed: 88%, EXP required for next Level: 2,566
    Level completed: 88%,
    EXP required for next Level: 2,566


    Breaker's Avatar

    GP
    36,030
    AP
    0
    Name
    Joshua Breaker Cronen
    Age
    30
    Race
    Demigod
    Gender
    Male
    Location
    Corone
    “Josh!” Kinley cried again before sinking beneath the waves. I shook my head forcefully and dove after her, grasping her around the middle and pulling her back up to clean air. It took too long; by the time we surfaced she was unconscious, her head lolling limply against her delicate breastbone. I held her close and kicked toward land in the longboat's wake, cutting away from the vessel's path as it made for a harbor inlet. I pulled Kinley through the water, up the beach, and onto the stony shore. She lay still as I set her on the ground and knelt beside her, my hands applying compressions to her chest, forcing the water out of her lungs.

    The tiny woman retched, and I rolled her on her side until all the seawater had left her lungs, but still she did not awaken. I pressed my lips to hers and breathed into her and her crystal blue eyes snapped open over a loud gasp. She croaked my name and clung to me, shaking like a scarecrow in an earthquake. She sobbed brokenly as she gained the energy and asked me why, over and over again. I had no words – my mind was lost. I could only hold her against the warmth of my wet body as I wondered what was happening in my world.

    I closed my eyes and breathed deeply, meditating for the first time in months. The first time since I started the Faith United. As my breathing deepened Kinley calmed somewhat, her wails becoming whimpers, her sobs dainty sniffles. I felt her pain like a knife in my heart. She would never know it, but I was equally confused. Could Am'aleh really not be real? Or was this some type of ruse perpetrated by Khal'jaren? Whatever it was, it had nearly cost my lover her life. Someone would pay. Blood would spill.

    As if drawn by my thoughts, the longboat appeared around the harbor's long seawall. The deserters had not entered the safety of the city. They were coming for me. Coming to me.

    The fools.

    They made land with the boat's prow scraping up the stony beach. They leaped ashore wielding swords and axes, and drawing on the Eternal Tap to fuel arcane weapons. I had taught them too well. I took in each of their faces, all scarred and experienced. They were seven of the hardest mercenaries I'd recruited. Seven of the most fanatical devotees to the cause. And they had learned well. A ball of crackling fire appeared above one man's hand. A halo of molten ice floated around the shoulders of another. Without my connection to Am'aleh, I could not touch the Tap. I could not snuff out their powers, or even defend myself or Kinley.

    “Lord Breaker,” called the ringleader, sarcasm lacing his tone. Even so, they came halfway to attention. They still respected me, or wanted to. “Relinquish the woman. We won't fail to complete an order, sir. She must die at sea.”

    I kissed Kinley on the forehead and stood up between her and the zealots. I found my voice as my hazel eyes bored into each of them individually.

    “Listen to me carefully,” I said tiredly, feeling the exertion of the swim. “You'll get your hands on her...” I bent my knees and charged forward, arms spread wide, releasing a monstrous roar.

    Over my broken body!
    Last edited by Breaker; 01-20-2018 at 11:31 AM.

  3. #13
    upon the cheek of night

    EXP: 206,434, Level: 19
    Level completed: 88%, EXP required for next Level: 2,566
    Level completed: 88%,
    EXP required for next Level: 2,566


    Breaker's Avatar

    GP
    36,030
    AP
    0
    Name
    Joshua Breaker Cronen
    Age
    30
    Race
    Demigod
    Gender
    Male
    Location
    Corone
    The deserters recoiled away from my charge like same-poled lodestones repelled by a larger, stronger magnet. I gritted my teeth in a gruesome smile as I caught the slowest of them by the back of his cloak. For a moment his feet churned the sand in place, and he let out a panicked yell. Then I snapped his spine so forcefully blood spattered from his nose.

    The remaining six backed away, weapons upraised, mana crackling. They formed a loose semi-circle around me, ignoring McKinely. The woman still lay on the beach curled in a ball, watching from the corner of her eye as she relived the horror of nearly drowning.

    “Take him together lads!” Roared the ringleader. “Whoever lands the killing blow gets to keep the boots!” He leaped forward and swung his axe, while two swordsmen stabbed as one. The weapons converged on me like a three pronged pincer, all sharp and expertly wielded.

    I slithered sideways, my boots leaving a single long line in the sand, and caught the first swordsman's wrist. His weapon countered his compatriot's with a loud clang, and the axe missed so cleanly that the wielder nearly lost his balance. I broke the first swordsman's arm in two places with a single decisive twist and then hit him with an uppercut that snapped his head back in a spray of teeth and crimson saliva. He dropped to the ground as if weighted by an anchor.

    A fireball struck me in the back. I hadn't felt it coming – without my connection to the Tap, I could not even detect the use of magic. But I felt it burn through my shirt and scald my shoulders, skin bubbling and breaking beneath the heat. I roared and turned toward the caster but had to duck under a barrage of icicles launched by the deserter with the sparkling aura.

    “Something's wrong with him,” the fire mage shouted, “use your magic boys. He can't stop our spells!”

    I winced. I had never been able to stop their spells in training either, but a little confidence and swagger had gone a long way. Coupled with my knowledge of the arcane arts and ability to teach others, no one had ever challenged my power.

    Ice cascaded at me from one side while fire stormed from the other. A set of shackles formed out of the stones beneath my boots and snapped at my ankles, and an unnatural gust of wind buffeted my head.

    I rolled with the wind and leaped at the ringleader. The shackles missed my ankles and the fire and ice collided in a whirling maelstrom of mana. The zealot dove and rolled away from me, and then magic struck me from all sides. The remaining deserters had combined their powers to form a single giant hand of air that gripped my arms and spread them wide, freezing me in place. The ringleader straightened up, a smirk on his face, and sauntered toward me. I struggled against my invisible bonds but could not free myself.

    “Sorry about this, my lord,” the mercenary mocked, “but you did say your broken body.” He nodded to his cohorts, and another invisible hand of air gripped my ankles. While Kinley and the zealots watched, the invisible shackles began to fold me in half backwards.
    Last edited by Breaker; 01-20-2018 at 11:34 AM.

  4. #14
    upon the cheek of night

    EXP: 206,434, Level: 19
    Level completed: 88%, EXP required for next Level: 2,566
    Level completed: 88%,
    EXP required for next Level: 2,566


    Breaker's Avatar

    GP
    36,030
    AP
    0
    Name
    Joshua Breaker Cronen
    Age
    30
    Race
    Demigod
    Gender
    Male
    Location
    Corone
    Agony ripped through my back, legs, shoulders and arms as my wrists and ankles drew closer together. I could bend further than most, but eventually my muscles would tear and my bones would mangle. There was no end to the strength of the five magic-wielding warriors working as one.

    “Let him go, bottom feeders!” Kinley cried, lunging in and swinging a driftwood spar. One of the zealots laughed as he easily fended off the attack and picked her up with one arm. Kinley screamed and went for his eyes like I'd taught her. He stumbled sideways, placing himself directly in line with my right palm.

    A brilliant flash of white light exploded from my hand, penetrating his chest like a mythril crossbow bolt. The man released Kinley and dropped to the ground without a sound, his heart no longer beating.

    Suddenly the grip on my limbs weakened, and I shattered the shackles of air with my furious strength. I landed crouched on the beach in front of the ringleader, shaking with exertion, my face darker than the falling night.

    “You forget,” I growled, “I do not break. am the Breaker!” I had my own sources of energy even more powerful than my absent Tap related abilities. I hadn't shown my soldiers all of my tricks, after all. They came at me like a wave, wielding their magics and weapons, but they broke on the shores of my fists and feet. In seconds all of the mercenaries lay dead. Blood speckled the sleeves and collar of my burned up shirt.

    Kinley looked about, driftwood bat held high, searching for something to strike.

    “Josh,” she gasped when she realized we'd won, “what was all this? Why would your soldiers try to kill me?”

    “It won't ever happen again,” was all I could tell her. I didn't have answers for her questions, or for my own. But somehow, I knew McKinely would be safe. I knew everything would be fine. Somehow, I knew what to do.

    ~*~

    I spent the night holding Kinley in her bed and promising I'd keep her safe forever. I did not dare sleep. I crept away from her cabin early the next morning before she rose. I made my way through the fields and forests to the encampment of the Faith United, and picked up an important item... an item in sore need of some modification.

    The seamstress who had designed it for me agreed that she could make the changes for a reasonable fee, and told me a date and time. I paid her with thick Coronian gold crowns and left the shop, my mind busy with plans for the future of the Faith United.
    Last edited by Breaker; 01-20-2018 at 11:38 AM.

  5. #15
    upon the cheek of night

    EXP: 206,434, Level: 19
    Level completed: 88%, EXP required for next Level: 2,566
    Level completed: 88%,
    EXP required for next Level: 2,566


    Breaker's Avatar

    GP
    36,030
    AP
    0
    Name
    Joshua Breaker Cronen
    Age
    30
    Race
    Demigod
    Gender
    Male
    Location
    Corone
    The ground reverberated with the sound of the marching Faith United. We drummed up a cloud of dust that pursued us along the meandering country road, dancing in the rays of midday sunlight that cast wavering shadows beneath the stunted trees that grew so close to the ocean. I could smell the salt on the breeze, and it called to me, as tempting as any siren song.

    As we rounded the latest bend in the road I made a curt gesture towards the large man carrying a long pole cradled in a holster on his belt. He nodded and reached up, unfurling the item I had brought from the seamstress. The modified banner of the Faith United.

    It still showed the sigils of every Thayne in the pantheon, and a number of other deities. The beast-man of Hromagh, the winged woman of Y’edda, the scales of Jomil and the pitcher of Am'aleh all rippled with the breeze. But the four-armed figure of Khal'jaren had been moved to one side, replaced by another familiar figure. The shape of a shadowy man looked down at me from above the Y-shaped scars on his cheeks. My likeness gazed out from both sides of the banner. The seamstress had done my eyes justice... they seemed to watch in all directions at once.

    A rousing cheer went up from the four hundred warriors at my back.

    “Continue on until you're able to loop back to the encampment. I will meet you there,” I told the bannerman, and then peeled off from the group, allowing him to take my place at the front. My likeness rippled and waved above his head, always watching, always vigilant.

    I meandered slowly through sparse stunted trees as the sounds of the marching militia faded behind me. The smell of the ocean grew stronger, and soon I could hear the roll and crash of waves and the occasional cry from circling seabirds.

    The Thaynebinder would remain in mine and Kinley's possession until I could find a way of confirming its authenticity. If it was a true artifact of the gods, I would learn much about what had transpired. If it was not... the possibility did not bear thinking about. I could always throw myself in the sea, weighted down by my enchanted boots. I would sooner take my own life than put my mortal lover at risk again.

    The thought of being submerged in salt water was too tempting to toss away. My boots crunched over the sand and then splashed into the ocean. I waded in until it lapped at my knees, my waist, my shoulders. Shrouded in water, I continued onward until my head vanished beneath the surface. My boots weighed me down, keeping me on the bottom. With the sun filtering through the waves above like a natural kaleidoscope, I stopped and waited.

    I breathed in.

    Water fell away from me before it could enter my lungs. Held back by an unseen force, a bowl of dryness appeared around me. I breathed out. A figure rose from the damp sand before me, a woman of breathtaking beauty made entirely of still water. Her hair cascaded and shimmered around sleek shoulders, and her deep blue eyes gazed into my soul.

    “May I hear your voice?” I asked.

    She smiled, shimmered, and opened her mouth. It was the sound of birds in the morning. It was the sound of angels singing. It was the sound I’d waited so long to hear.

    “I am the ocean, I am the sea. Wherever you may flow, always return to me.”
    Last edited by Breaker; 01-20-2018 at 11:42 AM.

  6. #16
    Ride The Lightning

    EXP: 140,454, Level: 16
    Level completed: 33%, EXP required for next Level: 11,546
    Level completed: 33%,
    EXP required for next Level: 11,546


    Storm Veritas's Avatar

    GP
    20,880
    AP
    0
    Name
    Storm Veritas
    Age
    39
    Race
    Human
    Gender
    Male
    Location
    Corone
    Another terrific thread. It isn’t flawless, but I very much enjoyed this thread, and the continuance of the story of Josh, his massive legion, and his complex relationship with divinity. There was some excellent creativity here. The thread has a lore-heavy tone, which I think lends gravity to the work and makes for a more satisfying closure. There is also clear forethought in the plan for this thread, which wraps logically and ties up most loose strings very well.

    Plot (22/30) -

    Story (9/10) – Undeniably an excellent story. I really can’t be critical of this story in any truly fair way, short of picking at idiosyncracies. The rise of the armies around Josh didn’t feel fully formed; I understood where they came from but the supporters and their motivation seemed a little odd. The “conversion” of troops was unique and clever, so this could also be viewed as a strength.

    Setting (6/10) - Not weak by any stretch, but your weakest area in this thread. Setting is minimalistic and leans heavily on the visual cues, even as some other senses (including the “crunch of sand”, which I enjoyed) are alluded to. Still clearly above average, I went back and forth between 6 and 7 here.

    Pacing (7/10) - Through necessity, pacing can be choppy here. I appreciate that you moved quickly through timelines that would make the thread very monotonous were you to keep the pace at a steady drum. I did feel that the mounting threat of war felt very distant about halfway through the thread, and everything sort of broke ranks with Josh’s apparent descent into madness.

    Character (23/30) -

    Communication (7/10) - Generally strong, you still fall into the trap of forcing in what feels like catch phrases. Interestingly, it feels as though the only time your dialogue ever struggles comes in the climactic moments of a thread. The “over my broken body” and “I am the Breaker” felt very cumbersome here given the scenarios.

    There’s an element of dialogue and communications that I understand in that we are rarely at our most articulate in times of stress. For someone as traveled and experienced as the Breaker, I’d love to see him err on the side of quiet rather than saying something silly.

    Action (9/10) - The action in this thread was a little light, but you remain the best narrator of combat and physical activity that I’ve read. It’s a real gift you have here.

    Persona (7/10) - I didn’t know whether to give you a “10” or a “4” here, because there were times where I waffled between the two during the thread. Breaker’s apparent split with sanity was very surprising, as McKinley was brought out for sacrifice it was clearly out of character. His return from the edge was good to see, although the explanation of it felt kicked down the road and obviously tied to Am’aleh.

    Prose (24/30) -

    Mechanics (9/10) - I couldn’t find any obvious flaws here. There may have been some small issues with repetition using words surrounding the water, but that is inevitable in a thread so tightly themed to the water borne Goddess.

    Clarity (7/10) - This was the other challenge area for me. I had to go back over the area where McKinley was taken and it was done on Josh’s orders, since he didn’t remember it. I can’t imagine a thread that leans on amnesia such as this can score a hell of a lot higher than “above average”, since the reader is intentionally somewhat misled.

    Technique (9/10) - And here you get those points right back, since the use of memory here was triggered with some good literary work, including putting some of the heavy-handed dialogue Josh leans on in the hands of his sworn mercenaries. That was a really nice angle to the thread that I enjoyed, as well as the resonant theme of loyalty that showed up with Josh’s love for Kinley, Am’aleh, and the brotherly bond of warriors.

    Wild Card (8/10) - The ability of this thread is far-reaching, and it creates a new God for Althanas in human (-ish?) form. This thread is extremely ambitious but tight, and is just an outstanding overall read.

    TOTAL SCORE – 80 – JUDGE’S CHOICE NOMINATION FORTHCOMING

  7. #17
    Ride The Lightning

    EXP: 140,454, Level: 16
    Level completed: 33%, EXP required for next Level: 11,546
    Level completed: 33%,
    EXP required for next Level: 11,546


    Storm Veritas's Avatar

    GP
    20,880
    AP
    0
    Name
    Storm Veritas
    Age
    39
    Race
    Human
    Gender
    Male
    Location
    Corone
    Breaker receives 4640 EXP and 250 Gold!

    (both are added!)

    JUDGE'S CHOICE AWARDED!!!
    Last edited by Storm Veritas; 04-17-2018 at 01:43 PM.

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