Wednesday, March 13, 2013

New Beginning 994

The old sorcerer examined his hands in the dim dungeon light. Only one thing in his cell could cut sinew and bone. Because of his panacea, his teeth were perfect, and his jaw was strong. His little fingers were useless now so he began chewing. It was painful but not so much as death by fire.

The first phalanx came free and a moment later he gnawed the tissue off. He crawled on hands and knees, his shackles scraping the stone floor. With a bone to the right of the door, he sat back and began on the second phalanx. In an hour, five bones defined the points of the pentagram.

Next was blood. His fingers already clotted, he searched for something sharp enough for skin. A sharp iron point protruded from one of the door’s iron bars. Forcing his arm into it caused little bleeding and it healed immediately.

As he tried thinking of something else, he clicked his tongue as his mother had done hundreds of years ago. Then, he rushed back to the door. Using his shackled wrists, he forced his tongue into the iron point. He ripped it open and continued tearing it back and forth. Agony. But soon his mouth filled with blood. It was enough for the pentagram with plenty left for the priest.

After he finished, he sat back with blood in his mouth and awaited the young confessor. A fresh young body. It would feel so good to be young again.

By the by, a guard returned and peered through the bars into the dim cell. "Well, aren't you the messy one," he declared. "But at least you're still here -- were I you, I would have just conjured a doorway in the south wall and fled through the forest..."

The sorcerer considered the guard's words for a few moments, then rested his head on what remained of his palm. "Bugger," he said.

Opening: Thomas Harrington.....Continuation: Anon.



Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuation:

But it would feel even better to have new fingers. His nose itched like the dickens.


Evil Editor said...

The revelation that he's about to take over the priest's body is intriguing.

I don't like the word "panacea," as it means remedy or cure-all. Here it seems to mean some healing power that gives him perfect teeth and a strong jaw. Whatever it means, saying "because of his panacea" suggests the reader knows what you're talking about, when we know nothing about this guy. We don't need an explanation of why his teeth can cut through his finger, as if we would assume that was impossible unless you mentioned his panacea.

Also, "phalanx" is better known as a military term than as finger bones. Was it commonly used in the time this is set, even by those who weren't trained in anatomy?

Dave Fragments said...

This all feels to me to be in slow motion. I kept wanting it to move forward. I think that the casting of a blood spell to take over a fresh young body is more exciting than merely chewing fingers off. Perhaps you might try that, revealing that he is racing the clock (so to speak) as the "young confessor" is due in the next few minutes.

Unknown said...

I liked the tone. And it had enough humor to balance the darkness. Though it felt a little long, I'd read on.

Mister Furkles said...

Thanks all.

Dave, that’s a great idea. The urgency of time will really enhance the tension.

Veronica, thanks for the comment about tone. But humor? I’m trying desperately to inject humor into the story. Of course, this isn’t one of those scenes but it’s welcome anywhere. I’d send a humorous scene of this sorcerer-cum-priest but it would be too long.

Anon, Loved the last line. “Bugger.” It’s kind of British though. All this is in fifth century Byzantium. Is there an ancient Greek word for “Bugger”?

EE, thanks for the complement on the body swap.

“Panacea” distracts. In ancient times, alchemists, along with seeking to convert lead into gold, sought a panacea – a substance that would protect from disease, heal wounds, and prevent aging. So, that needs to be shown before this scene.

Anyway, the whole thing about the weak panacea which heals but does nothing for aging is a crucial part of the plot.

Phalanx is also a big problem. Originally it was “phalange”. But DickandHarry didn’t like that. They said it was a backward singularity from phalanges which is the official plural of “phalanx” – “phalanxes” is allowed now. I’ll try “phalange” the dictionary will just have to stuff it. But imagine, half a million English words and we must borrow a Greek military term for finger bones.

Originally this scene was to be a prologue occurring fifty years before the story begins. Then some publishing people poo-poo’d prologues and I decided to put it into a chapter flash back to show how this sorcerer became a priest. By the way, the sorcerer is the villain. But he needs garner sympathy for his evil ways – kind of like Evil Editor.

Again thanks guys. I've got to finish the first draft and then about a thousand hours of rework.

Anonymous said...

Is there an ancient Greek word for “Bugger”?

Was it not an invention of the ancient Greeks?

Unknown said...

Hi Mr. F--
I found the line "It was painful but not so much as death by fire." to be humorous. The sorceror seems to be pragmatist, and this line seemed somewhat self-depricating. That subtlety struck me as funny in the darkness surrounding it. I imagine he's going to have some rather snide humor when the poor priest arrives...

Also, one thing that confused me as I read it was the phalanx issue. Does he gnaw his two pinkie fingers to bits--isolating the 6 phalange bones and using those for the points of the pentagram, or is it that he takes all his fingers off?
If the guy takes off an entire finger, could you call it a digit?
I understand the setting is ancient times, but keeping the reader in the story is also important, right?
[I struggled with the usage of phalanx and I used to teach anatomy...probably because I'm much more familiar with the plural and also the military usage.]

Sounds like a great start.

Mister Furkles said...

Thanks again Veronica,

If “phalanx” annoys you and EE, I’m ditching it. I’ll try several other methods to see what works. “Phalange” may be just too rare a word.

So, I failed to mention he needed only five bones. That’ll go into the revision, too.

Unknown said...

You did say pentagram, so I assumed he needed five, but if he took both pinkies he'd have 6 bones. I wasn't sure if he gnawed each segment off individually or took the digit off and chewed it apart. If the latter he'd have an extra bone. If the former, he'd be missing one finger entirely and have a stump on the other hand.

I figured that his advanced blood clotting had to do with his panacea--because otherwise I'd imagine he had gore to spare.

There is something truly gruesome going on with a guy who'd treat his fingers like chicken wings... he gave me the chills.

150 said...

Here's a terrific short story along this theme: