Critique of Chapter XIV
By: Dhalgren99


Here I am again, the monsoon that clouds your endless sunny days. Awful cheeky of me to come back after the near week long hiatus but I just can't stay away from you fine folks. Those who have been paying attention will note that this chapter fourteen is not the same fourteen that I just did, NovaReinna in her infinite wisdom choose to smush DanO's two chapters together and thus the other chapters got bumped back a notch. So no, Kenicy, you aren't getting a second run through...so breathe easy. Or maybe I should, since you tend to take me apart in your counterarguments, Good God folks don't ever argue with this woman it's like being run through a rusty cheese grater. The unpleasant way. I've still got the marks. See? Okay maybe it's best you can't. Let me be alone with my pain.

We're actually up to the Hensbane yet AGAIN...eventually we're going to turn this into "Hensbane's Phantom Realms featuring a bunch of other people who can write too"...though I have to give you credit for not repeating characters, Hellbore gets a minor cameo at the end (and appears to have expanded the posse just a bit but we'll get to that).

This chapter sort of follows continuity with the last one, Tri-Nova's visit is mentioned as well as the attack and the meeting is given some lip service but this seems mostly a placeholding chapter...not all that much happens here, what does happen is fun to read but the end result is that we learn a few more maybe relevant facts and get some looks at the other denizens at the Inn. At least people actually move around, I've done more chapters lately with someone sitting in one room either thinking an awful lot or two people having a rather strained conversation. None of which are fun for the reader and it's all very tedious but so is this...so you get the Pouches experience without that nasty nagging thing called plot. You're better off this way. Ho boy I'm talking about myself already, things must be back to normal.

Peter Long's name seems to be more wishfulfillment than anything else, sorry kid it just ain't in the genetics. Maybe a wizard will stretch you out there. The opening, I'm going to call it a vignette because it has little to do with the overarcing plot (which only appears to be taking shape now, given the early word of mouth I've seen on the "mystery chapter" that is no longer a mystery...note to authors, who do I blame for that last bit there? Thought you'd slip that by me, eh? I'll shows ya.

So anyway Peter Long takes us on a tour of the stables, not the most interesting place in the Realms (Master Long seems to avoid that most dreaded of stable jobs, shoveling manure) though I'll give you this Hensbane, you do your research. Either you own a stable yourself or you hid yourself in someone else's for a week and observed everything because the detail is neat. I'm neutral about it since it doesn't seem to have much to do with everyone else but Peter is nice, if meek. Peter also fails to remember basic fighting against larger people...Peter, these boys are men and all men have one thing in common...I'll give you a hint, they rhyme with "cresticles" and can be easily used as punching bags. Being that you're short, young Peter, well just use your imagination. I think the boys will stop bothering you, if only to protect their future children.

That public service for the day done...again, Peter's little story is nice but not very revealing, it's only toward the end that we see anything start to happen. Karl raises him to Master but he should probably teach him how to talk right first...if my mother heard me say stuff like, "This is the bestest tart I've ever tasted", she would have given the tart all right, but not after ramming it down my grammatically incorrect throat. Maybe the boys are trying to beat good speech patterns into him.

So it was Karnak making those Night Stalkers...if Karnak is making them from his spiffy jewel that controls matter...why doesn't he just make about ten thousand of them (since nobody is going after him obviously, Karl can't think it's too much of a problem if he's still sitting around raising young boys to Stable Master...uh, Karl, how about paying attention to the end of civilization as we know it?) and swamp the Inn with them? Hellbore is nowhere in sight, Karl might be powerful but the rules of the Realm state that no one can beat more than ten guys at once...hey wait, here come fifteen Night Stalkers to pile on Karl? Kill ten and that leaves five more while Karnak cackles in the background turning all the trees and soil into more Night Stalkers (converts MATTER remember?)...the Realms are lucky that evil moves none too swiftly since the heroes are big on dallying as well (ahem...Odan, but he's not alone here). I think we need a scene with Karnak actually just to see what he's up to lately, I'm making all these assumptions but we really don't know what he's capable of. Some intelligence network we've got going on here, the Night Stalkers are playing the heroes for dopes...Karnak would do well by just sending a few out at a time to gauge everyone's capabilities, if he was watching he already knows that Hellbore can change shape (which is easy enough to counter, get a Darvon type wizard to play with her head, scan her when she changes see what part of her brain lights up and then next time she goes to change give her a partial seizure there...either she'll freeze in midchange or simply wind up hearing the Fifty Symphony whenever she thinks about changing. Remember, boys and girls, evil never plays fair.) and I'd go and separate Tri-Nova from her horse and Karl I'd just get alone from the group and keep throwing Night Stalkers at him until he can't stand up anymore.

That all said, it's good to see that the meeting is about to start, and that nothing is said about the guests. I'm curious to see who actually shows up, right now my guess is FragmentFour's crew, Karl, Tri-Nova, maybe Hellbore but it's not clear from this chapter, maybe she'll show up in the middle. If Odan has any sense of timing he'll drag Craven right in the most dramatic part (nice scene, Craven slams the door open, runs in covered in blood, yelling that they were attacked and he barely got away and that Odan was left behind...then a severed Night Stalker head rolls in and Odan steps into the doorway going, "The situation is well in hand" and then he writes about it...see you can do "effortless winning" if you add a bit of mystique to it...how did he do it? let the reader figure it out)...Sir Scat and Lillian (did I spell that right?) might be there as well though I'm not sure how they wind up there. Guess I'll have to see.

So the first section is a nice, if inessential, slice of life at the Inn...Peter's complete obliviousness of the events going on at the Inn is nice...I just did a scene where Tristian leaves a place and thinks about how nobody could even conceive of what had been in the room with them...a theme in my stories is people trying to figure out what the heck is going when weird stuff happens, when Tristian runs past waving a glowing sword, when Ranos knocks a flaming Belmodeus through a wall, you're not thinking, "Wow they're saving the Universe and making life safer for all decent people!" you're thinking "Holy *(%$! he just set that guy on fire!" Meanwhile the guy across town is reading about it in the newspaper the next day and has no conception of what just occured, even less than you do. I like that and I think a glimpse once in a while of the "normal folk" (you know the ones that get up in the morning, go to work, eat, go to sleep, have sex with their spouses, yell at their children, have little idea of what magic is all about...sure they wear rattier clothing and mostly farm but other than that they're not too different from us...if Karl kicks Karnak through some village hut they don't think, "Wow, that's Karl Strange the hero preserving the sanctity of human life, they're thinking, "Crap, old man Bumburt isn't going to like the hole in his house!") is good...it'll be a break from the epic stuff and show us the "ground level" view...you tend to forget if you're wallowing in the high and mighty hero characters.

The second part of the chapter is interesting, in an equine fashion (oh! oh! look at that cleverness, I learned a new word today!)...Mister Ed comparsions aside it was probably necessary, but again not totally essentially if anything it told us even less of the goings on at the impending meeting. On a technical note, I'd make the punctuation for psychic speaking different than conversational dialogue, it looks too much like the two horses are speaking to each other like how you or I would speak (which probably involve you shouting a lot and me cringing and whimpering to please not hit me again, I'll say only nice things about Hellbore, I promise I really do)...if given a choice I would either use the ever handy italics (which I never use at all...ha, ha, I live on those things) or a simple hyphen:

- I've heard there's a meeting tonight.
- Yes but my mistress didn't say what it was about.
- Probably the misshapen ones you saw.
- Yes, probably.
- How are we speaking in English when we're horses?
- I'm not sure, ask the writer.
- I'll have to do that. Shall we sing our theme songs for the kids at home.
- Indeed we should. Hit it, boys...
Granted if you have a distinct aversion to Joyce (sometimes the allergy is well hidden, try it out with a small bit of dialogue and wait a second, it'll be a tingling, itching sensation, the words "YesIamYes" probably will appear on your skin in the form of hives shortly after...stop immediately when that happens or I cannot guarentee your safety) it might be best to go the italic route. I suggest the Realmsters (do YOU guys have Jimmy Hoffa? because he owes me money) come up with a standard set of punctuation for stuff like that, so you don't have Darvon speaking in italics and the horses using quotes and someone else using asterisks for all I know.

Stylistic note, there's a tendancy for the characters to talk quite a bit in the dialogue...it's more pronounced in the mental speaking bit...I'd think that you'd be able to convey much more detailed dialogue in a mental fashion by using less words and simply using impressions and the like, you can probably transfer smells and pictures just the same. It's not just talking in your head, remember, there's a whole other fun element of weirdness inherent there.

The two bits at the end are the most important, Hellbore is raising quite the ruckus (except Karnak can probably just turn a cloud into a meteor and end that problem right there...see what happens when you don't have people who can teleport?) and appears to have garnered a bit of a fanclub...hopefully we'll get more on that later. And a village has been utterly demolished...I don't know if that was the same village that Craven went to, if it is, then the gnomes who talked to Sir Scat got out just in time. However it shows that the dragons are becoming a bigger problem...who said turning invisible over and over was a workable solution again? A bit short sighted if you ask me. Eventually they're going to have to stand up and be men. Albeit little, tiny men but men nonetheless.

So stable masters and talking horses...it did advance the plot one teeny tiny itsy bitsy baby step which probably isn't Hensbane's fault, she didn't have much to work with here and I get the feeling that some authors aren't quite on the same page as some of the others, leading to this chapter which has a bit of a "placeholder" feel, kinda like watching someone ride on a treadmill, fun for a bit but sooner or later you're going to want them to go somewhere.

Nevertheless Hensbane did a superb job with the stuff here, your penchant for occasional overdescription was reigned in here, other than that more than I needed to know primer on stable techniques, which actually did fit believe it or not, most of the stuff here was fairly tight and well done. The slice of life was good, the conversation between our favorite mounts was spiffy and suitably tense and revealing and it read quickly without giving anyone a headache unlike say, me, who appears to have undertaken that as their sole goal in life. Even here. Reaching for the aspirin yet, gentle reader (unless you're on warfarin...then you'd better put the bottle down or you're getting a lecture on platelet coagulation and prothrombin times)? Ah, it's all in good fun, I suppose.

Good to be back though, with the two week break, whatever the authors think of that (I'm staying well away from that debate) I should be able to wrap up the current eight chapters remaining. Then, the world is MINE. Ha! Ha, I say!

Hensbane, you keep the mantle of Mistress of the Word Count (unfortunately, I'm the king...want to abdicate?) and I see you're up again soon. Good God, woman, WHEN DO YOU SLEEP?

Speaking of sleep, I think I shall go and do so...we'll pick this up tomorrow, I'm anxious to see some of these later chapters in context, being that the bits and pieces I've seen and been privvy too have intrigued me greatly. Now you have my full attention. Which can't be good. For you. Har har har.

Sleep well, my minions of the Realms, you've done made this commenter proud.

Bye now!

- Michael

"Twenty dollar bill I can set you straight..."
- Frank Zappa, "Willie the Pimp"


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