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Laki (short for Llaaassshkkhhii) opened his double-slitted eyes, waking up from his short-lived dream. As all other member of his species, he couldn't sleep long, barely one hour throughout the ten-hour days.
He was lying curled up upon a small bed amidst a dozen others in the lower part of the Siakar palace. Though slightly uncomfortable, having to sleep with a dozen other soldiers, he considered himself lucky to not be in the labour caste, who slept against the ground.
The population of Omicron Draconis were distributed in four castes: the labour caste, granted no rights or freedom; the Reptillian caste, consisted entirely of soldiers, the deadliest and most feared army in all the universe (which is a big place); the Draconian caste, consisting of Scientists, the minds behind all of Omicron Draconis' technologies, and Occults, considered as the second worthiest caste, as their magical and occult prowess proved many times greater than an entire army; and finally, the royal and highest caste, the Siakars, composed of only the King and Queen, and their closest families, usually directly blood-related. Even half-siblings or half-parents were excluded from the Siakar caste and put in a lower caste, to minimize corruption of the chosen royal bloodline.

The Siakars and the occult castes claimed, through their sacred books, to be the only descendants of the original reptillian ancestors, Sanath and Lilith. The lower castes have been artificially created by the Siakars and the Occults to fit the growing needs of colonization. Starting on Omicron Draconis, the Siakar empire grew to all the nearby solar systems, a group of stars coincidentally seen from Earth as the Dragon constellation, and set out to conquer the Local Spur section of the galaxy. The ruthlessness of the Siakar fleet, the advanced technological weaponry, and the feared power of the Occults caste gave them the reputation of being the most lethal and unescapable conquering army of the Universe. All conquered worlds would fall without much fight under the occupying fleets, and any sighting of Siakar ships would set the deepest dread in the hearts of an yet unconquered world. None escaped or survived from such an encounter, as the Siakars had no concept of mercy and considered the reptillians as the only specie worthy of surviving, and the Siakar Empire grew further into the galaxy. The Siakars held the belief that anyone not capable of taking a life wasn't worth living, as that person wouldn't survive in a crisis. Might makes right was somewhat the Golden Rule of the Empire, and anyone not following this rule would be eliminated, which included even Siakar, Draconnian or Reptillian members that held a contrary belief. Any "rebel" quickly learned that to survive, he or she had to be officially ruthless and remorseless when faced with the "enemy" and had to keep their true belief deeply hidden. And so, most of the worlds holding a peaceful belief were eliminated from the Empire without regret from the latter, and any world following the Empire's belief was recruited and added to the fleet. As of today, in the beginning of the Sixth Age (5 billion years after the creation of Omicron Draconis), the Siakar Empire already controlled 10% of the Local Spur... and were still advancing.

Such was the history behind Omicron Draconis, and it was one that ashamed Laki every time he had to wake from his dreams, when the peace and beauty was replaced by hate and lust for destruction. While Laki stumbled down from his bed, the other soldiers sharing his dormitory uncurled. When a deep bell rang, making the ground tremble, they all went outside their huts. A bedrock covered gigantic pergola was laying before them, hanging at 30 feet from the ground. As Laki moved sluggishly toward the edge of the pergola, his muscles still ankylosed, he looked down to the ground (a rather strange action to do for his caste, as higher caste pays no respect to lower castes, especially the labour caste), and witnessed as the servants and workers uncurling and lying flat against the bedrock covered ground. It wasn't long before his own body screamed for heat, and he laid down too flat against the floor, as did all hundreds of soldiers around him. The sun peaked from behind a tower of the Siakar, and its morning rays rained down on the ground, warming up quickly the bedrock floors and grounds, and thus, warmed quickly the cold-blooded bodies of Omicron Draconis' population.

After this morning ritual, the soldiers lined up in formations to receive orders from their superiors. As other factions of soldiers were on duty today on the Siakar fleet, Laki's faction was thus off-duty and ordered to keep order in the streets. After the soldiers saluted the superior, they left and roamed the wilderness around the palace to feed themselves. Laki followed, but quickly separated from the group to walk along a trail in the nearby forest, and arrived at a small marsh, a place he knew for long that no one visited or walked nearby. Few animals lived in marshes, so the soldiers weren't bothering to hunt there. Laki shook this thought away from his mind.
An unusual reptillian he was. Ever since his "young" age (reptillian do not have exactly a childhood, then an adolescent period, then adult age; they are rather born almost fully developed), he had been different from his peers. A couple of years ago, a woman appeared in his dreams. Extremely tall, clear and piercing blue eyes, long blond hairs, pale skin as pure as the starlight, she sat beside him in his first dream, and smiled. It was the kindest and purest smile he ever saw. Luckily for him, he wasn't yet trained in the Siakar fleet, so his first instinctive reaction hadn't been suspicion like all reptillians did when faced with a stranger, but amazement. They were both seated before a pool of clear water reflecting the stars, and she just sat there, smiling.

"You are you?" Laki asked, perplexed.

She didn't answered, and gazed calmly around her, as someone who takes in the view for the first time. For the next dozen of minutes, she never talked, just continued to look around her, and look at him, her kind smile never fading nor artificial.

"Who are you?" he asked once more, a little while later, as she didn't looked close to an humanoid lizard.

She still didn't answered, but this time, she put a finger to her lips, gracefully suggesting to remain silent. It was then that Laki noticed that she had a small device on the palm of her hands, very small and looking like a precious stone. She motioned him to look before her, and she bent forward to dip her right hand in the pool of water. At first gliding on the surface, creating perfectly beautiful ripples, she then swung her hand upward. To Laki's amazed eyes, drops of water followed the movement, and somehow staying in the air before him, they formed a semi-arch.

"What the..." Laki wondered, as the water drops remained in their position, below the strange woman's right hand.

She smiled happily at his amazement, and winked; with her left hand, as she seemed to be holding the arch of water with the other hand, and touched each drops, and they all lit from the inside with a coloured glow. One drop was a vibrant blue, the other was an emerald green, the next a fiery orange. Then, with both hands, she crossed over, and the drops splattered together, creating an impossible painting of coloured splashes of water, immobile in the air. Finally, somehow knowing he was about to wake up, she let the coloured water drop very slowly back into the pool, creating a delicate waterfall. She turned back to him, and smiled ever so warmly and kindly as he woke up.
To his pleasant surprise, the dream happened every night, for each and every following year. He would be seated by the pool of water, and the strange blond woman would appear to his side, and smile happily even though she remained silent. Every night, never missing one, she would then use water and create the most beautiful paintings he ever saw, each night growing in complexity and beauty.
One peculiar night, the night that truly stuck in his mind, about two years after their first encounter and a year after he began his soldier training, she plunged both hands in the water, and threw a great amount of it in the air. She then motioned him to close his eyes, which he did, and he heard her gesture rapidly, even rising to her feet and back down. She then touched his arm, signalling he could look. His breathing stopped, his eyes widened, his jaw dropped, and he became as immobilized as the water drops beneath the woman's hands. A model of the Galaxy was before him, each and every star glowing in different intensity and colour, with the glowing core so seemingly real, it seemed to pulse ever so slightly. The painting was in three dimensions, and she was making spin ever so slowly, rotating the arms, making the stars pulse. She then smiled mischievously, and to Laki's unbelieving mind, she expanded her arms wide, and the galaxy became smaller, only to show it amongst a dozen others galaxies, different in their own way, some glowing like dull gold. Her face then saddened, and she zoomed back unto the main galaxy. Looking carefully at Laki, she touched several parts of the Local Spur arms, and all the stars she touched became black and pulsed no more. Laki felt a pan of guilt as he realized the dead stars all belonged to the Siakar Empire.

"What happened?" he asked her, feeling somehow guilty.

It was that night that her paintings became moving. She dissolve the galaxy and painted another water picture with her hands. This time, the water drops moved as she first painted and moved a young child running in a meadow. As she painted and moved the water according to her story, she explained the mysterious forces behind life, and how it was affected ever so slightly by an individual's mind. She showed him how all worlds mastered music, stories, art, emotions, and how all these factors contributed to a microscopic level to the health and continuity to life. A delicate balance was uphold between the population and the fauna and flora. As she finished explaining it, she brought down upon her pictures a black cloud. The cloud passed, and nothing of the past civilization remained; no song, no stories, no emotions, no life.

"I'm sorry..." Laki whispered, understanding what it meant to the balance of life.

The woman smiled with compassion and held his hand, indicating that she didn't blame him for his people's crime.

"Is it reversible?" he asked her.

She shook her head, and motioned how the lands were all under Siakar's command, thus untouchable. However, she also added, preventing the growth of the Empire was possible.

"How?" he asked, rising on his feet. "Do you know how formidable the Siakar fleet is?"

The woman nodded, smiling, and rose too on her feet, letting part of the water fall back into the pool. She asked him to close his eyes again, and when she touched his shoulder, he opened them and looked straight at a magnificent city. Bigger than the tallest Siakar tower, graceful, seemingly delicate in structure yet exuberating a sense of extreme strength, and radiating a soft white light, glowing from the inside of the city. The picture moved to show a fleet of sleek ships, shimmering. She then zoomed out, and showed a giant orange star; in the Siakar cuneiform language, she named it "Arktouros".

"Arcturus?!" Laki realized in shock; as it was the only enemy the Siakar Empire ever feared to encounter. The level of the Arcturians' technology and power was greater than anything in the Galaxy, bordering on pure magic, and rivalling in strength the Siakar Empire. The only thing different was that it took 10% of the Local Spur's population for the Siakar fleet to be that strong; it took only the population on the Arcturian planetary system to equal that strength. "You're... you're an Arcturian?"

She smiled, and wrote her name: Menrva. She then continued her moving picture, and explained to him that if he wished so, she and her people would help him escape the Siakar Empire and join hers.

"But how would I stop their conquests? I want to come with you, but I can't leave without finding a way to stop them," Laki asked her.

"In time," she answered in writing, explaining he needed to be absolutely trusted by the Siakar fleet, so he could learn all their battle tactics, their technologies, their flaws, etc. Once he knew all that, the Arcturians will have more facts to base themselves upon when defending against the Siakars.
She looked at him with concern, a silent question on her face.

"Of course I'll do it!" Laki reassured her. "I don't belong here, and I don't want to neither. Why do you even trust me, after what you know of the Siakar?"

Menrva smiled and showed him once more the shining galaxies.


After that dream, he trained harder, becoming the strongest, most agile, and fastest soldier. Against his wish, but comforted by Menrva during his dreams, he took part in many invasions, always officially doing most of the jobs, though he secretly cheated, developing ways to hide the population, or making them appear dead. With time, he gained a somewhat respect by his superiors (though even the best soldiers were never as "worthier" as the captain of the fleet), and ranked high in their levels. With the years passing by, he noted every strategies, convinced his peers to follow some of his (during which he could predict the attacks better when he would join the Arcturians' ranks), and learned of every technology and weapons he could.

90 years passed, and then is where our story comes back from the beginning, when Laki sat in front of the marsh. He looked up to the smoked sky, wishing he could see the stars. But he could only see Arcturus from space, when he was en-route to invade.

"It's time, my friend," a woman's voice suddenly spoke by his side, startling him.

"Menrva!" Laki recognized her, seated as casually as in his dreams... Speaking of which...: "What the... I fell asleep??"

Menrva chuckled.

"No. The time has come when I can see you in my physical form. Which is also why I can speak to you."

"You were not..."

"Just a dream? No. But then, aren't dreams the perfect medium to show the way?"

But she grew serious, and she hurried to place a device on each of his palms.
"They now know what you've been doing during your "invasions"; they are on their way to arrest you, and they'll bring you to the royal prince," she explained hurriedly, after rendering invisible in some way the devices.

"Are you getting me out?" he asked, hopefully.

"As soon as you get the prince's weapon," Menrva explained. "You have the Reptillian-level weapons, but to be safe, I think it will also be better to have the Siakar weapons. Do you think you'll be able to get it?"

"Well, yes, but..." Laki hesitated.

"What?" she asked, worried.

"Treason is met only with death. That means he'll immobilize me and give me the Treatment."

"Then he'll be close to you?"" she asked.

"Yes, but dying!"

"Trust me, you will be safe. Just do exactly as I say..."


********

The giant metallic doors opened, leading Laki and the guards to a deep and ominous hall. Covering all the walls, hanged the Siakar emblem: a vertical marine blue flag, and inside, a silver eight-pointed star at the far top. Below the star was a silver curved snake, with four white wings, holding with his tail a faux; between his opened jaw was a dove.
The hall was lit was an orange glow, coming from lit candles, and the stoned floor extended to a series of small stairs, which led to a platform. At the bottom of the stairs was a very high altar, standing perhaps at ten feet from the ground, and on the top of the stairs reigned a royal throne, with the Siakar emblem behind it. Despite his combat training, Laki gulped with difficulty as a chill ran down his spine upon seeing the Siakar standing in front of the throne. Fourteen feet tall, clad in a marine blue uniform, a long cape covering his shoulders, the Prince exuded a presence of lingering menace. No one returned alive from a visit to the royal prince, and Laki saw with dread as the scaled smiling face licked its lips. Laki, both astonished and recomforted by this sudden thought of his, started to pray silently Menrva for protection.
"Don't worry, I've got your back," her voice reassured him in his mind.

The Reptillian guards threw Laki on the floor without much care, and then forcefully positioned him in a kneeled position, as the Prince looked down on him with disdain.
"So, your newfound hobby in life is to betray the Siakar Empire?" the Prince spat. "An Occult scanned your mind during a suspicious invasion, and found that you faked to kill the inhabitants. Do you deny it?"

"No," Laki answered honestly.

"DON'T SAY ANY LIES!!!" the Prince started to shout, until he realized, a little bit late, that the soldier didn't lied. "You admit it?"

"Yes. Your Empire suck," Laki answered.

"Insolent!!" the Prince yelled. "We are the mightiest of the Universe!"

"You mean the most feared of the Universe, not the mightiest" Laki corrected.

"Might makes right, the weak gives way to the strong!" the Prince retorted.

"Who told you Might was equal to hate and war?" Laki challenged. "What do you know of art? Of music, or moving pictures, or even a simple concept such as friendship and love?"

"Irrelevant! They impede on our logical thoughts, and makes us to irrational actions... like you just did. It is not the way to be mighty."

"Exactly. And then, you are not alive. Do you know what you destroy? You destroy entire miracles, all under the petty excuse and desire to be feared. That's all you are. A society which has so much nothing so look forward to, that it rely in fear, hate, and conquest to brighten their day. Your mind and your intelligence is so much restricted to destruction and weapons of war, that it can't conceive anything else, or feels anything else. Thus, you rely on the fear of others to activate the little left emotions. You are not worthy of being the mightiest civilization of this Universe, of this shining Galaxy. So yes, I betrayed you, Prince, and I'll do it again."

By this time, the Prince's face was red of hate, and he hissed to the guards:
"Bring this traitor to the altar! Now!!"

The guards obeyed, and led a willing Laki to the golden table, engraved once more with the Siakar emblem. Streaks of dried blood was visible on its surface, and Laki shuddered at the thought of being submitted to the royal Treatment: the Prince stabbed the victim, not enough to kill it right away, and devoured it alive. It was believed that devouring a live meal brought life-force, unlike eating something dead, and it was thus reserved only to the royal members. Laki hoped really hard that he would escape before he got this rather bloody and painful royal ceremony. The guards tied him tightly to the table with ropes, and the Prince climbed down the stairs, unsheathing a sharp dagger.
"Leave, guards, and seal shut the doors. No one is to enter, under any circumstances," he ordered sharply, as was the usual custom in these rare events.

The guards obeyed, and not wishing to be the next royal meal, they left hurriedly. The Prince approached the tied soldier, standing next to him, and hissed with glee while raising his dagger, as Laki smiled inwardly upon seeing the Prince's gun at his hip. As the Prince lowered with strength the dagger against Laki's abdomen, the blade hit an invisible barrier, and it sprung back against its owner's hands. While the Prince grimaced in pain, a look of surprise on his face, Laki opened his tied right palm, and directed it to the Prince's face. A sonic pulse hit the target, and the Prince retreated in pain; using this diversion, Laki chewed the ropes tying his hands. The Prince, hateful, tried to stab Laki, but the latter twisted his hips, and raised his tail to meet the blade. A pang of pain hit him as the tip of the tail got cut, but now hands free, he sat and clawed the face of the Prince. As the Prince brought his hands to his face while screaming in agony, Laki lunged forward and grabbed the Siakar weapon. Lying back flat on the altar, as his still tied feet didn't permitted him to be lunged forward long enough, he screamed to the empty room:
"I got it, I got it!!"

"Who is your stupid friend??!!" the Prince yelled, determined to chase the responsible.

Laki smiled mischievously, and answered proudly:
"The mightiest civilization in the Universe: the Arcturians."

The Siakar Prince's face turned white with dread as Laki's body was enveloped in white light and disappeared from the altar.
"No... It cannot be..." he couldn't stop whispering, his deep anger replaced by fear. "I must warn the King... But then He'll kill me for letting a traitor escape..."

Now in Menrva's Arcturian ship, which took off quickly away from Omicron Draconis's atmosphere, Laki gave her all the Siakar weapons and strategies.
"Thank you, Laki," she hugged him.

"In fact, thank you for lending me your sonic emitters. Siakars don't miss their targets when they stab," Laki thanked her warmly.

"A service for another," Menrva smiled. "Now, you are free to go where you wish."

"What do you mean? I thought I was joining you on your planet's fleet?" Laki asked, concerned.

"If that is still what you wish, you can of course join us. We could use many Reptillian rebels in the army; but we are a people who let its peers take its own path. I will not choose yours at your place. You are free from now on. Where do you wish to go?"

Laki smiled, and looked at the sonic emitters Menrva gave him.
"90 years ago, you showed me your shining city of light, and it kept me sane in the dark path I had to follow. May I see it with my own eyes? After, I will wish to join your fleet to fight the Siakar Empire from going further into the Galaxy."

Menrva smiled with joy, and ordered the pilot of the Arcturian ship to fly back home.

With the help of Menrva and his new Arcturian friends, Laki formed a special unit of fleet, composed of Reptillian and even Draconnian rebels that he and Menrva introduced to the path of light, just as he's been. It took centuries, but at the end, the Siakar Empire had now the greatest enemy it could think of: itself.
This is for :iconsharpenededge:'s One Step From Shadow Contest, under the theme of "Step To The Light" (does that surprise anyone? :D ).

It's a story about two fictional alien civilizations, one really evil, and one really good, and how even the most evil civilization will still be populated by people who wish to see the light instead of darkness. So, it's how a member of the evil civilization is helped by a representative of the good civilization to move away from hate and darkness, towards peace, beauty, and light. And guess what? Art plays an important role in this journey. Oh yes. :)

So, I believe it fits the contest's theme of one step to the light... :crossedfingers:

Sorry in advance for the length... I'm afraid I have this obsession of making long short stories. I need place to tell a story. Which, without much surprise, makes me utterly rubbish at poems and poetry.
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:iconsteve-c2:
Okay, first, I want you to know that I think this is a good story, and I enjoyed reading it. It was easy for me to get up close and catch a few things. I hope you don't mind that I'll be rather direct, but feel free to imagine me indicating everything in a kind, rather than cranky, tone. I have good respect for your writing, and enough respect for it, that whatever I point out for correction or adjustment does not take away from it.

Corrections:
"You are you?" -> you meant, "who are you?"
"Laki felt a pan of guilt" -> you meant, "pang of guilt?"
"Even though the best soldiers were never as 'worthier' ..." -> "never as worthy ..."
"the prince realized ... the soldier didn't lied" -> "soldier hadn't lied."
"Your empire suck" -> "Your empire sucks."
"Your mind ... can't conceive of anything else, or feels anything else." -> "feel anything else."
"and makes us to irrational actions... like you just did." -> "and leads us to irrational actions"
"Streaks of dried blood was visible" -> "Streaks of dried blood were visible"

Would read better:
"A pang of pain hit him as the tip of the tail got cut" -> "A sharp pain hit him as the tip of the tail was cut"

Suggestions:
There are a couple of paragraphs that are a bit unwieldy, or could stand to be better arranged. For example, take the third paragraph down, which describes all the castes, then what they did and how they fit into society. It would be easier to read, I think, if you simply named them first in one sentence, then described their functions.

In other words, if we take this:
The population of Omicron Draconis were distributed in four castes: the labour caste, granted no rights or freedom; the Reptillian caste, consisted entirely of soldiers, the deadliest and most feared army in all the universe (which is a big place); the Draconian caste, consisting of Scientists, the minds behind all of Omicron Draconis' technologies, and Occults, considered as the second worthiest caste, as their magical and occult prowess proved many times greater than an entire army; and finally, the royal and highest caste, the Siakars, composed of only the King and Queen, and their closest families, usually directly blood-related. Even half-siblings or half-parents were excluded from the Siakar caste and put in a lower caste, to minimize corruption of the chosen royal bloodline.
Perhaps it could be written as such:
The population of Omicron Draconis were distributed in four castes: the labour caste, the Reptillian caste, the Draconian caste, and the Siakar caste.

The labor caste was the lowest in the society, and granted no rights or freedoms. Next was the Reptillian caste, which consisted entirely of soldiers who were the deadliest and most feared army in the entire universe. The Draconian caste was divided into Scientists, who were the minds behind all of Omicron Draconis' technologies; and the Occults, considered as the second worthiest caste, since their magical and occult prowess proved many times greater than an entire army. Finally, the Siakars were the royal and highest caste. Only the King and Queen, and their closest family members were members of this cast. Only those who were directly blood related were members; even half-siblings or step parents were excluded from the Siakar caste and put into a lower caste, to minimize corruption of the chosen royal bloodline.
The scuffle between Laki and the prince was a little ... not confusing, but took a little bit of effort to read. I wish I could make a recommendation for reworking it to something requiring less effort, but I'm not sure how to approach the task. I could picture it enough to see what was happening, except at a couple of points.

Now with all that said.

I applaud your storytelling capabilities. Believe it or not, I saw this a while back. I looked at it, and saw the mention of reptillian aliens, and wasn't sure if I would be interested or not. Then I noticed that you wrote it, and thought, "Well, this won't be bad at all, I should read it when I have some more time." I regret that it took me this long to get to it; I was missing out on a good story.

This is definitely a good story. I can see that you were trying to do a lot here, handling complex themes, introduce complex events, and, although not perfectly polished, it's done well enough that I didn't lose track of the story, or interest in it. It's a good effort, with good results, and I see a lot of potential.

It actually caught my interest more than I originally thought I would. Laki is an interesting character; contrary to the efforts of his race, he wants to accomplish something. But what can he, a single individual, do? He finds out! :D The way the storyline plays out is enjoyable.

I also like how you used the theme of light and dark for good and evil. How you handle a common thing is pretty interesting, and is one thing that I noticed and thought I should mention.

I noticed this won second place in the contest you entered. I'll say it was well deserved. :)

Overall, this was a well thought story, told in a good and interesting manner. I'm glad I took the time (finally!) to read it. :)
What do you think?
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:iconclara-01:
clara-01 Featured By Owner May 13, 2015  Hobbyist Writer
:iconsteve-c2:

Sorry for the late reply; this week was exhausting, with all the farming preparations...

First of all, thank you very much for this critique; if I would have minded about direct answers, I wouldn't had requested a critique. So thanks for being the first one to give me my first critique. And i always read what you say with a kind tone. I don't think you're capable of mean words; at least, not to your friends.
And beside, if I want to publish my stuff, I need to know exactly what need perfecting, improving, and correcting. :)

So, your critique...

How did I do to miss such obvious grammatical errors!!!???  It's like I read it three times, and nothing stands out bad, and then someone read it, and there's all those stupid errors! I'm not meaning it's your fault, I mean that I somehow succeed to not notice on my own those errors... I need an editor... :(

Ah, I see... Yes, that flows much better when it's in two parts. Thanks! I'll keep an eye out for those type of paragraphs in my future stories, to keep them neat and less confusing! :D  And change that one; do you mind if I use what you wrote?

Ooh, yeah, sorry. It was the very first time that I wrote a battle scene... Does it show? :D  I'll work on that later, to try and make it less difficult to read...

I believe you probably gave me the most valuable compliment when you said you started reading this with uncertainty, but then kept on reading when you saw it was I who wrote it. :blush:

:lol:  So... Reptillian aliens are not your thing, eh? ;)

It became a rather complex story, yes. I started out without any mention of the species of Laki, except "he was a Reptillian". But then, it felt odd, as there was no explanation as to why he was so eager to betray his race! But at the same time, I had to keep this a "short" story; so how to explain just enough of the conflict, while keeping it short and sweet? And would it distract people too much? So I'm really glad it turned out rather okay! :oof:

It's actually a backstory to my novel. Like a million years ago backstory. In my novel, there's this unknown war going on, and there is rebels in both sides, so I thought this contest would be a good opportunity to make a tie-in about how those rebels came to be rebels. Especially in a specie that doesn't tolerate rebellion.

The thing with Laki is that he sometimes must accept to be cruel (like staying a soldier and actively participating in brutal and merciless conquests), if he doesn't want to be discovered as a rebel. But at the same time, he use this at his advantage, and creates strategies and ideas that the other soldiers follows; so when he can finally join the other side, he can know exactly what the enemy will move. So I'm really glad you found him interesting.

Seriously? I was actually scared that it was too cheesy or improbable; you know, the good guy visit a bad guy, then with magic and good stuff turns the bad guy into a good guy, who suddenly accept to betray his race for the good eyes of the good guy. :D  So, again, glad it worked out well! I tried to make that Laki was turned over by something else than love; so what else can make someone change? Then I remembered about all those people whose lives been changed by art. And I thought: that's it! His people is unknowledgeable about art, as it doesn't serve any purpose in war, but here is that strange woman, who doesn't speak, but who make art out of water and her hands, and who is part of the biggest empire of the universe but never makes willingly war or conquest.
One thing thoughL: did you understood, toward the end, that it was a sonic machine on her hands that created the water paintings, not magic? Just want to know if I need to improve on that part. :)

And I'm very happy that you took the time to write this critique; I'm very happy to have finally a thoughtful and honest thoughts on my stories. :hug:
And of course, thanks for the compliments. :blush:  I still think you're nonetheless the better writer from both of us. :D

P.S.: I'm writing another story for another contest from the same group that hosted this one, if you're ever interested. I've tried to make it different in story, this time, as it is about what would be my dream world. And I wrote something slightly different, as it doesn't deal with war or changing one's nature, or something like that. It's much more... ordinary, and I would be interested to see what you'd think of it. :)
It's not yet published though, because although it's finished, I still need to draw a scene to accompany the story, and I'm really rubbish at drawing, so I'm still struggling on the picture part. :D
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:iconsteve-c2:
Steve-C2 Featured By Owner May 14, 2015
I can't say I live on a farm, so I'm not familiar with prep work involved on one.  I'll say that I would guess it's exhausting.

How do you miss the grammar stuff?  The same way I do, sometimes.  If I'm tired when I'm writing or reviewing my stuff, I'll miss it.  In Paradox there was a grammar issue that wasn't spotted for months.  ;) (I felt like such a doofus when someone noticed and pointed it out ... "How did I miss that?" Seriously, don't feel bad for feeling like you need an editor.  I've felt like that, and to be honest, I'll be the first to say that I could use one, too sometimes.  For what it's worth, I remember from third grade, when we were being taught how to write things, the teacher said that "someone else should look at your work, because you will miss something."  Some of my more recent writings have actually been vetted by someone else before I load them here.

Splitting paragraphs is something I've had to do before.  In this bit, I wrote a fight scene that was 1 paragraph, which had 8 or 9 sentences.  In order to make it more readable, I turned it into 4 paragraphs, and between the 4 paragraphs, there were about 18 sentences. :)

You're welcome.  There's a general theme to your writing that I like seeing, and I like how you use the themes.

You're correct, the end result was alright. :)  I was right, then, that you wanted to do a lot. :giggle:  In the story, we didn't get to see so much about how Laki might have been conflicted about his task (participating in conquests to gather information) ... but not too much was lost from it.

Short stories do have a limited space, but a lot can be conveyed.  Complicated Affection was 32 pages long, and had more words than what was supported by sta.sh writer.  But it's still a short story. ;)

What worked for Laki, with the visits he's been having, are a number of things.  For one, he's been having the visits from the woman in his dreams, for years.  For another, he was predisposed to listen to her from the beginning.  For another, he doesn't like what his race is doing.  So having him turn around and rebel worked well.  Now if you had the woman visit the prince and turn him around in one night ... that wouldn't be really credible. :D

Speaking of credible, no I did not understand that the machines were moving the water.  I didn't know that she was holding anything until she gave them to Laki.  You may want to clarify the point that she had a couple of small machines that allowed her to manipulate the water and give it colors.  :)

Good luck with the next contest. :)

And thank you - you're definitely not bad.  I think it's really good that you're able to write as effectively as you do in a language that isn't native for you. :)

Rubbish at drawing?  I can relate to that, too.  :lol: :XD:
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:iconclara-01:
clara-01 Featured By Owner May 16, 2015  Hobbyist Writer
Oh... Its alot of clearing the farm of all last year's dead leaves, trimming all the dead branches of our plants, preparing new soils for our seeds and new plants, cutting all the fallen trees, trimming the grass, take the grasses roots out when near our plants, take the roots out of the extremely invasive blackberries when they get near weaker plants, etc... All that under baking su, and when afternoon shade comes in, now you fight the mosquitoes and the black flies that fly into your ears, eyes, nose, mouth, etc...

You're much better off not being familiar with prepping farms... It's allright if its the passion of an actual farmer, but my passion is writing and art, and those 8-10 hours of work takes away all strength to write. Labour force is good for the physical, but extremely bad for the brain.

Ah, you're probably right. I think that's why too when they explain all the steps to do before publishing is: Get your stories edited! :D

Actually... Complicated Affections is in fact a Novelette or Novella. A short story is anything below 7 500 words, whereas between 7 500 and 17 500 words is a novelette, novella is between 17 500 and 40 000 words, and anything above 40 000 words is a novel (Source: Word Count). :)

:lol:  Yeah, that wouldn't had worked in one night. :D

Well, in depends... I wanted to keep her machines a mystery at first, so to retain her seemingly magical properties with water and colour. Only when she announce that the time is ready does she reveals its in fact sonic machines. But you're right, I don't think that part is quite well explained.

Thanks! To both last sentences. ;)

:lol:  For your amusement, here's a drawing I did of one of my characters for commission:

Awful Tom Dzifforyy

And here is the actually well drawn character, from my Italian friend:

Better Tom Dzifforyy

I don't really have any hope for the picture part of this drawing.... :( :(

:D
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:iconsteve-c2:
Steve-C2 Featured By Owner May 20, 2015
My grandfather was part owner of a strawberry farm.  One year, I helped him clear the weeds out of one field; each field was a square acre.  I found it to be time consuming and exhausting.  And the weeds were really easy to pull.  He had also rigged a platform between a couple of bicycle frames, so all I had to do was sit and push back, which made it easier.  Still it was in the hot sun, and in humid weather.  Then there's the time I planted 1,308 onion bulbs for him.

You're entirely right; it is a passion, and one that I don't have to the degree that would compel me to exhausting physical labor.  Cripes, I can't even keep up with a 20' garden.  Easy to grow vegetables are my friend.  :D

Yep.  The writer has a tendency to overlook faults on our own page ... just because we're familiar with what we're saying and we know what we meant. :)

Complicated Affection rings in at 10,500 words, so that makes it a novelette.

Magic didn't seem to be out of place in your story, but I can understand why you wanted it to not be magic and instead equipment.

You're quite welcome.

You're welcome to review my sketch folder.  :)  Let's just say that as much as I practice drawing, I couldn't get very much improvement.  But when I write, I think I can actually see the improvement.  :)
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:iconclara-01:
clara-01 Featured By Owner May 22, 2015  Hobbyist Writer
:lol:  That's exactly what we have to do too (but without any rigs and platforms)! And plus, in a small section, we also have wild strawberries, but those plants are like tiny with roots so fragile! So when you pull out weeds, you have to make sure you didn't pull out the strawberries too! 
Wow... You calculated the exact amount? I would have got lost at 100. :)

Yeah, I feel you. In our own closest garden, its all easy to grow plants too. :D

Ah, well see! You've got yourself a novelette! :clap:

I always look for a technological explanation to anything magical or paranormal; ever since I read what Arthur C. Clarke said of magic: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."  I like that. I believe that too, and that's why I try to find technological explanation to all the "magic". Except when its a purposefully magic-based story. :)

Well, you have a slight advance on me: you draw eyebrows and a normal nose on someone's face. :D  I never draw eyebrows, I hate them, and my nose look a bit like this: /_  (just link both lines together). :lol:

But I know what you mean: in writing, you actually go somewhere. That's why normally, I leave the drawing to my good Italian friend. :)
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:iconsteve-c2:
Steve-C2 Featured By Owner May 22, 2015
My grandfather was clever.  He welded a couple of pipes between two frames, and set the board on the pipes; it even had a third pipe so he could set a backrest (which, given its use, was a joke, but actually made it better to use) and found a way to put a canopy over it for shade.  I pulled weeds in luxury, style, and comfort.  :rofl:  Well, he did do all those things, but the "luxury, style, and comfort" bit is a stretch.  Everything he did was practical.  And it started with 2 old bike frames.  And yes, we calculated the exact amount.  We planted so many rows of 4 bulbs, then did the math.

I would tend to agree with that line of thinking, as well, at least as it applies to humans and how advanced we can become.  After all, when the Spanish landed in Mexico, the native people there thought that firearms were some sort of magic, right?  However, it raises a question for me - what are your thoughts on the supernatural?  Does it exist?  Can supernatural phenomenon occur?

Heh, I know.  For the 3/4 body sketch I loaded, I had such problems with the face.  I told someone that at one point it looked like he had come out of Bozo's Five and Dime Clown Face Surgery.

Oh, I wouldn't mind commissioning one of my short stories, and I know exactly who I'd ask to do it, but I'm sure it would out me a few hundred dollars and I just don't have that sort of money laying around right now.
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:iconclara-01:
clara-01 Featured By Owner May 22, 2015  Hobbyist Writer
Umm... That is a hard question, even for me, but let see.... For example, ghosts. It is my partial belief that ghosts are in fact imprints from a parallel universe. basically, two universes coincidentally vibrated near the same frequency, which creates a ghost imprint on one another; like two radio waves, who both exist yet not exist at the same frequency, which in turn makes us hear both radio waves. Same thing. The only thing, is that in the parallel universe, the "ghost" is in fact someone who never died, so when we see the imprint of this universe in ours, where that person dies, well we see the imprint, the ghost, of that person. I guess that it can also be more multiplied if the person observing the ghost looks for it, which makes that person more aware of the imprint. 
Other things like telekinesis could be a possible boost in the brain's interaction with the electromagnetic fabric of the universe, enabling it to not just feel where the north is, or feel the magnetic current, but also control it, just like we can control sound waves with our throat to talk, instead of making random noises. Telepathy could, again, be a brain who's more reactive to the neural impulse created when a thought is created, and is fine-tuned to not only hear one's thought, but hear another's. 
So for me, it can exist. The question is more, how does it get scientifically explained? What are the technologies, what are the natural mutations in genetics, what are all those miracles that enables such paranormal activities. :)

Yeah, I understand. :hug:
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:iconsteve-c2:
Steve-C2 Featured By Owner May 26, 2015
That's definitely an interesting take.  Basically comparable to a radio signal and sometimes you're able to receive the broadcast of another station that you usually don't.
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(1 Reply)
:iconsteve-c2:
Steve-C2 Featured By Owner May 14, 2015
I'll reply fully later, but yes you can use my suggestions. :)
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:iconclara-01:
clara-01 Featured By Owner May 14, 2015  Hobbyist Writer
No problem, and thanks!
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:iconflamingodancer123:
flamingodancer123 Featured By Owner Mar 20, 2015
Congratulations on your 2nd place win in our contest, it was enjoyed very much by both the founder and myself. Great work and keep writing!!!:)
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:iconclara-01:
clara-01 Featured By Owner Mar 20, 2015  Hobbyist Writer
Thank you very much, you are too kind.
Someone pointed out that the narrative progression could be perfected, but I'm quite happy and surprised that it was enjoyed anyway!
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:iconflamingodancer123:
flamingodancer123 Featured By Owner Mar 20, 2015
You're very welcome
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:iconbreaghaderryth:
BreaghaDerryth Featured By Owner Mar 16, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
A really good story :D - You manage to put a lot into a short story, and build a wonderful world.

A few points to take into consideration, and maybe work with:
  • Introduce your characters and make your readers fall in love with them, before you explain the world. It will keep your reader's attention better. As a for instance, not saying you should do it this way, but one way of doing this could be to introduce Laki and his morning ritual with the sun, and then when he looks down on the labour caste, you can have him describe the Empire, so we get to know both the Empire and Laki at the same time
  • Work with your dialogue. Consider how you would say things yourself, then consider how your characters would say them. Then, when you've got it the way you want it, read it out loud to yourself, and see if it sounds good. Maybe even record it and play it back to yourself.
  • Get a friend to read through your work before posting it, to catch the mistakes that all writers have trouble spotting in their own work. When we've worked a lot with a text, our brains keep filling in the missing words or the words that should be there, rather than the words that are actually there. I know from my own writing, I do this a lot! :P
You have an amazing imagination, and I enjoyed your story a lot. These pointers are meant as just that; pointers. Please don't be discouraged by them. Keep up the good work :)
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:iconclara-01:
clara-01 Featured By Owner Mar 18, 2015  Hobbyist Writer
Thank you very much. It was indeed hard to put such a complex story in only one page, as I wasn't allowed more. If you must know, it won second place. ;)

Oh, true, yes, I should have put the ritual before... I'll work on that right away.
Oh, the dialogue wasn't that good? I know it didn't had alot, since Menrva almost never talks, letting her painting do the talking, so I didn't exactly noticed that the dialogue wasn't perfect. Especially since it's not really me that's talking, you know? It's a tyrannical guy (whom I've based around someone very tyrannical in my surroundings), the uncertain hero, who is an lien, so he doesn't really talk like humans, and the almost angelical girl, who speaks like an Elf. :D  So it,s not exactly my natural way of talking, which is very farmer-like. :)  But thanks alot, I'll work on that!

Yeah, I have yet to find a friend who enjoys proofreading. I had some who helped me out, but they weren't really enjoying it (not meaning this in a bad way, it's just it's true), but since I don't like asking people to help when they don't particularly enjoy doing so, well... 

Well thanks alot! I'm glad you liked it!
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:iconbreaghaderryth:
BreaghaDerryth Featured By Owner Mar 18, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
I've considered starting up a proof reading service here on Deviant Art, but seeing as I haven't yet, I'd be happy to help you out with that for a while. That is, if you won't mind me pointing out things other than typoes... Which basically means that you need to be able to tell me when to shut up - lol
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:iconclara-01:
clara-01 Featured By Owner Mar 18, 2015  Hobbyist Writer
I would very much like that indeed, thank you very much for the offer! But do you really enjoy doing that sort of work? Because I want that whoever do that job does it by pleasure and not obligation/duty. :)
And don't worry, as a native French, I need as much deep details as possible about how to write better in English. :)  So in reality, you mustn't shut up past typos. ;)
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:iconbreaghaderryth:
BreaghaDerryth Featured By Owner Mar 18, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
*giggles* I'm not sure I know anybody who actually enjoys doing proof-reading and editing... I suppose I think of it as a puzzle... And it helps me get better myself :)

I'm not native to English myself, though. If you read my texts, though, you can see the extent of the help I can provide. Not all of them, of course, but just enough to get a feel for my level of understanding of the English language. It's by no means infinite.
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:iconclara-01:
clara-01 Featured By Owner Mar 19, 2015  Hobbyist Writer
Well you write extremely well for a non-English native! At least, it could help me indeed to make my stories look better at the start, and the editor/writing enhancement software will take care of the rest when I'll be ready to publish commercially!
If you really don't mind helping me out, I would appreciate your help, yes. :hug:
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:iconbreaghaderryth:
BreaghaDerryth Featured By Owner Mar 19, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Sounds good ^^

Just send me a note with whatever you want me to go through :)
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:iconclara-01:
clara-01 Featured By Owner Mar 20, 2015  Hobbyist Writer
Thank you.
Well... let's see... Why not this one: Neith? If you want to start with this one, of course. Otherwise I'm perfectly willing to let you pick whichever you feel you want to do. Oh, and take all the time you want. The stories aren't going anywhere, and so ain't I. ;)  
Oh, and you don't need to do that right now if you don't feel like it, you know. It can be done in a month or two, or anytime time you want. :) 
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(1 Reply)
:icondhheiii:
dhheiii Featured By Owner Feb 26, 2015
I really liked the story.  You do such a good of building depth without getting bogged down with too much unnecessary detail.  And I don't think it's too long at all.  It's just at the right length to get a decent sense of the characters.  Good luck in the contest.
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:iconclara-01:
clara-01 Featured By Owner Feb 27, 2015  Hobbyist Writer
Thank you very much, I'm very honoured.

I was upset by the amount of descriptions I wrote about the planet, the Siakars, their beliefs, etc, in such a small story; but I had to remind myself that to make people understand why Laki wants to betray his own people, I had to explain extensively why he hated his own people.

So I'm glad it came out all right!
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