In these chapters I’m having several stories progress simultaneously. This is challenging for a few reasons: First of all, events that occur in one story effect the others. I will have to make sure these timelines match up.
Second, I want to make each story progress for a satisfying amount of time before I switch over to a different one. I hate it when the point of view keeps changing so fast that it seems as though nothing of importance is conveyed. Anyone keeping up with One Piece may know what I’m talking about; some chapters seem to do nothing but “check in” with the seven groups of people running around.
Fortunately for Oda, AUTHOR OF ONE PIECE!, he didn’t start doing this until his story had been running for fifteen years. I know the characters, I know the score, and I’m willing to wait it out as the master plan comes together.
I’m the same way when I’m writing; I would not want to pull this kind of stuff in book one. I think switching around between characters before you even know who they are is tedious. I’ve seen some authors do this, though! Can you believe that? There was this one time I started to read a book called A Game of Thrones. Every early chapter was about a different guy! I’d start to get invested in dude number one and then–BOOM! Perspective would switch to someone else. It would leave me hanging before I even had a reason to care about the person being left behind! I couldn’t stand being introduced to new characters only to switch just as things were getting good. I put that book down and went to play Baten Kaitos for the third time instead. Now THAT is a masterpiece of storytelling:
I can only assume that everyone else who read that Thrones book felt the same way. That poor writer, whatever his name was.
5 – Mackaba Land
The dirt road was overshadowed by a long canopy of thick trees. The white, wolfish beast closed in on the woman. She was panting, her short hair slick with sweat. With a huff she swished her hand at her pursuer; the dust on the road swirled up around the monster’s large paws. It halted and sneezed as the dust thickened into a black cloud. It tossed its fur and billowed around it, engulfing the body as the pointed muzzle let out staggered, loud, hacks. A clatter sounded from the nearby treetops.
“I’ll get it, lady!” Vornis cried. He leapt from the high branches, a long broadsword clutched in his knobby claws. He thudded to the road, the scales at his chest and waist clattering. He winced as he hit, recovered, and poised the sword for a blow. The beast emerged from the cloud of smoke and plopped to the ground, its legs twitching.
“And never mind!” Vornis said. The two short spikes that protruded from his neck in a “V” had a scabbard affixed to them with leather straps. He slipped the sword into it, leaving the feathered hilt free at his neck with the blade sheathed across his wide back.
The woman wiped her nose and straightened up. “I know you. The Beast, right? From King’s Fair?”
Vornis watched the wolf wheeze, incoherent. He turned to the woman. “That’s right. The name’s Vornis, though. And you are–?”
“Toreen,” she replied. She wiped some sweat from her face with her sleeve. “I was going to Cot’s Bar up the road. The power cut out and I’m worried about him.”
Vornis nodded, studying her face. She had broad cheekbones and deep wrinkles circling around them to her eyes. “I was on my way to the pyramid to meet up with some friends. The hex door there wasn’t working so I tried one a bit further away. After I went through the power cut out. It’s like all the magic just got sucked out of everything.”
“That’s what happened to me,” Toreen confirmed. “And what are these monsters? No offense–they’re just not quite as friendly as you.”
“So you watched our matches?” Vornis asked. Toreen pulled a box out from the back of her slacks.
“I watched your tournament–even met a couple of your friends when they visited the bar.” She pulled a cigarette from the box and stuck it between her lips. “Nice couple. Are they the ones you’re meeting?”
Vornis rubbed his knee. “Yeah. Let’s check out your bar first, though.” He watched her light her cigarette. She took a long drag and exhaled with a sigh. “You think it’s such a good time to be smoking?” Vornis asked.
Toreen stepped around the downed beast and the fading cloud of dust. The sky through the trees was turning dark.
“Might as well; we’re both going to get a lot of it,” she replied.
King and Elder Sain appeared at a hex door on one of the floors of the Imperial Pyramid. To their left was a cafeteria; to their right a long, slanted window. Elder Sain pointed at it.
“Go wait over there.”
King obeyed, stepping over a spilled plate of food. He gazed out at the bright fires lighting up the hills. Grey smoke rose from the ground past the tallest tree branches, forming a hazy backdrop and skeletal silhouettes.
Elder Sain went to one of the tables that were placed around the large room. A purse was sitting next to a half-eaten bagel. He fished around inside the purse and brought out a small lens.
“Here it is,” he said. “I feel so silly–I brought my ship, my armor–but no camera.” He walked back over to where King was, holding out the lens. A small, oval image of King’s back was displayed back at Elder Sain.
“I’m going to film you now,” Elder Sain told him. “And I’ll have Clance send your message to everyone in the world. I won’t tell you what to say; just speak about whatever you wish. This is your only chance, however. Make it count.”
King sniffed and turned to face the lens. He flattened down the wisps of hair atop his balding head.
“Um, this is King of the King Hex Door Corporation. An invading force has occupied the Imperial Pyramid. They are allied with no known nation from either world, so no blame should be given to anyone but these individuals.” He paused. “They have taken the magic from everything–even the air. The phenomenon is spreading out from the pyramid in a circular pattern. Please, if you can hear this, note where you are and move away from this area before the effect reaches you.”
Elder Sain kept the lens trained on him, a placid expression on his face behind the rounded visor.
“I believe the intruders are linked to the monsters that appeared in the Teery Mine and at my fair,” King went on. “One of them commands an army of vicious beasts; the other is situated at the river bank east of the pyramid. That one is the source of the disturbance. The third one is before me, and he is their leader.”
King stopped there, glaring up at the face behind the helmet. Elder Sain switched off the lens.
“Clance, are you listening? Send this entire message as I promised.”
“I’m listening,” Clance’s voice thrummed. “I just got back to my angle; I’ll send it soon.”
“Thank you,” he said, and paced toward the window. “Were you worried that I’d cut you off?” he asked King. “I don’t really care if you’ve figured out who we are. We have the combined technology and resources of six worlds, several of which are more advanced than your own. I know every trick you could pull; I know every possible way you could think of to attack us. I have seen it done on the other planets, and they have failed every time. Oh–!” Elder Sain smiled. “I forgot to thank you for addressing the people. I’m not very good at speaking to groups–that’s more my sibling’s thing. Me? I’m best one-on-one.” He toyed with the lens in the palm of his gauntlet. “Do you have any brothers? Sisters?”
“I have a brother,” King said. “What are you doing here? Where are you putting all the magic you’re taking?”
Elder Sain sat on the sill of the window. “I’m redistributing it. There are worlds, like your sister planet, that don’t have any magic; they were not created equal. I am trying to balance it out.”
Mackaba blinked at a multitude of buzzing colored lights. There were music, noise, voices. Clance stood over him, his parted, blond hair flopping over his brow.
“I’ll be gone for a while; don’t disturb me,” he said. He looked over at someone, baring flat teeth as he spoke. “Make sure he knows the rules.”
The room was a blur of reds and blues as Mackaba sat up on the couch. He found himself in a miniature theater with cushioned furniture facing a large monitor. Clance was walking out of it, into the room with the lights: slot machines were set up in rows, all blinking in patterned sequences. He was a head taller than aisles as he walked through them. He still had the sharp hairpin in his hand. Mackaba sighed.
“Great. Where am I this time?”
A teenager stood beside the couch. “Hi. I’m Trancy.” Mackaba stared at her with bleary eyes. She had braces, blue hair, and a T-shirt with a smiling buzz saw on the front.
“Why?” Mackaba asked. “Why does this always happen to me?” He gestured around him, at the monitor playing an action film, the arcade cabinets set up in the corners. “I just keep ending up in the most ridiculous places. An empty city, a place with squiggly plants–I can’t even get any peace and quiet in prison!”
“So you didn’t want to be here?” Trancy asked, squinting her eyes. She glanced over at a man sitting on a chair. He was absorbed in the thrilling battle sequence playing out on the monitor.
“No!” Mackaba said. He squirmed, getting up from the couch. He flattened out his orange prison clothes. “Wait. Where’s Mean? A woman. Did you see a short woman brought in with me?”
“It was just you,” Trancy said. “Who is she? Is she your wife?” She let out a gasp. “Are you on your honeymoon?”
“No, what? Shut up,” Mackaba said. “She was just kidnapped with me. I need to get out of here; where’s the exit?”
“You want to leave?” the man watching the violent film asked. He didn’t look away from it. “How are you going to find anything to eat out there?”
Mackaba smoothed back his long, wavy hair. “I can survive. I know how to fish.”
The seated man snorted. Trancy closed her mouth, smiling.
“You really don’t know where you are?” the man asked. He got up, brushing flakes of food from his belly. “There’s nothing out there. Just empty space and some buildings you really don’t want to get close to. Look for yourself.”
He pointed at a window closed by a shutter. Mackaba walked past the screen and opened it. Floodlights shone down at him, positioned at high points on a circular structure. It was a tall Ferris wheel. After a moment of blinking he spoke.
“I don’t see anything out there past it.”
“There isn’t anything,” Trancy said. “It’s just a glass floor. Mr. Clance gives us all the food and games we want, so you might as well stay here with us.”
Mackaba tapped on the window: wiring was laced through the glass. “Are you allowed outside?”
“We can only go on the rides sometimes,” Trancy offered. “You can see some strange things up on the Ferris wheel.”
Mackaba closed the shutters and turned back to look at the casino room. The lights on the machines were flickering and the theater room became dim.
“It wasn’t me!” Trancy said.
“Must be the new guy,” the man watching the movie said.
“How is this my fault!?” Mackaba cried.
“It’s not really you,” Trancy said. “What he means is that there are certain rules here. Sorry, I didn’t tell him yet.”
“You know how to use magic, right?” the man asked.
“Well you’re going to have to use it up,” the man told him. Mackaba folded his arms.
“The power stays on as long as we don’t have any magic power,” Trancy said. “In us, I mean.”
Mackaba hummed. “I see. So that’s how you’re held captive.”
“We want to stay!” the man shouted back. “Now hurry up and use it up so I can get back to my show!”
“Never,” Mackaba said. “I’m going to save it up and escape.”
The lights grew dimmer and several of the slot machines winked out. A large man with grey hair stepped around the corner. He had ample stores of both fat and muscle, with a faded pin-up girl tattooed on his arm.
“Hey, Bouncer Steve!” the man called out. “The new guy has something to tell ya!”
“Did you tell him the rules?” Bouncer Steve asked. He lumbered over to Mackaba and looked down at him with a heavy stare and a quite audible breath.
“I’m not scared of you,” Mackaba said. “I’ve been to prison.”
Bouncer Steve cleared his throat with a grumbling cough. “I worked as a bouncer at Paradise Trall for thirty-three years. I broke up fights; I cleaned up puke; I did maintenance. I lost a wife to the job and I lost a finger on the coaster tracks.” He slapped a three-fingered hand on Mackaba’s shoulder. “But I knew that at the end of it all I’d get to retire in style. I’d get to come here, spend my days playing slots–I’d be the one pampered for a change, you know?” He patted Mackaba and sighed. Mackaba rolled his eyes.
“Fine. I just have to use it up, right?” He brushed off Steve’s hand and walked through the flickering aisles of the casino. The three followed him as he gravitated toward a trickling noise: a large fountain dribbling scant amounts of water into a well. A marble figure of a tall woman stood in its center. She had her hair woven into a crown, with winged hairpins holding it in place. Mackaba pointed and an eruption of water sprung from the pool’s surface. It gurgled and spread, filling the well; the lights in the room brightened.
“That’s the way!” Trancy exclaimed.
“Indeed,” Mackaba began. “Now how about you tell me what’s going on? I’m guessing I’m not in Jesice anymore. I’m on the other world, right?”
“Jesice?” Bouncer Steve muttered. “I’ve never heard of a place like that. We’re in Arsiling.”
Mackaba rose his eyebrows. “And where is that?”
Steve shrugged. “Somewhere in outer space.”
Mackaba closed his eyes and mouthed “What.”
Trancy touched his arm. “We have a Ferris wheel,” she offered.
Darrow coughed. He was holding a bomb, the digital readout clicking down to 24:55. Dark stood at his left: wearing a poncho, holding an ink marker, and sporting a scribbled string of letters across his arm. Tenny was standing nearby. Jelk held a package of half-eaten crackers.
“Oh man, did I miss something?” Darrow asked.
A circular lift rose out of the floor. Cougo stood there, his jacket removed. Sweat beads were formed at his brow and he tugged on his turtleneck shirt.
“Guys! There you are!” he called out on his way over.
Jelk whispered to Dark. “I don’t remember how I got here.”
“Neither do I,” Dark replied.
“What’s that?” Cougo asked. “You don’t remember? You must have been caught by Cougo!”
“What? Who are you?” Tenny asked.
“I’m Port Hawk Adder,” Cougo told him. “I was captured and forced to work on this ship. You guys saved me from the cells, up a couple of floors. Tenny, you broke the bars. And Jelk, you disabled the alarm! But Cougo is a powerful psychic. He can move memories out of people’s brains.”
Jelk stroked his hair tuft. “Sounds like something I’d do,” he remarked.
“Move memories?” Dark repeated. “That’s just like–“
“Just like at King’s Fair, yes!” Cougo finished. “You told me all about it when we first met. Classic Dark: always figuring things out!”
“What’s this?” Darrow asked, holding up the ticking sphere. Cougo wiped at the sweat on his forehead.
“Hm, looks like Jelk finished that bomb he was going to make.”
Jelk eyed the machine. “Really? I was kind of just kidding when I said I would do that. I mean I’ve made small stuff–“
Cougo grit his flat teeth together. “Yes. You made it. Look, it’s even counting down.”
Darrow held the bomb away from his flowery shirt. “Whoa, whoa! Why do I have this!?”
“Darrow,” Cougo said. He held out his large palms in a calming manner. “They gave you the bomb and asked you to set the code to activate and disarm it. Do you remember the code?”
“Dude, I have no idea!” Darrow cried. Dark lifted his arm, noticing the writing there.
“Why would we give Darrow a bomb?” Tenny asked. He stepped closer to Cougo and Cougo shuffled sideways.
“Well why wouldn’t I have it?” Darrow said. He cradled the bomb closer.
“And don’t you want the bomb to go off if you helped us make it?” Dark asked. “Didn’t we need it to escape?” He tucked his arms beneath his poncho.
Cougo sighed. “Always so inquisitive, aren’t you? Alright! I am Cougo. And I just heard something about your girlfriend, Mean.”
Dark froze. “Where is she!?” he asked.
“She just escaped from Shirka’s place,” Cougo said with a wide, flat grin. “That was the very first building you passed on the way here.”
“She got away!” Dark laughed. “I knew she wouldn’t just sit around!”
Cougo pouted. “Aw, sorry, it’s not quite that easy. If she wanders into the others’ territories they’ll be free to catch her. And there’s one in particular–right next to Shirka–you’d better pray she doesn’t meet.” Cougo took his fingers and jabbed them at Dark in a stabbing motion. “But I don’t have to tell you that; you saw her handiwork at the fair. We call her Whittler. Remember, with the knives?”
Dark, Darrow, Tenny, and Jelk shared worried glances.
“And I really hate to tell you this, but Whittler isn’t one of us–she isn’t bound by the same rules we are. I’m not allowed to kill anyone that comes into my angle, but her? That’s all she thinks about! It’s all she does! Anyone that runs into her winds up dead! Cut into pieces!”
He chopped his hand down into his palm. “So how ‘bout it?” he asked. “Feeling cooperative now?”
Mean alighted at the front of a small citadel. The walls and towers were constructed from blocks of white limestone speckled with gray. Many of the blocks had faces, animals, or dates carved into them. The gate was open, and Mean inhaled.
“That smells just like cookies,” she said. Far behind her the tall, colored stacks of the factory blew out a puff of smoke. Shirka’s small house was sitting on the horizon far to its right. Mean took in another breath through her nose.
“Whoever is in here has got to be friendlier than Hellzoo,” she told herself.
SUPER QUICK FIRST DRAFT NOTES:
– Man, that’s ANOTHER title I’ll need to replace. I wasn’t sure which “story” would be the main focus so I just pooped that title out as placeholder. It’s kind of catchy though, right? “Mackaba Land?” I should make it work somehow.
– The woman that Vornis meets, Toreen, was a side character at the bar in book two. I didn’t plan to put her here ahead of time so who knows if she’ll make it through the draft. I also need to see if her description matches the one from the other book as well. Did I even bother to describe her back then? Ha,ha,ha.
– Elder Sain puts King on TV. King, I’m sorry! Since Tome isn’t here you’ll have to be the one to dump all this important plot info! Wait! Where is Tome!? Did I forget about him!?
– Mackaba wakes up in a casino. I love casinos and I’ve been waiting for a chance to use a similar type of locale in my stories. I wasn’t quite excited enough to describe it in great detail yet, but I’ll get there. In other news, I actually acquired a slot machine! Matt got it to work by using his advanced machinery skills. It’s not like he just read the instructions I was too lazy to find. Check it out:
Right on the edge of my kitchen table is an excellent spot for it, don’t you think?
– I didn’t come up with a name for the guy watching the movies so he gets to be “the man.”
– Wow, this stuff with Cougo wiping memories is sure getting exciting, isn’t it? I bet it’ll compare to even the best episodes of The Three Stooges!