I've done a lot of worldbuilding now. However, before actually starting on the book I want to write, I wrote a practice chapter that will not be included from the perspective of a supporting character who will be in it. I realize there are definitely spelling and grammar mistakes present. I am using an old version of Scrivener and I don't know how to use a spellcheck feature yet. Anyways, I really just want to get some feedback on the style of my writing and the content itself (I have a map made as well, but I realize that without it some of the directional things may not make as much sense). Please let me know what you think! Thank you!
Aislena stepped out of the Owl’s Eye and into the cobblestone street, leaving behind the warmth of the inn. She clutched her cloak tightly around her, welcoming some protection from the morning chill and gloomy skies. In truth, she reflected, it was the color of the cloak that actually offered her protection, more so than did the cloak itself. She had briefly entertained the idea of donning rich purple garb, but that would likely draw too much unwanted attention. Her current blue allowed her to traverse the city unhampered and unmolested, commanding deference from many without putting herself too high on the food chain. Everything was about status in Espirean, especially in this huge, opulent capital Brumir.
She made her way down the swept, nearly empty road towards the temple she had visited yesterday. She felt dwarfed by the towering buildings; apartments and shops, inns and lounges. At the crossings, the sentry, wearing the usual brown all soldiers wore, gave her a nod as she passed. The temple really was a sight to behold, though not much compared to the Seer’s Temple in the center of the city. While this had high, decorated walls with beautiful stained glass and murals depicting Videntoir’s great knowledge, the Seer’s Temple towered well above all other buildings; it was so high that one could still see it from outside the inner keep. All this was to gain admittance there, and to meet one of the Five. What seemed a simple task before her arrival had since proved more worrisome. She wasn’t actually wealthy as her apparel would have others believe, and the longer this took, the lighter her coin bag became. Hopefully, she would make some progress with this head priest today.
Upon her arrival in the temple, an acolyte in plain yellow attire greeted her and asked if she would like to pray, if she needed counsel, if she should like to listen to music or be read a book. Would she like to view works of art or did she need a letter composed for her? For a country that worshiped the Goddess of Knowledge, they sure liked to keep a tight grip on who could know things, such as basic literacy. Of course, she could read, but she would keep that to herself here. “Actually, I was wondering if I could speak with the knowledgeable Clerig if he was available.” She smiled, looking the young acolyte in the eyes.
He nodded, “Of course, and who shall I say has come to see him?”
“Agenhair. We spoke yesterday, and I would be so delighted if I could see him again today.”
He rushed off to obey, and she took in her surroundings. A large, open receiving room full of what could be sunflowers; so many yellow robes. A sash here and there denoting station, though nothing more than a grey or brown here this morning. There were multiple smaller rooms off of this one for the various activities that were first offered to her. She could hear singing in the background, a lovely voice, though she didn’t recognize the song. She equipped an air of confidence and self entitlement as was expected of her. Her money, this blue she wore, did make her better than them after all. Sure, the Five in red served the Seer in her white by ruling Espirean. They delegated to those who served the temple, those in yellow. They in turn controlled the soldiers in brown, who kept everyone else in line; oppressing and squeezing the common man for everything they had. Money, labor, time, and family; they took what they wanted and those in grey just struggled to get by. It was even worse in the west. She had been to Contugtar before… the people there were close to breaking. She supposed that was another reason Tressuta had sent her here. The people needed help, needed her, even if they didn’t know it, even if they didn’t want it. If they knew what she was, they most surely would not. An even more important secret than her espionage, but intertwined just the same.
This blue though, it was outside that dynamic slightly. She was more than a simple temple acolyte, but she would show deference to this Clerig; he wore a blue sash. She had spent some time in Espirean to familiarize herself with how things were done. It was one thing to read about it and another altogether to live it. Honestly, it horrified her. She tried to stay analytical. Calculating. But some of their everyday, ordinary events were gruesome, hateful displays of death.
Ah. He’s returning… alone. More waiting I’m sure. She smiled at his approach.
“The knowledgeable Clerig is currently busy this afternoon with other appointments, perhaps he would see you tomorrow miss.” He offered her.
“Thank you, I’ll be sure to check back then.” She responded and headed back out into the street. It was busier now, and she decided to it would probably be best to check in with Tressuta.
As she headed back towards her inn, the bells started ringing throughout the surrounding area. Loud, ominous clanging. It grated her ears and spoke only of death. A warning, but for who? Likely to inform the populace that an evil, murderous cursed was about and to stay alert. The sounds made her heart stop. She made herself take a steadying breath and refused to look around. One step after the other. She would not return to the Owl’s Eye, they would know to look for her there. She turned right towards the center of the city. Yuve had other agents here, she knew where to find one of them in case of an emergency; this may be just that. It was possible the bells weren’t for her, but she didn’t like to take unnecessary chances. The stakes were too high. She hated walking so slowly, but she forced herself to maintain this leisurely, deliberate pace; she had places to be, but she wasn’t in a hurry, and she most certainly wasn’t bothered by these bells. At least that’s how she hoped she appeared.
As she rounded the next corner she saw it. A group of soldiers was dragging a girl through the streets to the front of another temple. She was a young, pretty thing. Grey. They were nearly always grey, though in this, no one was every truly safe; they liked to say the hunters were colorblind. Absurd, of course. One didn’t see red or white dragged through the streets, and she can’t say she knew of any purple put to death either. She wasn’t sure which was more tragic, that she should die this way, or the fact that this girl wasn’t even blessed, cursed they would say, yet would die for it just the same. One of the blessed could normally tell if someone else was as well. She could, and this girl wasn’t.
Perhaps a priest got too touchy with her and she thought to say something about it. The temple couldn’t have people going around accusing their holy, and what better way to keep her quiet. She knew the temple liked to have events like these on a semi-regular basis too. It kept the people in line and reminded them what happened if they spoke out, while also affirming that they were the righteous who passed judgment on those who served the dark gods. It brought a fear of those who were blessed, a hatred, but also a sort of complicity. No one moved to stop them, no one ever did. They were raised that way from a young age. She couldn’t do anything for this girl, whatever the reason she was here. If she tried, they’d simple do her next. First, they took the tongue so you could speak no lies of the false future you had seen, for a prophet deals in the unknown to lead the righteous astray. Next, they take the eyes, so she will no longer see these cruel visions that tempt her. Certainly they take the eyes second so as to torture her further; if she had no eyes, she wouldn’t see them coming with the knife for her tongue. Finally, the victim is burned alive, to purify themselves in the fire, for only then can they be embraced by Videntoir’s mercy.
People were yelling and throwing things at her. She was crying, but it looked like they had beaten the struggle out of her. She was bleeding, hardly able to walk. I’ll look… I can’t leave now. And I can’t seem to be disturbed by this too overly much, this is what’s best for the cursed, and obviously I hate them. I’ll look, but I won’t see.
By the time she got back to the Owl’s Eye, she was exhausted. That is what awaits me, she thought, if ever I am to be found out. The innkeeper offered her lunch, which she had brought up to her room. Beef stew, hearty, but few vegetables. The people here liked their red meat. There was also some cheese and a glass a milk, they liked that too. The bread was good though. Plain, but still warm and fresh. She ate sparingly of the rest, the diet they had here was enough to make her sick sometimes. She missed fish. And wine. Citrus fruits. And wine. But there was no use longing for what one couldn’t have. She could partake in all that again once she returned to the Frahon Archipelago region in the southwest. Whenever that would be. She took off her cloak and hung it on the door before latching it. It wouldn’t do to be interrupted.
She lie on her back in the freshly made feather bed and concentrated. She closed her eyes and shut out the feel of the soft blankets beneath her, she wasn’t actually to sleep. She put the horrors of the day behind her, she couldn’t be distracted lest she end up somewhere else. She focused on the Goddess Yuve. On the dream. On Her temple she had seen so many times before. The deep violet sky. She cleared her mind of all else and envisioned where she needed to wake. As her body drifted into a comatose state, she opened her eyes to behold the temple of Goddess Yuve. It wasn’t so grand as the temples she had seen in Brumir, but it was far more beautiful to her. The main entrance was to a large cylindrical room whose roof swirled and spiraled into a peak against the violet-blue sky. There were two smaller cylindrical rooms to each side of the larger with similar peaked roofs. The distance in each direction faded to darkness, to the unknown, to nowhere and everywhere, to dreams. There was no door, simply a large opening, and in it stood the one she was expecting. Or rather, the one expecting her.
“My high priestess, I’m sorry to keep you waiting.” She started as she approached the old woman with long grey hair and went to one knee before her. She missed wearing those ceremonial robes of the Goddess Yuve, though hers certainly weren’t so elaborate. Layers upon layers of dark-colored fabrics, beads of purple and blue, silver chains, and pearls.
“Oh, get up girl.” Tressuta responded and gave her a quick embrace. “How goes your work in Brumir?”
“Not as easily as I had first thought it would. I can’t seem to gain entrance to the Seer’s Temple and the Five rarely leave it’s walls.”
“The Seer’s Keep more like…” said Tessuta pausing.
“What is it? Is there another problem? I know I shouldn’t stay here much longer. Just today they killed another innocent woman… I’m finding it difficult to keep on like this. And the money, it won’t last forever. If I run out, I’ll have more issues getting back to Korlat.” She worried aloud. She knew a boat could likely be arranged at the coast southwest of the city, but that could take quite a bit of time. If she were on the run, she would need to improvise.
“Unfortunately, you won’t be coming back here any time soon child. There are other forces at play now, and we don’t have the luxury of time. We must stay in front of this, for the people’s sake, and for Yuve. The self-made king in Nashoire grows impatient and reckless; I fear hunters will be swarming the area soon.” She started, dashing her hopes of a comfortable, safe place to rest before heading back into the fray. “No, when you’re finished in Brumir, you’ll head to Contugtar. There’s a resistance forming there, more organized and much larger than any we’ve seen in the last few decades. You’ll insert yourself within it. You’ll need to be able to persuade their leader, this Subleon.”
She tried to keep the disappointment from her voice, “And in Contugtar, are they rising around the revival of Faisngung, the God of Prophecy? Or is it simply opposition to the abysmal conditions?”
“You should know the answer to that already. Every strong rebellion in the western hills has always rallied around their god. Though in truth, none there now could even claim to know the first thing about Him. But people are always proud of their perceived glory days of old. You’ll help to push this, His release would most certainly aid in their independence.”
“But He has always been so unpredictable, there could be war.” There was a reason His release was so contentious throughout the land. In truth, most feared the power he gave to his followers. Seeing glimpses of the future could bring one nation to power and another ruins.
“Girl, there will be war no matter what we do. Better that Espirean should lose it. They’re the ones that round up the blessed and butcher them. I have no ill will towards its ignorant populace, but I would drink to the death of every colored robe in Brumir.” The high priestess said with a coldness in her eyes. Aislena knew that she had lost many friends and followers to the hunters of Espirean that traveled the continent with the sole purpose of killing their ‘cursed’, the ones blessed by the gods. Ones like herself. “If they had their way,” Tressuta continued, “they would would send their soldiers right into our temple here and put us all to the torch. I’ll not allow their power to grow so great. That’s one thing those in Nashoire and I agree on, we must unite the free cities so we can throw them back again if we need to. As things stand now… I’m not so sure we would prevail, but I’m getting off topic. You needn’t worry yourself about that just yet.”
“I’m sure if they sent an army against Nashoire, Moeche, or Rinomme that the three would band together with the support of all those in the Frahon. Surely they must realize that if one should fall, eventually, they all should fall.” Most knew that for a certainty, even those she heard talking here in Brumir. The free cities were formidable when together.
“Pride and arrogance, envy and greed, cowardice and incompetence. They fight amongst themselves like children. I hope you are right though. I’m afraid we’ll see for ourselves before long.” She mused.
The thought frightened her. She doubted that Espirean could take the free cities… but if they fell, it would mean devastating consequences for Korlat; they wouldn’t last much longer. They would certainly destroy Yuve’s Temple like they did in what is now Contugtar with Faisngung’s Temple nearly 250 years ago. “I’ll give it one more week before I head to Contugtar. Worst case scenario I could try sneaking in.”
“If you do, be careful. That blue can only provide so much protection. And do make sure to be wearing grey when you arrive in Contugtar, this is a people’s rebellion. And best keep your blessing a secret, you know how the people are.” The wizened woman advised.
“Yes, yes. I’m not so green as that.” She smiled at her. She could be quite matronly sometimes.
“You best be getting back now. And make sure to check in again soon, and sooner yet if anything changes. Remember to be careful; none are ever truly safe in that place.” Tressuta said as she dismissed her.
“Yuve’s blessing on you.” Aislena said in farewell.
“And you child.”
Aislena closed her eyes and when she opened them again she was back on the bed in her small room at the Owl’s Eye in Brumir. It was later now, much later than when she had first closed her eyes. It was dark outside and she was exhausted. And hungry. She finished the now cold beef stew along with the hard cheese, though she didn’t particularly enjoy it. She made an appearance in the common room briefly to listen in on the latest gossip from the innkeeper before heading back up to her room and collapsing on the bed. Dreaming, true Dreaming was not sleeping, it took extra energy and effort and left her spent afterwards. The longer she Dreamt, the worse it was. And time moved differently, every hour in the Dream was like ten here. Now, now she would sleep.
Over the next few days she had visited the temple like she had been doing since her arrival here. Every time she was met with courtesy, but unable to obtain entrance to the Seer’s Temple in the heart of Brumir. Today, she was left with a difficult decision. She needed to make contact with one of the Five. Otherwise, this would all be for naught. She could try her luck at the temple a few more times, or she could try to gain entrance a less conventional way. However, if she were to be caught, she would have a difficult time talking her way out of it. She always carried a dagger tucked in her boot for emergencies, but it wasn’t feasible to fight her way out either. Out here, her blue cloak offered her the protection of status, behind the walls of the Seer’s Temple, or Keep as Tressuta had put it, she would not be so highly considered. There were special guards there, warriors of the temple who wore yellow with intricate sashes of brown and red and white marking them as soldiers of the Five and the High Priestess. In there, her blue was practically grey by comparison. And there was the matter of getting to Contugtar, she couldn’t dally here much longer.
She elected to try the temple a few times more before rethinking the more dangerous route. This time, as she awaited the acolyte to bring her to the insufferable Clerig, there was something different about the room. It was just a feeling, not an uncommon one, but one she hadn’t felt during her stay in Brumir. Who was it? At first, she panicked. She wanted to bolt out the door, out of the city, but she couldn’t do that just yet. She knew she hadn’t been compromised though, she would have noticed taking someone’s hand had they been blessed. She casually looked around the room. And there he was in the distance, having been in her field of vision the whole time. He wasn’t even looking at her, but had his back to her. He was taller than she, with a small build. None of that mattered much. What mattered was his yellow robes. His yellow sash. Now she was intrigued, though still frightened. How had one such as him risen so high in station when just the slightest suspicion of his nature could have cost his life? It could be that he has learned to control it, that he suppresses it. Or, he could be one who denies it altogether. One that uses his recognition of other blessed to hunt them down, to kill them in the name of his zealous religion. If that were the case, she was one hundred eighty degrees and a shout away from the torch. Best to simply leave now before he saw her. But if she could make contact, perhaps Yuve could use that. Perhaps that would be enough here.
She decided she would risk it. But she would be smart about it. She couldn’t simply walk up to him and brush her hand across his in passing; he would feel it for more than a chance brush, more than commonplace skin against skin. There would be a connection, and if he were dangerous, she couldn’t strike here in his seat of power. She had to do it on her terms. Before he could have a chance to catch sight of her, she casually turned and left the temple, very pointedly ruining any chance that Clerig would get her access to the Seer’s Temple. One such as him was waited on, he would not suffer waiting and would take her leaving as a slight. She found a bench a little ways off and seated herself. Here she had a decent view of the temple entrance to see who came and went. She would simple wait until he left and follow him.
Three hours passed, and the sun was waxing. The beginnings of shadows would only help conceal her place here and her movements. Finally, though many had come and gone, the man she was interested in appeared. He walked purposefully, but was clearly not in a hurry. If he had seen her, he was very composed; she was fairly confident that he had not. She waited for him to make some distance down the street before rising to follow.
She tried to roughly match his pace and fade into the sparse traffic. The dim, pale sun was setting behind the high polished grey stone walls that encapsulated Brumir leaving long shadows in its descent. She wove between strangers of different colors as she struggled to keep the balance of staying well enough behind while keeping him in easy sight. A few women in grey bowed their heads and stepped out of her way as she passed them. Could be that they were returning home together after serving at a wealthy persons home; cooking, cleaning. A very large man in brown with a sword at his belt strode by giving her a nod. Soldiers patrolled the streets, but places like this didn’t see much crime. Everyone feared the torch, and if you didn’t get that, you were like to be sent to the mines just south of Biatacha to be worked to death. From what she had heard of the conditions under the Pahuori mountains, a quick, clean death may be kinder. But kind just wasn’t a word you associated with this place; best she remember that. If you couldn’t afford to live here, you found ways to get out. If you didn’t, they would send you to one of their many fields to work. Certainly preferred to the mines, but long, difficult days nonetheless. Brumir was the center of Espirean power, and the the symbol of that power was the Seer’s Temple, with the Seer inside. They couldn’t have homeless wondering the streets tarnishing their image. Not that their seer was even blessed. Contrary to what they preached to the public, it was common knowledge throughout the lands that she was naught but a figurehead. A pretty toy for the Five to wave about to the masses to fortify their claim to divine rule. It was true that Espirean was first founded by a true seer, but her line was broken a long time ago. Besides, it’s not like the gift is passed from mother to daughter like that anyhow, though that’s not the way they told it.
It didn’t take long before the man stopped at an apartment in a particularly affluent part of the city where many of those high in the temple lived. Fitting, she supposed. She walked past and turned the corner of the next street. Eventually, she circled back around and slowly made her way to the entrance the man had used. She took notice of where she was in relation to the west gate, which she would be using once she finished tonight. Brumir was large enough that it wasn’t too uncommon for people to come and go at night. And unlike most places, the roads were actually quite safe, even at night. So long as you had your papers and weren’t in grey.
She very quietly knocked on the large wooden door. Very simple and made of a dark wood, but the landing was freshly swept and it opened soon enough. “Can I help you miss?” A young woman in grey asked her. Good, he had a servant.
“I will be seeing your employer tonight, is he still up?” She asked brusquely.
“He just went to bed, perhaps you can catch him tomorrow. I can let him know that you stopped by, what is your name?”
She didn’t like treating people poorly, but she would, and worse if it was required of her. “Maybe you misheard me.” She began smiling condescendingly. “I said I’ll see him tonight. You are dismissed. Are there any other servants still here?”
“N-no. It’s just me tonight. I still- I still need to finish-”
“I said you’re dismissed. Go home.” She interrupted curtly and walked into the apartment.
“I… Yes Ma’am.” She acquiesced. She hesitate at the door, but fled quickly enough.
Aislena shut and latched the door as she took in the humble receiving area. Very tidy, though I suppose that was the woman’s job. To the right was a formal sitting area with some expensive looking furniture and a fireplace. Beyond that was a formal dining room with a large empty table. Just ahead of her, behind a door, was a kitchen, which was also connected to the dining room through another set of doors. On the left, was a study. There was a grand desk and multiple book cases, though it was rare that an individual should have so many books. She quickly browsed his collection wondering if there should be anything she would like to read on the road. A few volumes caught her attention, but she settled on just two to bring with her. She placed them on the desk before making her way up the stairs from the study to the second floor.
There were two rooms available to her when she reached the top. The first was open, and mostly bare. The second had its door closed. She considered waiting even longer to ensure that he had fallen asleep, but she blew out the candle on the landing and let her eyes adjust to the darkness before slowing opening the door and slipping inside. It seemed to be a large room with even larger furnishings. A person lay in the bed at the far end of the chamber. She krept closer until she could hear his breathing. It was soft and even. His face was peaceful. It didn’t appear as though he was pretending in any way; he was asleep. Best he remain that way. She could simply brush her hand against his hair, that would be enough to make a connection that she could later use to enter his dreams. However, she chould try to make a stronger connection, one that would give her more insight. She could certainly think of a few ways to do that, but it would serve her best tonight if he were to remain unaware of her presence. She leaned in and gently pressed her lips to his. She quickly retreated from the room and back down to the study. Before she left, she rummaged quickly through his drawers and found some parchment, ink, a quill, and his seal. She composed a letter tasking her with taking these tomes with her as she traveled to Contugtar and to deliver them to the temple there. She fixed it with his seal before grabbing her newfound tomes. Next, she made a quick visit to his kitchen and packed a few things for the road, some bread that had been baked earlier that day, some hard cheese, three apples, and a few sausages. At least he had some fruit. She left his apartment and headed west down the cobblestone street. It was dark, but she boldly proceeded through with her head held high until she reached the westward-facing gate. The road could take you west to nearly reach the Puhon Forest, or west and south all the way to Rinomme, if only she could. There were a few others gearing up to leave the city as she made her approach. Having avoided the inn keeper and talked her way around the issue, she had saved almost 4 days worth of rent. That, along with the other money she had left, was enough to rent a horse to get to Contugtar, though it would still be a long journey; likely 8 days, though she may be able to cut it down to 7.
She had her horse prepared while she showed her paperwork to the guards on duty. First the forged document she had prepared upon her arrival, documenting that she were to make her way west and south to Rinomme. Then she showed them the one she had just prepared in a different style of handwriting. One would have worked just fine to see her on her way, but two never hurt. She also had a few others describing how she should make her way south and west to Moeche. One said she should head north to Cruithigo. One always had to be prepared to make an exit.
Once her horse was saddled, she mounted and headed out into the dark, starry night. Stepping out from beneath those high, oppressive walls lifted a weight from her chest she had almost forgotten was there. It was like she had been holding her breath the whole time and had just let it out; she could finally breathe again. She had nearly forgotten how stifling Brumir was. Constantly afraid the bells would ring and soldiers would grab her. Terrified that someone should somehow find out that she was not who she said she was, or that she was a Dreamer. Too many times she had seen an innocent dragged to their tortured, gruesome death. But now she was looking ahead, and the she could see plains and the road before her illuminated by the moon.
She put aside Brumir for the moment and listened to the quiet of night. She would take this quick respite before putting her mind to what she must do in Contugtar and the fight ahead. She would need to check in with Tressuta tomorrow evening to see if any pursuit had been mounted against her, likely that maid would inquire as to who she was when she returned the following day. Whoever that man was, he was would certainly be curious as well. Either way, she had a full day ahead of whoever may give chase, and she could change horses and present different papers at Spionacas when she arrived. She could dump the books if she had to as well. She would keep them for now though, books were a rare pleasure to read yourself here. She smiled to herself and nudged the horse into a slow trot as she began to plan out the details of her trip west.