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My Brother, My Killer PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Gisoreux de Ponthieu   
Wednesday, 14 January 2009
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My Brother, My Killer
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Chapter One: A Long Way From Home

 "Go ahead, finish it! End my wretched life of misery and pain.” His grating and deep voice boomed through the tent of leathery hides. In his eyes burned a fiery madness, -the kind only the corrupt gods can invoke- but deep inside the turmoil of his warring pupil lay a deeper emotion: a begging weariness. From within the cage of his former life it looked as if he was pleading for mercy. The young knight hesitated, torn between his own sanity and adrenalin-fuelled anger. Is this man, my brother, really devoured by the corruption? Shall I never again see his calm smile? Is  the gentleness of his eyes truly devoured by evil? His heart had become a stone just mere hours ago, bent on the destruction of this terror. The grotesque mutations, granted by the fearsome power of pestilence, had deformed that smile into a grim mass of flesh, boils and rotten teeth. The one eye not overgrown by a green pus, was bloodshot and dotted with darkish blue and purple spots; it most certainly held no gentleness. The torture of this shell of despair could be ended right here, right now, by his righteous hand but somewhere deep within, hidden beneath the layers of decaying flesh, was the man he once knew, travelled with, respected. So he did what every man would do; his hand stayed. Can a man find true redemption for his greatest sins?

From the entrance of the fiendish pavilion a silent witness watched as the man she once loved lay at sword tip on the ground, the handle held by the man her heart now belonged to. Whatever the outcome, a part of her would die today. Are there any true winners when fighting these powers? It's easy to discard these turned warriors as human, to demonise their existence and end their misery without a wink, a thought or a tear. In the end whoever this tainted creature was, once it was just a man or woman who had the misfortune to stray too far out of ignorance, guilt or sadness. The lure is just too great for us mere mortals. Once a father, a mother, a brother or sister. It's easy to freeze our emotions for these malignant beings when their face is an unknown one, their history not ours and their existence diminished to a passing event.

"Oh, brother, how did it come to this?" A lone tear ran down the young knight's cheek, more clouding his vision. "Speak to me once more, friend, for I long to hear that wisdom again. Pray, tell me, everything will be fine."
The creature grinned its wicked smile and its answer drove an icy and poisonous dagger in the knight's heart. "I ought to thank you, brother." The bloated shell stressed a lot of hatred and sarcasm in that last word before he continued. "Your betrayal threw me in the arms of the true gods, opened my eyes for the true powers. The truth: your treachery and hers made me embrace the pure forces of this world." It threw a baleful glance at the woman in the entrance who did not return the gaze but guilt-ridden averted her eyes from her former lover. "How does it feel to know what you really are? How does it.." The knight never gave the creature to finish its last sentence as the sword finally drove through the layers of pus, fat and flesh until it pierced its windpipe.

Instantly a change trespassed in the eye: it turned back to that sorrowful pearl the young knight had come to know. It is known that true redemption lies beneath that black veil of death. It is said that the last breath of the deceased hold truths and words to console or warn their beloved. Whatever monster he had become, now it were the words of a broken man, hackled by spasms of pain and gurgles of the nearing end. "And what can I tell you? My brother? My killer? What can I possibly say? I guess that I miss you. I guess I forgive you. I'm glad you stood in my way." A few more pathetic spasms and its eye turned upward, the nightmare no more. Whatever solace his last words would be in the years to come to the young knight, it made the entire situation worse at that moment. Tired of fighting, of losing and of the pain life gives us all, the once proud knight wept bitter tears for his fallen brother, memories fouling his attempts to regain his composure. How did it come to this?



Last Updated ( Saturday, 31 January 2009 )
 
Discuss (6 posts)
My Brother, My Killer Jan 14 2009 12:17
This thread discusses the Content article: My Brother, My Killer

My orginally intended work for Imperial Literature competition, it was alas delayed after working on the night of the deadline for ten hours straight. It just grew on me and I kept adding extra storylines and characters. Personally I'm very proud of this one and believe it to be my best work to date.

It all started with a song.
Re:My Brother, My Killer Jan 31 2009 11:18
Okay, this has been bugging me for a while, since the piece is on the front page and all...

Back off on the adjectives, okay? There is such a thing as purple prose. No offense meant - I'm sure the plot is fantastic - but to be frank with you this is rather painful to read. Economy of language is something to aim for. A thought exercise: go through the first few paragraphs and strip out every redundant phrase. Let me demonstrate:
1) 'wretched existence of pain and misery'. People do not talk like that. It sounds ridiculous. I understand that you don't want it to sound mundane and boring, but it's more important that dialogue sound natural than flowery.
2) 'grating and deep voice'. Pick one adjective, strike the other.
3) 'sickening tent of bloody human hides'. Too long and unnecessary. If you want to play up the setting, take a sentence or two to devote to it specifically. Otherwise, forget it. The focus of the paragraph is on the character. Don't distract the reader with a kludgy phrase like this.
4) 'the kind only the corrupt gods could invoke'. Unnecessary. Strike the entire clause.
5) 'the turmoil of his warring pupil'. Strike 'warring' at the very least; probably strike 'of his warring pupil' entirely.
6) 'From within the cages of his former self it looked as if he was pleading for mercy'. What self? The perspective is unclear. Who are these selves? In any case, put 'cage' into the singular, to match 'self', and it would probably be better to avoid blanketly telling us what his behaviour looks like. We're reading it; we can judge for ourselves.
7) 'an end to all the torment'. It's implied. Strike the entire phrase.
8) 'really forevermore devoured by the corruption'. Strike 'forevermore'.
9) 'Shall I never again see that calming smile of his nor his gentle eyes?'. Yeesh, the characters even think in torrents of unnecessary adjectives.
10) 'granted by the fearsome power of pestilence'. Ideally strike the entire phrase. We can tell it's Nurglesque. Also strike 'grotesque' from the preceding phrase. You're describing them. We know they're grotesque. We don't need it all pointed out.
11) 'The one eye not overgrown by a sickly green pus, was bloodshot and dotted with darkish blue and purple spots, it most certainly held no gentleness.'. Use a semi-colon in place of the final comma. (God, does no one in the world know how to properly use commas and semi-colons? Professionally published and edited novels make this mistake too, and I'm bloody sick of it.) Also, as before, cut down on the adjective use and descriptive clauses.
12) 'shell of disease and despair'. Strike it. Use a single word instead.
13) 'by the righteous hand that was his'. Strike it. 'by his hand' is fine.
14) 'hidden beneath the layers of decaying flesh'. Strike it. You just described said flesh. We get it. He's got Nurglesque mutations. He's ugly.
15) 'So he did what every man would do, his hand stayed.' Another place for a semi-colon, though I'd just say 'and stayed his hand'.
16) 'Can a man find true redemption for his greatest sins?'. Don't just tell us the central theme so boldly. It smacks of treating the reader like an idiot. We can figure it out, if the story is good.

So that's just the first paragraph. I would single out the next sentence, though ('From the entrance of the fiendish pavilion a silent witness watched as the man she once loved lay at sword tip on the ground, the handle held by the man her heart now belonged to' as a good example of my general complaint, though. Use short sentences and don't overuse adjectives. (Also, semi-colons are your friends, and I don't think you know what 'pray' means. You make a heartfelt plea sound like a polite request.) In terms of content, the first paragraph boils down to 'the knight looks at his brother, who's wracked by Nurglesque mutation, and is conflicted about whether or not to kill him'. I'm not saying your descriptions should be so soulless and factual, but it is true that brevity is the soul of wit. There's no music to the language in this story. The core concept is decent and you have an impressive vocabulary, but it's put together, well, wrong. And since it's on the front page, it bothers me every time I see it, otherwise I'd just file it with the rest of the 95% of fan fiction that's crud and not read it.

It's just... try reading it out loud. Listen to the rhythm of it. This is not Eye of Argon bad, but it's doing basically the same thing to the poor, innocent words. Still, I will try to be constructive. Have you ever written any poetry, Gisoreux? At the least, sit down and read some Tennyson one day, or if prose is more your thing, try Tolkien. Focus not on the words but on the way they lock together. A good writer can make a sentence beautiful not because of any of the words, but because of the way they fit together.

I apologise if this is not what you wanted to hear, but it's been nagging me enough that I feel better getting it off my chest. As it stands, I tried to read further into it than the first two paragraphs just so my criticisms could be more informed, but I cannot make it past the first page. My mind refuses to read further. You are butchering the language. You can improve, but improvement starts with criticism.
Re:My Brother, My Killer Jan 31 2009 12:50
Fair enough. Criticism is exactly what I always want to hear (and thus I critise a lot myself if people ask for my opinion on their texts) for the reason you say yourself: to improve. I've read your comments with the text next to it and made some alterations. But I do not agree with all your bullet points (though you're right in my opinion about the part of what a good writer can and does: I'm no master linguist like Tolkien and I'll just have to live with that). As it is your prerogative to comment on my text (and again: I rather want some constructive criticism then just the one 'very good read' comment), it is mine to discard what I feel isn't justified.

You know where I think where most of our disagreements in language come from? The way different cultures experience and use language. I feel that English is well suited for average to long sentences with lots of participles. Also since my mother language is Dutch, I started off with a handicap in understanding the basics and connections of English (for instance: the semi colon to which you frequently refer is not as important in Dutch as it is in English so I tend the ignore the little bugger and use a comma).

  • I partially agree (and disagree): existence is too "heavy" for the sentence so I feel life might be better suited. Also I changed the places of 'misery' and 'pain'.

  • No: grating isn't deep nor is deep grating.

  • Fair enough: the tent in itself is described later on.

  • Actually I just changed 'could' in 'can'

  • I like the image spun from that.

  • Cage is singular now but the only other change I made, is replacing 'self' with 'life'.

  • Yes, you were absolutely right.

  • Struck 'forevermore' but because I feel its function is repeated in the next sentence

  • I broke up the sentence into two: one of his smile, the other for his eyes.

  • Actually since it is not implied before, I rather keep it but I do understand your point of view. Also I like grotesque and it should be used more often.

  • Scratched 'sickly' and trust you on semi colon.

  • The middle ground: 'by his righteous hand'. Especially since the sentence does not end there.

  • I actually erased the previous mention of disease.

  • Read the entire text and tell me whether I should change it then.


  • When I saw that you had replied, I knew that it couldn't be good. That'd be a first, you see. I thought you were gunning for me once again (also because I knew you'd never read fan fiction) but after reading your comments, I have to agree that most of them are valid for which I am grateful. I'll even change the first paragraph so every time you find your way here, your heart can be lifted a little bit as you can be proud to have made a repulsive story just a tad bit less so. And no, I don't poetry because I have a hard time finding that which suits and soothes my soul (Woodsworth is my favourite). And yes, I've read Tolkien, probably a dozen times over. As I said he is great linguist and world builder but in my opinion he isn't that good in putting down realistic characters (Boo! Hisss! Blasphemy!). If I want an example on how that is to be done, I prefer Murakami.

    You are exactly the critic I'd expected you'd to be: elitarian, arrogant and obsessed with his own superiority. And mostly you are right... but sometimes for all the wrong reasons: entertainment doesn't have to be art. You don't like my fiction just as I wouldn't like yours: we're worlds apart. Still thank you (I mean it) for reading the first two paragraphs and you're valid comments.
    Re:My Brother, My Killer Feb 01 2009 01:40
    As it is your prerogative to comment on my text (and again: I rather want some constructive criticism then just the one 'very good read' comment), it is mine to discard what I feel isn't justified.

    Certainly. Do as you will. I just thought I'd have a little rant.

    You know where I think where most of our disagreements in language come from? The way different cultures experience and use language. I feel that English is well suited for average to long sentences with lots of participles.

    That sounds like it to me. I've always found that good writing is either snappy or melodic. Either you make the point of the sentence quickly and get out, or you go for the music entirely. I feel that you were waffling on a bit too much, and using words you don't need. In my opinion, that detracts from the impact of the sentences themselves.

    Put it this way: most of the time a single phrase will be making a single point. In all but the longest sentences, the sentence is making one point, and that point is encapsulated in several key words. You want to make those key words stand out. It's a matter of emphasis, and the more the sentence goes on, the less prominence each word has. When you writer a sentence, only two or maybe three words at most are going to stay with the reader. Let's take this one as an example:
    'From the entrance of the fiendish pavilion a silent witness watched as the man she once loved lay at sword tip on the ground, the handle held by the man her heart now belonged to.'
    What are the key words in this sentence? What image do you want it to conjure up in the reader's mind? 'Silent witness'? 'Lay at sword tip'? 'The man her heart now belonged to'? The sentence is cluttered. Once I've finished reading the sentence, should my mind's eye be on the woman standing at the entrance, the man at swordpoint, or the man she loves? I can't imagine all three of them at once. If I walked into that scene in the real world, I wouldn't notice all three figures at once. That would be overwhelming, so my mind would focus on them one at a time. When I read a sentence (and, I imagine, when any English speaker reads a sentence), they read to the end of the sentence before stopping. The quoted sentence should be in three distinct sections. Try something like this:
    'A silent witness watched from the pavilion's entrance. The man she had once loved lay at the sword's point; the man she now loved, held the sword's handle.
    I don't want to give you strict instructions, but from my perspective as a reader, it's much easier if you break it up into bite-sized chunks.

    (for instance: the semi colon to which you frequently refer is not as important in Dutch as it is in English so I tend the ignore the little bugger and use a comma)

    English speakers do that too, the Philistines. It bugs me.

    When I saw that you had replied, I knew that it couldn't be good. That'd be a first, you see.

    Yes, well, I do have a reputation, don't I? It's much easier to criticise than praise. If I don't have anything to say but 'this is fantastic', I'll keep my mouth closed.

    And no, I don't poetry because I have a hard time finding that which suits and soothes my soul (Woodsworth is my favourite). And yes, I've read Tolkien, probably a dozen times over.

    Wordsworth? I actually feel that he has a tendency to go on for too long. I tend to think that a poem is best when it's trying to capture a single moment. A poem is an emotional freeze-frame. Haiku are a good example; incredibly brief, but if well written, can carry a great deal of emotional torque. My favourite poem at the moment is Tennyson's Ulysses (I know, I know, cliché, but it's famous because it's good), and it's about as long as I think a poem should be; and the entire thing is devoted to exploring a single feeling.

    As I said he is great linguist and world builder but in my opinion he isn't that good in putting down realistic characters (Boo! Hisss! Blasphemy!).

    Yes, blasphemy. You do not criticise Tolkien in my presence. In any case, I wasn't talking about his characterisation but rather his descriptive ability. Take something like this:
    And with that shout the king came. His horse was white as snow, golden was his shield, and his spear was long. At his right hand was Aragorn, Elendil's heir, behind him rode the lords of the House of Eorl the Young. Light sprang in the sky. Night departed.

    The main point I'd like to make there is to do with the length of his sentences. Look at how short they are. Similarly, look at how many descriptive adjectives he uses. Very few, and all of them are short words. Since I think the main problem with your story is run-on sentences and over-use of adjectives, Tolkien makes a fine counterexample.

    You are exactly the critic I'd expected you'd to be: elitarian, arrogant and obsessed with his own superiority.

    Ha! I'll take that as a compliment!
    Re:My Brother, My Killer Feb 05 2009 14:12
    I have to echo some of the comments above, and thank FVC for articulating my concerns so well.

    I have a brother who aspires to a writing career, and he has already written a novel (albeit unpublished). I have always been bothered by his work, and your work reminds me of his style.

    It's not, I must say, because either of you lack for good ideas, but because your writing seems too... busy, I suppose. It smacks of far to much effort, both to read and write.

    When I read things I enjoy, the words flow through my mind creating a series of complementary images. It's almost like watching television, really (only much, much better). In your story the images seemed to fight each other, and did not flow smoothly. I felt like I was stumbling rather than running, if you will forgive my over use of simile and metaphore.

    I think FVC has done a good job of explaining the technical side of "why" it's not working, but I would like to comment on one of your own comments.

    "No: grating isn't deep nor is deep grating."

    You have missed the point, I think. Nobody is trying to argue that these words are identical. It is simply that you have one chance to create an image in our heads that will last for the rest of the story, and you blow it by trying to do too much.

    I think a writer relies heavily on their reader's own experinces. Every person will have their own internal idea of what a "deep" voice sounds like, even though that idea will vary from reader to reader.

    With some adjectives, you can rely on people having an internal experience of a combination. I think that we all have an idea of what a "deep, gravelly" voice sounds like, for example. But when you use comibnations that are less certain, such as a "grating, deep" voice, we have to stop and try and work out how that "looks" or "feels". Best case, we do that and come out with a weaker image than if you had just gone with one word or the other. Worst case, we don't even bother, and your character has become voiceless.

    I hope that makes things clearer, but I suspect it doesn't. Like most traditions, though, the rules of language and writing have evolved for a reason, and the fact that we no longer teach people those reasons does not invalidate the power of the rule.

    For another writer that makes powerful use of brief, even terse, prose, try Hemmingway.

    -Silent Requiem
    Re:My Brother, My Killer Mar 05 2009 01:52
    Hail mighty Lord Giseroux of Ponthieu,

    I won't deny that I had great difficulty reading the opening of your story. There was a lot of distraction in your continuously flowery wordings, at least for me.

    But by the time Simon meets Nicholas at his chapel, your writing seems to have settled down and become far more natural and easy to read, in my opinion. I am genuinely enjoying the story now, I have progressed up to Simon's training during the hunting trips with Nicholas.

    It was a thrill to read the name of the revered Repanse de Lyonesse in your story. I have bought a copy of the old Bretonnia book so I can finally learn of the great heroine, I hope it arrives soon. I note Nicholas refers to her as -the- Repanse, how interesting! I can't wait to learn why.

    Please keep writing, you are certainly improving as you practice your craft, if my amateurish tastes can gauge talent at all.

    --- Sweet Saint Repanse smile on you!
    ----Gerard the Easterner


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