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S&S: The Dreamer and the Stone

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  • S&S: The Dreamer and the Stone

    Well, here's a little something. It's abbreviated and maybe a little a confusing. I was attempting to capture some of the language and style of the golden age pulp Sword & Sorcery authors (thus the use of "thee" and "thou" and some of the strange sentance structuring).

    This is one of the pieces I had started for PX; but, I'm quite unhappy with it and although I feel a few edited/updated drafts could make it a little more pleasing to me, I just don't think this piece is up to par for my own tastes much less those of PX! 8O

    Please let me know what you think!

    The Dreamer and the Stone
    --E.F. Magnuson

    In which we learn how the Wind regained his lost Dreamstone and taste a hint of his fate.

    “The Witchstone, too I have!� Mad Therisae proclaimed in his reverberant baritone revealing the amorphous ruby to the man known as the Wind, holding it in one hand while his other held the Stone of Dreams. “And see, thou devilish immortal! I hold in my keeping also the stones of Nature, of Gardens, of Cities, and the same of Angels!� The wizard said, pointing in turn to stones of jade, saphire, yellow topaz, and moonstone on the candle-lit table behind him. “Soon, all Nine shall be arrayed in my circle and then Reality will bend to my will!�

    “But the three thou art missing,� intoned the millennia old Wind in his liquid voice, “shan’t thee ever have.�

    “Devil of Ancient Times, I warn thee not to meddle in the affairs of mortals! I have read the Laws thou an’ thy brethren agreed to, put down in stone at the birth of humanity and I shall not fear to make thee suffer greatly thy disobedience.�

    The Wind laughed and the sound, like that of his namesake, carried on it many secrets as it traveled the cool stone walls and bounced in the eddies of sound around the room. “I have found so little humor these past millennia. I thank thee for the laugh.�

    The little human’s face traveled in color from the brief pallid shade of fear to the burning red of outrage. “Thou laugh at my power?�

    “No, little-man, I laugh at thy assumption. I am no �Ancient Devil,’ as thou hast said. I am of the Siea; I am known as the Wind and the Stone-Keeper and many others besides. My name is Noodinyazhkwe and Nao’la. I am a mortal who cannot find mortality. No invocation of arcane rites can suspend my hand, nor quell my ire. I am here for thee, and for my stone; for she, as so with her various sisters, has an engagement to meet.� He took his first tentative step forward.

    Then a change came over the human, his upper eye-lids raised over now glinting eyes and his body straightened. Any fear was gone replaced with an obstinate sardonic cunning. The Wind noted with unease that the stones in the man’s hands were giving off faint glows of their respective colors.

    “I know’st thee, Nao’la. Shimmer, thy beloved Stone of Dream, has told me thy fate. Thou hast grown weary of life and have come to meet thy mortality.â€? Then the red glow of the Witchstone grew, enveloping the sea color of Sỳm’r, and bathing the candle-lit chamber in an unearthly lambent light. The sorcerer began to practice his art, chanting in a tongue mortals were not meant to utter. His powers and confidence boosted by the stones, Nao’la feared that perhaps the man was right; that he had come only to find his long elusive mortality. The thought was surprisingly pleasant.

    Sickly ooze began to bubble from the cracks and crevasses of the flagstone floor. It was black and red and green, and a hundred other colors besides. It was as though the fluids of a thousand Dead Things joined together to hold conference on the texture of the stone upon which the ooze grew. It began to coalesce, slowly solidifying—if such a term as �solid’ may be used to describe the thing that grew—into a long, prehensile limb not dissimilar from a tentacle although not quite the same. That singular limb grew into two, then four, and so on until Nao’la was faced with well over a score of the writhing objects. They reached for him and enwrapped him in their viscous embrace, their fluid melting the linen he wore and hungrily seeping through flesh.

    “See, thou Immortal Wind, Death dost call thee and thou hast welcomed her with nary a protest.�

    Yes, Nao’la stood—or rather hung, for the tentacle-thing had lifted him several feet off the ground by this time—placid at the end of his life. He welcomed the release of responsibility and anguish. It was past coming, many times in his score of human lifetimes he should have perished. Yet it never happened, always it was denied him. Not that night. That night, deep in the belly of the High City of Berأ¶l the Sea Topaz of Dreams stood against him and finally he could accept the peace he hoped death would bring.

    An unhealthy desire welled within him; not for death or even for life, but for the iridescent stone in Perrintol’s hand. At that moment he understood that Reality itself was rebelling against his death, the very Reality he had so effectively misused and dismissed for much of his long life. And the stone sang in anger, beckoning Nao’la’s freedom from the life it understood he hated. Nao’la then loved the stone, for never in his many years has he known such empathy. Even as he felt ribs beginning to crack from the crush of the tentacle-thing and his conscious self waited with greedy thirst for death his deepest sub-conscious determined with sorrow that it cannot permit Nao’la’s death at this time.

    The Weddians of Southern Lorraine call him He-Who-Dreams, and the name is apt; for just as the Dreamstone reaches into the world of imagination to bend and twist reality, so to does Noodinyazhkwe.

    His bones became like iron, and his flesh stone. A mighty gale grew from nowhere to pummel the thing that held Noodinyazhkwe. It tore the not quite solid thing into a thousand pieces rendering them harmless by driving against them until they returned as liquid to the cracks from whence they came. The floor waved below him, tilting and rising to squarely meet his feet. The floor rolled back bearing the Dreamer’s soles with it. Noodinyazhkwe stood once more before the stones and their bearer.

    “So thou art not yet consigned to thy death.�

    “Eager for it. I suppose I simply crave Sỳm’r more than my death.â€?

    The blue-green radiance of Sỳm’r exploded in the room drowning out all other illumination and lowering a sea-like filter of color over the eyes of the men facing each other. She asserted her dominance over the man holding her and over her sister stone.

    Dreamer stood facing Dreamstone.

    The magic in the room broke, for the laws of reality upon which it relied became mutable and unstable in the wake of the random un-realities Stone and Siea shaped around themselves. The Dreams of Noodinyazhkwe and Sỳm’r combated one another on a frequency completely removed from the world of experience. The room compressed to nothingness even while it expanded to infinity. The city crumbled to ruin around their powerful imaginations and grew again in an instant. The perceptions of the onlookers and bystanders carrying on their business throughout Minأ¶l noticed the slightest tick, like a feeling of profound dأ©jأ  vu, as their existences were snuffed out only for them to be reborn on the spot of their demise. The world quaked and thrashed, all in response to imagination. The conflict stretched to eternity across all realities and many un-realities.

    A moment later Therisae looked down to see only the muted red glow of the Witchstone, still resting in his hand.

    “Thou see, young Perrintol,� the Wind intoned in his somber voice, “I can reshape all of existence with a thought and the multiverse answers my desire. I will for my death, and she finds a way to defeat me.�

    “The stone…� It was an awed question, little more than a sigh coming from the human’s mouth. In answer Noodinyazhkwe raised his hand revealing to the sorcerer the shifting hues of the Dream Stone.

    “She has returned to me.�

    Looking down at the Witchstone, Therisae’s manner once again changed as he realized that although the mighty Sỳm’r was lost to him; the other five were still his. Noodinyazhkwe watched as the man’s mind tried to grasp the possibilities before him. He could see the man struggling with his own dreams, more mundane dreams than those Noodinyazhkwe commands. The human’s goals were beginning to unravel and he understood it; yet he still held in his possession the keys to becoming the most powerful sorcerer in an age. Therisae glanced over his shoulder at the other four stones arrayed on the table, each glowing its own faint light in reaction to the battle their sister had just fought. With them and the Witchstone he could quell the corruption of the Republic; he could end the wars that consume the lands and her peoples; he could bring a new Age upon the world.

    Noodinyazhkwe knew all of this. He could see it in the man’s posture and read it in the man’s mind. The glint in the Sorcerer’s eyes belied the hope he maintained. The reflected red glow of the Witchstone gave the man a look of sheer ambition and unholy power. Yet still, he could not bring himself to worry about the fate of humanity; they were not his people. Sỳm’r moaned agreement in his mind; leave humanity to its own battle. “Do as thou wish, Perrintol. I have what I came for and no longer care for your fate.â€?

    Pocketing the stone, the Wind turned and left, leaving the human to ponder his own ambitions.

    * * *

    Three years later, the Wind found himself facing Therisae again; this time against his will.

    All Humanity believed he would save them from the Mad Sorcerer; and even with the Dreamstone he could not fight that belief…
    "In omnibus requiem quaesivi, et nusquam inveni nisi in angulo cum libro"
    --Thomas a Kempis

  • #2
    When I read the “warning� about the language, I was a bit worried that I might not enjoy it, but I think you handled that side of things very well. I mean, if I attempted to write that style of dialogue it would be very stilted and fake, but it seemed “natural� in this story. An excellent standard of word-smithery all around, in fact. There have been various debates about the vocabulary of S&S in other threads, and I would say that the above is a fine example of eloquent, “poetic� writing, which doesn’t get in the way of the story. It’s not the sort of thing I’d normally be drawn to, but once I was in, I was hooked. It was such a strange “battle�, that the outcome was always unpredictable, and that makes for a compelling read. Obviously if it’s framed as part of a longer piece, then the unpredictability would be reduced, but… well, let’s just say I envy you and leave it at that, before I get too sulky! :)
    "That which does not kill us, makes us stranger." - Trevor Goodchild


    • #3
      it's colored dunsany, i think?

      i coudn't pull off the language, either! but the attempt is great because you began and finished the tale!

      DeeCrowSeer: no sulking. that's my department. ;)


      • #4
        I think there's something promising here. I'm certainly intrigued. It read better as it went on, but still awkward in some places.

        If you are going to use archaic pronouns and conjugations you need to pay attention to the diction overall, be consistent, and be correct.
        • "I thank thee for the laugh." - This just jars - the idiom is just too modern. (It would work in comedy, maybe: "Art thou up for it, thou muppet?")

          "Thou laugh at my power?" - I think this should be, "Thou laughest at my power?"

          "But the three thou art missing," intoned the millennia old Wind in his liquid voice, “shan’t thee ever have." - I think this shoud end, "shan’t thou ever have" (or better: "thou shallt never have": avoid contractions). Thee is to thou as me is to I: Thou givest the stone to me; I give the stone to thee. ("I am here for thee", "Death dost call thee and thou hast welcomed her" are perfectly fine.)

          "I know’st thee, Nao’la." - I think this should be "I know thee, Nao'la.": "-est" endings are second person, not first.

          "Thou see, ..." - I think this should be, "Thou seest, ...": "-est" ending.

          "She has returned to me." - I think this should be, "She hath returned to me.": "-eth" endings for third person. Although thou/-est persisted longer in living English, so you could treat the third person as in modern English and get away with it.
        There are (probably) others...

        Sorry to drag thee over the coals on this, but I think that if thou canst not do this well, thou wouldst be better not doing it at all: it becometh too intrusive. (Although, I suppose, many a reader doth not know the difference.)



        • #5
          Thank you very much for the feed back, Ant. Most helpful. I'll be certain to make those corrections and any others I find when I write the final, full length draft.

          Do you have any impressions aside from the dialogue?

          I can say that the problem I have with this particular tale is that you do not get a real good impression of the character (The Wind/Nao'la/Noodinyanzhkwe). Perhaps I'm the only one who sees this because the Wind as a character has been with me for twelve years, so I know him intimately; but I still have the feeling that it is underdeveleped. Also, from this story it is hard to tell the relationship between Nao'la and the Dreamstone and between Therisae and the Witchstone. I was trying to keep the tale short, but I think it is one that is just too complex to properly convey in 1600 words (I was shooting for 1000, but that just didn't work). I hope that by expanding it to a consise 5000 words it will play out much smoother.

          Before I spend hours working on it, though, I'd really like to hear if there are any questions you have or pacing issues any of you feel I need to correct. Also, does the use of the archaic dialogue hurt the story?
          "In omnibus requiem quaesivi, et nusquam inveni nisi in angulo cum libro"
          --Thomas a Kempis


          • #6
            I often have a problem with deliberate archaism. I'm not troubled by strange vocabulary (my own has been called strange enough), but deliberate archaism CAN be a bit annoying because it constantly calls attention to itself. I've found that a little bit can go a long way -- analogous in some fashion to utilising dialect or phonetic spelling, which similarly draws the reader up short when encountered. (Perdix had to cope with my objections to this when he asked me to read a story he had written.)

            Writing in an antique mode, where one constantly makes use of the English second person singular (thou), is risky. It's important to understand when it's used and how. Ant makes very good points about keeping the verbs in proper agreement with the subject. (Thank you, Ant. It was driving me nuts as I read it. I know, I'm too picky about such things.) The issue about when it is used is the second part of this. "Thou" was typically used only between people on very close terms of intimacy, or to show condescension. I'm not sure it's appropriate in this context, or at least not throughout. There is nothing wrong with having the characters say "you" to one another, yet keep the diction classically formal and ceremonious.

            Consider another point, too. E. R. Eddison is probably the writer who, in my opinion, wrote in a deliberately archaic style and carried it off the best. The characters speak in a deliberately archaic style, but this isn't jarring, at least in part because the interstitial narrative is in a similar style. This can get wearisome if not handled with assurance, which is probably why so few people try it. That's one reason The Worm Ouroboros is a bit of a tour de force.

            To see an unsuccessful handling of deliberately archaic diction in dialogue and narrative (independent of Eddison), look at Hodgson's The Night Land.

            Mes 0,02 euros.



            • #7
              When it comes to *suggesting* archaism rather than indulging in it all out, I'd like to see if Dee would care to say something on the subject. Dee actually has a lot of skill in these matters, if no one else has noticed (take your bow, Dee, and let's move forward).

              Speaking from personal practice, when I want to suggest archaism without actually reverting to the language of Sir Thomas Mallory, I use formal diction, and carefully avoid any hint of slang or idiom, or use only idioms that might be recognizable from Shakespeare and Marlowe's time.

              If you drop in a piece of random modern slang, it can have a humorous, deflationary effect on your carefully constructed scene. This can be an entertaining comic device, of course. De Camp & Pratt used it in The Complete Enchanter (it was mostly De Camp). Zelazny used it to good effect (mostly for comic relief) in Nine Princes in Amber. So it's a good tool, but it should be employed deliberately rather than accidentally, and with thought to the final effect.



              • #8
                I was thinking about many of the points you brought up while I was writing it. I made the decision to carry on with it as an experiment. I'm happy to hear that the experiement failed; not only because I didn't maintain agreement between case and pronoun but it is obviously way too distracting for the reader. So far, the archaic dialogue is the only thing I've gotten comment on, so right there is enough to convince me to get rid of it! :D
                "In omnibus requiem quaesivi, et nusquam inveni nisi in angulo cum libro"
                --Thomas a Kempis


                • #9
                  I wouldn't call the remarks about the archaic dialogue objections so much as *questions*. The question I ask is, Do you really want to do this because you find it essential to your purposes? Sometimes the answer is, "Yes."

                  I tend to call questions about diction and simple construction and POV "technical" problems. They can often be adjusted pretty easily.

                  The questions beyond the "technical" were addressed, in part, by Dee. (Who seems to have found the work reasonably effective.) Perhaps others will weigh in. I want to wait until you have what you regard as your "final" draft.



                  • #10
                    Like LSN said, this kind of stuff is minor technical adjustments at the editorial level. Using archaic idiom for archaic characters is a valid technique, you just need to hone your 'ear' for such stuff, perhaps by reading/refering to Morte d'Arthur for modernised middle English idiom, or Shakespeare for a later period. The archaic diction will work, you just need it double checked by an editor with an ear for such stuff, or train your own sense of it by choosing a period to emulate and reading a couple of books from that period.

                    I did feel that I wanted to know more about the characters and the mythology of the stones as I was reading. I'd certainly like to read your expanded version of the tale. Your opening technique reminds me of the way CAS opened a lot of his tales, very suitable for this kind of short story.


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by EverKing
                      ... So far, the archaic dialogue is the only thing I've gotten comment on, so right there is enough to convince me to get rid of it! :D
                      Well, you did call attention to it!

                      LSN makes a good point about formal "you" v. informal "thou" - but this was only post Norman conquest. See: >Wikipedia<.

                      I'll read the piece afresh tomorrow & give you some more comments.



                      • #12
                        Pre-Norman Conquest, they were speaking Anglo-Saxon, of course, which is a rather different language.

                        The distinction between usage of thou/you exists in modern German, of course (du/Sie); other Germanic languages, too. A similar distinction existed in French (tu/vous) but it has been steadily eroded over the decades, and now one uses "tu" with people who are not all that close a lot of the time.



                        • #13
                          Or if you go for Elizabethan you can probably dispense with the use of thou entirely a lot of the time in dialogue involving questions ie 'dost thou' becomes 'dost' as in 'dost think me mad, sirrah?' And 'art thou' becomes 'art' as in 'art mad, sirrah?'

                          E R Eddison in particular had a real flair for archaic diction, though at the time it was published in 1924 The Worm Ouroborous wasn't very popular, and didn't even sell out it's initial print run I believe.


                          • #14
                            Quite right, Mouser. The age of Shakespeare and Marlowe is the period (if memory serves) when usage of "thou/thee" was beginning to decline. By 1650 or so (as I recall the linguistic history) it was used only in specialized situations, and in a few linguistic backwaters. Shakespeare is an interesting source record of the pattern of usage of the time. Sometimes, he uses it to indicate degree of intimacy, but at others, it's not so constrained.

                            By the way, congratulations, Mouser. You were the 5,000th poster in Enclave.



                            • #15
                              EverKing wrote:
                              The sorcerer began to practice his art, chanting in a tongue mortals were not meant to utter.
                              Good Line EverKing. :D

                              "With a deep, not-unhappy sigh, Elric prepared to do battle with an army." (Red Pearls)
                              - Michael Moorcock