31 May 2019

The Elf's Prisoner - Chapter 32

Chapter 32

Sharing results.
Inn of the Foxes, Silver Trailings, outside the Realm Below the Mountain
The next morning, Jyslyn lingered in her bed, her covers pulled up over her head.  The dawning sunlight streamed in, brightening the room.  The dark elf could hear Wren walking around, humming to herself.  The young elf had been out of her own bed the moment the sun began to rise.  Jyslyn turned under her blanket to face Wren.  "Good morning."

"Good morning," Wren sang.  "I didn't know you were awake."

"The sun is bright.  I couldn't stay asleep."

"Do you want me to close the shutters?"


Wren stopped humming.  "I guess you wouldn't know what shutters are.  We use them to keep bad weather out and the heat in during wintertime.  They block the sun, so we don't close the shutters unless we need to."

Jyslyn pushed the covers away from her head.  She squinted with the morning sun lighting the room.  "No, keep these shutters open.  I need to get used to sunlight, right?"

"I guess."  Wren twittered.  "You're a bit like me.  You don't really fit in, but you're trying to."

30 May 2019

The Elf's Prisoner - Commentary 31

Sharing the results of the investigation, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 31.

The biggest challenge when a group investigates is to get everyone up to speed while not boring the audience.  The body and the knife stuck in it are clues, but not everyone was at the crime scene.  If this was modern day, Jyslyn could just text a message to Kazi and Nyssa, all done with a sentence or two.  "Jyslyn shot a quick text message to Kazi and Nyssa, updating them."  See?

The Elf's Prisoner, though, is a fantasy.  While there is magic that can send a message - Kazi used that in Chapter 24 - Jyslyn doesn't know how to cast the spell.  Kazi used a wisp of light before, since divine magic uses the special effect of the divinity to shape the spell.  Jyslyn has to study or create her spells and she had no reason to have a messenger spell.

To avoid retreading on ground just covered, I had to add other tidbits, like character interaction.  It's not the what, but the why and the reactions.  It's not that Jyslyn found the body, it's that she brought the younger members of the team to a dangerous part of Silver Trailings.  There was movement on the investigation, but the risks were higher than what Kazi wanted.  Wren is innocent of the ways of the world, so she gets to ask the obvious questions.  Why did someone stab an already dead body?

The other obvious question is from Kazi.  Just how involved is Jyslyn's family?  Being essentially an outcast, she doesn't know.  Dark elven society is matriarchal, just like Wildwood, so Jyslyn's mother and sisters would be in charge.  Her sisters don't really like or trust Jyslyn, though Valenzia doesn't like or trust any of her family, so no surprises there.  Jyslyn also went out on her own to learn how to use magic, pulling her away from family discussions.  She's guessing, really.

Long term plans for the story, characters, and setting include having Jyslyn and Kazi become an item.  The relationship isn't going to be resolved quickly for two reasons.  The first - I'm not that great at writing planned romances.  Laura and Mackenzie in Unruly are suffering from that, and the first actual romance I tried to write failed spectacularly.  I find it easier to have a couple start as a couple.  The hard part is done, now they're together and have to deal with new challenges.

The main reason, though, is that Jyslyn and Kazi aren't in a rush.  They're elves.  Elves have a long lifespan.  A whirlwind romance might be just a decade.  They are feeling something for each other right now, but both have baggage.  If it helps, their children will be cute.

A quick reminder - The Elf's Prisoner is not complete.  Not incomplete like The Devil You Know or The Soul Blade, where I had a couple of chapters to finish to wrap things up.  Incomplete, as in, "why has HBO wrapped up A Game of Thrones when George RR Martin hasn't written let alone released the final books" incomplete.  The story, which was completely pantsed, sort of got away on me, especially once the villains started showing up.  There's more to come at some point, including a trip to the crystal elves.

Friday, nature and magic, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 32.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, Playstation Productions.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, surprise adaptations.

24 May 2019

The Elf's Prisoner - Chapter 31

Chapter 31

Violence on the streets.
Inn of the Foxes, Silver Trailings, outside the Realm Below the Mountain
"It's the same marking," Jyslyn said, showing the recovered dagger to Kazimier.

"And there wasn't any blood on the ground beneath him?" Kazimier asked.

"No, sir," Leomund answered.  "The body was dead when he was stabbed, I'm sure of it."

Nyssa crossed the room to stand behind her squire.  "I've taught the lad how to tell how someone died."

"But why stab someone already dead?" Wren asked.  "It seems like a waste of time."

23 May 2019

The Elf's Prisoner - Commentary 30

Another dead body and another dark elf knife, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 30.

The seedier part of Silver Trailings became the setting for the chapter.  The city is a trade town, so I figured there'd not just be a rough part but one where the thieves' guilds would use, a neighbourhood the watch avoids.  Wildwood doesn't have a similar neighbourhood; the dynamics are different there.  Kazi has travelled to other cities, including in the Seven Dominions, and is aware of such places but doesn't spend time there.  Wren has been kept sheltered since her village was destroyed.  Leo has snuck off to visit such quarters while travelling with Nyssa, who did the same when she was a squire.  Jyslyn has more experience than Kazi, but not that much more; instead, she knows the mindsets involved.  She won't say it, but Jyslyn was relieved that Leo was around to help explain what Wren saw.

The streetwalker discussion let me throw in the differences between Silver Trailings and Wildwood, the big one being the latter's matriarchy.  Wildwood is very much a place where the women are allowed to express their sexuality without reproach.  Silver Trailings, under the watch of the patriarchal dwarves, aren't as open.  Add Silver Trailings' role as a trade town, and the nature of sexual relations changes.  It's not quite night and day; Silver Trailings gets influences from cultures that trade with it.

Wren still has the fuzzy memory of Kazi and Jyslyn hugging the night before, though not the full context.  Jyslyn managed to distract Wren's thoughts, at least for now.  Wren might think over what she saw, but Jyslyn's non-explanation works for now.  And if anyone used a spell to detect falsehoods there, none would be found.  Jyslyn deftly avoided the question.

Wondering who the body is?  He's Sessarine's victim back in Chapter 22.  She doesn't believe in wasting resources.  Much like Space Mutiny, no one is allowed to call in dead if they work for Sessarine.  I had gone back to make sure that she killed him by breaking his neck.  Normally, going back to edit is not recommended during NaNoWriMo, but this was needed.

The third interregnum was more for me.  I wanted to get Sessarine's reaction and to make sure she knew what was going on.  Our heroes are now known, though not with great details.  Sessarine knows she has opposition actively working against her.  This should set up the middle, as the heroes and Sessarine try to outmaneuver each other.

Friday, communicating, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 31.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, hiatus week.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, Playstation Productions.

17 May 2019

The Elf's Prisoner - Chapter 30

Chapter 30

The Nicean emissary.
Canal Distract, Silver Trailings, outside the Realm Below the Mountain
Jyslyn, Wren, and Leomund wound there way through the narrow streets of the Silver Trailings' Canal District.  Away from the bustling crowds, the trio took their time, taking in the sights.  Jyslyn stopped Wren from staring at daringly dressed women a few times, pulling the young elf away by the elbow.

"What is the big deal?" Wren asked after being dragged for the fifth time.  "I've never seen anyone wearing clothes like that."

"You don't need to know," Jyslyn answered.

"Can I ask them?"

"No, Wren.  It's not a good idea."

The young elf stopped dead in the street, crossing her arms.  "Why not?"

"Kazimier will be upset with both of us."  Jyslyn sighed.  "It's complicated, Wren, apparently."


Leomund laughed.  "All those women are streetwalkers."  Feeling Jyslyn glaring at him, the squire said, "Kazimier can be upset with me."

Wren added her own glare at Leomund.  "What's a streetwalker?"

16 May 2019

The Elf's Prisoner - Commentary 29

Trust, but verify, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 29.

Two main elements in Chapter 29.  The first is how well the inter-party trust works; the other how trusted the party is by others.  This wasn't an intentional approach.  Again, seat of the pants writing here.  However, I do like having characters together.  They can play off each other in dialogue where a solo character is just stuck with thoughts and no one to explain things to.  The previous chapter saw Jyslyn, Wren, and Leo head out for some investigation.  Nyssa and Kazi get to wait for replies.

Nyssa doesn't necessarily trust Jyslyn.  She hasn't made waves so far because her mission could use the extra help and Jyslyn has helped the party.  However, dark elves have a rep, one that's weighing on the back of her mind.  Kazi has the inside scoop on what's going on with Jyslyn.  Ancient elven history is something to learn from the elves.  The prophecy was a last minute addition to the story.  It's more sequel hook than anything else, but it helps with building the world.  Ancient prophecies tend to make a world more lived-in.

Kazi sums up what happened in the early chapters.  Nyssa hasn't heard the full story yet.  It didn't feel right that she was just going along with Jyslyn being there, even if she was Wren's responsibility.  Maybe especially if she is Wren's responsibility.  Wren is still a young elf.  The original work, done long before NaNoWriMo ever existed, based on details in the first edition of AD&D.  While I am trying to fill off the serial numbers, I do need to point out inspirations.  In the game, high elves, which Kazi and Wren were in the original concept, had longer life expectancies than drow, like Jyslyn, ignoring that a dark elf was more likely to die from a dagger than old age.  A young adult high elf could be older than an adult drow.  Technically, Wren could be older than Jyslyn.  It makes timing difficult, especially with some future ideas in mind.

The Niceans started forming as I got closer to this chapter.  They use a different type of magic than seen so far.  I don't have the specifics, though.  It wasn't needed just yet, but it's something I kept in mind.  Niceans acting in official capacity tend to be formal.  It could be either from their native language having nuance or from them being always on when in foreign lands.  Iskander has another reason for being short - he lost an ambassador.  Kazi recognized that Iskander had cast a spell to discern truth.  It's considered impolite to do so in Wildwood, and dangerous to do in the Seven Dominions.

Friday, murder in the streets of Silver Trailings, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 30.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, Men With Brooms.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, hiatus week - this week's busier than I expected.

Also, if you're in town, CanGames is over the Victoria Day long weekend.  I'll be there playing.  Say hi if you want.

10 May 2019

The Elf's Prisoner - Chapter 29

Chapter 29

Investigating in the marketplace
Inn of the Foxes, Silver Trailings, outside the Realm Below the Mountain
Nyssa paced from one side of her room to the other and back.  On Leomund's bed, Kazimier watched the knight with amusement, not helping Nyssa's mood.  "Waiting is torture, lad," the knight said.  "How does your dark elf cope with being alone?"

"Jyslyn isn't mine," Kazimier said.  "And I don't know if she is coping.  It's hard to tell with her."

"Keep an eye on her, lad.  I've never heard of an Accursed woman dabbling in magic.  Nor have I heard of one living in an elven city."

"One needs to be the first."  Kazimier stretched.  "There is a prophecy from about a thousand years after the War of Splintering that said that the dark elves would return to the light.'

Nyssa stopped her pacing.  "Prophecies are fickle beasts, always just out of reach."

"There aren't many records from the War of Splintering.  Depends on who you ask, either those who would become dark elves rebelled to take power but were thwarted or they were being oppressed and were fighting for their survival.  Either way, they lost the war and were driven out, cursed for their actions."  Kazimier shrugged.  "The prophecy could very well be a dream by someone who lost family to the curse.  Or it could be a glimpse into a possible future.  If Jyslyn is the first to return, others could follow."

"If you can trust her."  Nyssa sat on her bed.  "It's been hard to tell with her.  She keeps her own council.  She hides in her room."

9 May 2019

The Elf's Prisoner - Commentary 28

Investigating the marketplace, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 28.

With the youngest party members' hangovers abated, it's time to get some investigation in.  And maybe do some shopping to see what is available.  It's filler, but filler with a purpose.  Wren's never been in a large trading city like Silver Trailings before.  Wildwood is a quieter place, more government town than anything else.  The young elf is more at home in the wild.  She's the wide-eyed tourist, ripe for every pickpocket, scam artist, and ne'er do well around.

The first merchant Wren buys from knows what she is.  He didn't need to charge an extra shilling; he could have just slipped the foreign currency in with the rest of his coins and passed them on to the next vendor, or kept the elven coin to use with elven merchants.  He could have even melted the coins down for their value as metal, though that might not be the wisest idea.  Leo could have said something, being more familiar with how merchants work; instead, he stepped in to help Wren.

While the younger two shop, Jyslyn's keeping an eye on things.  She's more used to a wretched hive of scum and villainy and knows to keep her guard up.  Jyslyn is also looking for more info on what's happening.  The merchant has a mix of truth and rumour, but if the elf cast a lie detector spell, it'd show that he believes he's telling the truth.  Remember, the goblins got greedy and kept the dark elf-made dagger back in Chapter 22.  The villain's plot is complex and being created on the fly.

Jyslyn does have a need for something comfortable to wear.  She's already had a couple of fanservice-y scenes, most recently in Chapter 24.  She wants something she could wear something at night that she didn't feel bundled into and that won't distract Kazimier too much.  Jyslyn also gave Leo a way out of the awkward conversation that was building.

One of the fun parts of world building on the fly is that questions that come up can be answered right away.  If I had put any thought into the world before starting, the dwarves would just send their trade goods out through horse-drawn caravans.  However, since I needed the equivalent of a dock's red-light district, I tossed in a canal!  The difference?  I can showcase dwarven engineering, I can have even more goods being sent and received than possible with horse-drawn wagons, and I can use the Rideau Canal as a template.  The Rideau Canal was built to supply Kingston with goods from Montreal and Bytown in case of American invasion.  The dwarves aren't as worried about that, but they do need to get raw and refined ore out to their trading partners.

The last scene in the plays on the misunderstanding in Chapter 24, when Wren arrived in the middle of the awkwardness between Jyslyn and Kazi.  Wren suspects there's something going on, but isn't sure of what.  I do have plans for Jyslyn and Kazi's relationship.  They're not at the right moment to realize what they feel, though.  There's too much baggage that they need to work through, but the trip may help there.

Friday, a response to Nyssa's letters, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 29
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, sports movies.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, Men With Brooms.

3 May 2019

The Elf's Prisoner - Chapter 28

Chapter 28

The morning after the night before
Marketplace, Silver Trailings, outside the Realm Below the Mountain
Jyslyn led the two younger members of the group through the after-lunch crowd milling around the market.  Both looked far better than they had in the morning though still worse for wear.  To their credit, they both avoided the dwarven spirits at lunch.  The general din, punctuated by merchants hawking their wares, didn't affect either Leomund or Wren.  The young elf stopped at each stall just long enough to look over the goods on sale.  She passed on dry goods, but lingered over the trinkets.  Leomund kept watch over the two elf women.  Jyslyn also kept an eye out, watching the crowd for threats.

Wren squealed at one booth.  "Jyslyn!  You need to see this!"

2 May 2019

The Elf's Prisoner - Commentary 27

Plans for the day, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 27.

The Elf's Prisoner was written on the fly, with minimal planning before NaNoWriMo started and plotting just far enough to be a day or two ahead.  When I couldn't get that breathing space, I fell back on character moments.  By 2015, I was getting good with character moments.  Also helping, I didn't want my characters to just know what the others were doing.  They barely know each other right now.  Nyssa and Leo might be able to know what each other is thinking, but there's no way any of them can know what Jyslyn or Wren might be contemplating.  Having the group discuss the day's plans also meant me figuring out what the plans were.  Go investigate in the market?  Okay, I can start working on what happens there while I write out the meeting.

Leo and Wren also needed to have a conclusion for what happened the previous night.  Both drank far too much, so there had to be some consequence for them.  They're young; they're not going to be experts on the morning after the night before.  They're going to have hangovers.  They're not going to be happy.

At the beginning, Kazi cast a divination to get an insight on what's going on.  Divine magic is tied to special effect.  The Lightbringer is going to pass along a message using light and colour.  It's up to Kazi to interpret the images.  He doesn't quite get what's being passed along, though he does figure out who is behind the scheme, though separated by many go-betweens.  The snake imagery is because of Sessarine, though Kazi doesn't know about her yet.

I worked in an idea that I'd had for a fantasy world, that deities are known by different names in different cultures.  It's something I picked up from the Dragonlance setting.  There, the different gods and goddesses were known by different names throughout the game world; for example, Paladine, the head of the good-aligned gods, was known as E'li amongst the elves.   The idea made sense to me; I wanted my different nations to have different names for deities.  The more isolated the culture, the more likely the other names wouldn't be known.  Of course, it'd help if I had developed the deities more.

Wren's youth and isolation do get some play in the chapter.  She's been sheltered ever since she was taken to Wildwood.  To her, a thieves' guild is a wretched hive of scum and villainy, where everyone gets stabbed in the back and robbed.  Jyslyn is more used to the shadier aspects of life.  She's shown signs that she's dabbled with rougher elements beyond her older sisters already.  Jyslyn is the only one who could figure her way around, too.  Nyssa and Leo are nobility, Kazi's a priest, and Wren is sheltered.

Friday, investigating in the marketplace, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 28.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, Death Race 2050.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, sports movies.