A Work in Progress

For a long while I believed that writing, like many many other specialized skills were a bit like magic.  Without effort or any training some people were simply good at it and could produce this skill without real effort like the rest of us.  As a result, I spent a good bit of time wishing and hoping and searching for some kind of miraculous skill that I had because I had school teachers that reinforced this kind of ridiculous belief system.  As should be obvious to anyone who has met me, the only skill I have which required no specialized training is my remarkable ability to breathe and be snarky.  It took a good number of years to stop believing this BS, and it wasn’t until university that I learned this and other truths of the universe(ie. I’m not the centre of it, other people are just people and not gods or demons) that I woke up a bit and realized that very very VERY few people can do something without training.  I also realized that I am not one of them.

One of the things that took a long time for me to become acceptable at is writing.  In high school, I remember one of my teachers undressing one of my essays multiple times in a single term, sometimes more than once a week.  I rewrote that bloody thing a dozen times at least and each time it had new and exciting problems for my teacher to get frustrated with.   I learned to fear the colour red on my papers and dreaded handing anything in for criticism. After her class my writing was still awful, but a little better than before her intervention.

The next big moment I remember was in college.  My teacher, another she, taught me a shocking amount at a time when I was the guy who thought he was the smartest person in the room(those were dark days).  Her favourite thing about my writing weren’t my prose or my structure, it was my titles.  She thought I had those nailed down but my writing itself was only passable.  I got a lot of good learning from her and I still use some of it in my own teaching.

The latest moment probably came when I started playing Dungeons and Dragons and I was writing and creating stories for my friends.  I created worlds and stories and lots of colourful people inhabiting those worlds.  I drew maps, typed up long winded histories and plots. I had an outlet for the ideas I had pop into my head on a daily basis ranging from wild and fantastic to dark and gritty.  Week after week I provided worlds to explore.

And most of them were crap.

But I learned so much from those experiences.  And those experiences in turn led me to start sharing my writing and ideas with my co-conspirators in the vain hope of improving.  To put it simply, nothing makes you better at something than practice.  Below is a snippet of some of my current writing.  Let me know what you think, and be as brutal and unforgiving as I deserve.

 

 

In the city-state of Kimmerikon, murderers are dealt with in an especially creative way.  Strangers to this ancient city often comment on this execution ceremony for its efficient method of deterring crime, and the hordes of viewers who go to the river to watch the weekly executions.  Travellers usually say something like “Gosh, is he supposed to come back up?”, “That river doesn’t look very good for swimming” and “Why are you asking for my betting slip?”

It begins with a murderer, willfully judged by the Chamber of Rats, a body of men whose sole responsibility is to hear cases of crime around the city on a daily basis.  After being found guilty(which happens in the vast majority of cases), the murderer is kept in The Pit, a seemingly endless maze which can only be navigated by a select group of guards, to await execution.  At the end of the week the murderer is walked out of the pit, through the city streets along with the other murderers to the Quay to the Underworld, a jetty used exclusively for executions.  The pun was likely intended, Kimmerians have a very strange sense of humor.

From here, each murderer is presented to the jeering crowd of onlookers who are told his or her name, the crime they’re being punished for, and information about the victim and crime.  In some cases where murderers of multiple people are involved this can often take a very long time and the entire spectacle is an entertaining show for the jeering masses.  While all this takes place the body of the victim is brought to the quay and either tied to the murderer or replaced with weights.  With the weights or body secured to the murderer, he or she must then cross the river.  

Not above the water.  

Under the water.  

If they can reach the other side without drowning, then the gods are supposed to have spoken their judgement and the murderer is turned free.

Kimmerikons  believe that a soul can only journey onto the next life if the bearer died a natural death.  A sudden death, such as murder or death in combat, doesn’t give time for the soul to make its transition.  As such, the murderer is executed with his victim’s soul clinging to him as he makes his journey.  In the case of war, Kimmerikon has been known to go to great lengths to ensure their dead ones are given a proper burial.

But while all this goes on, betting is a normal activity during the execution.  Bets are taken on whether murderers can make it to the other side of the river(picking the lock is considered acceptable if nearly impossible in a fast flowing river).  Some have even been presented second or third times and there are complicated betting sheets for these rare individuals.  The total gold being exchanged is rumored to sometimes exceed the value of a tiny kingdom.  Occasionally some have survived the ordeal as this process doesn’t always work on non-humans. Needless to say, only a handful survive even a single trip across.

This is precisely how Cassandra died.

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