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What Happens Next? Suggestions Welcome!

So I've got this sword-and-sorcery tale I've been working on in bits and pieces for a few years now, but I'm stuck for the main plot! It's intended to be either a short story or a novella, and I'm looking for suggestions. These used to be locked to a closed set of "beta readers" but I've opened them up to the general public:

The Stones in the Desert, Part One
The Stones in the Desert, Part Two
The Stones in the Desert, Part Three

Take a look at them, and then if you're interested, suggest what should happen next! Possibilities include...

  • Soloman awakens lashed to his saddle and being led through the desert as Edrahed's prisoner. Why? What's the point of deception?

  • Edrahed intends to feed Soloman to ... something, under the stones. What is it, and why? Soloman is a noted vampire hunter, perhaps Edrahed is a thrall to some vampire lord who wants revenge?

  • Is Edrahed after Soloman specifically, or just whoever shows up? Is his father complicit in the deception, or has he been just as duped as Soloman?

  • Are there other mammoth scorpions out there?

This is all just a draft anyway, so things can be changed retroactively or generally mucked around with as needed. Whattya think?

-The Gneech

Legal Note for CYA: Soloman, this story, the setting, etc., are all ©2003 by me, all rights reserved. Not that I expect anyone who'd be reading this right now to want to steal this stuff, but I hope someday to be a bit more popular and it wouldn't do to unwittingly put my work into public domain or anything dumb like that.


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 20th, 2006 08:21 pm (UTC)
Possibility: That wasn't Edrahed. Too obvious?

(And there probably are other mammoth scorpions, unless they're extinct – it doesn't sound like the sort of thing that would be a unique magical construct.)
Nov. 20th, 2006 09:30 pm (UTC)
My original thought was that the scorpion was sort of the "André the Giant" of its kind, an outsize version of an already unusually large breed, that had been more or less reared (and possibly enhanced via sorcery) for the purpose of stocking this temple, since surely if scorpions the size of VWs were common, Soloman wouldn't sleep out in the desert without taking precautions against them first.

On the other hand, there is a certain amount of chicken-and-egg problem about that -- if there's one giant scorpion, even a long-dead mummified one, where are the rest?

Nov. 20th, 2006 09:37 pm (UTC)
Yeah, 'tswhy I said "unique" – seemed like if it was made once, it'd have been made more than once. But probably more-than-once would be in some other temple or whatever, and so they wouldn't really be out wandering the sands.
Nov. 21st, 2006 02:21 am (UTC)
I like this; a good start to a good creepy tale.

Given your suggestions above, what about a combination of #2 and #3? Edrahed is in thrall to the monster of the stones and Edrahed's father is in thrall to him?

I think something to consider is why the monster has inhabited the maze; the painting upon the inner walls suggest a triumphal memorial, not a sacrificial altar, although the erotic imagery and maturing youth hint at other things. So, is the monster its original inhabitant, or did it arrive later? If later, did it take the maze from those who built it, or did it come to occupy it after it had been abandoned?

Personally, I like the idea of a lich or vampire being the focus of Edrahed's orbit. Has he become seduced by the necromantic arts? Is the monster using Edrahed to usurp his father, and thereby gain control of the nomads?

If the scorpion had a purpose in the maze as originally constructed, perhaps the builders bred them for the purpose?

Finally, what's Soloman's ultimate aim? In the plot, it's to bring Edrahed back to his father. But in the story, is it to defeat the monster? That's about as far as Howard's Conan stories go, most times. If Edrahed is in thrall, does destroying the monster free Edrahed, or does he defend his master with his life? Is Soloman the sort of hunter of the dark who leaves a string of bodies in his wake? Is the ultimate goal the saving of Edrahed or the destruction of the monster?

I hope this isn't more than you wanted. I feel your pain about having trouble finding the plot in writing. I have troubles with the why; I've got a decent premise, and characters, but motivation and plot are a problem a lot of the time. Hopefully, you'll find something useful in these comments.
Nov. 21st, 2006 04:02 am (UTC)
Nope, it isn't more than I wanted; it's just the kind of input I was looking for, thanks!

As for the string of bodies, that varies from story to story, I'd imagine. He certainly tries to save the innocent whenever possible, but as they say, "vampires suck" -- so whenever they're involved, there's likely to be tragedy.

The original purpose of the maze was a kind of sacrificial temple, as the ghost of the priest attempted to explain in his insane ghostly way. There was a massive migration going on, and this temple was a waypoint before the longest desert slog. Anybody who couldn't make it past the deadly hazards of the temple (of which the giant scorpion was the centerpiece) would be a burden to the people making the crossing and so it was considered better to just kill 'em there and be done with it. Sort of a ritualized survival-of-the-fittest. The images of birth-youth-maturity were a walk through the life cycle, so that if you didn't survive the test, your soul would at least be prepared for judgement.

These people were the ancestors of the people described (however briefly) in Lords of Khaldun. As you can tell, time has not made them any more cheerful. ;)

If there is a vampire or lich in the temple, then my guess is that it's arrived after-the-fact, although that may or may not have been recently. With so many ghosts lingering there and so much bad juju concentrated on the spot, the vampire/lich/whatever may have simply been attracted to it like a moth.

-The Gneech
Nov. 21st, 2006 04:36 am (UTC)
Hm. Well, if the liches of Khaldun are the descendants of the builders of the maze, then I think the focus presents itself clearly, now. And just reading your response here, and your earlier post regarding your own conciliatory nature versus villainy clears things up more.

There are some significant "ifs" in your comment above. "If there is a vampire or lich in the temple, then my guess is that it's arrived after-the-fact, although that may or may not have been recently." (Emphasis added, obviously.) It sounds like you're giving Soloman too many paths to tread, and in response he is not taking any of them. You are not your characters, nor vice-versa, and it is acceptable for them to act in ways that you would not. This is something that I'm only slowly coming to realize, myself, in my own writing, and it's not an easy obstacle to overcome.

Were I given the base you have provided, and asked to finish the story, this is how I might run with it: The monster of the stones is the lich of the king portrayed standing above the dead sphinx. He was also the king who led his people into exile, fleeing something; whatever it was that desertified the once-fertile land and set them on the nomad's path. Through his efforts to save his people (echoed later in the fates of the Lords of Khaldun), he entered into a state of living death, and the temple was set up, as you say, to test his people as they fled.

The people moved on, but the lich remained, trapped, brooding, plotting. Eventually, he seeks to hold dominion over mortal men once again, and succeeds in enthralling Edrahed in an effort to usurp control of one of the bands of desert nomads. The core of his future conquering host.

Edrahed's father realizes what's going on, knows (or suspects) what is behind his son's treachery, and enlists Soloman to purge the evil. Even, perhaps, at the cost of his son's life. Being the hero, Soloman no doubt succeeds. ;)

That's how I might finish it, but that doesn't mean anything, really.

Again, I hope this wasn't going too far. I think the basis for a good story is here, if you can make the decisions that allow you to write it.
Nov. 21st, 2006 12:48 pm (UTC)
There's an angle that hadn't occurred to me! It has definite possibilities, yes. :) Thanks! I'll play with it. :) I had a neat idea last night for the "form" of the baddie, as well, but I'm not going to post that here to avoid spoiling it. ;)

Exactly the kind of pointer I was looking for, thanks!

Nov. 21st, 2006 02:26 pm (UTC)
You are quite welcome!
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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