Project 52: Toppling Atlas

1 short story a week. 52 weeks a year.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Storms. 2012 outline.

Untitled story of Ophelia, storms, and the rebellion.

The very first page says “A man lays bleeding on the ground, and a young girl walks over to him. “Tell me about your childhood” he says. “Tell me of the good I did.”. “All I can remember is storms” the says, and stabs him in the chest.

Storyline follows a young girl named Ophelia, who lives in a small town in the mountains. The world's mythos follows that around 20 years ago, a large tribe of nomadic like barbarians burned her city, and of the thousands in the city, only around 100 made it out alive. They are all intelligent, peaceful people, and the tribe of barbarians were always ignored up until this point. “Leave them be, they are just mindless savages. We're safe behind our walls.” They always say. (Ophelias father will occasionally sing “We are safe behind our walls!” when drunk and wandering the village). They had nowhere to go, except up, high into the mountains. Due to almost constant storm activity, the barbarians were afraid to go up, and due to their stupidity, did not possess the means to make it past certain obstacles. The new city is nestled in a valley high up, with a natural spring running through it, creating a waterfall that cuts the village in half. The beginning of the book focuses heavily on the created lore and traditions of the townsfolk, and of Ophelia. Ophelia is a young girl, with a heart of gold, but sort of an outcast. She has seemingly no real fear, and runs away often, camping out by herself in the mountains, although the villagers make up all sorts of beasts that she never runs into (Until later, that is). Her father, is a washed-up has been. When Ophelias mother was alive, he was the mayor of their city, and a genuinely good man to boot. However, his love for his wife was much stronger than his love for his daughter, and he fell after his wife died when the city was burned. Since then, he is hardly ever sober, and obviously isn't much of a father, certainly not enough to worry about her running away for a few days. Naturally, the people of the village take care of Ophelia in their own way, feeding and clothing her, and trying to keep her in the village as much as possible. They aren't evil, of course, they just want what's best for her, but Ophelia is young, and frustrated. She can take of herself, she thinks, since she's been alone for so long. One of the main characters is a chubby woman who serves as a baker in the village, and treats her as protectively as a mother hen, (and in fact, Ophelia genuinely loves the woman as a mother, but just like a mother, is constantly rebelling against her.). There are scenes where the woman wakes up, and Ophelia is laying on a cot set up in her room, curled into a ball shivering, wet with rain, and the woman places the blanket over her, and kisses her on the forehead. Her name (so far) is Mrs. Watts, a little joke due to the electrifying nature of the town. Mrs. Watts lost a child during the great fires, and is more than happy to care for Ophelia when she needs it, although Mrs. Watts understands that Ophelia is a wild-child, and won't be settled into the bashful, girly nature of her dead daughter. None-the-less, they love eachother, I suppose. Near the end of the book, Mrs. Watts asks Ophelia to move in with her, and Ophelia says yes. They still aren't mother and daughter, but they carry on just the same. Another character, who heroically dies in the end to save Ophelia, is the town doctor. He is a handsome, middle-aged man, but apathetic and calculating. Always saying the wrong thing, and never being much for showing emotion, except in his own way. Ophelia, however, always laughs at the strange things he says, and it's always subject of disbelieve to the villagers when they see him smiling, of which he only does often around her. That is a defining characteristic of the hero Ophelia, everyone loves to be around her, she makes everyone smile, everyone except her father. A small fact that eats away at her as she struggles between the guilt of not being good enough, and the anger that her father is never really there. The future actions of her father finally make up her mind that he is beyond repair, and that she is a wonderful person. She finds both her voice, and her confidence as the book nears it's end. Two of my favorite scenes so far are about some of the festivals in the town. In my way to create a backstory and legitimate world with this book, I've been creating traditions and other folklore for them. One of which is the Harvesting, a festival where the townsfolk dress up scarecrows (Due to being isolated, and unable to travel easily, and the difficult weather patterns and poor soil of their home, they take every precaution to save every last bit of food they can.) and float their scarecrows over the edge of the waterfall after the harvest is done. This plays out later when Ophelia stumbles down the mountain (a plot point for later) and sees where they all land. She refers to it as a “scarecrow graveyard” and even though they aren't real people, she feels bad for them, that they were discarded so poorly after doing their jobs so well. This is a precursor to show how much she cares for everything, and later, what gives her the voice to speak out against the slave-trade going on (more on that later). Crows liter the place (chewing the exposed straw of the broken scarecrows), when she sees a small bird fly through, and the crows attack it. Picking up a stick, and flailing wildly, she grabs the small bird, and the crows turn on her. Still flailing, she slips on a rock, and tumbles into the river, and is swept down stream for a little while. When she gets out, the bird has a broken wing, and she places it on her shoulder. (This will later be her friend, although the bird isn't magical or anything. Just a bird). As she's down there, she notices how barren the landscape looks, and sees ruins of old houses and what not. She comments on how she doesn't hear any animals, and we later learn that there may not be anymore of her species of bird left in the area. Nothing but crows and bugs it seems. Scared, she runs back, and after a long while, finds her way back to the village (she has incredible climbing skills, something she's learned on all of her late-night runaways.) she tells the villagers what happened, and they are shocked. There were thousands of barbarians, and if they are no longer down there, they may be coming to the village, some even claim that they could be following Ophelia! Her father, the politician he was, suddenly has the first piece of motivation in years. Revenge. They ask her about sources of food, and it dawns on them that the barbarians weren't smart enough to farm correctly. Buildups of acidity in the soil had started to poison the land, and yield less and weaker crops. They realize that the barbarians could have essentially wiped themselves out, or at least drastically lowered the population due to infighting and malnutrition. They have a town meeting to discuss what to do, and are all shocked when they hear the fathers voice speak up. He manages to talk them into sending scouting parties to capture any of the remaining children, for the purpose of studying, he says, and they grudgingly agree, due to fear. The Doctor, Mrs. Watts, and a few other minor characters speak out against this as an injustice, and wrong, but the father uses scare tactics to reinforce the others. “What if they grow too hungry, and find out where we live? What if they come at us again?”. The town has agreed to send raiding parties down to the lowlands, but Ophelia is unaware. She had taken off the night before again, to camp in the mountains. When she finally comes back the next day, we are shown why she always seems to run away. The father crashes back into the house late at night, and drags Ophelia by the hair out of her bed, shouting about not having food and what not. It's implied that he's never actually beaten her before, but everything about her coming back and having been down near the barbarians has his anger flared up. He is yelling, and she is crying, and eventually, he says that he would have traded Ophelia to have her mother back, and when Ophelia knees him in the groin, he slaps her before falling down. She shoots out of a window, and is crying as she runs. Circling the house, she tiptoes back in to grab the bird, and her pack, she holds a finger up to the bird when it starts chirping, and it listens to her. The end of the middle of the book shows her running in the dark, soaked to the bones, but holding a large leaf over her bird. She holds in her hand a large fruit-like object. It's a food that glows in the dark, due to the electrical nature of the environment, but it can kill if eaten. She's running, and the father is sitting in a chair in the house, and laughing to himself. We now start to break away from the folklore and characters to show the descent of the father, and the rise of Ophelia's rebellion. While running, many hours later, Ophelia goes to make a jump, and slips on a loose rock, loose from all the rain, and tumbles over the edge. The bird manages to flap, and sort of hover over to the bank of where they fall, but Ophelia plunges in. She falls into something that looks sort of like a well, and although she doesn't see it, she is standing in the last remaining column of a giant carving of a king playing a pan-flute-like instrument. Ophelia thinks she can hear the echoey sound of the bird chirping at her, but she quickly sinks to the bottom of the pool. She opens her eyes, and thinks she is a goner, and her eyes falls on a statue of a huddled creature, reaching feebly towards a stone on the ground. For no real reason, she decides to help this poor wayward stone carving (as I mentioned earlier, she is known to help everything), she places the stone into it's hand, and suddenly is glows blue, and groans as it starts to move, and water starts pouring out of a cut in the bottom of the well. She's terrified at first, but eventually comes around, and tries to befriend the creature. It is a stone being, except for its eyes. Looking at them, they quiver between dark blues and black and greens, and every so often, you can see lightning dancing between them. This is an ancient golem-like tool the people who used to live in these mountains used (That is another point of folklore the villagers talk about, how they were descendants of an ancient race of brilliant, and peaceful rulers that ruled everything in the lowlands and the mountains, but nobody really believed it to be true. Running low on oxygen, and of course fear, Ophelia passes out. When she awakens, she is wrapped up in a blanket, and sitting by a fire. She is groggy, and strains to get up. “What a dream” she says, and then looks over and sees the statue sitting off to the side, and she gets ready to scream and run, but then she sees her bird hopping around his arms, and he touches the orb on his chest, and presses a finger to the bird. A hundred little lightning bolts jump out and start probing at the bird, and Ophelia screams “NO!”, she rolls out of her blankets, and runs over to the statue, frantically looking for the bird, but it's nowhere to be seen. She starts sobbing, and smacking the statue, although it is stinging her hands, and then she hears the birds chirping. She looks around, and then up, and realizes it's flying. The creature has its hands up defensively, and she drops her arms, and starts to cry a little (There is a small reminder of how her dad just recently beat her, and she feels guilty for using violence like that), and then she places her hand on his arm, and he flinches, but when he finally looks back, she is standing in front of him, with her hand thrust out, palm facing towards him. The statue slowly raises his hand in imitation of hers, and she runs forward and places her small hand onto his, his engulfing hers. She laughs, and remarks on how giant his hands are, how she's sorry she smacked him, thanks him for helping her bird, and then asks for his name. The whole time he is just sort of staring at her, and finally shrugs at the end. She realizes he cannot talk, and decides to give him a name: “Adiuvo” (To help in latin). Again, he shakes his head, and she pats him on the shoulder, and says “Adiuvo. That's you. I'm Ophelia”, as she's talking, the bird lands on her arm, “and this is pipsqueak, but everyone calls him pips.”. It is understood early on that the statue can understand speech, but cannot talk himself. (At a later point in the plot, he scrawls out the word “please” into the dirt where he is locked up, and it helps to sway a large bulk of the townsfolk into joining her cause.) This is about the middle point of the book, everything starts to pick up past this point. It ends with Ophelia telling him to follow her back to the town, and the three of them head back. Ophelia is small next to Adiuvo, and is skipping, Pips is swooping in small circles, enjoying being able to fly again, and Adiuvo is just walking, but his head is constantly scanning the scenery. It's supposed to make you wonder if he has the ability to enjoy nature, or if he is scanning for troubles/data related reasons. I want people to have to wonder if he turns out to have human-characteristics, or if he is just a machine. For awhile at least.

The second half of the book starts off with Mrs. Watts bear-hugging (she is a heftier woman) Ophelia, and a bunch of villagers crowding around them, in awe of Adiuvo. We are given a small bit of dialogue where Ophelia makes fun of Mrs. Watts for shrieking when she saw Adievo, and then Mrs. Watts responds with “Child, that poor... thing looked much more frightened than I was!” and they laugh. Ophelia tells the story of what all happened, and how the statue healed Pips, but they adults don't really fully believe that. The Doctor even says “I'm sure you saw what you saw, but Pips was close to recovery anyway. I'm sure it was just a coincidence.” They go past it, and accept Adiuvo into their town. All but the father, and his small group that captures the children down the mountain, that is. They don't trust it, and hate it, but they don't do anything about it (immediately, of course). Events rush a little in this chapter, as time progresses, and Ophelia watches worridly as the village starts to change. A good chunk of the earlier section of the second half of the book revolves around the village expanding, and more and more people coming to the village. Although only a small handful of people know it, the father has been capturing the women and children down the mountain, and selling them off to other villages. It is implied that humanity mostly exists in small pockets at this point, and there is no real “City” anymore, due to the barbarians sacking everything. (The world they live in is roughly an island. It is the tip of a peninsula, surrounded by mountains, and oceans beyond that. There are stories of a continent somewhere out there, but no one really believes it. There once was a landbridge connected the two, but it has long since been flooded (The large mountains surrounding the island are what kept it safe). A few years have passed, and Ophelia is in her teens, 17 or 18 about. The father has been selling the children and women to other villages (of which are in much worse shape than their own mountain village) The rising action of this second half is when Ophelia finds out about the trade, and freaks out. At this point, the people have come to see Adiuvo as one of them, and he uses his powers to help build buildings for them. When Ophelia confronts the father in front of the townsfolk, he admits to it all, and we hear a sort of outrage coming from half of the villagers. There is about 200ish people in the village, originally, of that, about 150 are agreeing that this must stop, but the large bulk of the people who have moved in since the village started expanding agree with the father, stating that only the strong shall survive. Arguments break out, and eventually a fight happens. The fathers people overwhelm the original villagers (No one dies, it wasn't a violent fight), and when they won't agree with him, he sends them out. Ophelia goes to join them, but the father and some of the men catch Adiuvo with large chains, and bind him to a large wooden pole in the middle of the town-square. The father thinks he can work out how to use Adiuvo as an instrument, and build their city back up, but this time, in the mountains, where no one can surprise them with an attack. Ophelia is going ballistic, screaming and crying, and words are thrown back and forth, but then everyone quiets down as Adiuvo starts to scrawl into the dirt with his large finger. “Please” he says, an Ophelia runs over to him, and the father snaps, and one of his men crack Ophelia with a cudgel, sending her to the ground in a heap. A fight breaks out again, but this time, The father has his men pull knives, and they start to actually kill. (only a handful of people die. Mrs. Watts gathers up Ophelia, and they all run away into the mountains.)

Eventually, they come across the old ruins of some ancient city, and they make it their base camp. Life is tough for awhile, as they have to forage and hunt in order to find food, but eventually, they start to make it cozier. However, it doesn't take long for Ophelia to finally break away, and run back to the village. Mrs. Watts, knowing this would happen, grabs a few villagers, and they run after her. She knew when it happened, because Ophelia wasn't found, but Pips was locked in his cage, and he was making tons of noise, trying to get out and go after her. When Ophelia gets to the village, she is stunned. The village has more than tripled, and the amount of people. Everywhere she looks, she can see people, and they are awful at that. Brothels and gambling dens are set up everywhere, and the city is dirty, and dangerous looking. Still, in the center, Adiuvo remains chains to the post, now floating in the air now, as if the figurehead on a ship. Pulling up her hood, Ophelia sneaks in, and after some close encounters, and Mrs. Watts showing up, cracking a large rock onto the head of a drunken man who was holding Ophelia down hungrily, they make it to the square, and group up in the alley of two buildings nearby. The doctor emerges from the 10 or so people, and lowers his hood. He says “It's time to go home, Ophelia.” and Ophelia says “I AM home, doctor.” Mrs. Watts finally convinces him “We cannot possibly leave without Adiuvo! He's one of us, and besides, Ophelai will just run right back here the next opportunity. Again, and again, and next time she may not be as lucky we showed up when we did. The doctor thinks it over, and finally sighs, and agrees. “but we need a plan” he says, and they start laying out the framework for what to do. They wait a few hours, and eventually break Adiuvo down. It takes him a minute to get his legs working again, but he does. They trying to sneak out of the village, now a city, and are near the ouskirts, when they look over and see it. There is a hole in the ground, and a dozen or more children lay inside, dead. Mrs. Watts starts to sob, but Ophelia can only stare, growing more and more angry. Suddenly, two men stand up from blankets thrown on the ground (they were in charge of filling the graves, but got too drunk to complete it that night) and sound the alarm. Two of the men in Ophelias group run out, and kill the men, but it's too late. The hustle and bustle of the city flares up, and they all break off and start to run. Although narrowly, they manage to escape, because Adiuvo uses his powers to send a small avalanche down, wiping out a few of the men, and closing off the gap they came in on. When they get back to the village, they know that as soon as the rubble is cleared, the city will be after them, so they have to strike fast. Adiuvo starts to make swords and spears for them, and the villagers start building up fortifications outside the ruins. We are told in this scene how much of a knack for military the doctor has, and they quickly start to set traps around the mountainous terrain. The fight places about 500-600 men over 150 villagers, but they know the land, they had the time to prepare a defense and traps, and they have Adiuvo. The final fight takes place, and both sides lose many men. The villagers lose probably 50 or so, while the city folk lose hundreds. “Rocks rolling from above, Adiuvo collapsing the ground underneath them, and spears being thrown and swords drawn take many. Because neither faction ever really had need of sword before this, they are clumsy, but the general idea exists. The fight rages, and then we are taken to the last chapter of the book. Sometime during the fight, a storm whips up (there are almost always storms throughout the book) It starts the same way it begins, with Ophelia walking out of the shadows, and her father laying on the edge of a cliff, his head propped up on rock, and his shirt looking wet in the dim moonlight. She walks up next to him, and without looking he says “It's remarkable, the sky that is. The moon, It seems so much larger up here in the mountains than it did when we lived down in the lowlands. And I've never thought about it, but there is something beautiful to lightning, isn't there? It's sad that I've never taken the time to look at it before.” Ophelia stands quivering with anger, and indecision, and slowly pulls a knife out of a sheath, its steel glimmering in the moonlight for a second. Before she can move, he says “Tell me, Ophelia. Tell me of your childhood. I was good to you, wasn't I?”. Ophelia is quiet for a few seconds, and the father coughs up a little blood, and starts to cry a little. “I was good to you, wasn't I!” he says this time, a little more frantic. Finally stopping the quivering, she walks near him, and says “the only thing I remember about my childhood were storms.”, and with that, she plunges the dagger into his chest. He reaches up to her face, and says “I'm sorry, Elizabeth (Ophelia's mother), and dies. Ophelia slaps away his hand, and falls to ground crying.

In the epilogue, it talks about how they are back in the village, and there is a new kind of peace to the world. The barbarian women and children are taken in by villages, and trade routes are set up between them. There is no more slave trade, and any villages that did were attacked by Adiuvo and Ophelias army.

If the book is well received, the ending will have ships landing on the shore of their island, (I say island, but we're looking at several days trips between the villages. Word comes to Ophelia of what happens, and she receives a note that says “Our town has been burned. They have landed.” and Ophelia throws the paper in the fire, and pulls a sword out from it's scabbard, and rings the alarm for everyone to meet in town square. The second book would be about them fighting, and how they have an Adiuvo as well, but he isn't as compassionate as Adiuvo. He is a tool, and more importantly, a weapon.  

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