OT: Epistolary 3.5

on January 15, 2013 in Other Tales


Author’s Note: Apologies for the side story within a side story… this was originally conceived to be something that would be easy for me to wrap up when I was traveling on Friday, but then I couldn’t access my files. Back to normal after this… “normal” meaning the story of Melanie, Samuel, et al. For those who’ve missed the previous comments, this story is here to give me breathing room while I plot out Mackenzie’s next set of misadventures. It will cover Melanie’s college years at a rough pace of two chapters per semester, with the possibility of one or two more digressions like this along the way.



I.

It was chaos on campus at Magisterius University, a co-ed human only college in the heavily wooded Enias River Valley area of the central plains. For the second year in a row, a devastating demon attack has sown panic and discord among students and educators. Sir Lord Cyrus D’arby, courageous paladin of the Crimson Star, was viciously slain and left nailed to the university’s main gate in an inverted spread-eagled position for students to find. The noble defender of the meek was stripped of his holy vestments and blessed silver armor and left nailed to the gate in an apparent show of force. His heart, torn open, was found stuffed in his mouth.

The removal of the heart from the chest coincides with the attack of last Chrysanthema, though in that case the organ was never found and had been presumed to be eaten. Despite the discrepancies, leading figures in the investigation are confident that the perpetrator in both cases are the same creature, though they have not been forthcoming as to details.

Authorities do however speculate that this wretched display of brutality was done in apparent retaliation for the anti-demon wards added to the campus walls which, they say, would have prevented the creature from delivering its grisly message in the same manner as the preceding year, as a missile launched by an excluded creature would rebound off the invisible barrier in the same manner as the creature itself.

Sir Lord Cyrus was 47, and is survived by his mother, Mother Magda D’arby and a twin brother known only as “Deathclaw” who will no doubt swear an oath of blood vengeance against his brother’s killer.


Gene—

We can’t possibly run this piece as written. In the first place, it’s obvious you’re writing it in the hopes of getting picked up by a national newspaper. If you want to write an article and try to sell it to someone else, do that on your own time, but when you’re writing for me, you don’t waste space telling the students and faculty of MU where the university they attend is and what it’s about.

I could take what you’ve given me and edit it down into just the usable information, and you’d have a very short piece with your name on the byline. That’s all most people care about. I know you want more than that. I know you want to be more than that. So I’m going to give you some remedial journalism lessons and tell you what you need to do to make this better, and more important, publishable. Obviously there is a story here. If we were a daily then it would be too late to do anything but scrape off the mold and drop it in the pot, but I know you can do better before we put this week’s paper to bed.

First, it’s a moot point because you’re going to axe that whole part, but there’s no such thing as a human-only university. That’s just called a university. If it weren’t human only, it would be mixed, and you’d say that. Don’t waste the reader’s time telling them that the sky is blue. Tell them when it turns blood red at high noon. That’s news. I can pretend it’s just extraneous information, but we both know it’s more than that. If you want to editorialize, submit an editorial, but we both know it’s a non-starter.

Second, I know damned well you didn’t interview any “authorities” who shared their “speculation” with you. Yes, it’s the obvious conclusion and it’s probably true that the authorities haverealized it. But if you can work that out, so can anyone else. Newspapers aren’t for speculating about what other people might be speculating about. They’re for reporting the news. I’ll admit, the whole thing is a little more likely than some of your theories, like the “lost” Greater Dragon who lives beneath Prax or the necromancer’s tomb beneath Enwich, but solid speculation is still speculation.

Similar note: the body was found outside the gate, so it wasn’t necessarily meant for students to find. Who did report the body?

Ditch the speculation and the editorializing, reacquaint yourself with our Styles Guide, and firm up the details on his family members. His mother has a title, what’s that from? His twin brother isn’t known only as “Deathclaw”, it’s lazy to say so. Obviously his identity is known because we know he’s the twin brother of a local hero, but obviously he has another name. Find it out, and find out what he thinks about blood vengeance or leave that out.

Also, find out what his history was, with regards to demons. He was a paladin. Maybe this was personal? Don’t speculate! Inquire.

And I’m pretty sure the Crimson Star is an open order; i.e., they don’t have members, per se. If so, Sir Cyrus would better be described as palladin-errant associated with the Crimson Star. And didn’t he train as a monk originally before taking up the sword? Dig up some details on this. You’ll have an easier time selling some version of this to the national press if you explain who Sir Cyrus was and why they should care. Don’t tell them that he was courageous, tell them about his courage. But keep it brief. I asked if you wanted to write an obituary for him and you said no, you wanted the demon attack. Still, if you can’t tell readers what they need to know about a man’s life in a line or two, you’re not the one to report on his death.

Finally, I know what you’re trying to do with that “chaos on campus” thing and I’ve told you before that writers don’t pick their headlines. It’s also not as perfect as you think it is. Demons are infernal, not chaotic. Chaos would imply a goblin uprising or a mass slime attack or an invasion of things with tentacles. Yes, colloquially it can mean just about anything, but the point of a headline isn’t just to grab attention, it’s to convey the most essential information in the fewest words possible. Precision as well as power matters.

—Ed.


II.

Pandemonium was the order of the day here at Magisterius University when for the second year in a row a devastating demon attack has sown panic and discord among students and educators.

Sir Cyrus, the eighth Lord D’arby, was viciously slain in the attack. His body was found nailed to the university’s main gate in an inverted spread-eagled position by traders arriving before dawn for the annual Winter Fair. A paladin-errant and former monk associated with the Order of the Crimson Star, Sir Cyrus was hailed throughout the plains provinces for his gentle demeanor and work in healing the sick and his dedication to fighting the plague of ghouls endemic to the wetter parts of the region.

Sir Cyrus was stripped of his holy vestments and blessed silver armor and left nailed to the gate in an apparent show of force. His heart, torn open, was found stuffed in his mouth.

The removal of the heart from the chest coincides with the attack of last Chrysanthema, though in that case the organ was never found and had been presumed to be eaten. Though many feel that there is a link between the two tasks due to the similar timing and method of death, authorities have neither confirmed nor denied any connection.

If Sir Cyrus’s killer had attempted to deliver his grisly message in the same manner as the previous victim, he would have been prevented from doing so by the wards that were added to the university’s walls after the previous attack, as a demon-thrown projectile would have been repelled in the same manner as the demon itself.

Sir Cyrus was 47, and is survived by his mother, Mother Magda D’arby of the Blessed Hands of Amala, aged 63, and a twin brother Fenris “Deathclaw” D’arby, also 47, who is in a position to swear an oath of blood vengeance against his brother’s killer, should he choose to do so.


Gene—

Better! “Pandemonium” is such a reporter’s word, but since you’re trying to be a reporter I won’t hold it against you.

I feel that you’re onto something about the wall but it can’t just be your speculation. This is a university, you can get someone to confirm your thinking about the body being thrown over the wall, and the whole paragraph will be less awkward if you can attribute it to someone. Also, do we -know- how Sir Cyrus or the last victim died? We know their hearts were removed but we don’t know if that was pre or post mortem. You can’t say the method of death was the same if you don’t know the method of death. The previous victim was an unarmed, unidentified girl. If a demon was able to kill an experienced paladin the same way it killed a teenage girl, that’s noteworthy. Also, what do we know about the girl? I know the bureau classed her as of non-primary concern, but we did eventually get a name on her, right?

Also, what have I told you about that “some people say” crap? Drop that and just say authorities haven’t confirmed a link. The reader is more than capable of imagining there is one on their own without a push from us.

And I’m not going to tell you again that if little brother doesn’t have anything to say about blood vengeance, then neither do we. Also, look up the rules of succession. Is he Lord D’arby now?

—Ed.


III.

Pandemonium was the order of the day here at Magisterius University when for the second year in a row a devastating demon attack has sown panic and discord among students and educators.

Sir Cyrus, the eighth Lord D’arby was viciously slain in the attack. After he succumbed to a combination of blunt force wounds and infernal magic, his body was found nailed to the university’s main gate in an inverted spread-eagled position by traders arriving before dawn for the annual Winter Fair. A paladin-errant and former monk associated with the Order of the Crimson Star, Sir Cyrus was hailed throughout the plains provinces for his gentle demeanor and work in healing the sick and his dedication to fighting the plague of ghouls endemic to the wetter parts of the region. There is no record of him having fought or exorcised demons in the past, and the Crimson Star is primarily a healing order.

The noble defender of the meek was stripped of his holy vestments and blessed silver armor and left nailed to the gate in an apparent show of force. His heart, torn open, was found stuffed in his mouth.

The removal of the heart from the chest coincides with the fatal attack of last Chrysanthema on Meryl Connell of Little North Branch, though in that case the organ was never found and had been presumed to be eaten. Authorities have not yet confirmed a connection between the two cases.

According to MU’s own Professor Timothy Phillips, a noted authority in the area of magical circles and wards, it would have proven impossible for a demon to throw the body of the slain paladin over the wall, due to interference from the defensive wards intended to prevent an attack by such a creature from passing into the campus. Professor Phillips went on to note that the demon would have suffered physical consequences even from hammering the nails into the gate. He pointed to scorch marks around the sites of the nails to indicate where the protective wards did, in fact, discharge, conclusively proving that they were driven in by a proscribed creature.

“For a demon to repeatedly trigger the defensive spells in this fashion would have been both painful and dangerous,” the professor told this reporter. “I can only imagine great dedication or great rage guided its actions.”

Gerald Fullbeard, a graduate student in Armoury Studies at Magisterius University, was able to confirm that the demon would have had a similar reaction to handling the fallen hero’s armor and vestments.

Sir Cyrus was 47, and is survived by his mother, Mother Magda D’arby of the Blessed Hands of Amala, aged 63, and a twin brother Fenris “Deathclaw” D’arby, the presumptive ninth Lord D’arby. When asked about his position on oaths of blood vengeance, Mr. D’arby had no comment.


Gene—

You’re getting better. I’m especially looking forward to this new information you hinted at, especially if it is information and not more speculation. If you really did pick up something that the big boys missed, maybe we will get picked up after all.

But you know what this piece needs? Student reactions. It’s been days since this happened. The pops must have left some vox lying around by now. This will be our last issue before the break, let’s do it up right. Give me some reaction quotes to go with that “panic and discord” and we’ll put this thing to bed. Ask plenty of gals, and make sure you go by the bards, they can always be counted on for something dramatic.

Also, Sir Cyrus was a bachelor. Was there anyone in his life? Courtly love? Rumored romance? There’s got to be someone other than Mother Superior and “Deathclaw”.

—Ed


Wednesday, Ilix 15th, 178
Paladin Hero Slain By Demon
by Eugene Harlowe

Pandemonium struck at the end of the 178 fall semester at Magisterius University when for the second year in a row an apparent demon attack has sown panic and discord among students and educators.

“It’s been a nightmare,” according to Hyacinth Serenity Raven Vespers, a sophomore. “I lived through this once… I thought this was over. The fear. The uncertainty. The ever-present fear of death lurking just outside our comfortable walls.” Overcome with feeling, Miss Vespers had to be escorted to the healer after answering the question.

“It’s cowardly, that’s what it is,” said Todd Marcus, Esq., a junior pledged to the Order of the Blue Rose. “This creature means to sow fear, but if it ever did breach our walls it would find that more than magic defends this campus.”

Some students are seeing a silver lining.

“At least we know the wards are holding,” said Toni LaBelle, a senior. “Too bad for the people on the outside but good for us.”

Sir Cyrus, the eighth Lord D’arby was viciously slain in the attack. A paladin-errant and former monk associated with the Order of the Crimson Star, Sir Cyrus was hailed throughout the plains provinces for his gentle demeanor and work in healing the sick and his dedication to fighting the plague of ghouls endemic to the wetter parts of the region.

After he succumbed to a combination of blunt force wounds and infernal magic, his body was stripped of his regalia and nailed to the university’s main gate in an inverted spread-eagled position where it was found by traders arriving before dawn for the annual Winter Fair. His heart, torn open, was found stuffed in his mouth.

The removal of the heart from the chest coincides with the fatal attack of last Chrysanthema on Meryl Connell of Little North Branch, though in that case the method of death was simple strangulation and the organ is presumed to have been eaten. Authorities have not confirmed a connection between the two cases.

According to MU’s own Professor Timothy Phillips, an authority on circles and wards, it is impossible for a demon to throw the body of the slain paladin over the wall, due to the defensive wards. Professor Phillips went on to note that the demon suffered even hammering the nails into the gate. He pointed to scorch marks around the sites of the nails to indicate where the protective wards discharged.

“For a demon to repeatedly trigger the defensive spells in this fashion would have been both painful and dangerous,” the professor said. “I can only imagine great dedication or great rage guided its actions.”

Gerald Fullbeard, a graduate student in Armoury Studies, confirmed that the demon would have had a similar reaction to handling the fallen hero’s effects.

Although the Crimson Star was a healing order, Sir Cyrus had recently run afoul of infernal forces when an attempt to heal a mystery girl who was badly injured in a golem accident proved fatal due to an apparent infernal bloodline. Diabolists confirm that it would be “highly unusual” for a demon to show a family bond towards a human relative, but could not rule out the possibility of an agenda at work.

Sir Cyrus was 47. He lived his life in accordance with a vow of celibacy, and is survived by his mother, Mother Magda D’arby of the Blessed Hands of Amala, aged 63, and a twin brother Fenris D’arby, the presumptive ninth Lord D’arby. Mr. D’arby had no comment on the death of his brother.


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44 Responses to “OT: Epistolary 3.5”

  1. Maahes0 says:

    This was a fun read.
    The little tidbit at the end about the female demon blood dying was particularly interesting.

    Current score: 0
  2. N. says:

    Never have I been so entertained by following a trail of editing.

    Current score: 1
  3. carson says:

    I’m grinning, because my reaction to the first bit was “Gosh, that reads like a poorly written newspaper piece.” Great fun, AE!

    Current score: 0
  4. Faithless says:

    “or the neromancer’s tomb beneath Enwich,” I’m going to assume this is a typo, unless a neromancer happens to actually be a thing.

    I was about to ask if there was anyone else referenced in this story besides the LaBelle girl, but then I noticed the reporter’s name. Presumably the one that Harlowe Hall is named after?

    Current score: 0
    • Erm says:

      With some very shaky translating (using the Italian word rather than the Greek) I guess you could interpret “neromancy” as black magic. 😛

      Current score: 0
    • HiEv says:

      Another minor typo, “haverealized” needs to be two words.

      While I liked the idea of this entry, in execution I found my eyes glazing over a bit on reading near-repetitions of earlier bits. Kind of like when animation reuses footage. Still, an interesting change of pace.

      Current score: 0
  5. Oniwasabi says:

    The bit in the first editor’s reply about this reporter’s other conspiracy theories, is it supposed to be “necromancer’s tomb” or is neromancer something I am unfamiliar with? (There are a lot of magical -mancys these days and while I think its a typo I am not sure)

    Definitely an interesting diversion, poor D’arby.

    Current score: 0
  6. cnic says:

    I wonder if this Harlowe (Eugene) is related to the Harlowe dorm in anyway.

    Current score: 0
    • Brenda says:

      It’s either a significant link or a red herring, but it’s no coincidence…

      Current score: 0
      • SurahAhriman says:

        The editor’s first response indicates that Mr. Harlowe has a bit of an ax to grind over the (apparently normal) restriction of students to humans. I’d be very surprised if he didn’t turn out to be a major factor in MU opening up to non-human students.

        Current score: 1
  7. Zukira Phaera says:

    hmm the article’s author is the namesake of Harlowe Hall one would presume

    Current score: 0
  8. zeel says:

    Eugene Harlowe

    You sneaky little. . .

    Current score: 0
  9. DaemonAngel says:

    “though in that case the method of death was simple strangulation and the organ is resumed to have been eaten.”

    resumed -> presumed? Unless the demon paused for a moment.

    Current score: 0
  10. Iain says:

    Since the heart was stuffed in his mouth, I imagine the pally didn’t have such a strict adherence to celibacy after all…

    Current score: 0
    • 'Nym-o-maniac says:

      Well, that may or may not be the case. The evidence is that he needs the blood from the heart, not the heart himself, but one wonders why he’d stuff the heart in his mouth vs. eating it if that were the case.

      Current score: 0
    • Amelia says:

      I was actually going on the assumption that it wasn’t necessarily a demon, but might in fact have been his brother.
      Or persons unknown.

      Current score: 0
    • JS says:

      Many take holy vows of celibacy after they have engaged in carnal activity. The heart in his mouth does not necessarily mean anything, in and of itself. However, to draw a parallel from another popular series, Angelis broke Jenny’s neck instead of feeding on her as the ultimate eff ewe.

      Current score: 0
  11. Burnsidhe says:

    It probably has more to do with the fact the healer was male.

    Current score: 0
    • Erianaiel says:

      men can be virgins(*) too!
      At least in fact if not in their imaginations 😉

      (* the modern interpretation of the word, not the classical one)

      Current score: 0
      • Aelfgar says:

        Not the classical… nor the historical for that matter.

        The ancient Hebrew word that ‘virgin’ derives from meant that the person to which it was applied was unmarried, not that they had never “engaged in carnal activity”.

        Current score: 0
        • Brenda says:

          That doesn’t seem to be the context when Mackenzie talks about her needs.

          Current score: 0
          • Aelfgar says:

            This is very true, which just goes to show that our beloved author is using the word ‘virgin’ with it’s current contextual definition.

            Current score: 0
      • Mad Nige says:

        men can be virgins too!
        -ah, someone else who’s seen the original Wicker Man

        Current score: 0
        • Aelfgar says:

          Seen it, own it (copies of each ending), and have even portrayed the ‘Lord of Summer Isle’.

          Signed:
          Yours in Service,
          A duly ordained Druid Priest

          Current score: 0
  12. Tolai says:

    Sorry but i lost the Suspension of disbelief,
    That is entirely too far fetched an extrapolation of journalism to be believed…
    Unfortunately.

    It is good reading though,
    Thanks!

    Current score: 0
  13. 'Nym-o-maniac says:

    “I can pretend it’s just extraneous information, but we both know it’s more than that. If you want to editorialize, submit an editorial, but we both know it’s a non-starter.”

    In response to the article submitted by a Eugene Harlowe.

    Very nice, AE. Very nice.

    The LaBelle bit was great, too, and the demon blooded girl part was very interesting.

    EDIT:

    ‘“It’s been a nightmare,” according to Hyacinth Serenity Raven Vespers, a sophomore. “I lived through this once… I thought this was over. The fear. The uncertainty. The ever-present fear of death lurking just outside our comfortable walls.” Overcome with feeling, Miss Vespers had to be escorted to the healer after answering the question.’

    Ha! I just caught that. Hi there, Melanie’s first roommate and female bardic arts student.

    Current score: 0
  14. Erm says:

    Hyacinth Serenity Raven Vespers

    … Any relation to Enoby Dark’ness Dementia Raven Way? 😛

    Current score: 1
  15. pedestrian says:

    “Sir Cyrus had recently run afoul of infernal forces when an attempt to heal a mystery girl who was badly injured in a golem accident proved fatal due to an apparent infernal bloodline. Diabolists confirm that it would be “highly unusual” for a demon to show a family bond towards a human relative, but could not rule out the possibility of an agenda at work.”

    Seems to me that Alexandra has left a great big neon signed clue that the ‘mystery girl’ was one of Demon Daddy’s early attempts at reproducing demon-human hybrids. When the paladin inadvertently killed her, DD went all demonic on his sorry ass.

    Since DD probably suffered major wounds from his assault on a divinely protected ultracrepidarian, what would be a reasonable expectation for recovery? Perhaps that would be why HE doesn’t reappear until about the time of Our Mack’s mother’s adolescence?

    ‘neromancer’, yes I know it’s just a misspelling but who am I to pass up the opportunity to twist a misspelling into misschief?

    A ‘neromancer’ uses a magical harp to burn down Enwich to motivate urban renewal!

    Current score: 0
  16. TheMonkey says:

    “…the bureau classed her as of non-primary concern…”

    Non-Primary Concern?

    NPC… I love finding these.

    Current score: 1
    • Lara says:

      Haha oh my god I totally missed that, glad you pointed it out!

      Current score: 0
  17. Anthony says:

    Everyone caught the “neromancer” typo, but I can’t help but wonder what a “palladin” is… 😉

    Also, AE, is there any way you could tweak your site’s handling of the Mobile Edition? I hit “Exit the Mobile Edition” because I don’t like it, and the site respects that for a few days, and then drops me back into Ugly Mode.

    I assume it’s sending me a cookie that lasts for 3 days or something like that. If you could find some way to have it last for 10 years, it would be greatly appreciated…

    Current score: 0
  18. Tsukenobi says:

    “According to MU’s own Professor Timothy Phillips, an authority on circles and wards, it is impossible for a demon to throw the body of the slain paladin over the wall, due to the defensive wards.”

    The tense/articles seem mismatched to me. I want to change it to either be clearly abstract “it is impossible for a demon to throw a body over the wall…” or clearly modal “it would be impossible for a demon to throw the body…”.

    Is my weak ear for grammar complaining about a problem which isn’t there?

    Current score: 0
    • Brenda says:

      Well, the first sentence is even more problematic – “Pandemonium struck when a demon attack has sown panic…” I kept expecting the editor to comment on that!

      Current score: 0
    • Stonefoot says:

      No, I believe you’re correct. It could be argued that the error is fairly minor, but it is there.

      Current score: 0
    • Mad Nige says:

      … and with the change of tone to factual supported by evidence, I’d have expected “… due to the defensive wards” to be followed by something like “put in place after the body of Meryl Connell was thrown over the wall after the attack last Chrysanthema”, thus explaining the relevance of the wards.

      Current score: 0
  19. Helge says:

    I liked this. I kinda wish real life editors would work this hard. Especially the real life editor at the local University paper. 😛

    Current score: 0
    • Stonefoot says:

      Seriously! And I wish the editors of our local newspapers would not substitute spell checkers for proofreaders. The number of ‘wrong word errors’ is positively abysmal.

      Or should I say “Their are two many bad word choices that there making too be able too stand….” well you get the idea.

      Current score: 0
      • pedestrian says:

        It is my long-held opinion, that one of the major requirements for employment as a programmer for spellcheck and grammar functions is illiteracy.

        Then again, there are many times when I see the same errors constantly repeated by different authors and the context actually makes them funny, punny or at least runny. As in diarrhea of the Microsoft products.

        Current score: 0
        • zeel says:

          I don’t know what to say to this.

          I guess I will just go with “Hilaristurbing”.

          Current score: 0
  20. zeel says:

    Just figured I would drop in some info, not directly related to the chapter, but too speculation on this story arc.:

    http://www.talesofmu.com/story/book0x/483

    Ariadne’s husband was not killed in the riot, and probably not even by a demon.

    However she thinks it was, and she was (probably) involved to some extent in the riot.

    Current score: 0
  21. Readaholic says:

    Om nom nom. The beauty of this story is that any typos, grammar errors ect, can be claimed as “artistic verisimilitude…”.Not that I’m suggesting that the narrative is in any way bald and unconvincing.

    Current score: 0
  22. Lara says:

    I loved this chapter. So many delicious little tidbits.

    Current score: 0