December 28, 2005

The Wizard's Tower (fragments)

These are fragments of something that I will probably submit for assessment. It's a CYOA. I need thoughts and opinions, please!

You try the door again, tugging at the iron ring with all your strength. Juna stands back and watches, amused. “I don't see what's so funny!” you announce, indignant. “A little help, at least?”

“Didn't you think a wizard might lock his own tower?” Juna replies. You fix him with a glare. He shoots back a wicked grin. “Don't worry, Kerin. It'll take more than a rusty lock to stop us!”

You step back and watch. Juna moves forward, stretches his fingers out towards the handle, and intones: “Kah goh meline-ah luv-ah!”

You hear a low clunk come from inside the door. “A little trick I learned from the gypsies,” Juna explains. “Ladies first!”

You try the handle – the door swings open effortlessly. Beyond the threshold, there's only darkness. Good thing you brought a torch…

Go on to the next page.

You are sweating with nerves by the time you reach the top of the first staircase, and Juna has bound ahead. “Hurry up, Kerin,” he shouts back at you, “the wizard's treasure will be in his room – on the top floor!”

“Is it just me, or do these dark, winding staircases seem a bit… creepy?” you reply.

“All the more reason to get to the top of the tower, Kerin.”

“All the same, I think we should be careful as we go.”

You catch up with Juna, and come to a sort of landing. Stairs continue upwards. An opening, flanked by two suits of armour, leads from here onto the tower's only balcony. Juna is examining the suit on the right. "Not worth taking," you say. "I know," he replies, "it's just -"

Juna is cut short by a screech of metal on metal. The suit of armour lunges forward. It's alive!

Juna jumps back. "Tower defenses," he mutters.

The suit of armor strides towards him, backing him against the wall.

"Magical slaves," he continues. "They're powerful…"

The suit of armour raises its axe and steps forward. Juna makes a deft sidestep at the last moment, and the strike misses completely, causing the suit of armor to topple over and smash on the wall, falling to pieces.

"Powerful, but stupid." He grins. "Kerin, look out!"

You whirl round. The other suit of armour has come to life, and is lifting its mace, ready to strike!

If you attack the suit of armour with your flaming torch, turn to page 21.

If you try to lure it onto the balcony, turn to page 35.

The small, red book is lying under a table in a pool of dry ink. The cover is cracked and dusty. It reads: "Journal of Summonings and Bindings". Somehow, you know it belonged to the wizard. You flick through the pages – the beginning of the book is just dense, careful writing, but as the book continues, you see strange symbols that remind you of Juna's runes, and you notice that the handwriting becomes more tense, more desparate. The final page is a mish-mash of scribbling and unreadable words.

"This wizard sure was a strange character," you say to Juna, but he's elsewhere in the room and doesn't hear you. You look back at the book. Overwhelmed by curiosity, you turn to the first page and read…

The last pheasant has died. All spell scrolls have been written, the divining dice prepared. My dreams last night contained nothing of portent, and no blackbirds have visited the window this day. At midnight, I will call this shadow, and bind it. All that remains is to mix the ink.

I am exhausted to my very core – I have been writing, fevered, for these last six hours. At midnight I summoned the thing by its runic name, and used the ash staff to subdue it, though it would not stop babbling filth and violence until I compelled it to swear silence. I called it ur-hadoth, and it became cowed and silent, for in knowing its name, I knew its nature. But in its eyes I saw a challenge and a resentment, and a violent strength.

I had determined not only to master the thing, but to bind it, and this I did with quill and paper. I made it tell me each of its binding-names in the Old Languages, and how it was first birthed, and its various qualities and codes, which I transcribed carefully onto the scroll. It then began to tell me of its birth, and ascent into consciousness and life – I transcribed this too, thinking of it as a curiosity which may have use in another project. Now I see that it told me its story not by choice, but because it was compelled to. I had asked for all its names, and it had one more to tell me.

At first, he seemed to be telling me about a time of pre-material existence, in which he inhabited a place of chaos and brutality. I wrote of all the tortures he endured and inflicted – and saw how this had twisted his mind, far beyond reason. Then, he began to tell me some disconnected tales – which I continued to write down – tales from the lives of young boys, mostly, mere vignettes which were over before they began. Some boy who was spurned by his friends crushed the head of a wounded bird. Another shut his sister's hand in the door, made her scream. I have all this down in the scroll. I came to realise that many of the demon's tales were my own. In fact, as he continued, I was not dictating his words, but my own past, remembered in sudden, vivid detail. Acts of violence I had committed, when compelled by fits of rage – and more than that. All the cruelties I have inflicted on my friends, I relived. The day I cursed Kamma to her face, never to see her again. Though my eyes were stinging with tears, the shadow would not relent – I was bound now to write down every word, and remember.

He then brought me to the cliff edge, and Piter was before me, arrayed in his ill-gotten robe and carrying the ash staff. Piter who betrayed me, who used me as a pawn and kept me from the dark-texts, like a mother hiding sweets from her child. He did not deserve the staff, and the rage that killed him was just. But the creature was mocking me for it, calling me “murderer”, threatening to rush up and possess me again, as he had done all those times before. I could feel him compelling me to clench my fingers more tightly about the quill – to break it in two – but instead, I took up the ash staff, naming and subduing it thus: “Anger! I swear you again to silence!”

It obeyed me. And thus I bound my spirit of anger into a parchment scroll. I cast its ethereal body into the only place here that will hold it. It did not speak word as it left, but fixed me with a gaze of such threat and menace that it haunts me still now. The scroll is unfinished. I have five of its names – but are there others? Can I be sure that I have command yet over this shadow?

I was reminded today that not all spirits are of wrath and chaos. Not all must be caught and bound like wild beasts. And truly, many cannot be bound. The spirit who visited me today was of so deep and strong a vitality that may never be chained. I believe I was visited by the goddess Mar Eleiya, or a form of her, for she came in the form of a sea-dove to my window. She is not popularly worshiped, and some might describe her as obscure, but she has shrines amongst some people of the western coast. To them, she is a spirit of serendipity and cloudless skies.

It is hard to convey the sense of what happened today. If I were pressed, I could admit only that a sea dove with azure wingtips came and sat on the parapet in the clear day. Mar Eleiya did not speak audibly, nor manifest her power in the bending of light as demons do. But I was overwhelmed by a sense of peace, and curiosity, and potential, as if her message to me were the sheer and simple infinity of the sky. Ensconsed in my studies, I rarely notice these things. But this time I revelled in the simple pleasure of the afternoon light; the dappling of tree-shadows on the grass below; the low silence of the woodland all around. The sea-dove flew closer, right on to the windowsill, peering in at me past the wooden frame.

Then Mar Eleiya's message became clear to me. She was imploring me to wander, to take a staff and live on the land, learning from nature in the way of the wizards of old. I was shocked by the humility of this request. She did not command it of me, as any god might. She merely offered it up. And for a moment, I desired it, and was willing to abandon myself to it.

It did not take long, though, for my mind to come back to the weight of my unfinished studies – the scrolls half-written, realms of the mind yet to explore. To wander about in the forest, neglecting these duties I had set for myself, would be a betrayal of this responsibility. I remembered, then, the games of logic I played with Piter in the days when he taught me. In the days before I came to hate him. We would sit and play games with black and white stones long into the night. He would say, “a stone, once laid, cannot be taken back. It is the same with our lives. Our actions are permanent, and set the pattern for our future.”

So it is with me, now. I made a choice when I began to study the dark texts – to bring power and knowledge to myself. The pattern has already been set. So sullenly, I told her “I cannot”, and looked up at the windowsill. But the dove had already flown.

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  1. i like this. i like the fact that you've divulged enough information on two seperate (not good choice of words) scenes, i.e. the wizard and the two whatever they ares but not closed them off is great and i think you've captured the style of the books really well.

    to me though, the wizard section has some problems. It is way too long considering the shortness of the previous two 'chapters'. they set up the genre nicely but then it gets forgotten in the third chapter. maybe split it up? a 'continue to page 75 job', perhaps?

    also, and this is just a personal thing – i think the black and white stones game is too obvious (if its not alluding to chess then i'm sorry Ms. Jackson, i apologise a trillion times).

    29 Dec 2005, 14:23

  2. Thanks for your kind comments, Ant.

    The black and white stones game is actually meant to be Go (in Go, you really can't move stones once you've set them down). I shall rewrite it so that no-one thinks it refers to chess… cos Piter's sage aphorism only makes sense if the game is Go…

    to me though, the wizard section has some problems. It is way too long considering the shortness of the previous two 'chapters'. they set up the genre nicely but then it gets forgotten in the third chapter.

    I totally understand why you said this. Hopefully it will make more sense in the finished project. The split in genre/style is deliberate. I want to lull the reader into comfort with the first section then blow it all apart when they reach the top of the tower. Also, the CYOA will act as a framing device for other pieces of prose, one of which is the "Book of Bindings and Summonings", others of which will be unrelated.

    Basically, the wizard's tower will contain a various magical objects, journals, scrolls, etc which you can choose to examine. Examining an object will take you to an antinarrative prose piece. For instance, I am considering having a mobius strip, which, when examined, takes you to a short story where the end wraps back into the beginning.

    This is all concept anyway. What I mean to say is that the wizard part will seem to be quite seperate from the adventuring part.

    In this light I'd ask: do you think that the wizard section is too long, if you consider it on its own? I suspect that it may be too rambly for its own good ;)

    29 Dec 2005, 16:03

  3. Perhaps could do with some trimming. The CYOA bits are cool, its a neat device. It'll probably mean you want to keep the antinarrative pieces short though. Once you've given the reader control over their own destiny, they'll be unwilling to relinquish it for long pieces of experimentation.

    29 Dec 2005, 18:35

  4. There is a chance that you have been placed under a time warp spell. There can be no escape from such a curse.

    Proceed to the next comment.

    29 Dec 2005, 18:58

  5. Once you've given the reader control over their own destiny, they'll be unwilling to relinquish it for long pieces of experimentation.

    I've given the reader no such freedom. They'll do what I bloody well tell them to!! Bwa ha ha.

    Thats probably a good point though

    29 Dec 2005, 21:13

  6. yeah, the wizard bit is probably a bit too rambly, i mean ,there's a lot going on. your explanation for the change in style sounds good though.

    PS: Geek moment! how do you get to do those quote things, Jo?

    30 Dec 2005, 14:15

  7. I like this.
    I love the idea of manny little bits within the main adventure [damn you Joe! I'm doing something simillar!] and I really liked the tone of the Book of Bindings and Summonings, it feels so ethereal and Other, mysterious, magical, mmmm….
    I think, if anything it's the adventuring part that needs work. It feels a little clunky at times – eg "The suit of armour lunges forward. It's alive!"

    31 Dec 2005, 12:47

  8. Deliberately so, I think. CYOAs are normally full of cheese tastic prose. I believe my man Joe is being parodic.

    31 Dec 2005, 13:22

  9. Yes. Golden age CYOA was both clunky and cheese tastic. link

    You do little quotey things by starting the line with bq (for block quote) and then a full stop.

    Thankyou everyone for reading this!

    31 Dec 2005, 19:05

  10. Ant

    if you add a few more comments onto this, it will top the 'what's being talked about' list on the home-page.

    i guess you got to ask yourself, do you feel geeky? well, do ya?

    03 Jan 2006, 13:29

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