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Thread: Short Story Passage - "Telling Too Much"

  1. #1

    Short Story Passage - "Telling Too Much"

    EDIT: Oh, no! I made an error, sorry. I created two consecutive topics regarding the same short story. Below the following I've pasted the contents of the other thread I made. The first thread may be deleted.


    I'm in the process of revising this passage of my recently completed short story, but I'd like to know what you all think about it. I believe it definitely "tells the reader too much," and would fit better into the category of "essay paragraph" or "rambling philosophical ponderings." I know that this passage destroys the reader's freedom to analyze the things going on in my story, so I ask your advice: What's your advice on how to (start to) get across the themes presented here without saying them this outright?



    War is killing. Killing is evil. That much Talus knew. But a stroke of insight came to him that had never seemed so blatantly obvious until now as it suddenly presented itself. While war must be evil, it had been made good. In the span of thousands of years men had justified their own lusts for dominance—and therefore blood—with the time-fortified illusions of duty and honor. In his mind, Talus looked at it all and found himself seeing through the lies, and past the human insecurity that had invented them. At the very heart of war, there was an evil so severe and encompassing that man had been scarcely able to bear it. That evil was the source of the subconscious, primal self-detest he felt whenever he went into battle. This was the detest that had given humans that deep need to somehow rationalize their actions.

    **********************

    This is a small freestyle poem I've written for the introduction to my medieval short story. I think it helps to "fade in" to the beginning lines of the narrative, since the story begins with a direct continuation of the story before it. I would really appreciate advice; for whatever reason I rarely visit the field of poetry, and I'll gladly take all the feedback I can get.



    A dark time descends.
    Night takes day, and men take lives.
    This is the time when nations will collide and detest all that is good.
    Under sharp glow of the moon, a new war kindles. Here is where evil makes its stand.
    Terror takes its toll. Destruction awakes, mounts, and takes the hunt.
    In the very air there is death.
    Change makes imminent.
    A new era is dawning.
    Last edited by Klope3; 01-24-2009 at 07:52 PM.

  2. #2
    Moderator Logos's Avatar
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    No problem Klope3, welcome to LitNet
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    ◕‿◕ currently reading Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark, Bill Dedman (2013)

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  3. #3
    Cat Person DickZ's Avatar
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    My suggestion would be to go ahead and post your whole story. You seem to be convinced that you've told the reader too much, but we can't come to that conclusion unless we see the rest of the story.

  4. #4
    Heh. I will as soon as I can. At the moment, even while I'm logged in I can't post attachments; I'm waiting for a response from Logos concerning that.

    The story is 7-8 pages in Microsoft Word at 11-point font, so I don't think I should post it all in a message....or should I? Sorry, I'm new here--it just seems that it would be improper to post that much text in post form.

  5. #5
    Okay, here comes the full story, in post form. I really hate that online posting removes pretty much all formatting...I feel it makes things like this alot harder to read. But please take the time, if you can, to read my story and let me know what you think about it. (Keep in mind the topic of this thread.)



    A dark time descends.
    Night takes day, and men take lives.
    This is the time when nations will collide and detest all that is good.
    Under sharp glow of the moon, a new war kindles. Here is where evil makes its stand.
    Terror takes its toll. Destruction awakes, mounts, and takes the hunt.
    In the very air there is death.
    Change makes imminent.
    A new era is dawning.





    Sir Nelan-Talus wandered through the gloomy halls of Reshan Stronghold.
    Dim amber light flickered on his armor as the torches of the walls burned weakly. It was the same light of the chaos outside, where stout buildings wept angry flames into the sky and their residents ran for their very lives.
    His steel-clad footsteps bounced stuttering reverberations off the dull stone walls, echoing the emptiness that seemed to fill the world.
    The heavy broadsword of which he was barely aware swung in his grip as he walked. It was a lone, solemn reminder of the lives he had taken this night.
    But the horror that surpassed all others was dripping from his hands and breastplate: the blood of his teacher, the one person he had ever truly known his entire life.
    Agathorn was dead.
    This Stronghold was the refuge of the city: an impenetrable fortress where the helpless, the weak, and the wounded found sanctuary at a time such as this. Made of most solid stone, it rose high above the city’s lofty walls and went deep into the earth, filled with everything that might be needed by the residents to last out a siege like this.
    Against its solid stone wall Agathorn had faded away, torn open by an enemy’s blade. There he had surrendered all the blood that had not already been spilled from his body during that last fight.
    The aged man, his chest and stomach in ruins, had fallen just inches away from the imposing doors of the Stronghold. To think he had been that close to safety…
    But Agathorn would never have run from battle. He would have stood and fought, even if it cost him his honor or name.
    Or his life.
    Talus remembered Agathorn. The man had come to many realizations in his time. He had invented hosts of new strategies for sword combat. As a master warrior he had fought alongside Agentol the Brave and Mateln the Swift through the greatest battles in Galthalianite history. Agathorn’s valor and bravery was renowned throughout Antheleton and the realms beyond; to Talus, he was—had been—both a teacher and a hero.
    And yet, at the end of his life, Agathorn had looked back at it all and felt shame.
    Talus could remember that Agathorn had said a great deal to him about things of the world and of men and of war. Little of it was fathomable right now.
    Both his hope and his doubt had fallen away. He could deny it no longer.
    Agathorn was dead.
    And he was alone.
    Outside the Stronghold there was chaos. The cobblestones of the combat-corrupted streets were splotched with red as the men of Antheleton and the horde of Emperor Manta collided with primeval killer instinct. Fires, flooding up out of the roofs of houses and shops and other buildings, blazed under the deep canopy of the midnight sky, which accepted no hateful light from the angry flames. Aloof from the entire scene was the spitefully gleaming moon, widowed from the sun and winking in its existence as dirty plumes of smoke drifted to obscure it with jealous abandon.
    Talus, standing before the descent of the long staircase leading down from the Stronghold, looked over the violent crowds that were trying to spread further into the city. The attack had been in progress for only several hours, and the horde was still quite near to the inside of the city’s walls as the invaders clashed with the soldiers of Antheleton. As one man in the midst of such great chaos, Talus was clueless as to how the battle was evolving. But then, he didn’t want to know.
    With one solemn glance, it was folly.
    For so long back into history it had been called honor, or duty. But Talus remembered Agathorn and, suddenly beginning to grasp the last things the wise man had taught him, he looked on it all differently. All the uncertainties and questions he had carried with him his entire military career were now exposed, and he knew he couldn’t hide from them.
    War is killing. Killing is evil. That much Talus knew. But a stroke of insight came to him that had never seemed so blatantly obvious until now as it suddenly presented itself. While war must be evil, it had been made good. In the span of thousands of years men had justified their own lusts for dominance—and therefore blood—with the time-fortified illusions of duty and honor. In his mind, Talus looked at it all and found himself seeing through the lies, and past the human insecurity that had invented them. At the very heart of war, there was an evil so severe and encompassing that man had been scarcely able to bear it. That evil was the source of the subconscious, primal self-detest he felt whenever he went into battle. This was the detest that had given humans that deep need to somehow rationalize their actions.
    Had other men been able to stifle that detest? Possibly. But how much humanity did those men still possess? Talus had killed. He had fought many battles, some for reasons he couldn’t even begin to understand. In those battles he had killed men who, while simply enemies to him, were nevertheless individual vessels of life with true thoughts and feelings of their own. Each and every one of them, he imagined, were scarcely that different from him.
    Or Agathorn.
    They were determined, or tired; ambitious, or content; hopeful, or hopeless. They were human beings. People. Those were Talus’ victims, the ones he had so thoughtlessly deprived of life and limb.
    Briefly, Talus wondered: Am I evil?
    But then the thought passed. This was not the time.
    “No!”
    Talus heard the scream come from his far right; looking, he saw a dark figure standing at the foot of the Stronghold’s four-way flight of steps, half-stooped in a posture of utter despair and looking off at the every-approaching fires in disbelief. Talus turned and started slowly down the stairs.
    At the sound of his first clanking footstep, the figure looked directly at him. Whoever they were turned all the way around, assumed a defensive posture—
    —and drew from a hip sheath a long, sharp dagger.
    Talus’s blade came up seemingly out of its own will. He rotated his body and progressed down the stairs sideways to ensure balance. As he descended he held out his sword with one arm, signifying that he was ready to fight if need be.
    At the bottom of the stairs, he could make out the face of the figure even in the darkness; it was that of a young woman, apparently just short of adult age, bearing an expression of anger and detest. The girl took a single step back, keeping her gaze locked hatefully on her face. The dagger in her hand trembled violently at her side; if she possessed any skill with the weapon she held, she did not possess the discipline needed to wield it with any efficiency. Regardless, he kept his sword up and raised his other hand appealingly.
    “Give me the weapon,” he suggested softly.
    “What’s the matter, soldier?” she muttered, showing him a cruel, spiteful smile. “You aren’t afraid, are you?”
    “Give it to me.”
    Slowly she raised it into the air—blade forward. Talus kept his eyes on it as it moved toward him…and then burst into motion.
    He had been aiming to seize her wrist, but he found himself grasping only air. In a moment the girl was behind him, and in another moment her blade was directly underneath his chin, positioned strategically inside the weak spot between helmet and breastplate.
    “Be careful,” she told him. Her voice was shaking with adrenaline. “You’re a huge, hulking brute, soldier, but it seems you’re no match for speed.”
    He was frozen in shock for several seconds. This was completely unexpected. Recovering from the sudden attack, he forcefully swept his foot out behind him and successfully tripped the girl. She fell sideways, and through sheer luck the hand in which she held her dagger flew forward, instead of going straight into his neck. He turned and briskly snatched the hazardous item away from her.
    On the ground, she actually started laughing. “Is that all you can do to me?” she said. “I thought such a fierce warrior could do better.”
    Talus sighed. “If you are a citizen, I am forbidden to harm you.” Then he himself chuckled. Grimly. “Seriously harm you.”
    She rose to her feet and maintained that same mocking smile. “There is no amount of harm you can do me that will make me submit to you.”
    Submit? He ignored that, for now. “I could kill you,” he suggested tensely.
    “But you won’t do that, will you?” Her tone was sweet and crooning. “Your soldier duty forbids it. It would be dishonorable.”
    He sighed again, out of exasperation. “You will follow me.”
    “And why would I do that?”
    Talus shot out his hand, and this time her wrist was firmly in his grasp. Dragging her along behind him, he stormed back up the steps of the Stronghold and approached its massive stone doors. She tugged several times, trying to get away, but it was useless and she soon stopped trying. Inside the fortress, he commanded the soldiers guarding the entrance to not let her in or out, no matter what. Then he pulled her down a corridor to the Hall of Refuge, where the other citizens were, and let her go.
    He was determined to not let her stray from safety. He had encountered her, so he would need to protect her until he was certain she could protect herself, or until someone else came to claim her.
    Such was his duty as a soldier.


    It was in the morning that Antheleton won.
    The outcome, in Talus’s eyes, had been predictable. The Retyllyn troops had been severely outnumbered, and even with the use of their massive war machines and brutal tactics they had not been able to win out over the prestigious soldiers of mighty Antheleton. Talus, though still grieved over the loss of his only semblance of family the night before, felt strange emotions within him.
    He did not feel proud; of that much he was certain. But why not feel proud? The tyrant Emperor Manta, a parasite in his own right, had sent his troops to this peaceful city only to be thwarted by the men of the strongest nation on the continent. Why not feel proud when one is a part of something so good, righteous, and pure?
    Talus found himself failing to feel any kind of joy at the fact that a tyrant who had just sent his forces to descend upon and besiege the peaceful city of Reshan had been thwarted.
    He tried to.
    But he couldn’t.
    A man stepped into the Hall of Refuge. Talus, sitting against the wall and across the room from the girl he had found last night, saw immediately that he was a soldier. The man raised his sword in the air and said in a loud voice, “The city is clear! You are all safe once more!”
    Talus stood up slowly and picked up his sword and the girl’s dagger as a wave of relieved sounds came from each and every citizen in the Hall. Adults embraced children and each other comfortingly, tears of happiness forming in their eyes. Others who had been woken by the announcement stood up with everyone else, asking their neighbors what all the noise was about. Talus looked around at them all and wondered how many knew and truly understood the way this victory had come to them all.
    It seemed none of them did.
    “You, soldier,” said the man who had just made the announcement. He was looking straight at Talus with a frown on his face. “Why are you here? Did you not fight in the battle?” A clot of citizens was forming; they were all trying to get out of the Stronghold at once. A cacophony of ecstatic chattering had commenced.
    “I found a rather reluctant citizen in the streets who was refusing to take refuge.” He gestured across the room at the girl. She was huddled against the wall and her head was down, but her eyes were not. She glared up through her lank black hair at both Talus and the other man with a loathing expression.
    “Was she not with someone?” He watched the young woman as if expecting her to morph into something strange before his very eyes.
    “No. I knew my duty, so I now watch over her.”
    The man looked away from her and back at Talus. “What is your name, soldier?”

    (Continued in next post)
    Last edited by Klope3; 01-27-2009 at 11:09 AM.

  6. #6
    “I am Sir Nelan-Talus,” the knight responded formally, “Knight of Peace for Galthalian’s Realm.”
    He frowned. “Your name is familiar to me. Are you or are you not the pupil of Agathorn the Great?”
    Talus looked at him for a moment, not knowing what to say. He decided on the truth. “Yes. I…was.”
    The man’s frown deepened. “Surely you have not been expelled from his tutelage? I had heard you were a most exceptional student.”
    Talus broke eye contact and looked at the floor, controlling himself. He took several seconds to gather his will, as if preparing to do some great feat. Then he looked back up at the man before him and, minding his tone of voice, he said flatly, “Agathorn is dead.” Saying it aloud for the first time made him feel somehow even emptier than before.
    The look on the man’s face was unreadable, and he studied Talus for a long instant. Then he seemed to recover from his momentary reverie and spoke once more. “I am Commander Argus. I lead the Phoenix Division of the Legion of Antheleton. I will be taking command of the final security measures and the march back to Antheleton. Now, please follow me outside. We will be conducting a search of all buildings in the city before our departure, and we need every soldier we have left.”
    “How many are left?” Talus asked quietly. He remembered the battle last night. With the incredible support of their trebuchets, it had not appeared that Manta’s forces could have been defeated easily.
    “Our numbers have been diminished,” the commander said without any trace of emotion. His expression did not even change. “No count of remaining units has yet been performed. Now. Outside, please.” He turned around and, not looking back, started down the corridor to exit the Stronghold.
    Talus, accepting Argus as at least a temporary superior, hurried over to the young woman on the other side of the room. “Rise,” he told her. “I see now that I cannot let you out of my sight, so you will have to come with me.”
    She came to her feet and stood up straight. “I have no choice, do I?” Her tone somehow managed to communicate a kind of obedient defiance.
    “You don’t. Come now, or I will need to drag you again.”
    She came on her own this time.
    He stepped out into the dawn sunshine. Above was beauty; the sunrise turned the eastern sky a molten orange and threw long shadows from buildings and the city walls. Everything shone a deep, glorious golden, and the all-consuming fog from the previous day had all but disappeared.
    Below was death.
    The point at which Manta’s forces had finally failed was evident; the bodies of black-armored hostiles and silver-armored soldiers stopped fifty meters out from the foot of the Stronghold. In every street there were bodies, many lying directly beside their fallen weapons. Giant boulders dotted the interior of the small city, and some stood rigidly atop the ruins of the buildings they had smashed into the earth. Beyond the walls the great war machines remained where they had been left by the dead Retyllyns who once manned them.
    “Come,” called Commander Argus from the foot of the Stronghold’s staircase. “I have gathered the remaining soldiers at the heart of the city. We must finish up here and organize to leave this city as soon as is possible.”
    Talus looked across the expanse of buildings, streets, and carnage. At the city’s center was a broad, paved square that appeared to have, at least at one point, functioned as a gathering place. In the middle of the square was a tall, larger-than-life stone statue on a stout pedestal.
    Surrounding the statue were fifty, perhaps sixty, men.
    “They are all we have left?” Talus demanded. “The rest…”
    “A well-sized group of the surviving soldiers I have sent into the Reshan forest to search for Retyllyns that are stragglers or are lying in wait. All the rest have gathered in that square.”
    “We started out with more than 3,000 men,” the knight said in disbelief.
    “It was a harsh battle,” the Commander agreed, as if reminiscing about a rather nasty bout of rain or snow. “But we have won out, in the end.”
    Talus stifled the violent protest that nearly escaped his mouth. He could clearly see the degree to which this man was deceived. But this was also a man he knew he should not argue with. “Very well,” Nelan-Talus said submissively. “I will follow you.” He directed a forceful look back at the young woman, who had lingered at a good distance during his exchange with the Commander. Without a trace of warmth in her eyes she, in turn, followed him.
    Later in the day, Talus found himself trudging through the high-canopied Reshan forest with a loose caravan consisting of their diminished military force and a group of perhaps 200 citizens. They had embarked from the ruined city several hours ago while the sun was still low in the eastern sky, and they now traveled north through the forest with the intent of reaching Antheleton within the week. As it was still early in the day, light from the morning sun beamed through the leaves overhead and alighted on the idyllic scenery in glowing pools and spots. Moss, along with decayed leaves, was abundant on the ground, as well as on the trunks of the tall trees all around and on the surfaces of the occasional gray boulders, most of which were about the height of a man’s waist or shorter.
    The civilians evacuated from Reshan walked along with a general air of depression and fear. Many, if not all, of them had expected to be able to return to their homes and resume their lives. Commander Argus, however, had decided that a complete evacuation was necessary. He had claimed that if word got back to Manta that his forces had been defeated, more would surely be on the way. The severely weakened force sent by Antheleton had outlasted them in this first encounter, but it would never be able to hold up against Manta’s horde, which would surely return in even greater numbers and power. Because the remaining Syrillan soldiers had to remove their protection from Reshan, they had to take the citizens with them.
    A loss of this magnitude had not been anticipated. Now, Reshan would be taken. No matter what.
    Antheleton had won. But at the same time, it had also lost.
    The disorganized caravan now faced a steep hill, atop which the previous party of Antheleton’s soldier’s had been ordered to wait. Commander Argus called a silent halt through the use of a single upraised hand which he displayed to the front row of soldiers; they stopped in their tracks, as did everyone behind them. The citizens traveling behind the soldiers eventually stopped as well, with a low general murmur of confusion and curiosity.
    The Commander drew his sword quietly and motioned to three other soldiers, ordering them to follow him. He stalked slowly up the hill with his sword held ready in both hands. His metal boots, regardless of his stealthy pace, were loud as they trampled the leaves on the ground. Barely at the top of the hill, held up his hand once more, and proceeded even slower. After cresting the hill he stopped.
    “Reveal yourselves!” he shouted in an imperious tone that echoed through the silence of the forest. Then with a grunt he stumbled and fell backwards onto one of the soldiers behind him.
    Two arrows had pierced him: one in the side and one under the helmet.
    “Ready all!” called one of the soldiers on the hilltop, over the screams of citizens and the huge racket of the two iron-clad men tumbling down the hill. Leaves rustled and flew through the air as people, both military men and civilians, scrambled about to hide or at least find cover. Multiple Retyllyn soldiers, in their glossy black armor, inexplicably appeared from behind trees and boulders and began firing arrows into the confusion. Some of the townspeople fled the ambush completely, running as fast as they could into the depths of the forest. Some others huddled behind boulders of their own, cowering by themselves or clutching their children and family to their chest. The arrows buzzed through the air from the once hidden archers; all who did not find sufficient cover were quickly and efficiently shot down.
    Talus felt an irrational surge of anger.
    This was not the honorable way to fight.
    He whipped around and scanned the area for the young woman and spotted her crouched behind a boulder along with a frightened couple. He swooped down and knelt beside her.
    “There’s nowhere to hide,” the woman also hiding behind the rock sobbed, held tight by her husband. “It’s over.”
    “Stop that,” Talus snapped. “I will get both of you out of this.” Now they were bound under his protection, as well. He was going to be very busy.
    The soldiers of Antheleton put up a resistance for a time, but at last it was completely obvious that the lack of good cover would be their undoing. “Retreat!” someone shouted at the top of their voice, and those who remained alive fled in a disorganized mass—back in the direction of Reshan.
    The buzzing of arrows overhead suddenly stopped, and briefly there was silence. But the quietness was broken by the sharp ring of swords leaving scabbards. The Retyllyn soldiers stormed out from their hiding places and went to attacking everyone they could find, finding hiding citizens and killing them. Exposed, citizens that had once been hiding now abandoned their positions and ran as well. With no other choice, Talus pulled out his sword as quietly as possible and stood up. He ignored the heaps of clothing and metal that were the victims of the ambush, and scanned the area. There were only three black-armored masses rushing about; three others who had been shooting arrows were already dead. Talus targeted the nearest one, who had turned away and was about to attack a civilian cowering behind a tree. He rushed the enemy soldier with his blade held low.
    Then he pulled the sword from the man’s back and let him fall to the ground. The cowering civilian looked up at the towering knight in awe—or fear—then jumped up and ran away.
    Sir Nelan-Talus looked around the golden-lit forest once more. The rest of the black-armored Retyllyns were nowhere to be seen. A wave of fearful nausea swept over him as he realized this and ran back to the boulder where the girl and the couple still hid.
    “We must leave now,” Talus snapped, crouching behind the rock.
    “Where would we go?” the young woman said bitterly.
    “Anywhere that is not here,” he responded tensely. “We will run and hope we get somewhere that is less dangerous than this is.”
    Before he could answer, there was suddenly a six-foot tall suit of black armor. It prepared to attack, but as its sword swung through the air Talus swiftly and efficiently beheaded it.
    “Look out!” the woman screamed from her husband’s arms, pointing. Talus turned sharply, but instead of being killed by the other suddenly materialized enemy he was saved by a swift blade that came under his arm and impaled the attacker.
    The knight looked back. The young woman was the holder of the sword. She, in turn, looked at the first Retyllyn lying dead at her feet. Its sword had landed on the ground, barely missing her; she had nearly been killed as well.
    A long moment passed. Talus stared at the bitter young woman who had just saved his life and had nearly killed him the night before. She stared back in astonishment.
    “Now is the time to leave this place,” Talus declared, tearing his eyes from those of the girl. “I am unfamiliar with this region. Do any of you know how to get the nearest semblance of civilization?”
    “I do,” the husband said softly, still trying to comfort his wife. “Resara manor is not a great distance away. I am a hunter and go there regularly to sell some of my wares.”
    “Then that is where we are bound.”
    “I suppose,” said the young woman, “you will insist on dragging me along with you as you did back in the city?” Her tone was still deliberately harsh, but something had changed.
    “Yes. Now you are all duty-bound to me.” He paused, then addressed the frightened couple. “Will you be able to take refuge at Resara manor?”
    They exchanged glances. “Is it safe there?” asked the wife.
    “It is safer there right now than it is at Reshan. I believe we have warded off this ambush, but more are likely to be posted throughout the forest.” He pointed up the ridge from which the attack had issued. “We will go straight through there. It is unlikely that there were any others backing up this ambush.” He looked at them all, then relentlessly began walking. “If any other soldiers in the forest heard the noise from this battle, they may be coming to investigate. We must press on if we are to avoid them.”
    “Then we run?” said the girl, following him. This time her tone was thoroughly unreadable.
    He thought it over. That was what they were doing. They were running.
    So much for honor.
    “Yes,” Talus sighed. “We run.”

  7. #7
    *gentle nudge*

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