October is somehow upon us already and November is soon to follow (typically). We all know what that means! Nanowrimo!
I honestly don’t remember if I took part last year. I might have spent the month editing previous stories. This time, I’m hoping to jump back into it with the aim to complete a short story at 50,000 words. I’m so often busy these days that pantsing seems like it won’t work: that works best for me when I’ve got large chunks of time in the day to idly type as things come to me.
So, I’m hoping to be joining this month’s Preptober, and getting back into the Nanowrimo community. That’ll allow me to know exactly what’ll happen in each chapter to make sure I don’t end up writing myself into a corner, and wasting time figuring that out. Hopefully, the problem solving will all be done this month so next month can be spent building the world and crafting the words.
The most natural place for me to find a story at the moment is in my We Can’t Bear The Dark series, taking the story beats that playing Thousand Year Old Vampire has set up. One of the issues (by design!) with TYOV is that often stories don’t end up getting completed. But, with an extra bit of work they can fit together really nicely.
It’s been a little over thirty years since darkness came to the Eastern Front Barracks.
There’s still no King on the throne of the Empire, but the Empire remains strong in the hands of the Round Table. Annoiting someone is right at the top of their priorities, but they’ve found a few ingenious ways of avoiding it.
All threats from the east hit the Barracks stones and are repelled. Sir Aeron continues to do a marvelous job in that respect – so marvelous that no one needs to know what’s going on inside his walls. With no royalty to keep balance, faith has soaked up all the power it can, so there’s no difficulty in sending heretics to their doom. The story, of course, is that they’re sent to fight for their country, to pay for their crimes, but rarely do they last more than a few hours once inside the gates.
A dank, depressing society trudges on within the City Barracks. The Fourth Company still rule – the world outside believes that their ranks must have changed a little. They were deathly ill when last seen, but no. Their ranks are the same, to a person.
Hope can still be found in the children though. They tell each other stories of escaping one day, out of the never ending gloom.
One such girl is Krishna Youssef. She’s certain that it’s the Fourth Company who are making their lives hell. She’s filled with horror stories from her parents about them, and knows to stay away. Her bravery gets the better of her sometimes though, and she follows them around at a distance.
She watches them more than anyone else dares to. She’s spotted the darkness that seems to leech out of them.
The darkness that hangs over the city is obvious from afar now. For those that know what they’re looking at, it stands out like a beacon.
The man that called himself only Welles entered the City of his own volition. His footprints leave behind oily patches of darkness that the meagre sunlight takes hours to wash away. He holds his cloak close around his face, hiding the mutilated flesh below. A wound that Sir Aeron notices, and immediately feels a familiar pull towards.
He pulls behind him a trunk. Heavy, stained oak with heavier looking padlocks and iron rivets. He drags it along the floor by a dark red rope which threatens to – but never will – snap at any moment.
He opens it for a moment whilst talking to Aeron, the process of unlatching locks taking a few minutes. He chucked in what he came for and then slammed it closed. The glimpse Aeron caught was unimpressive; a roll of twine, maybe, sitting a top a clay jug.
The armor would be returned to Sir Aeron two days after Welles had left, found tossed quite near the edge of the City’s outer walls. It was dusty and missing four of the gems that were previously inlaid in the silver and gold.
In exchange for the armor – or at least the gems, it seemed – Welles shared how he came across his own wound. Creatures of shadow stalked him whilst he travelled and camped. He knew now that they didn’t immediate kill him because he was chewing raican grass. They pounced the moment he spot out his last blade of it. He couldn’t stand the taste of it now. “Neither will you,” he said.
The shadow pack that got him were straight from the other side, he said. “The Alius See,” he said. “They’d probably never seen a human before me. Feral things, the native ones.”
He took a pinch of a chalky, fine substance from a pouch, and dabbed it on his tongue. Immediately the man seemed larger, his shadow darker, his eyes clearer. He was so mesmorising that Aeron forgot to flinch when he smushed a small amount of the stuff on Aeron’s lips.
The world sang around him. Each time the torchs’ flames lasped it sang louder. He was instantly aware of his brothers and sisters of the Fourth. Knew their hungry hearts. Their strength. Their loyalty.
Somewhere off, much further away, there was a wild cry of thirty or forty beasts screaming in … joy?
“That will last a few minutes. It’s hard to come by.”
A few Sundays ago, I wanted to start another Thousand Year Old Vampire run but I didn’t fancy doing it alone so I dropped a message into my family chat. “Does anyone want to play a writing game with me? It’s about figuring out what a vampire did over their lifetime.” I knew my sister, S1, would join. I doubted my other sister, S2, would join. I hoped my mom would join.
When the time came S1 arrived eager to play, even though she had no idea what was about to happen. I didn’t hear anything from the always busy S2. There was no sign from my mom either, which upset me a bit, so I messaged her privately asking if she had time to join. “I’m not very good at writing and making things up, I dunno,” she said back. I applied about more pressure, as the favorite child, and she joined.
We had a huge amount of fun, and it’s ended up being a Sunday routine of ours that we’ve done for over a month now. S2 even graced us with her presence which has been wonderful.
This was a very novel experience for all three of them. I don’t believe they’ve done any creative writing since being forced to at school – even for the youngest of us, that’s over a decade ago. It was very obvious that they were … resistant to lean into their imagination too much, too quickly.
The most confusing reaction – that cropped up multiple times – was are we allowed to write this? Both my mom and S1 had this reaction at different points, and I wasn’t entirely sure who they thought would stop us.
TYOV is primarily a single person game. There are multiplayer rules, but I’ve not paid any attention to them. When it’s time to make up a new resource our vampire has aquired, I’ll say “okay, mom, what’s the item?” and she’ll have a think and say “a kettle?” and then I’ll say, “okay, S2, what’s cool about it?”, “it never runs out of hot water!” (“what about booze?”, my mom will say, “yeah! hot vodka!” S2 will screech, “no wait normal tempurature vodka!” mom screeches louder, attempting to keep us sane, “too late – it’s hot vodka,” I decided) and then maybe I’ll figure out the event that meant our vampire aquired it and type it up. We all contribute a bit.
On one occaision the prompt required us to make a new immortal creature. “Does it have to be a vampire?” S1 asked, still grasping around for the acceptable boundaries of imagination. “Could it be Dobby?” There aren’t many things that my sister will nerd out on, but Harry Potter is up there.
“It can’t be Dobby!” my mom decided. “That’s plagorism!”
I think it’s probably closer to copyright infringment, but I was a bit taken aback that my mom’s first thought was that we’d all be thrown in a prison cell together if we wrote down the name of a houseelf. The Google doc we were writing was, after all, just for us. (In the end, we did go with a gnome-like elf, but who went by a different name.)
There were a few other occaisions where one person or another got caught on the idea that we were breaking a rule that their imagination just couldn’t get past. “Well, I’ve never heard of a vampire that can do that,” someone said. It wasn’t that they were against the idea of a vampire that could do a unique ability, it was that there was a door in their imagination that we had to kick open before they thought it was allowed.
The first couple of hours certainly felt like we were hitting those doors all the time. They were opened though; with practice they all seemed to be more comfortable with just making stuff up.
Anyway, at the end of last session we just woke up the Overlord of the Vampires, who’d been in a petrified state for thousands of years, so I’m very excited to play again tomorrow.