Sunday, 11 September 2011
08:12:20 PM (GMT)
An online editing and revision service was doing biweekly contests for publicity.
Winner got the first three thousand words of their writing piece edited for free.
They sent back an enormous list of changes, but I would not be discouraged.
I have used the revisions to rewrite those three thousand words and...
Just look at it. IN ALL ITS REWRITTEN GLORY.
On the third day of the sixth month of the year, a boy named Gren trotted
across the sloping lawn, heading for the more unkempt back area of the palace
grounds. Getting out was never very hard near dusk, when the guards were either at
the end of a long shift or had their thoughts dulled by looking forward to a night of
Gren, like all children of nobles, was born in a palace. One of them was
actually the true heir to their country’s throne; although since no one knew
exactly which, it was possible Gren would be the one made king. This was a practice
that had begun little over a century before, to help ease the injustice of a
He lifted short legs through grass nearly as tall as he was, cloth shoes wet
with warm muddy water, breathing in summer's evening air and listening to the wind.
Gren spent every moment he could listening to the wind, but he knew these moments
would become all the more precious soon.
There were many things Gren didn't know about his birth. He didn't know where
the noble woman’s birthing chambers were, beyond that it took a week for them to
return from it and that they always looked very healthy when they did. What he did
know was that today was the sixth anniversary of his conception.
He sat down cross legged. The grass reached over his head now, and it itched. A
bit of breeze played with his hair, whispering through the grass. Gren cocked an ear
Time to get up.
Gren had no trouble picking words out from what others heard simply as air
moving over land. He did as the wind said, placing his hands on his lap and thinking
that he wanted to get up. He really wanted to. The grass brushed him as he floated.
Soon he was high above it, not bothering to look down. A small lone figure
sitting in the air, aware of the world that the wind explained it to him with every
In the distance there was a person approaching the lawn, detaching himself the
murky light cast by torches on the walls of the palace. Gren could see whoever it was
below him, face falling into shadow as the figure looked up.
He is calling you.
The words were breathed to Gren on a calm wind. He couldn’t make out any sound
besides the soft air blowing in his ears.
"How strange. Why can't I hear him?" Gren said aloud, trying harder to listen
for the person below. He wondered if he should go closer to the sound.
He should come up.
"Can you come up?" he called down. On the lawn, the stranger hesitated,
seeming unsure how to respond. Then he sat in the grass and after a moments
concentration came bobbing up to Grens’ level. As he got closer it became clear
that he was a boy the same age as Gren.
"What are you doing up here?" he asked Gren. His voice was unusually deep,
his hair a richer brown then Grens’. The two shared the same day of conception.
They were six.
"I was just listening," Gren said with honesty.
"To what?" A breeze swirled around them and Gren smiled serenely.
"The wind, mostly." His companion peered around them, looking uneasy.
"What's it saying?" he whispered to Gren.
"Why think it says things?"
"I don’t know,” he answered, still clearly unnerved, “Something about
your tone I guess?"
He’s never been able to learn what he can do. Don’t push him
away. There’s no need for secrets. He's important.
"The wind tells me things. It says you're important, and that you don't know
all the things you can do. I'm Gren."
He is Edgeagen. "And you are Edgea.. Edga… Edgegen, right?"
“Call me Ejin,” The boy said. His real name was rather long and too hard
for anyone their age to say. The wind told Gren that Ejin was the name he wanted
people to know him by.
They sat suspended in silence for awhile. It occurred to Gren that Ejin
might never have realized he could levitate before. He seemed to be having trouble
"Do you think we should tell one of our tutor’s we can do this?" Ejin asked
After the noble women gave birth, their child was carried off to be cleaned
and named by midwives. When all the children were born, the women returned to their
husbands on whatever lands they had authority over, and wouldn’t be able to have
any more babies until the next Conception Night three years later.
The midwives cared for the children of nobles until they could walk, after
which point they were raised by everyone in the castle. On June fourth, in their
sixth year, the children began receiving education from a group of tutors. They only
had tonight left before their days were filled with schedules.
"I don't think we should.” Gren said. “Not yet. Someone we're going to be
learning with is going to be king. We learn together because we’re supposed know
the same stuff."
Past monarchies had collapsed because kings had fearfully denied other nobles
education to make sure his line was the only one fit to rule. But when illness or war
killed the heir, things fell apart.
This gave rise to Shank’s social structure, or so the wind told Gren when he
was very young. The resentment between classes and generations might have been enough
overturn the previous law, but lack of education was the tipping point.
In order to create a stable kingdom, nobles were denied rights to family life
that even peasants had. Nobles did not live with their specific child, but helped to
communally raise their heirs, never knowing which was really theirs. These children
were all raised so that any would be fit to become king or queen.
"Maybe... Maybe when we move to our new rooms with the other kids, we can teach
them!" Ejin suggested with enthusiasm. He tipped sideways as he lost his
concentration and for a moment looked like he was about to fall.
Gren waited for Ejin to take a deep breath to steady himself, holding back a
giggle to spare his feelings. “So you want to show everyone how to float? And then
we show the teachers?" Gren asked.
Magic usually wasn’t something anyone born with it needed to be taught. It
was just something done by instinct for people who had it, and all it took was
Maybe if they practiced, though, they’d learn to concentrate better, and they
could learn to master bigger magics. People who didn’t do it often had trouble with
The wind tried to say something Gren had trouble making out.
"Wait, the wind is whispering again," he said, and Ejin waited quietly.
Don't show the adults any time soon. Pass and receive magical
learning only among peers for now.
"... Ejin, what if we taught each other magic first... In secret?" Gren
suggested. Shiny hazel eyes disappeared as Ejin blinked; darkness was hiding almost
"I know how to do loads.” Ejin said. “It's just that grownups stop me
from practicing, in case the spell collapses and something falls," Ejin stuck out his
tongue in disdain. An odd gesture in Shank, where usually it was the hands used to
create emphasis, and Gren immediately trusted that Ejin was good enough to never let
anything fall with magic by accident.
"Oh… I really only know how to do this. But you could teach everyone!" The
prospect of doing something special with the other people their age was less
terrifying than whatever scholars and educators wanted from them during the day.
Calmed a bit, Gren listened to the wind once more.
He needs to get down now.
"I-I guess we could. In fact, definitely! I'd just need more practice
to get my endur...whoa-" Ejin was wobbling dangerously. Gren grabbed the other
boys’ knee to steady him and silently moved them towards the ground.
"Ah, thanks," Ejin said, and Gren hoped that needing help hadn’t
embarrassed him too much. The two pushed their way through grass back to the castle,
working out ways to meet up after they should be asleep in quiet voices. They would
tell the other heirs as soon as they met them.
Chapter one (Eight years later)
Being handed a message on my way out the door to my master’s apartment
was nothing strange. Even so, moving through the philosopher’s guild to deliver it
was something that couldn’t be done without it being repeatedly snatched away from
me so that nosy old men could say things like “Oi, Vessal, this looks official!”
before asking what the message was about. Of course I couldn’t have imagined for
like many of the people badgering me, I can’t read. Most of the country can’t,
even some otherwise scholarly philosophers. My master was literate, but it put him in
Because of this, shockingly, the letter made it to my master without being
opened. Pate Reevey received his first congratulations from all the other literates
who were shamelessly scanning the text over his shoulder before he himself finished
At sixteen, Pate was already a master Philosopher (though no apprentices
had ever wanted a teacher younger than they were). There was no feasible way to earn
more prestige as a philosopher than being a master in the guild. Then again, as my
master said, feasibility is only determined by what’s happened already.
The highest honor to any scholar of any sort in the country of Shank is
being given the privilege to educate the children of nobles. They all need to be fit
to run the country, so every year the best and most accomplished intellectuals in the
country were selected for the task. The Tutors of Heirs were chosen every year around
the Birthing Festival and consisted of two scientists, two priests, two philosophers,
two historians, one art teacher, one music teacher, and one weapons instructor.
Pate hadn’t even considered the idea that he might be chosen as a Tutor.
The selection process was vague- essentially you just had to prove yourself to be
absolutely, unquestionably brilliant, which Pate said he had no reason to expect he
had done. Also, as he confessed me awhile later, the fact that it was almost festival
time had completely slipped his mind. I said I’d make sure to remind him when the
first meeting with the other tutors came.
It was a good thing I did. Pate, due to an innocent inability to keep his
mind on things like being entrusted with the highest honor in the country, had by
the next week gone back to his old inquiries. He made a hobby of puzzling out what
the limitations of magic are. In this case he wanted to know how possible it would be
for his servant- that is, me- to lift something heavier than his own body weight with
After a fourth attempt, my body hit the ground with a sickening thud and a
sense of failure.
All I was meant to be doing was getting myself within arm’s reach of a rock
placed on a high shelf. If the weight added by the rock was too much, I could just
grab the wood to catch myself. Unfortunately, raising one’s own body with magic was
so sickeningly impractical that it had never occurred to me to try it before in my
life, and the lack of practice was rendering my master’s experiment useless.
On top of that, Philosopher Dek (one of my master’s friends from the
guild) was over for a visit, and would undoubtedly say he’s getting bored with the
experiment any moment now. I’ve always hated it when people try to mock Pate’s
interests since, without speaking out of turn, there was nothing I could really do to
“Come on, just a bit further and you’ll have proved me right, Ves.”
Pate said to me. I had managed to get myself high enough that my master’s
encouragement was spoken to the level of my knees.
What he really wanted was to show that magic users can’t lift more
than their body weight, since as far as he was concerned that was the only reason why
people wouldn't levitate things all the time. Dek was like most magic users in that
he had never bothered figuring out how it worked the way Pate did, and was hoping
something else would happen because he just wanted to bet that Pate was wrong. Dek
“Have you ever considered that maybe all this is just some sort of cosmic
metaphor for the natural limits man imposes on his own ascension?” Dek asked. My
concentration was fractured further as I gave a silent prayer for his continued
ability to keep himself amused with pointless pondering. My stomach contracted with
the effort of keeping myself in the air.
“What kind of metaphor would that be?” Pate furrowed his brows
thoughtfully for a moment. “He’s literally ascending. Not to mention that we
don’t know whether or not any limits exist yet.”
Pushing my hair behind my ears so that it was symmetrical again, I fought for
control of my turning stomach. I felt myself wobble in the air, and suddenly
distracting myself with a reply seemed like a decent way to avoid making early
contact with the floor boards. If I let myself think about falling, there was a very
good chance that I would.
“If you’ll excuse the question sir, how can you say they’re natural
limits if we’re imposing them on ourselves?” A few moments of silence followed,
making me uncomfortable enough that I dared a small look back at the old philosopher.
Dek stayed quiet for a bit longer, than addressed Pate.
“I bet he only defended your point because he’s in love with you,” This
time when I hit the floor I broke the fall painfully on one elbow. In what I was sure
Dek would mistake for frustration I banged the other elbow down as well before
standing. If it only hurt on one side it would have felt wrong.
“Surely you at least know that that’s cheating?” Pate said with a sigh,
waiting for me to right myself.
“What?” Dek put a hand to his heart as though deeply hurt. “I have the
courtesy to warn you when people are starting rumors about you and your servant, and
you say that’s somehow dishonorable?” Pate ducked his head to hide laughter.
“The only person ridiculous enough to start gossip like that is you, Dek,”
then, looking down at me, Pate gave a small jerk of his chin to say that he wanted me
standing again. As I pushed myself to my feet, the shifted ray of sunlight got in my
eyes. Looking out the window to judge time, I hastened to inform my master that
unless we left soon he’d be late meeting the other tutors. Pate cursed because he
couldn’t finish testing, but it lost some of its effect considering he also began
beaming with well-earned pride. I helped master into the red cloak he’d gotten
after being allowed to take apprentices for the first time- the cloak that none of
the other master Philosopher’s bothered wearing, so it didn’t help identify
Pate’s profession at all, but he liked wearing it anyway.
As I held the door to his master’s home open for the two philosophers, Dek
subtly whispered in my ear.
“Hey, make sure he knows that no one really thinks that about you two, got
it?” I nodded with no intention of passing the message on. I, Dek, and probably
Pate as well, knew that some people really did think exactly that. Knowing my master,
I figured Pate thought the rumors offered a diversion to keep people’s attention
away from some equally reputation wrecking truths.
The older philosopher chatted with Pate as they continued down the street,
with me trailing after them a step behind and slightly to the left. When they neared
the market Dek bid Pate good luck and melted away into the crowd, leaving me to lead
my master though the Southern Pfannq market.
The market was a hazard for Pate, who could never quite figure out how it
worked, owing mostly to the fact that he believed the market worked at all. It was a
series of stalls and carts placed haphazardly in an arrangement that was the same
every day, but what products were being sold where depended entirely upon how early
the sellers had gotten there.
Traveling through the market involved a great deal of mindlessly following the
flow of people. The problem was that Pate, a person incapable of standing in the
center of an angry mob without asking what bloodlust implied about the true nature of
humanity, was naturally bad at that.
The market had paths of people moving through it, all headed in the same
direction for no reason besides the fact that everyone else was going in that
direction as well. Trying to go against the flow wasn’t just pointless, it was
dangerous. Pate trusted me to guide him through the market as his servant because I
learned- or rather, never unlearned- how to turn my mind off and do exactly what
others wanted me to do. I just kept walking with a general sense of our final
destination, and I could make it through without a problem. This wasn’t
extraordinary. Everyone in Pfannq could do it except for my poor thoughtful master.
The streets and buildings of Pfannq were a patchwork of tans and grey. Many
buildings shared walls so that there was no space between them, creating tidy cobbled
streets like the one my master and I were walking on. The sound of horse’s hooves
smacking on the stone warned everyone on foot to get out of the way, but of course
Pfannq was so jammed with human activity that people were lucky to hear their own
The city was infamous for two things- overcrowding, and a difficult to
pronounce name. Pate had once said that if the only men living in Pfannq were the
ones who could say its name right their first try, it might be possible to use main
roads without being elbowed to the ground.
As it was, there were so many bodies trying to occupy the same crowded space
that to avoid being knocked over my master would have had to be either very small or
very forceful, of which he was neither. For my own part, I am the former, and for my
master’s sake can become the later, though I could never hope to do so for my own
Even though my master and I left late, we still reached the meeting place for
Tutors with time to spare. I stood on the steps, partly hidden behind the door to
indicate that I intended to wait outside until the gathering was finished. Better to
stay out of the way than let such important people see me when they’re also trying
to form an impression of my master.
“You know, Vessal,” Pate said, “We’ve gotten here quite early.” I
nodded, although the gesture was mostly obscured by the door. Pate moved the door
inward so that he had a better view of my face.
“So all the other Tutors are going to have to walk straight by you if you
stay there,” he said. My brow furrowed and I bit the inside of my cheek, than the
inside of the other. Go inside and risk someone trying to interact with me, or stay
out here knowing I’ll be forced into contact my masters future peers? I began
glancing around for a place on the side of the road I could wait.
“Honestly, I’d feel less nervous knowing you're in there too," Pate
cajoled. So that was that.
Only 80k left to rewrite
Last edited: 17 September 2011