The World in the Satin Bag has moved to my new website.  If you want to see what I'm up to, head on over there!

Friday, December 29, 2006

Issues w/ Blogger

I've noticed some problems with my posts of chapters on here. Originally it wouldn't show the paragraph tabs at all, which I could never figure out how to fix without going by individual paragraph within blogger itself, and quite frankly that could take hours of time that I don't have. Another problem now, is that it is taking out the spaces between sentences (which is pissing me off because it looks horrible), giving some paragraphs tabs, and others not, putting extra blank lines between paragraphs which it never did before, and all in all is ruining the look of each chapter. I've no idea how to fix this, and for that I'm sorry. If you have any info on that I would appreciate it!Anyway, Chapter Eight goes up on sunday, and don't forget to read Chapter Seven!

Monday, December 25, 2006

Chapter Seven: The Council in Darkness

(Note:  This is not official version and may be removed in the near future.  This do not reflect what is read in the podcast version, nor any other version you may encounter.  I have preserved the rough form for posterity -- or something like that.  This novel has since been rewritten.)

“What’s going on Pea?” James said. A few lanterns had been lit and Pea had cast a spell on a nearby vase that made it shine brightly in the room. Screams still rained in from the streets as people argued amongst themselves as to the nature of the sudden darkness and the earthquake.
“I’m not entirely sure James.”
Pea’s eyes didn’t meet his. “Is this to do with me?”
Then Pea looked up at him and said, “Oh, no, I don’t think so.”
He didn’t believe it. There had been too much of a hesitation in Pea’s voice. No, he knew that, whether directly or indirectly, the recent events involved him. Then the confused expression on Gammon’s face reminded him that the man only knew the lies that Pea had told at the gate.

“I’m not who you think I am.”
Gammon looked at him, brow curled questioningly. “Go on.”
“I come from, well, another world.”
Gammon breathed in deep as if ready to laugh, but stopped stiff when Pea gave him a stern look. “Pea, if this is some sort of joke…”
“It’s not. Triska checked him. She’s up with the High Council.”
Then Gammon turned to James. James looked away for a moment, and then returned the gaze. This is going to take some getting used to, he thought. Having seen Pea and Triska give him that same look, he had come to realize that it would be a common sight.
“I don’t believe it…I mean, how?”
“Some sort of old magic,” Pea said.
Then James interrupted. “I came here looking for my friend. She was pulled in the same way. Only she may be in the hands of Luthien.”
“Are you marked?”
Then Gammon spoke to Pea hurriedly, “He can’t stay here! He will bring Luthien down on us all.”
“Luthien would have to cross the Firing Rim and travel quite some distance to get here.”
Arlin City would hear about it long before they reached edge of the valley,” James said.
“Right. Not to mention, unless he plans to conquer the Farthland and use its resources, his army would starve or break apart bit by bit. We’d likely stop him before he reached Arlin, or at least stall his army long enough to move James to a safer place, and, well, without proper planning he hasn’t much chance at the moment of getting here. Not for six months or more and not with a sizeable army.”
“That doesn’t stop his assassins, spies, and the like from reaching this far into the Farthland.”
Gammon’s concern began to spread through to James. He hadn’t considered the other methods Luthien might have to reach him.
“He won’t kill me. For whatever reason he wants me alive.”
The three of them stayed silent. James thought hard, feeling the Fearl pushing at his mind in a gentle throb. It seemed to calm him just enough to clear his head. With all that had been happening, his mind had become cluttered. Everything from what he had learned from the book Pea had given him, to the previous and current events seemed to build up in a tremendous mental tower blocking his thoughts. Home slowly slid away as he became more and more aware of what he would have to do to save Laura—if he could save her. That doubt came and went within him, yet he continued to push it back, unwilling to accept that he might not bring her home.
He wondered what his parents were doing in his absence, imagined them frantically trying to figure out how to get him home. Then he remembered the man he, no, his Fearl had thrown into the trees in order to protect him. He couldn’t be sure if the man had lived or not. The man’s death would have made things horrible for his parents.
A knock at the door broke the silence. Pea stood and went to the door. A few moments of arguing—in which Pea seemed to give in—Pea returned to the curtained room with Darl in tow.
James sighed deeply and rolled his eyes ever so slightly so that Darl would have had to concentrate to see the motion. This he did not because of Darl, but rather that the man’s presence might mean he would have to explain himself and endure another long stare of bewilderment and awe.
But Darl caught him and said, “I see rudeness never fails.”
“I think in this instance,” Pea started, “James has deeper intentions than rudeness.”
Darl’s eyes brightened. “And what might those be?”
“I’m getting tired of this,” he said. “Every one of you has given me the same look. That piercing look. It digs into me like a tick.”
Then Pea showed Darl to a seat, and in one long winded sentence managed to tell a brief version of James’ story. And, as James had anticipated, Darl’s face frowned and the look centered square into him.
“Surprising, isn’t it?” Gammon said. “To think that this would happen now, here.”
“To think I only came to speak with Triska, and instead receive the shock of a lifetime. Darkness and people from other worlds. What next? Lyphons?”
Three was a long, steady silence. James spotted Pea’s face as it turned pale as the moon had once been. Then he said, “Pea mentioned that very word earlier…”
The group all eyed Pea, who seemed to fold under the pressure instantaneously, but just as the little man opened his mouth to speak the door burst wide open with a thunderous boom. Four armor clad soldiers—the same armor as Gammon, only one had a red streak of metal running on both sides of his head—followed closely by Triska and a black-robed figure, glided into the room and in one swift motion surrounded James, Pea, Gammon, and Darl. Gammon got up and put himself at attention while Pea and Darl grumbled and rose angrily as if they were about to be under attack. Only James remained in his seat. He recognized the two red streaks as the mark of a captain.
“You four come with us. You’re to be brought to Brendan’s Hall, by order of the High Council,” the captain said.
“First things first,” the robed figure said, moving forward to James’ side. The figure was a woman; James could tell by the softness of her voice. Yet, the softness didn’t make the situation feel any less threatening as the woman grabbed his arm and examined his Fearl. An angry throb filled his mind. The Fearl sensed something; he sensed something. “This must come off.”
Then the woman tugged on the Fearl, trying hard to untie the knot. In return, the Fearl tightened tighter and tighter until his veins pumped hard. Then, as if knowing his limitations, the Fearl stopped.
“I tried to tell you Nora, it’s bonded with him,” Triska said.
“Yes, but you also said that the Laws of Magic did not exist on his world. How can he be bonded to a Fearl, and only after such a short time?”
He recalled some of things he had read about Fearls. Fearls bonded with their hosts, but it could take years at best for that to happen. He had done it in a matter of days, something which in theory was impossible.
Then Nora placed her hand a few inches above the Fearl. A bolt of lightning shot from her hand and wrapped around the Fearl. The throbbing boomed in the back of his head and his vision suddenly became wobbly. Then a shockwave of energy burst from his Fearl. The lightning shot away and disintegrated; Nora lurched back as a shock snapped her fingers.
She cursed, then said, “Have you a Voice yet boy?”
A voice? That he hadn’t read about.
“You’re surely in for a treat then. Come, all of you. Follow me.”
Nora ushered everyone out of the house. First the guards, then everyone else. James snatched up the rock Darl had told him to give to Triska on his way out and tucked away the etiquette book in his pocket, which to his surprise held the book perfectly without bending it.
Nora walked hurriedly up the path, out of the courtyard, and up a long cobblestone road that ran along a hillside toward the towers. Long shadows filled every crevice of the city. Only a few places were lit where people either carried torches or had lit large fires. In that faint light James could see people huddled close to each other, soldiers walking in single file down roads and along the walls.
The walk ended at the base of a wide stone and white marble building—Brendan’s Hall. Along the front, just above a set of stairs that spanned the entire length, stood a long row of equally spaced white pillars, gently fading and showing stress fractures from thousands of years of holding the roof up. Directly in the center, just behind the pillars and wide open, were two large wooden doors engraved with the same design as the gates to Arlin City. On either side of the door were two beasts made of gold inlaid into the stone framework. They resembled man, serpent, and bird woven into one creature. Above all this, at the peak of the hill, were the towers—Al’dul and Naz’ra. With the lack of light he could easily see the glow of the Adul’pur centered over The Fall hundreds of feet above.
They traveled through the doors into a long hall way of more white pillars, in which were carved detailed sceneries of battles, celebrations, and what looked like knighting ceremonies—so he guessed. Each pillar seemed to progress in timeline fashion from age to age. The last two pillars, however, were bare. Spells of light had been cast above each pillar, which in turn dimly lit the entire hallway. Beyond these stood a long marble table speckled with obsidian shards. There in soft cushioned chairs sat a line of six figures, some dressed in robes, others dressed in soft tan shawls and off-white tunics and pants. Nora slipped away from the group and joined them in the line, making the number of the Council a total of seven. The four guards took stations at four separate points in a box around James, Pea, Triska, Gammon and Darl.
Then, in a deep, raspy, but still powerful voice, the center figure spoke. “I am Ammond, lord of this council. James, please step forward.”
James did so, bowed low as per custom, and waited for Ammond to acknowledge him.
“This comes as a great surprise, as I am sure you are aware. Tell me of the place where you come from.”
And he did. He spoke of Woodton and all that had happened there before he had come to the Farthland. In great detail he described the forests, roads, and the technology—as best he could at least. It seemed as if they understood some of it, but as soon as he reached computers their faces curled up in confusion and some mumbled amongst themselves. Then Ammond stopped him.
“This magic device you call a computer, it stores memories?”
“Well, it’s not exactly magic…” He stopped himself. The people of the Farthland knew nothing of electricity, motherboards, or processors, and for him to try to explain hundreds of years of science seemed practically pointless. Even if they understood, it would all be magic to them. “In some ways I suppose you could say it is magic. But they store more than memories. You write on them,” and he described a keyboard to the Council, “and you can have access to all sorts of information on this thing called the Internet. It’s sort of a connected library between all other computers.”
Ammond looked as if he were concentrating, hunched over with his hand gently tapping on his chest.
“Triska, I was under the impression that magic did not exist on his world, or at least had been lost long ago and could no longer be wielded by its people.”
Triska stepped forward and bowed. “I did. They don’t have magic as we do, or as any do in the Farthland, or all of Traea.”
“Yet he is bound to a Fearl,” Nora said, to which Ammond seemed keenly interested.
“A Fearl? How could this have happened in such a short time I wonder…”
“I don’t know sir.” James shrugged. “In my world, magic and fantastic creatures are only found in fairytales. Sometimes they are written in history, but those accounts are from so long ago that most shrug it off.”
“So it is possible that magic once existed on your world?”
“Some believe so.”
“This intrigues me. Your Fearl, where did you get it?”
He told Ammond about the house in Woodton and how the Fearl had come to be around his arm, how it had attached itself to him like a leech, and how it had protected him.
“I came here to find my friend.”
Ammond bobbed his head, apparently already aware of his predicament. “We have sent word across the Farthland.”
“If Luthien truly has her,” the figure to the left of Ammond said, “then we must decide on a course of action that would best serve the Council and the people of the Farthland.”
“With this turn of events,” Nora waved her hand to the dark sky outside, “I think it best that, for now, we keep you within the Lord’s Hold, primarily as a guest of course.” The last words she said delicately and with an air of superiority. James popped one of his knuckles as he flexed his left hand. The way she had said it, somewhat snooty as he saw it, made him suddenly dislike her. She didn’t see him the same as she saw Triska.
“I agree,” Ammond broke the silence. “You should be kept out of the general public until we can ascertain the truth of these events.”
James agreed as well, though only because Ammond had first. He respected Ammond, though he couldn’t be sure why. Perhaps it was the genuine way in which Ammond addressed him, or the look of concern and caring that seemed to pour from the two brown eyes that were sunken amidst the wrinkles and aged skin. Either way lent a helping hand to Ammond’s position. Nora’s attitude suggested both her annoyance with him, and her annoyance with Ammond.
As if anticipating what he would say next, Ammond said, “Your friends must stay here as well.”
At this Darl groaned loudly, gave a look of contempt to James and Ammond, and grumbled to himself. Gammon’s face filled with deep concern as his eyes sunk, but Pea only seemed slightly annoyed. Triska too.
“This is the only way we can keep this contained until we know what to do. And it’s the only way we can keep James safe. The stamping out of the moon only suggests bad things for the Farthland and this city. Your family will be cared for Gammon. Darl and Triska have no need to concern about their businesses.”
“I understand,” he said.
Then Pea stepped forward and bowed. “Sir, if I may make a suggestion.”
Ammond waved Pea to continue.
“I would like to begin training James. He has a Fearl, yes, but hasn’t the knowledge on how to properly use it, nor the strict Laws of Magic. It would be wise for you and Arlin City to have him learn as much as possible so that he may be capable of defending himself.”
“Are there objections within the High Council?” Nora tried to speak, but caught herself in Ammond’s harsh gaze. “Good. I see no problem in this. I will send for one of the High Council’s mage guards.”
James bit his lip, wanting to blurt out that Pea had volunteered to teach him, but Pea didn’t said anything either and it began to irritate him. But it could insult Ammond to deny the offer. At least that had been what he had read. Such as it were, someone had to tell Ammond. Besides, he didn’t much like the idea of having someone completely new teaching him something that, as far as he could see, could very well break every bit of logic left in his mind. Physics.
Finally it was Triska who spoke up. “Sir, I am afraid that we cannot accept your offer at this time. Pantifilus has taken that position for the time being. We do however need a set of swords so that Darl may teach James basic swordsmanship. That being a talent he will most definitely need.”
“Consider it done. Please, let us get you to your new accommodations.”
Ammond stood slowly and flinched in pain. James heard a strange pop. He’s old. There was no avoiding it. Ammond’s face hung low, wrinkles filled every inch, and more wrinkles were on top of those. Age has not been kind to him.
“Please, James, if you would walk beside me.” James did so as the other council members left the long hallway through a side door. “You must forgive Nora for her…rude behavior. It’s not often that she is challenged magically, nor is it often that she finds herself incapable of success in the presence of one untrained as yourself. She can be…a bit unpleasant at times. But I assure you that she is a competent leader when hard pressed to defend her people.”
The four guards split up, two taking posts at the front of the hall and two at the back where another door lay, smaller than the main entrance, but still larger than a normal sized door. Pea, Triska, Darl, and Gammon followed some distance behind as he and Ammond walked slowly through the door into a long courtyard flanked on both sides by the towers. Torches were set up every ten feet to provide light.
Now that he could see the towers so close he truly marveled at their design. He had seen pictures of castles on Earth, their towers, keeps, and gatehouses, but these were magnificent. Rising from the base of the courtyard—six hundred feet high into the blackened sky and nearly a hundred feet in diameter—the towers were smooth circles, almost perfect, connected by a thick stone bridge three quarters of the way up. The bridge was supported by two half-arches that used the walls of the towers as abutments. Small arrow loops were evenly spaced twenty feet apart, vertically and horizontally, at each of the eight directions. At the very top of each tower were four blunt spires, each in its own corner and accompanied by short crenellated walls.
“How old are these towers?”
“We don’t know. Much of Arlin City was already here when the first men came into the Farthland. It is believed that men once lived here and that we have only forgotten the past. I see that as dangerous thinking.”
“Why?” Perhaps the past is filled with sorrow. Terrible things may have happened once.
“If such stories are true, we could be doomed to repeat whatever mistakes had been made. I have tried to find the answers, but there is no written record, nor anything but the few ruins we have found. Arlin City was the only one left standing. There is more now than there once was, but I am still reminded of what may have been.”
That’s a logical way to look at it. James recalled the many times someone had repeated a mistake on his world—some had worked out, and others had not.
“I believe that whoever once lived here simply left. They picked up their belongings and left this city behind.”
“Maybe they found a better place to live.”
Perhaps they did leave for a better place. But he wasn’t sure he believed that. He started to think that rather than simply leaving, the original inhabitants of Arlin City fled. Perhaps there was a war. He hoped that his presence would not bring the same fate to the people living there now.
And, as if Ammond could read his thoughts, “James, I fear that you may have brought down a terrible doom upon us. I don’t blame you, but I sense that your presence disrupts the peace. A great many things will happen soon. Through it all you must be kept safe. Luthien fears you, but for what reasons I don’t know. You must be kept away from him. Train well, train hard. You must learn to use a sword, bow, and magic.”
“Darl has,” he paused, “volunteered to train me with a sword.”
“You must learn all these things. Especially magic. You’ve been gifted with your Fearl. It possesses powerful magic. Few who are Bloodless,” meaning those not born with magic, “have the fortune of such a thing. And the fact that this Fearl has so strongly bonded with you that magic users such as Nora cannot remove it suggests there is much more to you than meets the eye.”
No, he thought. There is nothing special about me. Except that I come from another world.
Ammond had led them past the courtyard and towers to a gated building guarded by four guards. It looked much like a small castle with four wall towers and a two story keep just barely visible over the top of the crenellated walls. One guard walked along the walls lazily—a behavior James only assumed could come from months or years of walking those walls without a single hint of activity. The four guards at the gate spoke and laughed amongst themselves until Ammond and James came into clear view from a series of shadows where the torches could not reach. They instantly snapped to attention.
“We have guests,” Ammond said.
“Yes sir,” one guard said, a small silver spine on his helm. He belted out a few commands over the wall.
A moment later and the gate creaked loudly, jerked as it began to open, then grinded along the earth on a small wheel as the gap widened like a wooden mouth. The rest joined up with James and Ammond and together they all walked into the Lord’s Hold. Once inside James could see the full face of the keep—a tall stone structure with several glass windows, two of which were made of stained glass of bright red and crimson that flanked a metal studded wood door—and in the center stood a well. He could only imagine how long it had taken the people to dig such a thing seeing how the Lord’s Hold sat only a few dozen feet below the apex of the hill.
The door to the keep opened with a thud and another soldier, this one with two parallel spines of silver on his helm, came out and greeted the group.
“Lord Ammond sir,” the soldier said, bowing.
“These five require accommodations.”
“Yes of course.”
“Also, if you might be able to procure two training swords.”
The soldier bowed gracefully. “So the rumors are true then?”
Ammond paused for a moment, and then said, “They are.”
With that the soldier guided the group to the keep.
Ammond placed a withered old hand on James’ shoulder. “Stay safe.” Then he let go when James acknowledged him and left the Lord’s Hold.
Within the keep there were several rooms. The bottom floor served as a dining area of sorts with two round wood tables, several chairs, and a fireplace. The top floor contained six rooms, each furnished. James found the beds lacking after having spent a night in Triska’s home, but he figured they would suit him for the time being. As long as he could sleep he didn’t much care.
It had been an exceptionally long day. He felt exhausted and entirely ready to fall backwards into the slightly stiff bed and pass out. Without the moon to guide him, he looked out the window and made a guess. Midnight. Then he rolled into the bed and drifted to sleep.
James awoke to the sounds of the morning, only, morning had never come. He knew that he had slept a good night’s sleep, but when he looked outside all he found was darkness. The sky seemed burnt black as the charred remains of a fire. A single lantern lit his room; he had left it on throughout the night.
He climbed out of the bed, which had served nicely to allow him to sleep—though he missed sorely Triska’s soft fabrics—and noticed a pair of clothes and a pale filled with steaming water, something that looked like a bar of soap, and a rag. Near that, hanging on a post, was a long blue towel made of a material he at first thought was cotton, but came to realize was something far softer. On the edge of the bed sat a change of clothes—a bleach white tunic, grey pants, a black belt, and a gray cowl. A smile crossed his face.
After washing up and changing his clothes, leaving the hood of the cowl rolled back against his neck, he left his room and proceeded to the bottom floor. There he found Pea and Darl in an angered debate while Triska poked at the fire with a thin log of wood. When the others noticed his presence the debate stopped and Triska stood and greeted him with a hug.
“Sleep well?” she said.
“Yes, though I prefer your home.”
At this she beamed. “Pea and Darl have been arguing over what you should be taught first. Magic or swordsmanship. It’s a silly debate if you ask me. Both benefit the other and you can’t possibly learn it all in the same instant. Unfortunately Darl’s pigheaded stubbornness and Pea’s relentless Erdluitle pride have left no easy compromise to the situation.”
“I may be stubborn, and perhaps a little pigheaded, but I know full well that you cannot survive on magic alone,” Darl said grumpily.
“And,” Pea began, “if you don’t begin your training in magic now you will be stunted in your growth as a user. It takes great discipline and practice to be able to use magic. A sword doesn’t haze your vision.”
“No, but a sword will cut you in two if you can’t defend yourself against one.”
“Yes, but if he’s using magic and can’t see he would be far more incapable of defending himself my good sir.”
Then the debate started up again with each yelling at one another. The situation made James snicker seeing the tiny man argue relentlessly with a human ten times his size. Triska seemed to find the humor in it as well and grinned softly at him.
Gammon soon appeared dressed in a tunic and pants. James found it odd to see the man without armor. The man looked naked.
No more than a few seconds passed before Pea and Darl jumped up and verbally assaulted Gammon like a pair of angered lions. Gammon took a step back before the onslaught of words began to make sense.
“You make the decision Gammon,” James said. “Should I learn to use a sword first, or magic?”
“I appreciate having this responsibility placed on me,” Gammon said.
“Well, I figure someone is going to be upset over whatever decision is made. This way they can be mad at you and not me.” At that he grinned widely.
“Again, I appreciate having this responsibility placed on me.”
Then Pea and Darl gave their arguments again and remained completely silent for several moments. Gammon seemed to be in deep thought on the matter. He is deciding my future.
Then, after a long, deep breath, Gammon made a decision. “Darl is first.”
Pea gasped, his mouth hanging in astonishment. From the looks of Pea’s face James thought that some sort of blasphemy had been committed.
It’s been decided, he thought. I’ll learn the sword in my first lesson. Then magic. He felt a little upset about that. He had hoped to learn magic first and only because Pea would be his teacher. The same desire was there to learn the sword, but he had mixed emotions about Darl. Darl was rude and, as far as he could tell, a man who would place far too much value in the most mundane of things. This impression led him to believe that his time with Darl would not be one of enjoyment. Still, he understood that either way he looked at it he would have to learn to do both equally well. And he had no desire to be responsible for angering Darl by selecting Pea personally. He’d likely take it out on me.
“Get a good full meal,” Darl said to him. “You’ll need it. Meet me outside when you’re finished.”
He agreed and sat down at one of the tables. Triska brought him a full plate of potatoes, Fidget Fowl eggs, and crumbly bread—similar enough to corn bread that he didn’t question it. Pea grumpily took a seat nearby and mumbled to himself. A few moments of silence and James slowly ate.
It’s going to be a long day.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

My Apologetic Nature & America's Continued Destruction of Everything That is Good About Literature

First things first, I must deeply apologize to anyone that reads my novel and is expecting a new chapter this week. This week and the one following it is, for anyone in college, the ultimate hell--Finals Week. Now, I know that is an excuse for me to not be prepared, and for that I must apologize as well. This weekend has turned out to be rather hectic. I had finals last week, and as such had to do my fair share of studying, and I have one more final this Monday, which I have been preparing for as well. On top of that was my companies' Christmas party last night, my selfish desire to see Eragon on opening weekend, and of course my need to make sure my brother does not chop of his head in an attempt to prevent himself from going insane. This does not go without saying that I have at least written much of the chapter, but it is no more fair to my readers for me to quickly finish it, edit it, and of course post it. That would imply a lack of love for the craft and my inability to give my readers the best.
So, for this I am sorry.

However, I am going to do something to pay for this. The following week I will post this chapter, and the week right after that I will post the next! This way my schedule is not off, and you the reader are given a Christmas surprise! I also have many intentions over this holiday break, and in the following semester which will be rather light for me, some of which may involve a beginning map of the Farthland, since now James would have some knowledge of it and that visual might help many understand where he is in the world.Alright, now that I have that out of the way, I have to do a review of Eragon. Here goes.

If you haven't read the book you'll probably recognize this film as fitting in with such terrible Hollywood blunders as Dungeons & Dragons. It's campy at best, poorly paced, and poorly done altogether. If you have read the book, you'll see this as the biggest book-to-movie bastardization in the history of book-to-movie interpretations. There's very little the directors, writers, and producers did right by the book in this pathetic piece of cinematic trash. This comes as an enormous blow for those of us who have been waiting since the day it was announced that Eragon was being optioned.
This is by far one of the weakest points to the film. There's tremendous inconsistency throughout. Some have British accents (in different forms), and some don't. This all from one town where you'd think many people would speak the same. First, the good.
Ed Speleers: Surprisingly he didn't do too terribly as the hero of this tale. He didn't come off forced, and did seem to settle into his role very well. His acting, I think for someone who has no prior film experience, is rather good. The problem with him was more in the dialogue and direction given him rather than his performance.
Jeremy Irons: If not for the fact that the writers had bastardized who his character was he has probably the strongest presence on screen for a secondary character. He came off very much like the Brom I expected--strong, raggedy, and torn by a horrible past.
Robert Carlyle: At first I was very unsure about his role (as Durza the Shade) in this. There were some terribly written lines for him, terrible direction, and most of his scenes with Galbatorix are pretty much put into the crap bin not because of him, but because of the other person in the room with him. However, by the end of the film his character really began to pull through and he became this incredibly creepy, evil character that I had hoped he would become.
Garret Hedlund: As Murtagh I have to say I was very much please, if not for the fact that his character conveniently shared no accent with half the cast, which is retarded. His dialogue was strong and he acted very well at the part from start to finish.

And, of course the horribly bad.
Sienna Guillory: Whoever it was that thought she would play well as Arya should probably consider working at Burger King instead. Her dialogue, while generally already very stiff considering she is an elf (something we'll discuss later), was so much like watching someone standing and reading from a queue card without attempting to put any passion into the words. She was so terribly wrong for her part and practically destroyed Speleers' presence on screen.
Djimon Hounsou: Now, I have to say this first. I like Hounsou. He is one of my favorite actors in the scene right now simply because of his accent and excellent presence on screen. He was fantastic in The Island and in Four Feathers. But, he was not good for this film. All his lines were stiff and it seems like they had just given them to him on set and he was repeating them. He was stiff and it looked like this was his first film. In this instance the casting director and the director himself should be shot in the face with some sort of large explosive object.
John Malcovich: Galbatorix...what more can you say about this? I had high hopes really for him, I really did. He's been in a lot of films I loved, but no, there's just no way this would work out the way I wanted. Thanks to his performance we now have an evil dictator who is barely a baby in armor.
Rachel Weisz: As the voice of the dragon...boy oh boy. She is far too soft for this role. A dragon is this mean, fierce and powerful creature that could tear you to shreds. Yes, as a female it should have a feminine voice, but something deeper and more homely would have fit much better than Weisz's very soft, motherly voice.

This was by far the best part of the whole film. When the dragon hatches it is so well done and you're instantly in love with the little adorable creature. Even full grown it's amazing. They did an excellent job with every aspect of the dragon.
Even other areas are well done. Magic is very flashy and gives you a sense of power and energy. In the final battle between Durza and Eragon, the visuals are fantastic. Every detail is amazing.
So kudos goes to the people responsible for this aspect of the film.

This is where the movie gets its crappy nature. First and foremost, the movie is nothing whatsoever like the book. The story is entirely different. And with a length of only 1 hr. 40 minutes how could you possibly expect them to tell the story at a good pace? The film runs so fast through all the important parts that you really don't have time to grasp the reality of the story or to really grow fond of any specific characters--one of which dies.
In the opening, the relationship between Brom and Eragon is supposed to begin when Eragon has Brom tell him about the land when it had dragonriders. They skip this and instead have Brom just magically discover that Eragon is the dragonrider and vice versa with Eragon discovering that Brom was a dragonrider once.
There's also the little part where the final battle at Farthendur is supposed to be underground in a giant cavern. Well, they decided they'd change this and have it all be outside at night...
Oh, and elves. Yes, well we all know what elves are supposed to look like right? Pointed ears, slender, all that goodness. Well, unless you read the book and knew that Arya was supposed to be an elf, you'd never know in this. There are no pointed ears here. No, not at all. In fact it's hard to really tell the difference between most of the races in this. Accents are even worse with no consistency in them at all. Some are American, others British. It's ridiculous.

Special effects people should stay there. Fangmeier is terrible at his job, plain and simple. There are loads of scenes where good direction could have made them work. Take a look at the LOTR movies. Those were changed so much from the book--but still remained true to the book otherwise I might add--and all the scenes were brilliantly done. Peter Jackson could have easily made this film halfway decent.

General Visuals--3/5
Many of the visuals of the landscape are pretty well done. You get a decent idea of what the world of Alagaseia (sp?) is like. Personally I think one could have chosen some better locations to shoot from. There's a few times where you see the characters walking on a very clearly defined path, yet in order for that path to get that way there would have to be quite a lot of traffic. This does make you wonder where all the people are, why are they even on a path that might be followed by others, etc.
There are a few moments where the visual crew decided to CG some landscape, which I thought was rather annoying at best. Often times you can tell when something is CGed, and when it is an element as fixed and important as a landscape, it's really a terrible idea to animate it. CG should be left to things that can't be done IRL.
I wasn't too disappointed in general on this aspect, but it could have been better.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Series' That Should Never End

I was watching Band of Brothers this weekend and got the idea of this blog from it. If you haven't seen the series you really should pick it up. I don't think there will ever be a WW2 series or even movie that can live even partially up to it. So, I figure this week should be a list of series I wish would never end--books, T.V. shows, movies, etc. So, here goes! (In no particular order)

1) Band of Brothers--You just can't go wrong with it. Beautiful filming, amazing casting with people that actually look and act like the people they are pretending to be (the film is based on things that actually did happen with people who really existed). Even the intros to many episodes that show interviews with the soldiers who are being portrayed are amazing. It's just a fantastically done show that should never have ended, or at least could have run longer than one season before ending as it did. I just wish that maybe they'd go back and cover a different unit other than the 501st. I know that it wouldn't be the same, but I just need more!

2) Harry Potter--Yes, I'm going there. Supposedly the series is ending as soon as the 7th book comes out. I don't want it to. I've fallen in love with the characters and to know that I won't get to read more about them after this last installment hurts. Don't stop J.K. Rowling! Please!

3) Chronicles of Narnia--I'm mostly talking of the movie series here simply because I have not read all of the books yet. The movie was so well done. The cinematography was astounding, casting great. If you haven't seen it you should rent it. I'm getting the 4-disc set as soon as it comes out cause I love all that behind the scenes stuff!

4) Lord of the Rings--Another one that is more based on the movie series than the books. I liked the books, but felt the movies were far more interesting, not because Tolkien didn't tell it well, it's just he wrote so much stuff that we didn't need and I'm the type who has to be engaged quickly or you lose me. The movies were, well, I really don't need to say how good they were do I? We all know. They won a bazillion awards...and when they ended it sucked cause you sat there and went, "it's over." Just like that. Sort of a big punch in the gut.

5) Star Wars--Doesn't matter if you didn't like the prequels. Doesn't matter at all. Fact of the matter is, this is the second time fans of the films have had to deal with it ending on us. First it was with the originals, when there was no word that we would get this amazing taste of the SW universe from an earlier time. Now, we have it again with so much inbetween stuff we still don't really know. Rumors say there will be a third trilogy after the originals, but those are rumors. I want them so bad though! Best series of all time.

6) Underworld--I don't know if more are planned, and probably not considering how Evolution ended, but I loved the films so much. The concept behind it and how they created their vampires and werewolves was just so fascinating. Who knows, I think we can assume it's done with Evolution, but maybe not.

7) Alice 19th--Most of those that might read this probably have no clue what this series is. It's a manga (a.k.a. Japanese Graphic Novel), and quite frankly is one of the most engaging and fascinating manga series I have ever read.

8) Half-life--A video game! Yes, well this is the game that pretty much made FPS (first person shooter) games the fascinating experience they are today. Without this game, and without it's predecessors we would not have had any of the elements present today ever show up. HL started it all. And then, low and behold, as a surprise to all the millions upon millions of us that had become fans, they gave us HL2, which took the franchise to knew heights, new levels, everything! And, right now, it's technically over because they haven't announced an HL3 is in the works. So, what are we to do?

9) The Inheritance Trilogy--Yup, it's on book two, which means one more is left along with two more movies. I haven't even read Eldest yet partially out of fear...I don't want it to end :(

So I think that will do it for the time being.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Chapter Six: The Dark Side of the Moon

(Note:  This is not official version and may be removed in the near future.  This do not reflect what is read in the podcast version, nor any other version you may encounter.  I have preserved the rough form for posterity -- or something like that.  This novel has since been rewritten.)

Triska, now awake and alert, had prepared a breakfast of sausages, bacon, fresh berries, scrambled chicken eggs, and boiled Fidget Fowl eggs. James ate gratefully, half choking as he wolfed down a meal for two in a matter of minutes. One of the qualities he most admired about Triska in his short time of knowing her was her ability to cook; the other was her warm demeanor. He wiped his face clean as Triska began to talk.
“You two head on down to Market Street,” Triska said. “Darl should be in his usual spot. Tell him I sent you.”
“Should we tell him the truth?” Pea said.
Triska shook her head. “No, not now at least. Here,” she stood, left the room, and returned with a small wood box with a green weave of lace embedded in the lid. “Show this to him. He’ll understand.”

James took the box and thought to look inside, but decided against it when Pea gave him a look. The box was just longer than the palm of his hand, the wood old and faded, and it weighed practically nothing, putting no strain whatsoever on his wrist. Empty, he thought.
“What about the High Council?” Pea mumbled amidst a mouth-full of food.
Triska took in a deep breath. “I’ll go to Nora…”
“That’s the head of the Healers,” Pea leaned close to James and whispered matter-of-factly.
“She’ll know what to do. I’ll get tested again of course.”
She frowned, but didn’t explain. From the upset look on her face James could only assume that being tested meant a situation of extreme discomfort. He thought about the times he had been given shots at the doctor’s office, or been harassed by the dentist over his lack of flossing. He could easily sympathize.
The room stayed silent for a moment except for Pea who smacked his lips and chewed his way into a third helping—from a Littlekind’s perspective. James began to think of the journey he would have to take: a long arduous journey through unfamiliar terrain amongst enemies and people who would just as soon see him dead. That’s if they left me. What is the High Council going to say? Teirlin’pur must be far, dangerous, and…if Luthien is after me, why go there? And why does he want me, and Laura? These questions and thoughts circled in his mind. No answers came, just the gentle nudge of the Fearl, now a firm entity in the back of his mind that seemed to quiver in an attempt to calm him. He shared some sort of symbiotic relationship with the Fearl; that being the only way he could think to describe it. It had protected him once, and, oddly, it seemed to care—if such a thing were possible—about the things going on in his mind.
“Pea, I’m trusting you to take care of him. Is that understood?”
“Of course.”
“Keep him out of trouble; don’t let him do anything stupid…”
“It’s a little late for that. He almost got killed by a gryphon last night. Tagron to be specific. Nasty one he is too. I think of all the gryphons I’ve met he has the worst attitude.”
“Just, do your best.”
“I will.”
With that Triska left the table and disappeared into another room. Pea stood.
“Alright, now you stay right next to me. No wandering.”
James stood. “I’m not a child.”
Pea scoffed at that. “On this world you are.” With that Pea motioned for James to follow and together they left Triska’s home.
The sun, now completely above the distant mountains, filtered through the clouds in sharp rays illuminating the other business, homes, and people who walked along the path. Light chatter filled the air giving James the sense of a city waking. He looked around as Pea guided him down to the market, hoping he might see the gryphon Tagron. The gryphon had forgiven him, or maybe not. James couldn’t be sure. Despite the violence that had ensued the day before, Tagron had given him a warning, a word of advice even. He still didn’t understand what “look to the western sunrise” meant, but he took it all to heart, every word of it. There are ways into every city, he thought. Look to the western sunrise. Those words ran through his mind over and over.
Then, as the two of them were about to turn the corner onto Market Street, James said, “How do you know if a gryphon has forgiven you?”
Pea turned and curled his brow, then turned back.
“Tagron spoke to me this morning.”
“He sort of forgave me for my rudeness. I think.”
“Was he short spoken about it?”
He nodded.
“Then you’re forgiven. Consider yourself lucky. Just don’t insult him again.”
“He knows about me Pea.”
Pea turned again to smile. “Why do you think we keep gryphons around? They have an uncanny ability to…” He paused for a long time, rubbing his chin. James saw the concentration in the little man’s face. “Well, they just seem to know things. I’m not sure how to explain it. It’s sort of like an instinct, only based in magic somehow. Does that make sense?”
“It makes as much sense as the rest of the things in this world.”
Then together they walked into the market, now bustling wildly with all manners of people as it had the night before. Business owners yelled out deals to passersby while hagglers argued with business owners over the price of an item. Some put on shows; one used a Littlekind man as a gimmick. People crowded around the scene as the tiny man bounced around. James curled his lip in disgust. It reminded him far too much of the monkey trainers back home.
Soon they were standing in front of the old man James had seen the day before. At first the man paid no attention, sitting completely still and staring off into the crowd. The disinterest in everything around amazed James. Maybe the man really is crazy.
But as soon as these thoughts came to him, Darl turned, peered angrily at the two of them, and grunted.
“What do you want?” Darl said.
“Good morning sir,” Pea said, bowing.
Darl didn’t move, but glared.
Pea was thrown aback. He composed himself and continued. “Do you have a place we may speak in private? Triska would appreciate that.”
Darl’s attention shifted to James. “I think this is as good a place as any.”
Then James produced the small box Triska had given him. He presented it to Darl. “Triska said you’d understand.”
Darl coughed, spit on the ground, and snatched up the box. The old man’s fingers, warn and wrinkly, rubbed every inch of the box. Then he opened it and produced a small pipe. He held it up.
James looked closely. The pipe had a long white stem, a dark wood bowl, and a series of carvings depicting two knights holding a glowing, star-like object above their heads.
One of the other sellers popped around the corner, saw the pipe, and exclaimed loudly, “my what a lovely pipe. How much you want for it?”
“Not for sale.”
“Twenty-five pieces and anything you want from my shop.”
“I said it’s not for sell you little insect.” The salesman left with a snort, storming away. Darl grunted. “You expect me to teach this boy?”
Pea nodded.
“It takes years to learn. I may not be alive that long.”
“I’m a fast learner,” James said.
“Fast? Look at you. Your arms. Your entire physique is wrong. You could no more lift a sword than I could cast a spell. Not for a long time at least. The strength to weald a blade takes time and effort.”
“Will you teach him or not?”
“Triska has me in a bind. I owe her, that’s for sure. She knows my guilt. I’ll teach him so long as I am healthy to do so. How long that will be I don’t know. Maybe a year, maybe less. Are you up for it boy?”
“Yes.” He thought for a moment about the words Darl had just said and decided he could ask questions another time. Darl owed Triska for something, and that something had to do with the pipe he had just handed over.
“Be at the stables tomorrow morning. No sooner and no later than when the sun rests on top of The Fall. Understood?”
Together he and Pea nodded.
Then Darl dug out of a box nearby a fist-sized egg-shaped object made of what looked like lava rock—dark and cracked. It had a strange blue hue to it. “Take this to Triska. It’s a dud, but she’ll likely enjoy it.”
James took it and peered closely at it. There seemed to be nothing special about it as far as he could tell. Maybe Triska collects such things. The rock did have an aesthetic appeal of sorts. He tucked it under his arm.
“Now, are you two planning to buy anything?”
He shook his head.
“Then, if you wouldn’t mind moving along so I can attempt to make a living.”
“Thank you sir.” Pea bowed.
Darl gently drooped his head. “Oh, and bring a sword.”
Then James followed Pea out of the market and back to Triska’s house. Pea moved fast, at least for such a little man, and now James had to walk at a normal pace to keep up. He could tell that Pea was bothered by Darl, but he didn’t press the matter and instead followed Pea inside and took a seat in one of the soft chairs in the middle room. He placed the round rock on a small pillow chair nearby. Pea paced back and forth.
“Such rudeness,” Pea pointed at James. “I realize it is in your nature as a human being to develop a ripe attitude of rudeness and sarcasm in old age, but to think that we might have to keep that blithering animal around to have you trained is almost unbearable. How do you remain so calm?”
James smirked. “Pea, I don’t let it get to me. Earth doesn’t have other creatures, well not that can really speak to you anyway. So I’m used to rudeness. I just ignore it. That and I think from your viewpoint my world has absolutely no grasp on manners whatsoever.”
Pea grunted at that.
“When will Triska be back with news from the High Council?”
“By evening I suppose. She won’t come alone. The High Council will undoubtedly want to meet you in person.”
“Will they help me get to Angtholand?”
Pea took a seat and sighed deeply. “Not with you being marked. I don’t really know what they’ll do. This hasn’t happened in so long. I don’t think anyone is still alive from the old times who would remember the last off-worlders to come here. And if this satin bag is just lying around in a boarded up old house who knows how many have come here that we don’t know about. Luthien would have nabbed them all no doubt. And how foolish to keep all those old relics, dangerous the whole lot, just lying around for anyone to see.”
James agreed. Whatever had compelled the people in Woodton to leave the house practically unattended and so laxly locked up he would likely never know. Especially when people knew about the satin bag and all the magic items—Fearls, and other enchanted things. It seemed all too idiotic to him. Why not destroy the house, he thought. Why leave the way to this place so open? That point rang strongly in his mind. Nobody in Woodton would every truly know when Angtholand became peaceful again, except those that may have fallen pray to the satin bag. All that he knew was that they had known something terrible and dark had taken place. And all they would have had to do was destroy the bag.
“I imagine they will do something. I’ll help you regardless of what they say.”
He smiled at Pea, who returned the smile warmly.
“Now, while we wait for Triska, I think a little education could do you some good.”
Pea left the room and returned with a book that, while small, looked enormous in the Littlekind’s hands. James took the book when it was handed to him and flipped through the pages.
“That there is a book of etiquette, something of which you are in desperate need of learning. Children half your age are better versed in manners than you.”
Taking offense he said, “Is there a rule in here about not pointing out the faults of others?”
“That only applies for people from this world. I can pretty much bend all the rules when it comes to you.” Pea snickered mildly.
James saw the humor and smirked. Then he sat back and opened the book while Pea found another book and began to read.
The book—called How Not to Be a Barbarian, Fifteenth Edition—had fewer than sixty pages, all in the tiniest typeset he had ever seen printed. The pages were worn, browning, and stitched into the binding in a butterfly-like fashion. The print looked old, not just from wear and tear or how old the book itself was, but also in the fact that it looked as if it were done on an ancient machine and not by any sort of complex device. The book had illustrations too. He found that to be the most amusing part. There was even a page on gryphons, and when he flipped to it using the table of contents as a guide he found that all the information Pea had given him were expressed almost word for word in the book.
Finally he flipped back to the first page and began reading. There were rules for everything, even an entire chapter with specific rules for different races of beings. He read on and on, gathering everything from table manners to the differences in how the rich act towards the poor in different countries and under different rulers. It even had a chapter called What to Say When You Don’t Speak the Language. Others—Proper Conversations Among the Dead, Table Manners For Children, and How to Address a King When He Isn’t Wearing His Robe—all intrigued him for their humorous titles. He tried to imagine children reading it, but suddenly realized that the book had far more than sixty pages. At page sixty, new pages emerged. Behind those, were more pages. The book simply created them out of thin air as he read on and on. But when he tried skipping forward new pages didn’t appear. They only showed when he read the work. When he turned back to the table of contents new chapters were added—Geography of the Four Kingdoms (New Version), How to Eat Food That Is Still Alive, and more. Chapter after chapter seemed to just show up whenever he reached the back of the book, yet the book retained its original shape when he closed it.
James sat there reading for what seemed like ages. He felt like he knew everything now, even though he hadn’t finished the book, if there was such a thing as an end to it. Soon Pea brought him a plate of cheese, bread, and meat, which he took thankfully, ate, and resumed reading. He read through Fearls and Their Uses, Magic and It’s Forms, and A Brief History of the High Council with great enthusiasm, now fully understanding what the thing on his arm was—a symbiotic magical entity that would remain part of him for as long as he needed or wanted it and that could grant its wearer the ability to use magic, to some extent.
Pea finally broke him out of his euphoric moment. “You know, you didn’t have to read past etiquette.”
He looked up.
“I just wanted you to read the little bit on how to behave properly, not the entire history of everything that is this world.”
“I know. I wanted to know more. The more I know about this place the better.”
“True. I’d recommend skipping over the wars. They aren’t exactly, well, clean.”
“No wars are.”
“Yes, thankfully among my people wars are fought through a series of boxing matches immediately followed by an all out stick battle. Everyone involved shows up on a field wielding a stick. Someone says ‘go’ and we run down and hit each other until one side has a clear victor, then we heal, mend friendships, and either drink until we can’t stand or go home with our wives.”
“Sounds brutal.”
“Yes, but people rarely die. They just get a little concussed.”
James peered behind him and noticed that the sun had descended down far enough where the streets were beginning to darken. A few people carrying large loads of hay hobbled past the window, but the courtyard looked empty otherwise.
“It’s eight in the evening.”
Pea piped up. “You can tell time by the towers now?”
“Yes. I sort of figured you could when I first came here, just didn’t know for certain. The Fall must be the view from the top then?”
“Not exactly. It’s the view from the center of the bridge where the Adul’pur sits.”
“It’s a magic crystalline stone suspended in the center of the walkway. On a good shiny day you can see it reflect down. It’s one of the few reasons this city is still standing. It prevents Underkind and Daemonkind from entering the city. There’re others it keeps out too. Shiftkind are the only ones that can cross through the gates. Very powerful magic.”
Very old magic, he thought. The Adul’pur, as he remembered briefly from the book, was one of few ancient stones crafted so long ago that its origin couldn’t be traced. As far as anyone in the Farthland knew, the stone just appeared during the creation of Arlin City.
“Shouldn’t Triska be back by now?”
“Or tomorrow morning. Being tested is a long process and not a happy one. Healers and Mindsleepers have to go through every corner of your mind to find out if you are pure. Triska is likely going through tests she hasn’t had to take in thirty years. Your coming here is no small deal to anyone. Just to say there’s an off-worlder is the same and declaring you’re insane by dancing around in a dress.”
A loud cry broke the two of them from their conversation. Then screams and shouts erupted and the sound of people arguing filtered into Triska’s home. Pea leapt from his seat and went to the door. James followed quickly after.
Outside, a large mass of people—Humankind and Littlekind—stood pointing and yelling. A woman screamed and fainted in a balcony above and nearby a small child cried as its mother shouted loudly, “Alert the High Council.”
“Pantifilus!” someone said from the crowd. The guard from the previous day pushed his way through the crowd and ran over. “It’s horrible.”
“What is?” Pea said.
James followed the hands and fingers and looked at the sky. Then he saw it and dropped his jaw. The moon, normally shining bright and whitish-yellow, looked darker and seemed to be darkening further. He knew instantly from the lack of a shadow that it wasn’t an eclipse. The moon itself became dark black in a slow, gradual motion. Then all its light was stamped out, leaving only the last few rays of sun filtering over the mountains behind Arlin City—the Lor Range.
He grabbed hold of Pea and forced the little man to look. In his arm he felt Pea release all the air from his lungs in an enormous wheeze.
“What does it mean?” James said.
“I-I don’t know.”
Suddenly the earth shook violently. People were knocked from their feet. James, Pea, and the guard slammed into the side of Triska’s home. Cries and screams filled the air and in the distance of Arlin City he could see pieces of homes falling to the ground.
“Stay here.” With that Pea ran down the street and disappeared. James sensed magic being flung about and could see sparks and bits of stone were stopped in mid-flight from hitting the ground.
The earth still shook—harder. James tried to call out to people to get them to safety, but nobody could hear his voice. Then, as he looked up toward the towers he saw a large slab of stone and wood fall from the top of a home. In its path stood a woman who raised her arms in fright. He let his instincts take over, feeling the Fearl poking at the back of his mind, and ran a few steps before raising his hand. Then his mind went blank and he sensed something inside of him bursting forward. His vision went blurry and then a moment later cleared. When he looked toward the woman he realized that he, or the Fearl, had tossed the stone violently aside, crashing it into the side of the building it had come from. But the woman was alive. She ran to the center of the courtyard and James thought to do the same.
Then the earthquake stopped.
“You saved that woman’s life,” the guard said, righting himself.
James bobbed his head in agreement.
“This is very dark magic.”
He didn’t say anything for a long moment. Pea came around the bend, breathing heavily.
“The darkest of dark.” James recalled what he had read. “To change the face of the moon to create darkness…”
“It’s power only a Lyphon has.” James looked down and started to ask a question, but Pea interrupted. “Never mind that for now. Both of you inside. Especially you James.”
He obeyed and scurried inside with the guard and Pea in close tow. Pea paced in the center of the room as he and the guard took a seat.
“Gammon,” Pea indicated the guard, “do you trust me?”
Gammon paused for a moment, looked to James questioningly, and then nodded.
“Good. I have something I have to tell you because I am going to need your help in something.”
“Of course.”
“But first, I need a drink.” Then Pea went into the kitchen, fumbled around for a moment, then appeared with a large black bottle and a cup. He poured himself a drink, downed it in one gulp, grimaced, and then stared seriously forward.