Incarnation

Submitted into Contest #151 in response to: Write about somebody breaking a cycle.... view prompt

74 comments

Fantasy Adventure Teens & Young Adult

Today is my coronation. My thirteenth birthday.

Tomorrow is the day I die.

I grip the howdah’s railing as the elephant lurches down the Way of Heroes. I wave to the people lining the broad, cobbled street. I’m thankful for the parasol, shielding me from the searing sun.

“They love you,” says the man beside me, gripping my shoulder. Yesterday, he was King Henloc. Today, he abdicated. Tomorrow, he will be king again.

Thousands watch us pass, cheering, waving, and celebrating the Sacred Coronation. Behind them the sandstone buildings and granite spires of the city sprawl. Snaking between them are the brass tubes that carry the steam which powers everything. Red-robed priests of the Cult of the Sacred Flame tend to them, keeping the boilers hot.

“You are truly our hero,” says the other man on the howdah. Madaron, Archon of the Sacred Flame. The wizened Cult leader, pillar of the community, and my lifelong mentor. The only father I’ve ever known.

I serve the Flame as all do, but today his words give me little strength. I feel a chill inside.

***

In the throne room, I hold court. For one day.

“The lands will be split along the Leswyn River,” I say, resolving a decades-long dispute between brothers. Both Duke Arfach and Duke Ardavin bow to me.

“Yes, Majesty,” they say. “You are wise.”

Our lines are rehearsed. This dispute was resolved six hundred years ago, and the dukes are long dead. Today, they are played by Count Isander and Sir Carr.

I play King Adric, the Champion of the Sacred Flame, the Revenant Saint. I am him.

Thirteen petitioners sought Adric at his coronation, forging the Thirteen Laws. The dukes were the last of them, and we’ve played our parts as ritual demands.

“You’ve done well,” says Madaron. He sits to the left of my throne, the wise regal counsel. Henloc sits to my right, today merely an advisor.

Madaron rises and stands before my throne. All grow quiet. I know what comes next, but he too must play his role. He bows, then slams his brass-tipped staff thrice against the marble.

“Ill tidings, Majesty.”

“Speak,” I say.

“The earth shakes, and the Wyrm Grah-Nun stirs! It means to end us!”

I rise. I’ve rehearsed this countless times in the Cult temples, where I grew up.

“Then I shall face it in battle!” I cry. “My people, I swear to you – as long as I draw breath, Grah-Nun will not harm you!”

The court cheers. Two more cultists come forward. They carry a large pillow between them. Upon it lays Singing Heart – the titan-bone sword Adric wielded. They present it to me, and I feel the chill again.

This sword is mine. I am Adric. The thirty-fifth Incarnation of him.

But this… it’s the original Singing Heart. Older than any kingdom, sharper than regret. It’s among the holiest relics, and touching it is a death sentence for all. All except me, Adric.

It’s a pallid sickle carved from a single bone, etched with ancient runes. Surprisingly light when I lift it.

The court cheers, then disperses. Today’s ritual is complete.

“I am proud of you,” Madaron says.

I nod, but my throat is tight.

“You are entitled to a favour,” says Henloc. “As is tradition.”

“Yes,” says Madaron. “Today you are king, and kings have privilege.”

I have been schooled endlessly on this ritual, and I know perfectly what my privileges are. Today, I am indeed king, and I could order any kingly thing. But I am King Adric, and I have a duty to my people. My request will be small, as it always has been. As it always will be.

“I’d like…” I begin, struggling to find the words. What could I possibly ask for? Tomorrow, I will fulfill my sainthood. Is there a nobler thing than to die with purpose, for those you serve and love?

“I’d like to know…” But the prospect of death frightens me more than I ever thought possible, and there are so many things I don’t know – won’t ever know. “Who was I? Who were my birth parents?”

Madaron begins at once, “You are the thirty-fifth Incarnation–”

“–Madaron,” says Henloc. “It’s such a small favour for the boy that bears all our burdens.”

Madaron ponders, sighs deeply. “The Will of the Flame is mysterious. So be it. Know, and be at peace.”

Henloc turns to me. “Your parents were fishers from Inden. Elgar and Tara. They named you Derin and they loved you very much.”

I feel a pain in my heart, an unbearable pinch I don’t want to end.

“Keep them in your heart,” Henloc says. “Know that your sacrifice is as much for them as it is for us all.”

***

I’m granted the royal chambers for my last night, a night meant for communing with the Sacred Flame and sleeping restfully. I’m unable to do either. The chambers are lavish but I’m drawn to the balcony.

Above, I see stars. In the distance, the Mountain of the Wyrm. Where I go tomorrow. Where Grah-Nun waits for me. Where I face him, as I’ve done thirty-four times before. And where I die.

My sacrifice will save the kingdom. I will buy them time. Until another seventeen years pass.

In four years, they’ll start looking for the next Incarnation. Then he’ll – I’ll – train in the temple for the rest of my life, until my coronation.

I wonder if it was hard for Elgar and Tara. They had a duty just like everyone. Were they proud? Will they celebrate tomorrow?

I hear a noise. The scuff of soldiers’ boots, muffled shouting. On this night, nobody is allowed to disturb me. Doing so carries a heavy sentence.

The chamber doors open, and Isabel storms through. The guards follow her, then hesitate – for they are also not allowed within – and they look miserable.

“Your Majesty, please!” says one.

“Back to your post!” Isabel says. They obey, closing the doors. Because disobeying Henloc’s daughter, too, carries a heavy sentence.

“Isa!” I say. I smile despite what looms before me. I didn’t realize how parched I was for friendship.

She stomps to me, red-cheeked, her fists balled. She grabs me in a crushing hug and I feel her stifling her crying.

She’s about a year older than me, and we’ve known each other almost all our lives. There were never many children in the palace, and there were none, save me, in the temples. As a royal and an Incarnation, we were always separate from the others. We made natural friends.

“Isa, it’s all right.”

“It’s not!” she says, pulling back. She knuckles tears. “None of this is right. I don’t want you to go. I don’t want you to die!”

I swallow hard. “Isa… we must all serve–”

Shh! Listen. Adric went to fight the Wyrm, not to die. That’s the story.” She grabs my tunic and pulls us close. “Promise me that. Promise me you’ll fight.”

True, Adric meant to win, to slay the Wyrm and save us forever. But he fell. Could I possibly finish what he – I – started? I don’t want to die, but I doubt the other thirty-four Incarnations wanted to either.

“I promise,” I say. I mean it.

There’s another commotion. No doubt the guards informed Isabel’s father. She looks at me one more time, and kisses me. And then she’s gone, hurrying to the door and out of it. When it slams shut I am alone.

I still feel her lips on mine. A quick peck, chapped and hurried and raw. Yet it burns hotter than the Sacred Flame ever did.

***

I see her again next morning, on the Steps of Sacrifice. It’s the winding mountain path that leads to the Cave of Grah-Nun. Today, she plays the role of Lady Emelesse, who gave Adric her favour.

The throng of townsfolk at the base of the Steps cheer, witnessing the ritual. Isa ties Emelesse’s silk scarf around my arm. Neither of us are permitted words, but her tears speak louder than thunder.

I head up the path, Madaron ever my shadow. I am to meet my seven generals, the brave men who fought and fell alongside me. Traditionally they are played by criminals. By partaking in the ritual, they are permitted an honourable death.

The first six generals speak their lines, and I mine. Each is chaperoned by two guards and a cultist. The cultist’s role is Grah-Nun’s wrath. He slits the general’s throat. The people cheer as each general falls, blood spurting onto the parched mountain.

The seventh general is different. A free volunteer – I can tell because he has no guards. It is an honourable, sacred death, and sometimes honourable men seek it out. I don’t recognize him.

“Majesty,” he says. His voice trembles.

“Caspian,” I say, greeting an old friend I’ve never met.

“The East is lost,” he says. “Allow me to reinforce them. To…” – he swallows – “to buy you time.”

“Godspeed, Caspian,” I say. We shake hands as old warriors do. His grip is strong, desperate, and I feel something bite into my palm. I resist flinching – I’ve practice this role my whole life – but something’s gone off script. He’s not letting go and his eyes are wild.

“Your father and mother love you!” he blurts.

I’m stunned. Madaron is not. I feel him signal, and Caspian’s cultist strikes. A flick of the wrist, and a line of red blooms along Caspian’s neck.

Blood splatters my arm, and Caspian falls to his knees. Even as the townsfolk cheer, even as the last of his strength fades and he collapses, he keeps his eyes locked on mine. And then, he is still.

“Keep moving,” Madaron says, for my ears only. His voice is controlled fury, and when I move on he stays behind, berating the cultist chaperone. The Coronation is our most important ritual, and Madaron takes it seriously. As I do. I should be outraged at this stranger’s deviation from the cycle.

But all I feel is dread. Was he…? I can’t even think the thought through. I have work to do.

I still feel something in my hand. He gave me a little black leaf, steel-hard, on a leather cord. A necklace, maybe? A final gift, from family I never knew? I put it on.

***

The tunnels are dark. Madaron and the cultists follow me, lighting the way with flickering fires hovering over their palms. They will witness the ritual. Every seventeen years, the Wyrm stirs. Every seventeen years, Adric faces him, and falls. My death sates the beast for another cycle.

We come to a monolithic chamber, too big for our light to illumine. I see a ring of stones marking a circle on the ground, and when I look behind me, Madaron nods.

“We cannot follow you past the threshold,” he says. I am the third Incarnation he’s brought here. His burden is unenviable.

I step past the stones, alone. The ground here is ash… and bone. Charred bone. The bones of hundreds, perhaps thousands. But I don’t see any sign of the Wyrm. And then I do.

My eyes adjust to the darkness, and at the edge of the light, I see him. A colossal, elongated skull, with teeth the size of horses. A ribcage big enough to fit a barn. Arms and legs and skeletal wings bigger than imagination. He could crush the entire royal palace with his mere presence.

But… it’s all bone. Dead bone and silence.

I look back and I see the cultists forming a line.

“What is this?” I ask. Am I meant to fight… a corpse?

“When Grah-Nun attacked, Adric met him in battle,” Madaron says. “He fell, where you stand. But Adric was not alone. There were others with him. The forebears of the Cult. And… we won.”

I don’t know what he’s saying, and I can barely hear him over the sudden drumming of my own heart. I was raised in the temples. I know all of our stories. This? This isn’t one of them.

“Behold,” Madaron says, motioning to one of the skeletal arms. I see it’s manacled, bound with enormous chains. “We shackled the monster, and turned his dread might to something productive.”

“I don’t understand,” I say.

“Adric,” he says, “you’re a son to me. You always were, each time. You deserve the truth. What you see here, this beast: this is the Sacred Flame. It’s Wyrmfire.”

I look from Madaron to the cavernous skeleton. None of this makes sense. The Sacred Flame is from the gods, it’s divine. It’s not some Wyrmish devilry.

Is it?

“You understand,” Madaron says, “why we keep this a secret, yes? It’s a powerful gift for humanity, but there are few who could accept the truth. The necessity.”

I swallow hard. “But… then why the ritual? If we’ve slain Grah-Nun… why am I here?”

Madaron chews his words. “We’ve shackled him, yes, but he’s not slain. We need him to keep fueling the Cult.” Madaron sighs. “His flame is like any other. It burns bright and then fades to an ember. Every seventeen years, we must rekindle it.”

The cultists all shift, each raising a palm in my direction.

“I’m sorry, Adric,” Madaron says. “Immolate him.”

The cavern erupts in firelight as twenty-one jets of white flame all converge on me. My scream is lost over the roar, and all I pray for is a quick death. I feel a shock of heat, and then–

–and then, a comfortable cool. I open my eyes, and I see fire swirl around me, dancing over my skin and clothes. It spirals towards that black-leaf amulet around my neck. I feel fine, but the amulet is warm. It glows, too bright to look at.

The jets of fire die out.

“What is this!?” Madaron shouts.

I pull the amulet out, and all around me I see bits of ash rising from the ground, burning bright. Floating to the skeleton and sticking to it. A monster un-burning, its flesh reforged.

“A Wyrm scale!” Madaron shouts. “Kill him! Get it away from the bones!”

Cultists rush into the ash circle, curved knives held high. I don’t know what to do, but I’ve been spared once and I’m not about to waste it. I still have Singing Heart, my sword. I no longer know what’s true and what isn’t, but I gamble on freedom. I decide to fight – not just my fate, but the story itself. I run towards Grah-Nun’s arm, and I slash at its manacle. The ancient iron splits.

And Grah-Nun moves. The free arm rises. The cultists stop. Even Madaron is frozen with his jaw hanging.

I don’t waste time and run to the next arm, cutting it free.

By now the ash is a fiery rain falling upwards, into the beast. Great tracts of its flesh have regenerated. With reformed lungs, he roars. It’s loud enough to level a city, and we fall to the ground.

The cultists scramble to their feet and flee. Madaron too. Grah-Nun exhales a blast of fire that eclipses the sun. The very rocks ignite. I run from him, and he breaks the last of his chains.

The cave burns and I can’t see the exit. I face the Wyrm, his body covered with shimmering scales, and I know I am lost. Where did Adric the First get his courage? This was an impossible battle.

“Foolish mortal,” Grah-Nun says, his voice deep as the roots of the mountain. “What did you hope to accomplish? Dared you dream that I would spare you?”

I cough. “I…” I don’t know why I did it. Fear of dying? “I… No.”

“An eon of bondage,” he rumbles, lumbering towards me. “It must be punished.”

I backpedal. I see the face of a father I didn’t know. I see Isa, crying.

“S-spare them,” I say, between coughs.

Grah-Nun draws himself up. He is a mountain.

What?

“My life for theirs,” I say. “That’s… the story. Adric’s blood sates the beast.”

A horrid chuckle boils in his throat. “Last time I made a deal with Adric, I was enslaved.” He snarls. “No, mortal. Never again.”

“Then make a deal with Derin! P-please! I freed you!”

He snorts. “I applaud your willingness to sacrifice for others, yes. Even if it is youthful foolishness. Very well. Your life is mine. Adric I shall slay, but Derin I shall spare. It will be a hard life, now that the leeches no longer draw my blood, but a rewarding one if you meet its challenges.”

He inhales, the deafening roar of a waterfall, and the flames in the cavern die down. I see the passage again. Then he extends one hand to me, one wagon-sized claw hovering over my head. “I hereby crown thee King Derin the First, the Wyrmfire King. You and your kin are mine forevermore. Go forth and rule in my name, and with my blessing.”

I’m alive… but am I free? I leave the cave while I can, and hope battles dread each step I take. Have I traded one cycle for another? The mountain sky opens before me, stretching forever. I choose hope.

Today I fought. I freed us.

Tomorrow I’ll meet any challenge with my head held high.

June 20, 2022 02:02

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74 comments

Riel Rosehill
11:08 Jun 22, 2022

Oof loved the plot twist in this! The story was so engaging, and I was hooked from the start - tomorrow is the day I die is an excellent hook! This world you created, with this tradition and the cult was sooo intriguing, but I didn't see it coming, that the opponent was long defeated and it was all the cult's self-serving ritual! Nicely done... I wonder, what happens to the other king now? PS. Loved the phrase "sharper than regret".

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Michał Przywara
21:23 Jun 22, 2022

Thanks, Riel :D Yeah, I'm not sure what happens with the other king now either. Sounds like trouble. Legally, Derin has the crown. Religiously, he finished what he set out to do 600 years ago, but he also broke the religion. Practically, Henloc is a rich dictator with a (probably) loyal army. Isabel is torn, and the city is crippled by the loss of steam power. Who knows, maybe something to expand on one day :) I'm glad you liked it!

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Riel Rosehill
21:51 Jun 22, 2022

Sounds like we need a sequel! 😃

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H L Mc Quaid
12:46 Jun 22, 2022

Like Derin, I am blown away. Top tier storytelling. Starting with a mystery the readers satisfyingly piece together. Then creating an empathetic hero, building an immersive world and fascinating mythology. Adding elements of suspense, and then BAM! Action, action, action. Resolution. aahhh. I'll be over here smoking my imaginary cigarette. In terms of critique. I didn't know what a howdah was, so it was tricky for me to picture what was going on ('course I could google it, but then that takes me out of the story). Wondering if there's ...

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Michał Przywara
21:26 Jun 22, 2022

Thanks so much! Heh, I actually had the sword be a "bone-white sickle carved from a single bone" at one point, in case it wasn't abundantly clear we were dealing with bones :P It's definitely good to proof read. I appreciate the critiques. Glad you enjoyed it :D

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Sue Hunter
21:28 Jun 21, 2022

This is literally so good! It's descriptive, it's suspenseful, and I loved every second of it! I would read a whole book on this, that's how engaging it was. Great work!

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Michał Przywara
21:34 Jun 21, 2022

Thanks, Sue! I had to cut quite a bit to make the 3k limit, so maybe this one does have the potential to be longer. Either way, I'm glad you enjoyed it, and I appreciate the feedback!

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Howard Halsall
17:41 Jun 22, 2022

Hey Michal, I loved reading your latest story…. What a tale it is too. You certainly have a talent for world building and creating layers of mythology in a Tolkienesque way that is reminiscent of Lord of the Rings. I loved the intriguing introduction and you maintained the pace throughout except for the ending; gaining another chance for Derrin’s people. Maybe you could have raised the stakes somehow? But still I impressed and wonder if you have plans to expand the idea to a longer work? Take care HH

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Michał Przywara
00:22 Jun 23, 2022

I've updated the ending. Less exposition, and I think a neat complication for the future. Freedom isn't exactly free anymore. I'd love to know what you think, if you have time to give it a once over. The changes start more or less after: “Foolish mortal,” Grah-Nun says And if you don't, that's totally understandable too. Thanks :D

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Michał Przywara
21:33 Jun 22, 2022

Thanks, Howard! You're not the first to point out the ending, and I think I agree, it could use some more impact. I'll see if I can rework it, as there's still a few days to go. I don't have any immediate plans for expanding this to a longer work, but I definitely see the potential for it. Indeed, when I think "what happens next?" I see no shortage of problems. A city that lost its easy source of power, a people whose faith has been shattered, two kings where there can only be one, personal problems... Yeah, there's room here for a story. ...

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Craig Westmore
13:36 Jul 03, 2022

Thinking about Howard's comment to raise the stakes, if this remains a short story then the ending is fine. I hope, though, that there will be more. In which case you'll want to end on a new challenge. Something like, the worm demanding a sacrifice to show Derin's loyalty. Although I wouldn't have it be the princess, as that would be cliche. Maybe his birth parents? Well, I've said enough. I'll leave that to you.

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Michał Przywara
16:19 Jul 03, 2022

Howard was right in his observations, and a couple other readers (J.C. Lovero and A.G. Scott) pointed out the same thing. The story you read actually had its ending revised twice since the originally posted version, and the first ending did fall flat. I'm satisfied with the current one, but I agree with you. If this were a longer work, this wouldn't be an ending so much as a new beginning with all sorts of new troubles.

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J.C. Lovero
02:43 Jun 22, 2022

oooh a fantasy entry from you!!! Loved the setup here. Those first three sentences immediately HOOKED me into the rest of the story. There was a lot of great stuff to unpackage here. You build a very nice world with a history of rituals, king after king falling, one cycle after the next. It's funny how we just accept things because "that's the way we've always done it." Very relatable to our own world, fantastical or not. Was this part of a larger piece of work? I only ask because the end feels a little rushed for me. I do find myself str...

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Michał Przywara
21:03 Jun 22, 2022

Thanks J.C.! I really appreciate the read and feedback. First things first: "if any of this is no good for you" -- never! One of the reasons I'm here is to improve, and I'm sure we can all always become better. So, I'll not decline constructive criticism. Incidentally, I think I agree with you (and a couple other readers, it seems :). The ending doesn't quite have the impact the rest of the story does, which is maybe backwards. I don't know if I'll be able to improve it, but there's a few days left in this contest. The story's not part ...

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Michał Przywara
00:27 Jun 23, 2022

I've reworked the ending. I couldn't quite fit in the thirteen-year-old angst, which could probably be a whole story itself -- maybe in a follow up? -- but I did retool things to be less of an exposition dump at the end, and more of a desperate negotiation with consequences. Hopefully it's more impactful. I'd love to hear your take, if you have the time. But either way I appreciate the feedback :D If you did want to take another look, the revised ending starts more or less at: “Foolish mortal,” Grah-Nun says

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J.C. Lovero
03:05 Jun 23, 2022

Hello there! I like what you've done to the ending. Definitely feels more like a trade-off than being handed a victory outright. Couple of thoughts from me, both relating to the last paragraph: Hope battles dread each step I take, but hope wins out. (this sentence read a little clunky for me. Maybe it is the double "hope" and the construction of the first independent clause?) I’ve broken the cycle, and whatever the future brings, I’ll be ready for it. (I wonder if you could maybe even punctuate the trade-off even more here with a questio...

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Michał Przywara
21:49 Jun 23, 2022

Thanks so much for all the help :)

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J.C. Lovero
14:21 Jun 25, 2022

You're welcome! Fingers crossed you snatch another win with this fantasy. 😎

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A.G. Scott
03:46 Jun 20, 2022

You put a good kid in a bad situation and gave him some relationships (one tangible, a couple stolen away) for us to empathize with. Recipe for success in my book. It does so often feel like our rituals and rules are based in ancient deceits. Change is hard; I hope it will prove to be worth it. Awesome through and through, might be the best-written high fantasy I've seen here. My only complaint is that the wyrm's mercy comes a little too easily in my view--if there was a way to have Derin bargain, or make a case for why his people deserve ...

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Michał Przywara
21:19 Jun 20, 2022

Thanks, A.G.! Your feedback has made my day :D I'm actually inclined to agree with you about the ending, and word count was definitely a factor here. This story was already cut by ~800 since the previous draft, and even now it's dangerously close to the limit. There's still some time before the week's up, so maybe I'll come up with something that packs a bit more of a punch. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts!

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Michał Przywara
00:29 Jun 23, 2022

I've reworked the ending. I think it's less of a free ride now, and more of a desperate negotiation with some unexpected consequences. I'd love to hear what you think though, if you have the time. Thanks again for the feedback :D If you did look at it again, the changes start more or less at: “Foolish mortal,” Grah-Nun says

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A.G. Scott
00:38 Jun 23, 2022

Much better :). I wish I could like it twice. Last thing: the paragraph that ends in "...humanity's self-destructive nature" could be pared down a little, and the last line (of that paragraph) feels a little on the nose. You've already walked us to that understanding, no need to restate it.

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Michał Przywara
21:48 Jun 23, 2022

Thanks so much for all the help :)

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Suma Jayachandar
04:39 Jun 25, 2022

Michal, This is one of my top three favourite stories from you. The tension is gripping and the world building is awesome. The prose is clear and conveys the raw emotions perfectly. Especially in the beginning, where the sentences are clipped and sharp. They make the reader's jaw drop, hook them and set the tone. The story is a classic fantasy adventure- the underdog gaining more courage as he gets closer to an unbeatable enemy. It took me back to my childhood.😊 But what added more depth to it for me was the twist at the end and the philoso...

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Michał Przywara
16:23 Jun 25, 2022

Thanks, Suma :) I think you cut right to the heart of the matter, about freedom. That's been a paradox that's interested me for a long time now. Freedom is a beautiful thing, but ironically it's constraints that often free us. For example, you can't do a great thing and fix a problem (defeat a dragon), if you weren't first constrained by the problem (there are no dragons). Or, maybe more relatable to this website, how many weekly submissions would there be if the prompt was always just "write a story"? I bet many people would say "about wha...

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Rebecca Miles
20:15 Jun 24, 2022

To so completely render a fantasy world within the confines of a short story is impressive. I am staggered you managed this in a week; you must work at double time ,-) More than this, what I really liked was the very real human struggle that was central to the story,:how Adric's desire for life is stronger than his duty to serve; the desire to know one's parents, etc. I could imagaine this being gobbled up by a teenage readership looking for literary fantasy. Great job.

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Michał Przywara
22:01 Jun 24, 2022

Thanks, Rebecca! It was for sure a bit of a departure from my usual, with a much bigger scope. Almost too big for 3k words :P I'm glad it came out well though, and that you enjoyed it. Putting a kid in a situation like this is horrible, but as you said, those struggles make for an interesting story :) I appreciate the feedback!

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Cindy Strube
18:56 Jun 24, 2022

Michał - I saw early on that you’d posted this, but I wouldn’t let myself read it until I finished my own… so I’ve only read it since all your revision. Excellent! Fantasy has to be really well done for me to immerse. Your world building does remind me of Tolkien, and also of Richard Adams. Lots of votes here for the potential of a longer work. Add mine!

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Michał Przywara
21:58 Jun 24, 2022

Thanks, Cindy! All of these Tolkien comparisons are making me blush :) He definitely knew world-building. Post-revision is for the best. As a number of commenters helped me realize, the original ending fell flat. Fundamentally the same, just delivered in a grey monotone. I think it's improved. I appreciate the feedback as always, and I'm glad you enjoyed it!

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Ace Quinnton
18:04 Jun 24, 2022

I'm speechless. There is nothing left to say from me except: WOW. The imagery, the characters, the dialogue... absolutely brilliant. Genius, even. The story sucked me in because one; Fantasy is one of my favorite genres. And two; The hook was mind blowing and a bunch of questions popped into my head, so my body was forced to read on. Let me tell you, I was not disappointed with the results. Thank you for writing this masterpiece. I tend to have a feeling that this might turn into a series or a sequel/prequel.

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Michał Przywara
21:53 Jun 24, 2022

Thanks so much, Ace! I enjoyed writing it too. I don't know if it's a prequel, but I can definitely see lots of places it could go, so maybe :) I appreciate the feedback!

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Kendall Defoe
04:29 Jun 24, 2022

Y'know, I am not always into fantasy, but you got me from the first two lines. Interesting work here... Tell me more!

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Michał Przywara
21:50 Jun 24, 2022

Thanks, Kendall! I appreciate the read, especially since fantasy's not your usual. That's one thing I like about this site -- I've stumbled across a lot of great stories in genres I don't normally read.

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Mike Panasitti
02:26 Jun 24, 2022

You've allowed your imagination free-reign and also have complete dominion over it. The alchemy of opposites has resulted in a fantasy tour-de-force. And given word-count limitations, I think the message conveyed by the ending, "freedom isn't exactly free anymore," has relevance far beyond the narrative boundaries of the story. "Incarnation" is a pleasure to read.

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Michał Przywara
21:33 Jun 24, 2022

Thanks, Mike! I'm happy that message came through, and more importantly, that the story was coherent and enjoyable. It was fun to write, but it was also bursting at the seams. I appreciate the feedback, as always.

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Craig Westmore
13:22 Jul 03, 2022

A very captivating story, Michał! I need to study the beginning to understand how you pulled me into the story so quickly.

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Michał Przywara
16:13 Jul 03, 2022

Thanks, Craig! As someone who's written his share of rambling openings, that means a lot to me :) Thanks for the feedback!

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Zack Powell
22:26 Jul 02, 2022

I can't believe I'm just now getting to this story. Holy cow, this was really good! Like, if this were the opening of a novel, I'd purchase the book. Very high-quality writing (duh - look who the author is). I don't think I can offer much more in the way of discussing the plot, which was fantastic, so I'll just focus on the technical stuff as usual. Really like the bookended feel of this story too, with the inversion of the first three sentences at the end. Shows us just how far Adric/Derin has come over the course of the narrative. Plus, i...

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Michał Przywara
15:53 Jul 03, 2022

Thanks, Zack :) You mention subtlety and restraint, vs heavy-handedness. The older I get, the more important I realize that is: not just spelling everything out. Yeah, you gotta give the reader the bones of the story, but good reading is (perhaps surprisingly) an active hobby, not a passive one. There's definitely got to be room to speculate, to guess, etc. So I'm glad you mention it. For that specific case, I saw it as his real father 100%,but now that you point out the possibility, I'm no longer sure, because there are some awesome alter...

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R. B. Leyland
00:39 Jul 01, 2022

What an impressive feat of world building in such a small amount of time. You gave us just enough to sate our appetites whilst still leaving us to wonder. The twist at the end was perfect, shattering the sense of the inevitable after already resigning us to it. Really well done!

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Michał Przywara
01:14 Jul 01, 2022

Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed it :)

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20:57 Jun 29, 2022

From the first two lines I was drawn into this story. I’m amazed at how well you created an entire new world. I also like that you didn’t stop to explain the characters in a way that would take us out of the story. You kept the flow of the narration while also clueing us in and revealing who everyone was.

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Michał Przywara
21:51 Jun 29, 2022

Thanks, Kristen! I'm glad to hear there weren't any immersion breaking descriptions. That's something I've struggled with in the past. I appreciate the feedback :)

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15:26 Jun 29, 2022

I LOVED this story so much! Fantasy is probably my favorite genre to read. I have read A LOT of it, and your work here is top notch. You could make a novel out of this. I loved how you slowly let the reader discover what was happening, and didn’t just info dump. I also loved the twist at the end. It was SO satisfying! Very well done, my friend!! 👏👏👏

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Michał Przywara
21:33 Jun 29, 2022

Thanks so much, Hannah! I'm thrilled about: "I loved how you slowly let the reader discover what was happening, and didn’t just info dump." Because that's a hard thing to balance. I definitely used to do the encyclopedic info dump when I was younger, and yeah, that's not good reading. Appreciate you stopping by :)

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Claire Lindsey
18:49 Jun 28, 2022

I’m a bit late to the party but I really enjoyed this! Your world-building is fantastic. We are bogged down in detail, but I wasn’t confused either. And that plot twist was completely unexpected and perfectly timed. I especially loved your vivid prose in the scene with Grah-Nun. Really nice work! I wanted more 😊

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Michał Przywara
20:57 Jun 28, 2022

Thanks, Claire! I'm very happy to hear that :) It's always nice when a twist pays off. I appreciate the feedback!

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Chris Campbell
07:43 Jun 28, 2022

A fantastical story laden with invented mythology and deadly sacrifices through role play. Dungeons and Dragons eat your hearts out 🤣 I've read it twice and the second time around, it was even better. The reincarnation story reminded me a little of Asimov's Foundation; however, I think that was more cloning than re-birth. This story could very well be turned into a novel. Well done, Michal.

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Michał Przywara
20:54 Jun 28, 2022

Thanks so much, Chris! Heh, I'm sure years of D&D impact my writing all over the place. It's certainly a fun, creative game. I appreciate the feedback :)

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L. Maddison
16:24 Jun 27, 2022

Talk about versatile… This was unexpected and unsurpassed, and a treat to read.

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Michał Przywara
21:09 Jun 27, 2022

Thanks, L.! I appreciate the feedback :)

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