Free Short Stories: Day 59 of 365

This is an entry into my daily writing adventure. To read from the beginning, you need to go to the bottom and read upwards.

Here are the Rules:

  1. I must write 365 words (or more) a day. Practice makes perfect!
  2. No editing any of these short stories until the year is over- and this includes simple stuff like spelling mistakes. It’s okay to write bad stuff!
  3. I must publish everything I write for this project, and I cannot take it down afterward.

Do not copy, repost or claim ownership of any section of this story.

Day 59 – Monday April 12, 2021

Start 14021 – Goal 14386

(NOTE: I am getting my first COVID shot tomorrow, so I expect I will not be in the mood for much writing tomorrow. Don’t expect an update. I’ll do double the update another day.)

(NOTE2: This is the last segment of this short story.)

I screamed in terror once again, watching as the demon launched it’s final, devastating attacks. It’s fists pummeled my nephew, breaking and bruising in equal measure. He struggled to fight back, his hand scrabbling to grab his dropped sword. The crowd cheered, enjoying the beatdown no matter who was on the receiving end of it.

After two minutes, the demon relented, leaving Neri a broken and bleeding ruin of a man, shattered on the sands of the arena. Quintus had to look away. Illusion or no, I was crying at the sight. There was no way he could stand, let alone fight.

“Why?” Neri whispered to the demon as the monster took a moment to catch his breath. “I did everything I could to win! How am I supposed to pass this test? I practiced, I studied, I trained!”

“You were never supposed to pass this test. You were always doomed to fail. After all-“

“You will always be more powerful than me,” Neri finished for the demon.

“Yes, Nerikare. I will always be more powerful than you. You were never able to beat me,” the demon answered, almost sounding apologetic. “Are you ready to die?”

Without warning, Nerikare’s scrabbling hand seized his dropped sword and made one final attack. The demon screamed, black blood spilling from an open wound at his neck. It stumbled back, out of reach of the prone Neri.

“As resilient as a cockroach, aren’t you?” The demon growled. Out of some infinitely deep pocket, the monster drew an arquebus and leveled it at Neri. “I’m done playing around.”

“A gun? You brought a gun to a sword fight?!” Neri burst into sad laughter when he realized his final attack would not be enough. “You cheating bastard!”

“Of course I brought a gun. You knew I was a cheater. You should have planned on me bringing a gun,” the demon said pragmatically. He leveled the rifle at Neri’s chest. “Gods’ mercy upon you. Are you ready to die?”

“I’m ready,” Neri said, dropping his sword, utterly spent. He laid out on the sands, closed his eyes, and waited to die for the penultimate time.

“Then you have passed the test, Squire Nerikare,” the demon said, lowering it’s arquebus. It bowed deeply. “Not all battles can be won. The true test of a Paladin is the ability to win a battle, but to face defeat with dignity.”

“Wait, what-?” Nerikare asked. “I passed the test?”

The demon didn’t answer. Instead it returned to the thing of mirrors and angles, and disappeared. The illusion faded. Nerikare’s broken bones became whole, as though they were never broken. The splashes of blood on the sand evaporated. The two sets of footprints was reduced to just one set of footprints. It was over

Quintus and I burst into cheers. The coliseum audience burst into boos, wanting more bloodshed.

“You lived?! I’ll have to go find someone else to eat tonight. You’ve earned yourself a reprieved Nerikare,” Tsekani said, sounding disappointed. He and his drunken friends left the amphitheater, even as Quintus and I rushed down to join Neri on the sands. I dropped to my knees, ignoring the damage it would cause to my delicate dress, and hugged him.

“How did I win?” Neri asked, sounding confused. “The demon had me at his mercy! He could have killed me!”

“You were brave, Neri,” I whispered, giving him a big hug. “I’ve never been more proud.”

The Master Paladin entered the arena, and promoted Neri to being a Squire. He was one step closer to becoming a Knight. I grinned ear to ear as I watched my beloved nephew receive his promotion. It was a quick ceremony, and once over Neri and some other squires went to go party.

The coliseum quickly emptied thereafter, leaving Quintus and I alone.

“I can’t believe he did it,” Quintus said. “I thought for sure he’d fail!”

“I knew he’d succeed. He’s moved on from the little man I help raise for so many years,” I replied, smiling as I watched my nephew go. I then turned to Quintus, and smiled. “I’m in a good mood. My favorite teahouse is nearby, and this time of day they’re serving my favorite oolong. Do you want to join me? And maybe… and maybe we’ll see where the evening will take us? I think I’m ready to move on too.”

He hesitated, not missing the suggestion in my tone of voice. It was inappropriate for a promised woman like myself and a knight sworn to celibacy like him to spend an evening together. Even if we didn’t do anything inapprorpriate, if we were caught people would talk…

He smiled.

“Let’s do it.”

He took me by the arm and led me to the teahouse for some evening caffeine. And from there, we would see where the evening took us.

Day 58 – Saturday April 11 2021

Start 13220 – Goal 13950

(NOTE: After I finish this story, I’m going to take a week or two off of writing short stories daily. Frankly, my hands hurt a lot and I need time to heal. I’ve been typing too much recently, and this isn’t helping. Instead of writing stories daily, I’ll try writing a daily poem or something, I don’t know.)

The demon appeared from within the thing of mirrors and angles. The Tsekani-copy strutted into the center of the coliseum, waving it’s arms about, encouraging the audience to cheer. On cue, they cheered.

“Thank you, thank you! You are too kind,” the demon said confidently. It drew it’s gladius, and turned to face Nerikare. “Heya Neri. Any last words?”

Neri looked queasy, but he didn’t answer. The demon raised an eyebrow, looking just as sardonic as the real Tsekani would.

“What’s this? Have you learned manners in the last year? I never would have thought it possible!” The Tsekani-copy asked, mockingly. “The last time we traded blows you threatened to rip out my tongue. Perhaps the cat got your tongue?”

“We both know you’re going to win, because you’re a demon and demons cheat. And after you win, the real Tsekani is going to kill me,” Neri said, sounding resigned to his fate.

The demon bowed, a touch mockingly.

“The boy’s gotten wise over the last year. You’ve truly learned that I will always be better than you. Are you going to surrender?”

“No.” Neri drew his sword and aimed it at the monster. “Are you ready?”

Without warning, the demon sprinted at a superhuman speed, sword swinging for a decapitating strike. I screamed with terror.

Neri got his sword up in time to deflect the blade. Instead of Neri losing his head, he stepped to the side like he was a matador dealing with a bull, and kicked. The demon, propelled by his superhuman momentum, went flying.

The demon landed flat on his face. Nerikare drew a pyromancer’s fan from his belt, opened it and used it to incinerate the prostrated demon.

The crowd gasped, then cheered. I screamed with joy.

Fast as a viper’s kiss, the demon scrambled out of the wake of devastation created by Nerikare’s pyromancer’s fan. He slapped out the flames of his burning armored doublet, his Tsekani-like face a mass of burns.

“You have improved,” the demon admitted grudgingly, carefully staying out of the range of Nerikare’s pyromancy. “I’ll have to take this fight seriously.”

The demon prowled around the coliseum, looking for an opening in Neri’s guard. Neri did the same, sweating bullets as he stalked through the sands.

“Hurry up and die!” The real Tsekani shouted down into the arena from his nearby box. The crowd started to chant, demanding the two fighters get on with it.

“Come on, come on,” Quintus whispered. He was playing with his prayer beads nervously, not aware of what his hands were doing.

“He’ll pull it out,” I told Quintus confidently.

The demon screamed ferally and lunged. Nerikare brought up his sword to parry the attack, but the demon’s sword never fell. The demon feinted his sword-strike, to give himself an opening to punch Neri in the stomach.

Neri stumbled backwards, gasping desperately for breath.

“You’ve not improved that much.” The demon smiled, his teeth inhumanly long. “I’ve got you scared!”

“You’re right, I am scared.” Neri got his sword back up, refusing to give in. He re-focused his attention on his opponent, and advanced. “Sometimes you have to keep going despite your pain and fear.”

The pair of them exchanged sword strikes, culminating in both landing blows upon the armored torso of their opponent. Nerikare’s blow drew blood, while the demon’s didn’t. The demon stumbled backwards, hand pressed to the wound in it’s woolen armor, but Neri did not relent. He kept striking, kept advancing, forcing the demon to stay on the defensive. Neri even disarmed the demon with a casual thwick of the blade.

Neri leveled his sword at the demon’s neck. The crowd cheered, except for the real Tsekani. He looked shocked.

“Any last words?” Neri asked mockingly. The demon’s eyes narrowed, but didn’t respond. So Neri swung his sword, in an attempt to decapitate the demon.

And then the demon caught Neri’s blade in an un-armored hand- a move no human could do without losing several fingers.

“You’re right, Neri. I’m a demon, and demons cheat.”

The demon ripped the sword from Neri’s hand. The demon stopped pretending to look like Tsekani, and assumed it’s true form: a hulking, black monstrosity with horns, a tail and scaly skin, crammed into a duelist’s doublet armor. Neri’s eyes went wide.

The demon swung a fist, and Neri went flying. The demon sprinted after Neri, ready to perform the coup-de-gras with his fists.

Day 57 Sat April 10 2021

No update for today. I got distracted and ran out of time for typing.

Day 56 – Friday April 9 2021

Start 12780 – Goal 13145

Act 5

The day of judgement had come.

With help, Neri had studied and improved as a warrior, training for his final chance to prove himself. With Quintus, he learned swordplay. With Hemkhet, he began the practice of battle sorcery. With Cassius, he studied bare-handed brawling. Neri began a student, but his fighting skills improved rapidly. Watching him fight was a thing of beauty. He was no master, but no one could deny the fact that he could hold his own in a fight.

But would those skills be enough?

Quintus sat next to me in the stadium. He was as on-edge as I was, though he kept a stiff upper lip about it. He betrayed his nerves by playing with his prayer beads, nervously praying even as the crowd filed into the amphitheater.

“He’ll do fine,” I said, trying to reassure the Knight-Paladin. Quintus gave me a dubious look.

“Well, well, well! It looks like my little brother’s final trial. This is your last chance to get practice in dying! As soon as you die this one, last time, you’re mine,” Tsekani said, drunkenly shouting down into the pit below. Tsekani spread his new-minted vampire wings to bring home his point. King Imhotep must have bestowed the gift of vampirism on his elder son Tsekani sometime in the last year. “As soon as you fail here, I’m going to drink you dry!”

“The King wouldn’t allow one of his sons to kill another of his sons, would he?” I whispered to Quintus.

“I don’t see the king here, do you?” Quintus answered. I looked around, and realized he was right. A chill went down my spine.

“Why wouldn’t he come? His son is about to pass this trial!” I said, feeling a sense of dread rising up my spine.

“He didn’t come, because he embarrased his father by failing twice. The king expects him to fail again, and when he does he’ll let Tsekani get away with the murder,” Quintus explained to me. “Damn it all.”

The day of judgement had come, and everything was on the line. Neri had to pass this trial, or else his own brother would kill him just so Tsekani would get a larger share of the inheritance. I felt queasy, fearing I’d see my nephew die twice today.

“Nerikare desires to become a Squire in the Paladin Order. To pass this trial, he must show wisdom in the face of danger,” the Master Paladin shouted. “I won’t delay things any longer. Begin!”

Day 55 – Thursday April 8 2021

Start 12497 – Goal 12862

“We have a choice between bad and worse. I see no choice but to choose bad,” he said reluctantly. He released a sigh, and allowed his shoulders to droop. “At least if I become a Squire I’ll have some political power to oppose Euphraxia. They can’t bully me completely if I have allies in the Church.”

“I sorry that I put you in this position. I saw no other choice,” I apologized.

“Don’t apologize. I’ve needed a kick in the pants for a few years now.” He dragged himself out of bed, and got a wiff of himself. “Good gods, I stink. Time for me to take a shower.”

“I’d hoped you say that. I have water boiling downstairs,” I said, getting out of his way so he could stand. I smiled seeing him get up again. “Go get yourself cleaned up. I’ll have a maid clean up in here.”

“Thanks,” he said, blushing. “I appreciate everything you’ve done for me. Really.”

“I know.” We took a moment to hug.

“But what do we do if I fail my trial, despite everything you’ve done for me?” He asked me, allowing his lack of confidence to show. “Auntie, I’ve failed twice. If I don’t pass my trial, we’ll be left endebted to Euphraxia, but without allies in the Church. We might as well be enslaved to them.”

“I believe in you,” I whispered, and hugged him all the tighter. I didn’t let him see me cry.

Act 4 End

Act 5 Begin

The day of judgement had come.

(I’m ending a bit short today, because it’s late and I want to start act 5 in a singular unit. IOU ~100 extra words tomorrow.)

Day 54 – Wednesday April 7 2021

Start 12122 – Goal 12487

Neri didn’t respond right away. Instead he wore a contemplative expression, thinking over my suggestion.

“It seems you’ve outmaneuvered me quite deftly. I can’t back out of your suggestion without seeming like quite the ass. You’re willing to get married, so I should as well.”

“Don’t think of it like that. It’s just a suggestion. If you don’t want to take up the offer, I’m sure we can figure out another method for getting you the training you need,” I said, trying to reassure him. “There’s the added benefit that if you become one of House Euphraxia’s cat’s paws, you’ll be protected by House Euphraxia. Your brother Tsekani won’t dare to kill you, for Euphraxia is a dangerous enemy to have.”

“But what would House Euphraxia get out of such a marriage alliance? Euphraxia is one of the most powerful Houses on the planet. Ever since our family was slain, we’ve lost the vast majority of our properties and subjects. We’re an inconsequential noble family at best,” he asked, confused. “Lady Olivia entertaining me as a husband makes no sense.”

“Euphraxia want to use you as a cat’s paw,” I said, grimacing. “Our family might be dead and our properties stolen from us, but you still have a claim to those properties. If you marry her, House Euphraxia will reconquer all our stolen properties. They’ll restore you to your throne of our lost duchy as a puppet ruler, but for the rest of your life you’ll be a pawn in Euphraxia’s court.”

“That’s not a good deal. We’d regain the lands we lost, but we’d be subjugated in the process,” he said. “Euphraxia aren’t nice folks. They’re vampires like my father. They eat people. After they install me as Duke, they’ll force me to hand over a certain amount of peasants every year as… vampire food.”

I nodded. There was no good way to spin it.

“So we’re making a deal with the devil, selling ourselves downriver and dealing with the consequences later,” he spelled it out for me.

“I’m sorry. I couldn’t think of any better ideas.” I sighed. “This is your choice to make, not mine. It’s not me they’ll be installing into the Ducal throne, it’s you.”

Day 53 – Tuesday April 6 2021

Start 11514 – Goal 11879

“Aunt, I appreciate the sentiment, but we both know there’s no chance I’ll ever complete my Knight training, let alone become a Knight-Paladin,” Neri said resignedly. “I’ve failed my trial to pass from a Page to a Squire, and I must become a Squire in order to become a Knight. There’s no hope for me left.”

“May I hold your hand?” I asked. He nodded, so I did. “Neri, don’t give up. I believe in you. You have your father’s conviction, and your mother’s bravery. They would be so happy to see the man you are becoming.”

“I told you I don’t want to deal with our family legacy,” Neri said, shaking his head. “I still love my parents, but I want to set the past behind me.”

“That’s you’re prerogative. They’re dead, and they’re not coming back. But please, just don’t forget them.” I squeezed his hand, and did my best to hold back tears. “Even if you choose not to start a family of your own, draw strength from the generations immemorial which came before us. The legacy of those generations might end with us, but until then neither of us are alone. You’ll always have me, I’ll always have you, and behind us stand a thousand generations.”

We spent a moment together in silence, contemplating what we’d lost.

“Thanks for the pep talk, auntie, but I don’t see how it will do me any good,” Neri told me. “No matter what I’ll do, I’ll lose to that Tsekani-demon. I can’t pass this trial.”

“I’ve been thinking about that, and I have a plan,” I said. “That monster is a copy of Tsekani, so presumably it has all the same training Tsekani has. For you two defeat the monster, you must have the same training as him, but better. Do you agree?”

“I suppose so, but Tsekani had some of the best tutors in the kingdom. I have Quintus to teach me swordplay, and Quintus is second to none. However Tsekani also had grappling and battlemagic training. Quintus can’t bring me onto Tsekani’s level in those arts.”

I took a deep breath.

“I did some research, and have an idea. King Imhotep’s favorite Battlemagus, Hemkhet, taught Tsekani everything he knows about battlemagery. I wrote to Hemkhet and he agreed to take you on as a pupil.”

Neri stared at me, jaw slack.

“But Hemkhet never takes pupils! What did you give him in return?” Neri asked.

“I agreed to become his wife,” I answered. “Hemi and I are old, childhood friends. If Thad and I never got married, I would have married Hemi instead. After Thad died, Hemi contacted me and offered to become my husband. He is recently a widower, so the match seems fair.”

Neri stared at me, jaw practically detached from his face in shock.

“But- but- you’re in grief! You don’t have to do that for me!”

“I’m not doing it for you,” I said softly. I smiled. “Neri, sometimes you have to keep on going despite the pain and fear.”

“Thank you,” Neri said. “But we still don’t have a solution for teaching me how to grapple. Hemkhet can’t teach me that.”

“As a matter of fact, Knight-Captain Cassius Euphraxia is famously the most talented grappler in the kingdom, beating even the grappler who taught Tsekani. He is willing to teach you.”

“But at what cost? You can’t marry him as well.”

“Indeed not. Lady Olivia Euphraxia is unmarried, and in need of a husband approximately your age. If you agreed to court her, I’m sure she’d order her Knight-Captain to give you a few lessons.”

Day 52 – Monday April 5 2021

Start 10948 – Goal 11313

Act 4

Nerikare needed bedrest to recover. While his body was unharmed after his illusory battle, his mind was not. The demon had dealt a grave blow to his psyche which only time could heal.

But his days in bed stretched into weeks, and finally into months. It became apparent that he was not healing. Nerikare sat in bed, refusing to leave. He’d skip meals, and began getting dreadfully thin. When I tried to speak to him, ask him what was wrong, he’d say either nothing at all, or he’d lead the conversation in a circle and I’d get nowhere.

I didn’t know what to do, so I turned to fasting and prayer for insight. After a week spent in meditation and seclusion, and eating half as much as I truly needed, I received a vision from the gods.

“Meet him halfway between where you are and he is,” they whispered to me. “Only then can both of you find your course.”

I considered my plans, made preparations, and visited Nerikare in his bedroom.

Nerikare smelled to high heaven, for he hadn’t left the room in weeks. The chamber pot underneath his bed stank, for he only got up to dump it out the window and into the abyss outside every other day. There was a pile of dirty dishes on his desk, sitting atop his armor and weapons he’d used non-stop the year before.

“Neri, are you up for talking?” I asked, knocking on the door and opening it.

I got no response from with. I joined him, sat next to him on his crumpled up bed. His back was to me. I knew he wasn’t sleeping.

“What’s wrong?” I asked him, laying a hand on his shoulder.

He ignored me.

I took a deep breath, and prepared to leave my comfort zone.

“Nerikare, I owe you an apology. Would you please turn to me so I can look you in the eyes when I apologize?”

That got his attention. He rolled over in his bed. As a Knight Paladin he was obligated to remain cleanshaven. He’d so lost the will to live in the last few months that he’d grown a peach-fuzzy beard.

“Well?” He asked me. His voice was raspy and hoarse from disuse, but it had also naturally gotten deeper in the last few months. He truly was growing up right before my eyes.

“Neri, I apologize. I put a lot of pressure on you to get married and continue our family legacy. That was wrong of me, and I apologize for it. You were right. It was hypocritical of me to expect you to carry on our legacy when I myself refused to quit grieving for everything we’d lost.”

He sat up when he realized I was being earnest.

“I know you’re not solely in bed due to my weighty expectations upon your shoulders, but I understand they contributed to putting you here. There’s no excuse for my hypocrisy, and the damage it has caused you. I cannot apologize to you enough for what I’ve done,” I continued. “I spoke with Quintus, and he requested that I encourage you to remain in the Paladin Order after you have completed your Squire training, instead of our original plan of you leaving after completing your training. If you so choose to become a Knight Paladin, I support you completely.”

Day 51 – Sunday April 4 2021

Start 10526 – Goal 10891

“Ma’am, in your attempts to make Nerikare marry, are you trying to make him happy, or you happy?” Quintus questioned me.

“What difference is there between the two? Obviously if he settled down and started a family that would make him happy,” I answered. I smiled a bittersweet smile. “It made me happy.”

“It’s not obvious to me,” Quintus said. He leaned forward, put his gloved hand over mine. “Nerikare loves the life of a Knight Paladin. Our original agreement was for him to complete his training, then resign the order. Ma’am, I must ask you to not object if Nerikare decides to not leave the Order when the time has come. Nerikare must do what gives him purpose. For him to do anything less is to live an unfulfilled life.”

He spoke with such conviction, such earnestness… I looked away from him.

“Nerikare walks his path. You must walk yours.”

“Sir, I can’t,” I whispered. “Some wounds never heal.”

“When I was twenty, I was stabbed in the back,” Quintus said.

“Sir!” I said, shocked by this confession. “I’m sorry at your betrayal.”

“Oh, it was no betrayal. I was in battle, and a soldier standing behind me, stabbed me,” Quintus said. He smiled, curled his fingers around mine, turned my hand over. “Afterwards, I couldn’t move my left arm for three whole months while it mended. When my arm was finally freed from it’s sling, that arm was as weak as a kitten’s. It took me many months of labor with my left arm to return it to full function function. And do you know what happened? Today my left arm is stronger than my right arm. I fight left-handed these days as a result.”

“Why do you tell me this?”

“The only way your heart will grow stronger is if you make it work.” He put his hand in mine. “You are a beautiful woman- and more importantly a woman of caring and intelligence. There are a thousand eligible nobleman bachelors who would be happy to have you.”

“Sir, I don’t think this is appropriate,” I said, refusing to meet his eyes. I pulled my hand from his.

“I don’t mean for you to be with me,” he said. “Ma’am, you are blinded by grief. Open your eyes, and view the world around you. Let Nerikare be Nerikare; let you be you.”

Quintus left, shutting the door behind himself.

I put my hand over my heart, the same hand he held a moment before.

Day 50 – Saturday April 3 2021

Start 10121 – Goal 10486

“Ma’am you underestimate your nephew,” Quintus said reproachfully.

“I pray to the gods that I do, but every scrap of evidence says that I do not.”

I suddenly wasn’t very hungry or thirsty anymore. I put away my tea, and gave my guest my undivided attention.

“I love my nephew, and I appreciate everything you’ve done for him. But the time has come for him to move on. Our original agreement when he became your Page was that he would never become a full Knight Paladin like you. You would teach him honor, valor, and the skills of war for several years, and then he would move on.”

“I remember our agreement, ma’am. Our original plan was for him to leave the Paladin Order after he finished his years as a Squire. He has not yet become my squire,” the Knight Paladin answered.

“Yes, and he’ll only become a squire if he passes this test. A test he will fail,” I said pessimistically. “I say it’s better to leave on your own terms then have them dictated to you. Quintus, if you love my nephew, I beg you to encourage him to resign from the order now. Encourage him to move on . To find a bride. To continue our family legacy.”

“Nerikare told me you were pressuring him about continuing your shared family legacy,” Paladin Quintus said. He leaned forward, smirking. “Ma’am, he is not the only surviving scion of your house. You could continue your family yourself.”

At this mere suggestion, I felt grief for my lost husband. I closed my eyes and looked away. For all the fact that my Thaddeus was long dead, the pain of his loss was still raw. Our marriage began as one dictated by the politics of noble houses, but rapidly blossomed into true love. We’d been discussing having children when… when I went away on business. By the time I got back…

By the time I got back everyone was dead. Thad’s died defending innocents from the unknown attackers.

Some pain cannot be healed.

Quintus was sitting in Thad’s old chair, slouching in much the same way Thad used to slouch, smirking like how Thad used to smirk.

My heart fluttered for a moment, but I looked away. Even if I was ready to move on, which I wasn’t, Quintus was a Knight Paladin, sworn to celibacy to better serve the gods.


Day 49 – Friday April 2 2021

Start 9291 – Goal 10021

Nerikare knelt in the sand, laughing softly to himself, his hands clutching at the sands on which he’d died mere moments before. The crowd of peasants in the stadium hooted and hollered in joy after seeing him suffer. To them, Nerikare’s illusory execution wasn’t as good as a real fight to the death, but it was pretty good nonetheless.

Quintus and I joined him in the sands.

“A year!” He laugh-whispered to himself. “I wasted a year learning swordplay! I sacrificed everything for it! No friends, no family, no fun!”

“Neri? Now isn’t the time,” Quintus said, standing over my nephew. Neri was only 17, but he was already taller than Quintus. However staged like that, Neri once again seemed the shorter. “Your father called-“

“NERIKARE!” The King screamed. “ATTEND ME!”

Neri unfolded himself from the ground like a damaged accordion and walked unsteadily up the steps of the coliseum, Quintus and I a few steps behind him to catch him if he fell. Prince Nerikare joined King Imhotep in his box seat of the arena.

“I told you to win the fight today,” the vampire growled to his nerve-frazzled son. “Your weakness reflects poorly on me. What have you to say for yourself?”

“Father, I did the best I could-“

The vampire lashed out.

Faster than my eye could follow, Nerikare moved from standing several feet away from his father to being in his father’s embrace. The King’s teeth were burrowed in his son’s neck, the King’s arms and wings wrapped around the boy to hold him still as he drank.

I screamed in terror watching the monster drink upon my nephew. Quintus grabbed me to hold me back, though he needn’t of bothered. I was too scared to move, either towards or away.

And as quick as it began, it ended. The King dropped his son to the ground like discarded trash, blood still leaking from Nerikare’s open jugular.

“Weakness,” Imhotep said, disgusted, and walked away. To express his scorn, he stepped on his venom-paralyzed son. His entourage joined, stepping on the paralyzed Neri, following the King out of the coliseum.

When all of them were finally gone, Quintus and I rushed to Neri’s side. I pressed my hand to the open wound in his neck to staunch the bleeding, even though the natural clotting enzymes in the vampire’s bite were already sealing the wound shut.

“Are you okay?!” Quintus demanded of his apprentice. “Are you in any pain?”

“Hng… hng… h… h… h…” Nerikare muttered, his vocal cords and tongue paralyzed.

“What?” I asked, leaning closer.

“Ha… ha… ha… ha…”

Nerikare was still laughing. Quintus and I exchanged glances. This was not a good sign.

“Let’s get him back to my place to recover,” I told Quintus. Quintus picked my nephew up and together we brought him back to my home in town.

I live in a small townhouse I inherited from my husband when he… left. I run his affairs from there. It was built to contain a whole family; with me it’s only occupant, it had gathered dust over the years. I had more than room enough for Nerikare.

“There’s nothing physically wrong with him,” the doctor said after inspecting Nerikare. “I could find no trauma on him which would cause him to be laughing like that.”

“And the bite wound?” Quintus asked.

“It’s mild. Some blood loss, and some vital tissue damage. Nothing a month of plenty of food and rest can’t cure,” the doctor answered. “If I may speculate based upon what you told me, I suspect that Page Nerikare has been overdoing it lately, investing too much of himself into his training. After his training failed him in the arena… he snapped.”

Quintus and I exchanged worried glances.

“Is there anything which can be done?” Quintus asked.

“Nothing but time.”

“That will be all,” I told the doctor, who packed up his gear and left.

I boiled tea, and Quintus and I sat down at my kitchen table. Neri was asleep upstairs.

“What do you think we do?” I asked, spinning my tea mug around in my hands.

“We have to get him ready for the trial again next year,” Quintus said. “We have to get him back on his feet, and prepare him for what is to come.”

“Quintus, do you feel brotherly love for my Nerikare?” I asked, giving Quintus an upset look.

“Of course. What does one that matter?”

“Maybe what’s best for Nerikare isn’t preparing him to fight again next year. Maybe what’s best for him is him washing out of the Paladin Order now so he doesn’t set himself up for failure later,” I said. I drank some tea. “You saw how easily he was beaten today. Can you imagine how Nerikare would react if he lost like that again, after investing another full year training? He’s mentally broken today; who knows how damaged he be after two years of training and failure.”


Day 48 – Thursday April 1 2021

NOTE: I’m not adding anything today. I got on a roll on my main project and wrote ~4000 words there, and didn’t want to break the vibe to work on this. I’ll double up tomorrow on this, and do 730 words.

Day 47 – Wednesday March 31 2021

Start 8869 – Goal 9234

(NOTE: I wrote yesterday’s segment, but failed to hit the upload button. C’est la vie! So if you are reading this as they are posted, I suggest you read yesterdays and then today’s segments.)

“No!” I screamed as the life was slowly chocked out of Neri. I instinctively stood and was about to run to save him, but Quintus held me back.

“It’s just an illusion,” Quintus reassured me, though he too looked quesy watching his understudy being murdered in front of him.

“Illusion or no, he’s in pain!” I tried to shake Quintus off.

“If anyone helps him during the trial, Neri will be removed from the Paladin Order,” Quintus said, holding onto me all the tighter.

It took Neri a full minute of being suffocated to die. I was helpless to act as his face slowly turned purple, and then die. He fell to the sand, inert like dropped luggage.

“Someone learned the wrong lesson from last time,” the demon-Tsekani told Nerikare mockingly, and kicked his false-brother’s corpse.

Reality shuddered.

Neri was on his hands and knees, gasping for breath. After a moment, he vomited bile on the sands. The expression on his face was heartbreaking.

The demon knelt before the paladin-in-training, ready to spring again.

“Nerikare, now and forever, I am stronger than you,” the False-Tsekani said. He winked. “Train all you like, but I. will. always. kill you.”

The demon walked back into the thing of angles and mirrors, and was gone.

“Hey Nerikare! Good job!” The real Tsekani shouted down into the coliseum. “You’re really getting practice in for when I kill you one day!”

Tsekani and his friends laughed at this ‘joke,’ if it was supposed to be a joke. His aristocratic friends opened some bottles of wine, and left in their joyous mood to party on the town.

Nerikare’s breathing gradually slowed as he recovered himself. And then something terrifying happened: he started to laugh. It was a weeping, bitter laugh, like that of a condemned man awaiting execution. I can’t imagine how traumatizing it must be to be killed again and again. My heart went out to him.

“Nerikare! Attend me!” King Imhotep shouted, his voice as cold as the darkness of the apocalypse.

Below us, Nerikare started to tremble. He vomited again.

“Let’s go help him,” Quintus said, and led me down into the amphitheater’s pit below.


Day 46 – Tuesday March 30 2021

Start 8219 – Goal 8584

“As I was saying, Nerikare must conquer his inner demons to triumph today. Let us all pray for his success on the sands today.”

With that, the Master Paladin bowed and left the arena, leaving Nerikare alone with the thing of angles and mirrors. And out of the thing walked the demon-Tsekani, looking identical to the man in the crowd. The audience cheered at his apperance.

“Thank you, thank you!” Demon-Tsekani said. He walked in a circle, sword drawn and arms raised, basking in the acclaim. “You are all too kind.”

“You! Demon! I’m going to return you to the shadows which spawned you!” Nerikare said. He drew his sword and leveled it at the replica of his brother.

“What’s this, Nerikare? Do I sense the tiniest measure of fear in your voice?” The monster said mockingly. “Surely not. You’ve practiced day and night for an entire year! You should be confident in this, your moment of glory!”

“I don’t fear you!” Nerikare snarled. “I’m going to rip that tongue of yours out when I’m done with you!”

The demon contemptuously rolled his eyes.

“Such a drama queen.”

“The fight begins in three!”

“Come on, come on,” Quintus said, sitting on the edge of his seat. “You got this Neri.”


I felt sick to my stomach, looking down on my nephew on the sands and dreading I’d see him die once again. I clenched my hands together, and was left feeling ineffectual.


The demon was so unworried about this battle that he threw down his sword and inspected his nails.


Nerikare screamed and charged, sword held high, ready to be brought down in a decapatating arc upon the disarmed demon.

“DIE!” Nerikare screamed, with a fury which was a bit too intense for my taste. I wondered how much of that rage was aimed at the demon, and how much was at Tsekani, who the demon was mimicking in both flesh and spirit.

The sword fell- and the demon lithely stepped to the side at precisely the right moment. Nerikare’s swing was so powerful, that at it’s nadir it’s tip touched the ground. With the tip touching the ground, the blade was low enough to the ground that the Tsekani-demon was able to stomp on the flat of the blade, forcing Nerikare to drop it. The demon kicked Nerikare’s sword away. All of this was done in the span of a second- the demon was showing off it’s inhuman reflexes.

The demon smirked.

“Nerikare, tell me you practiced more than just swordplay in the last year?” Tsekani-copy asked mockingly. “It would be a shame if you wasted all your time practicing the blade, when I intend to duel you with my fists!”

Nerikare’s eyes were wide, and filled with fear. He’d been outmaneuvered by an expert.

The demon punched Nerikare in the throat, and my nephew hit the sands. Neri gasped for air, curled up into a ball, unable to fight back

“Tut, tut! Someone learned the wrong lesson in the last year,” the demon said, kicking him in the groin. “Not the smartest, are you!”

“Oh no,” Quintus whispered as the demon delivered a beatdown upon his apprentice. Nerikare had lost so much momentum in this fight that he couldn’t fight back.

I had to look away. Even though I knew this was just an illusion, for Nerikare the pain would all feel real.

“I will always be-” The demon said, and delivered a kick to Neri’s jaw. I heard the sound of breaking bone. “Better than you! Give up!”

“Never!” Nerikare screamed despite the broken jaw.

“If you insist,” the demon said. He knelt next to the broken ruin of my nephew, and wrapped his hands around Neri’s neck.


Day 45 – Monday March 29 2021

Start 7820 – Goal 8185

Act 3

A year had passed since Nerikare’s first trial. In that time he’d grown taller, much broader in the shoulders, but I feared he’d grown no wiser. I feared he wouldn’t pass the trial when this year either.

Nerikare paced in the sands of the coliseum, once again staring at the thing of angles and mirrors. His was the first trial of the day; the only footprints in the well-manicured sands were his. I prayed to whatever gods still lived to protect Neri, and guide his blade.

“Hello ma’am,” Paladin Quintus said, settling into the seat next to me. “You look lovely today.”

“You’re too kind. Much too kind. I’m in my widow’s garments,” I said. I then smirked. “I didn’t know Paladins were allowed to flirt!”

“Who says I was flirting?” He asked, settling his undrawn sword on his lap. “Ma’am, how do you think your nephew will do in the coming battle?”

“Do you want me to be honest, or hopeful?” I asked.


“He’s about to lose,” I answered. “He’s fighting a demon of the elder days. There can be no victory in such a battle.”

“You should have more hope! I’ve spent the last year growing that sword arm of his, and honing his techniques. His devotion to the art of the sword is second second to none. In another few years of equally diligent training, he’ll be one of the greatest swordmasters to ever live.”

“I’ll give you that,” I conceded. “But demons cheat.”

The Paladin Master entered the arena.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, let’s turn our eyes up to the sky and pray the gods be with us this afternoon,” the master called, loud enough to be heard in even the farthest of the stands. Everyone in the stands of the coliseum, from the lowest prole to King Imhotep himself, took a moment to pray. “Today Nerikare battles his inner demons for a second time. The purpose of this trial is to teach him an important lesson, and help him overcome his innermost flaws. He will be allowed to fail this second time, but not the third. I-“

“Get on with it!” Tsekani called from the stands nearby. “I’m here to see his head roll again!”

“As I was saying…” Master Paladin said


Day 44 – Sunday March 28, 2021

Start 7399- Goal 7764

“Auntie, it’s time to move on. Our family’s not coming back.”

“I just want you to be happy,” I cried into his shoulder. “Why won’t you let me make you happy?”

“Auntie, I’m not going to change my mind. My path forward is through the sword. Any time I spend with women will be wasted. I will never leave the Paladin Order.”

“You say that now, but what about in ten years? Twenty?” I asked, trying to reason with him. “You’re a teenager, and you haven’t known the pleasures of life’s fruits yet. But in time you will, and you will regret not taking the chance when it was open to you.”

“Are you talking about me, or about you?” He said softly, smiling. “Maybe it’s time to start looking out for a second husband for yourself. It’s long past the time to move on from your mourning period.”

“Neri, now you’re making fun of me.” I released a huff. “I’m far too old. No one would be interested in me.”

“I’m serious! I’m sure you can catch some fine young man’s eye,” he encouraged me. He tapped me on the chin. “Chin up, eh? Maybe it’s time for you to start a family legacy of your own.”

“Oh you impertinent boy!” I said, and released a stress laugh. I hugged him again. “You so remind me of your mother.”

Neri and I were the last survivors of a major clan massacre. We’d survived purely by accident. I’d survived because I was off our home island at the time, on a trading mission. Nerikare survived because he was away at a boarding school. We’d lost everyone- his mother, my husband, my parents and siblings. In the end, the pair of us fell back on the mercy of King Imhotep, Neri’s estranged father.

We were never able to find out who organized the attack on our people. But I can say that shortly after our family was massacred, all our lands were conquered by Nerikare’s brother Tsekani’s maternal clan. It caused a bit of a scandal in court, one brother’s family stealing the lands from another, but Imhotep let Tsekani get away with the power move. Of course, that’s the problem with Imhotep; he makes his alliances to advance his interests. Ever since our clan was massacred, Neri and I lacked the strength to help him any longer. Tsekani became his favored son.

“Get some sleep, Nerikare. You look exhausted,” I urged him, and let him go. “You look like you’re about to burn out.”

“I’m fine, Auntie. I just have to practice.”


Day 43 – Saturday March 27 2021

Start 6585 – Goal 7315

“Come on, Neri,” I said to my nephew. “Let’s go home.”

Act 1 – END

Act 2 – Begin

For the second time in six months, I went to the Paladin Order coliseum to see my nephew fight. Why? Because he was late for one of his pre-arranged dates. Again.

I found Neri and Quintus practice fighting in the sands of the arena, the same place Neri’s head had been illusionary chopped of some months prior.

“Hello?” I called to get their attention. Neither warrior noticed me.

“Hello?!” I said, slightly louder this time. Quintus noticed me, but when he was about to stop the practice match Neri went on the offensive, forcing Quintus to keep fighting.

I picked up a rock and threw it at Neri. It landed square in his back.

He made a ‘yeep!’ of surprise and leaped to the side, as if he were expecting an attack. When he saw me he took off his dueling helmet and bowed.

“Aunt Demonia, you honor me by attending my swordsmanship practice,” he said humbly.

“And you would honor me if you followed through on one of the dates I arranged for you,” I said passive-aggressively.

“What?” He asked, putting his helmet back on and motioning for Quintus to start fighting again.

“Neri, at this exact hour you should be taking Lady Louise Droumond out for tea on the Catwalks,” I told him. “She would make a lovely wife for you. She’s pretty. She’s rich. She has a small army. What’s not to love?”

He didn’t respond.

“If you don’t like Miss Droumond, I can arrange a date with a woman with a similar social rank. You are going to soon be of marriageable age, Nerikare. Your family needs you to do your husbandly duties,” I said, speaking loud enough that he would hear me over the sound of clashing steel.

He still didn’t respond. I was getting annoyed.

“I take it you want me to arrange dates for you with young men of a similar social rank? If you want to marry a man, all you have to do is ask,” I asked mischeviously.

Neri stumbled, and Quintus whacked him on the helmet with his sword.

“Ow!” Neri whined, taking off his helmet and rubbing his head.

“We’re done for the day,” Quintus said, laughing, taking off his helmet. He nodded to me. “Lady Demonia, it’s always a pleasure.”

“And you to, Master Quintus,” I nodded back.

“Auntie, you don’t have to make fun of me like that in front of Quintus!” My nephew complained.

“If a little humor is what it takes to get you to pay attention to me, then maybe it’s exactly what I need,” I countered the thrust of his argument.

“I’m willing to talk now. So talk,” he said, going on an aggressive defense.

“Ever since your duel against that demon, you’ve spent nearly every waking hour practicing your swordplay. Either here with Quintus or in the yard with wooden dummies,” I said, opening my offensive. “When you don’t practice your swordplay, you train your strength and endurance. Do you know what you don’t do?”

“I’m sure you’ll tell me.”

“Don’t give me that attitude. I took you in when your mother died,” I warned him, guilting him into letting his guard down. I then went in for the killing blow. “You are the sole surviving member of your House. You must get married and have children. You are your parent’s legacy, your grandparents legacy, going back generations into time immemorial. You are neglecting your duties.”

Unfortunately, my killing blow found unexpected armor lurking under his shirt.

“Neglecting my duties? Haven’t you been paying attention? My family is dead! I joined the Paladin Order in part to learn how to defend myself!” He shouted back at me. “I need to pass this trial to remain in the Paladin Order, and me being in the Order offers me connections, political protection on top of teaching me the martial skills I need to defend myself! Me getting married can wait.”

“And if you get married, the family you marry into will offer you connections, political protection and an army,” I parried. “The longer you wait, the poorer the quality of the women who will be available for you. People are forging marriage alliances today for weddings years from now.”

“The Paladin Order is a celibate order,” he said, attacking from an unexpected angle. “If I never get married, I can stay in the Order forever.”

His attack struck home. I stared at him, aghast.

“What about your legacy?”

“What legacy? Our family’s dead.”

His attack hurt so much I started to cry.

“Oh, Auntie, I didn’t mean to hurt you.”

He dropped his sword and gave me a hug. We stayed in that embrace for a long time; neither of us ever stopped grieving for our dead family.

Day 42 – Friday March 26 2021

Note: Once again, I’m not writing today. I wrote a good 4000 words on my main story today, and ran out of gas for this one. My apologies for not adding more today. I will write 730 tomorrow.

Here’s the plan: I am going to write 2 or 3 more chapters in my main story (about 9000 words), then take a week or so off to let my hands recover (I’m in the middle of feeling hand pain). During that week of recovery, I’ll write consistently on this project.

Day 41 – Thursday March 25, 2021

Start 5603 – Goal 6333

“Eat cold steal!” Nerikare screamed, and the battle was joined.

And as soon as it was joined, it was over.

Nerikare thrust his sword. The demon parried and riposted. The brother-demon did a fancy sword twirl, and Nerikare’s blade went flying. The demon made a kick to Nerikare’s kidneys, and my nephew went down.

“I told you you were right to fear me,” the Tsekani-copy gloated. “I will always be better than you.”

“Ha! I know that move!” The real Tsekani in the stands shouted in glee. He drew his own saber- a copy of the one the demon held. Tsekani waved his gladius around. “Come on! Cut off his head!”

“I think I will,” the demon-Tsekani said, resting the blade of his gladius against Neri’s neck.

“Wait, this wasn’t how it was supposed to go,” Neri said. From my box in the amphitheater, I could see the look on his face. He was wide-eyed, as terrified as the day his mother- my sister- was murdered.

The demon swung the sword like an forester his axe.

“No!” I screamed, standing up.

Nerikare’s head bounced to the ground. His body collapsed next to it.

I died inside seeing my nephew lie there, dead. The crowd cheered in primal glee at the sight, urged on by the cheerleading of the true Tsekani.

And then the illusion faded.

Nerikare knelt on the ground, rubbing his neck. His head was still attached to his shoulders. The illusory copy of Tsekani was gone, leaving the strange thing of mirrors and angles behind. There was no trace of blood or death.

“Neri!” I hiked up my dress and ran down the stairs of the coliseum, and joined him on the sands of combat. I knelt with him. “Are you okay?”

“It felt so real,” he said, more to himself than me.

“Ma’am, you disturb a sacred ritual,” the Master Paladin said, frowning at me.

“I’m very sorry, sir.” I blushed. I stood and curtsied.

“Give it a rest, Aquitaine,” Quintus said, walking over. “The sacred ritual is over. What’s the harm in allowing the boy’s family to be with him? Dying, even in an illusion, must be quite the shock.”

“Humph,” Master Paladin grunted, frowning at my presence. “As I was saying, the battle with the demon was as much lesson as it was trial. Combat with it is meant to teach the trainee to overcome his greatest personal flaw, and become a better person. He failed his first time, so obviously he has much to learn. You will have two more attempts to defeat this demon. If you fail the third time, you will be removed from the roll of the Paladin Order. Your next trial is in a year’s time.”

“I wasn’t strong enough,” Nerikare said. He looked up to Paladin Quintus. “I need to get stronger.”

“I’m inclined to agree,” Quintus said, helping his Page to stand. He then picked up Nerikare’s dropped gladius and returned it to the boy. “We have an entire year to get you up to speed.”

“Nerikare!” King Imhotep shouted. “To me!”

I felt a lead weight in the pit of my stomach. From the look of things, so did Neri and Quintus.

“Best get a move on,” Quintus urged. “It’ll only be worse if you wait.”

Nerikare started walking towards the box his father sat in. Quintus and I followed. Imhotep was Nerikare’s estranged father, and once the husband of my dead sister. They had married for money and politics, not love. After she outlived her usefulness to him, the king allowed my entire family to be massacred by our enemies, including his wife. Nerikare and I were the only survivors.

Imhotep was a demon in both species and personality. He was as nakedly ambitious as any man you’re likely to meet, and more likely than most to kill you in cold blood. He’s a good foot taller than even his tall son Nerikare, with aquiline good looks and strong shoulders. His massive demonic bat wings are gilded with platinum rings, because gold rings are too pedestrian for him. He travels everywhere with one or two bloodslaves, collared and chained and waiting to be eaten- though to be fair to the vampire, he very rarely drains them to the point of death.

Nerikare knelt before his inhuman father. Nerikare was still human. A person become a demon by demonic possession, a gift which his father had not yet seen fit to bestow on either Nerikare or his other son Tsekani.

“What have you to say for yourself?” Imhotep demanded. “You lost to a mere reflection. Have you no shame?”

“My most humble apologies,” Nerikare answered. “Even the reflection of Tsekani is a formidable opponent.”

“You’ve embarrassed our family in public, Nerikare. See to it you do not do so again,” the king demanded of his prince.

“Or- or what?” Nerikare asked nervously.

The king grabbed one of his collared bloodslaves and, without breaking his gaze with Nerikare, bit into her neck. The woman screamed in pain before the vampire’s paralytic poison froze her voice.

Nerikare went wide eyed once again. The threat was clear: the father was threatening to eat the son.

As I was saying, Nerikare and his father do not get along.

The king released the slave, disgusted.

“Do better, boy.”

“Yes sir.” Nerikare kotowed.

Day 40 – Wednesday March 24 2021

Sorry folks. I’ve spent a lot of energy typing my main story in the last few days. Hands hurt today. I’ll do at a minimum, 730 words tomorrow. I might have to detox from writing entirely for a few days just to let my hands recover.

Day 39 – Tuesday March 21 2021

Start 5013

(Note: I’m starting the actual writing of this story now. Wish me luck!)

Act 1:

When I was told Nerikare was to do battle against a demon, I was expecting a horned thing of blackened skin, cloven hoof and forked tongue. I was not expecting a thing of curved right angles and mirrors which reflected lies. The… whatever it was… stood tall in the center of the colluseum. It drew the eye, but was impossible to comprehend.

“Page Nerikare, son of King Imhotep, desires to ascend to the rank of Squire! To do so, he must defeat a grave demon in battle!” Spoke the Master Paladin and leader of the local Order. “It is a relic of the before times, created by the gods to try men’s hearts, and help them overcome their greatest flaws.”

“How does it work?” Nerikare demanded, sword in hand. He paced back and forth in the sand before the so-called ‘demon,’ anxious to trade blows. “I came to fight, not talk!”

“I would not be so eager to fight, little Neri,” a voice said contemptuously. The voice originated from no where; my best assumption therefore was that it was the voice of the demon. “As you are now, you will lose your trial.”

“Says you, a demon!” Nerikare taunted the thing, walking back and forth faster now. “Nothing but lies and deceit! Come out and fight me!”

A person stepped out from within the curved straight lines of the demon. He was armored in plate and mail, bedecked in gold. He carried a pristine sword, which showed no sign of use. He had a cocksure smile and walked with an overconfident gait.

I gasped, recognizing him.

“Hello little brother,” Nerikare’s older brother Tsekani said, swinging his sword.. He winked. “Today I’m going to decapitate you, and I’m going to enjoy it.”

“What’s this?” Nerikare’s actual older brother Tsekani said. The real Tsekani stood with me in the stands of the colleseum. He leaned over railing of the amphitheater and looked down into the pit below, where his brother was about to fight.

“The demon has produced a simulacrum of your greatest fear,” the Master Paladin continued, speaking now to Nerikare. “You must defeat your fear to pass this trial. If you fail, you die.”

“Wait, seriously? I’m your greatest fear?” The real Tsekani said, sounding jovial. “Why am I not surprised? Neri, I’m honored! I promise to prove you right in fearing me.”

Neri blushed, ashamed to have his fears revealed to the public. And it was now truly public: the colleseum was filled from root to rafter with all sorts of folks, looking to have a good time. Everyone of any significance from King Imhotep on down was there; even a few hundred commoners had bought tickets for the main event.

“The battle begins in ten seconds. Duelists, please be good sportsmen and wish one another luck.”

“You want me to wish luck to a demon who is about to try to kill me?” Nerikare sounded disgusted. He then sneered at the demon-replica, and taunted, “Try and fail, I might add!”

“My goodness, you are a proud one,” the demon said mockingly. He winked again. “I will prove you right for fearing me.”


I wanted to write a shorter short story this time, but upon completing this outline there’s no way this is going to be less than 7000 words. I’ll try my best to keep this under 10,000.

Emotional Response

  • The emotions I want to invoke are: bittersweet, hope and fear- but mainly bittersweet.

The plot

  • Look later in the Concept section


  • Quintus
    • Small part in this. Maybe he spends most of the time sitting and talking with Lady D.
  • Nerikare
    • Neri has his first trial as a Page of the Paladin Order. The trial is more mental than physical- but still has a physical element. Mainly it’s testing to see just how ‘adult’ he is. Not sure what sort of test this is just yet.
    • His arc is believing he’ll fail in the beginning of the test (maybe this is the second time he’s taking the test because he failed the first time), to succeeding at the end.
      • Nerikare was a failure in everything else he’s done in his entire life up until this point. After his mother died, and now Quintus decided to give him a chance, Neri decided to turn his life around.
      • This story is the story of him succeeding and gaining faith in himself for the first time
  • Lady Demonia
    • Demonia is the POV character for this one. She is Nerikare’s caretaker, and in this story her plot arc is realizing that Nerikare doesn’t need her anymore- even if Nerikare doesn’t yet realize this himself.
    • Also we see Q and Demonia begin to flirt together.
    • Her emotional journey is coming to terms with losing her family. Her family died, leaving her the last living relative of Nerikare. She raised him alone, after her husband died. She smothers him, and Nerikare rebels. She has to learn that what Nerikare needs isn’t smothering, but respect and distance, and allow him to grow on his own.

Character arcs

  • Demonia
    • She must learn that Nerikare doesn’t need to be smothered. Instead he needs respect and distance, and allowing him to grow on his own, while still being there for him when he needs it.
    • Act 1: she smothers Nerikare, unsubtly tries to get him to go out on dates.
    • Act 2: Demonia tries to get Nerikare to relax and not burn out during swordplay. (Quintus privately agrees with her that Neri needs to take a break, but in Neri’s off hours Neri practices anyway)
    • Act 3: She has a silent ‘I told you so’ moment when Nerikare burns out.
    • Act 4 : Drunken bar room scene. Demonia has a realization. See written below.
      • In this scene, Demonia learns to support Neri in his endevours, and let him go when he needs to be let go of.
    • Act 5: Apotheosis. She sees him be respectful to the demon, something Nerikare has NEVER done before. he was raised wrong by her sister. Demonia realizes ‘Oh my, I raised him to be respectful.’ And she’s kind of sad, because in a real way Nerikare is now her child moreso than he is her sister… and he’s also leaving the nest now.
  • Nerikare
    • He needs to learn that Demonia can be a source of wisdom, and for him to grow to value love. He also needs to learn respect and patience. HE LEARNS TO RESPECT DEMONIA, AND LEARNING RESPECT IS HOW HE PASSES THE A PLOT TEST.
    • Act 1: When Demonia smothers him, he rebels. When she tries to get him to go on dates, he nopes out.
    • Act 2: He does not relax when asked to do so, seeing it as more smothering. He’s lost respect for her.
    • Act 3: He loses his fight and burns out. She takes him back to their house to recover mentally as well as physically.
      • Demon makes a peircing comment when they go together: “Who needs to be healed, the boy who’s overstressed, or the woman who never grieved for her dead family and is now doting on her nephew out of grief?” (Or something like that. Figure out her emotional motivation)
    • Act 4: Drunken bar room scene. See what’s written below
      • In this scene Nerikare learns to respect Demonia when she shows she’s able to support him when he needs support and get out of the way when he needs to be gotten out of the way of..
    • Act 5: Apotheosis. He realizes that he has to be respectful to pass test. So he passes test.


  • 5 act format
  • Act 1
    • Text (A Plot)
      • Begin this act with Nerikare and Demonia together.
      • Nerikare’s first trial against the demon in the stadium. He loses.
      • From the perspective of Demonia in the audience surrounding the stadium.
      • Emotional tone: pain and terror seeing her nephew be *killed.* (Really an illusion.)
      • Nerikare loses due to poor swordsmanship.
      • While there, she is helpless to stop Nerikare’s older brother (name him) and Nerikare from fighting. Contrast True Bro with False Bro. Have the true one go down into the stadium, and have him stand next to the fake one so we know the fake one is fake.
      • Witty banter from older bro. “The only reason why I haven’t killed you yet is because it warms my heart watching you fail repeatedly.”
      • Neri swears to triumph over his bro at all costs. Make it clear that Neri is in an emotionally unhealthy place.
      • Nerikare gets beaten up by bro’s guards.
      • Nerikare’s father is there, and he does nothing to stop the fighting among his sons. He is DISAPPOINTED in Nerikare for losing.
    • Subtext (B Plot)
      • Have Demonia trying to set up dates with Nerikare. She’s there to try to get him married.
      • In this scene, bring up this fact somehow, maybe. (King Imhotep is there. Perhaps have him order Nerikare to go on dates or something.)
      • Demonia gets Neri in contact with ????, a woman of good breeding, in this scene.
    • End the act with “Demonia and Neri returned home together.”
      • Show her love for him, and how she externally supports him, while he internally supports her.
    • Character arcs
      • Demonia
        • She is emotionally stunted in this scene. Nerikare is her last link to her recently(ish) deceased family. She has a stiff upper lip exterior, but still hasn’t completely processed her grief.
        • Loneliness is her primary pain emotion. She lost her family, then her husband and maybe a child. Nerikare is all she has left. She clutches to him, subconsciously.
        • Seeing Nerikare die (even illusorily) is heartbreaking for her
        • She sits next to Quintus during this. Over the course of this short, they fall in love. Basically, Demonia loses Nerikare to him growing up, but gains Quintus as a lover.
        • Does not realize she’s still greiving, or all that lonely.
        • Have the demon make a snarky comment to Demonia about her lonliness.
      • Neri
        • Also emotionally stunted due to the death of his family. Still not processed the pain.
        • In his case, fear is his dominant unprocessed emotion. He knows that there are many people out there who want him dead.
        • The demon manifests as his brother, because he fears his brother.
      • The Demon
        • Give the demon arc words in every scene he’s in. He mocks Nerikare with ‘You must learn that I will always be greater than you.’ He says this wearing his bro’s skin, using the bro’s cocky voice. Nerikare assumes it’s the demon mimicking the bro’s cruelty, not that the demon is being literally true. The demon is supernaturally ALWAYS BETTER THAN YOU.
  • Act 2
    • Text (B Plot)
      • Demonia visits Neri at the stadium. Neri promised to visit her for a meal (or whatever the B Plot is), but failed to show up
      • Nerikare and Quintus are practicing day and night to brush him up on swordsmanship skill
      • the B Plot is the main plot of this Act/scene.
      • Demonia’s tried to set him up on several dates, but each time he’s stood up on all the girls.
      • Demonia tries to talk with Neri, but he gives her monosyllabic responses while he practice fights Quintus.
      • “Are you into guys? I’m willing to arrange marriages with men if you’re so interested.” She says this to get his attention.
      • ^ this alarms him. Quintus swings his sword, and Neri misses a parry.
      • “Auntie!” Neri whines. Quintus laughs heartily. Q- “I’ll leave you too alone. We can practice more later.”
      • Cue discussion.
        • Demonia’s thesis: spend more time on yourself. You’re spending too much time trying to improve as a warrior.
        • Neri’s thesis: my paladin training and fighting training is how i’ll survive my brother’s inevitable attempts to kill me. I don’t have time to relax
        • Demonia: You’re going to burn out.
        • Neri: No I won’t (he says, even as he has bags under his eyes from lack of sleep and is limping on a bum leg from training injuries.)
        • Demonia: You used to hang out with your friends at the library. When was the last time you did that?
        • Neri: I don’t know. Months ago, I think.
        • Demonia: Quintus would let you take a weekend off if you asked.
        • Neri: I told you, I need to be excellent if I’m going to survive my brother’s assassination attempts. I don’t have the opportunity to relax.
        • Demonia: I love you, Neri. Seeing you like this hurts me.
        • Neri storms off.
      • Another discussion
        • Demonia: You’re practicing, and that’s good. You’re not showing temperance, though. You must go on with your life even through the fighting.
        • Neri: I won’t have a life if I fail! Bro will kill me!”
        • Demonia: Is your life worth living right now? You’re exhausted and unhappy. Take a break. Rest and relax. Mental fortitude is just as important as physical fortitude, and both body and mind require sufficient rest.
      • BRING UP THIS POINT: By studying so hard at violence in order to pass your test, you are letting your fear control you. When you are afraid, are you truly alive?
    • Subtext (? Plot)
      • The scene starts with the subtext being Demonia being worried about her nephew. When it’s clear she’s not going to talk to him (he’s too busy fighting), but her joke gets his attention
    • End the act with “Demonia and Neri returned home together.
    • Show her love for him, and how she externally supports him, while he internally supports her.
    • Character arcs
      • Demonia
        • In this scene, Demonia clutches to Nerikare tighter than ever. She tries to show him love by forcing upon him things she values. Wealth, power, family. ESPECIALLY family. But he’s not interested (as much as her).
        • She tries to hook him up with a wife, with a wife being a symbol of family.
        • She gets FRUSTRATED with Neri with him rejecting her love (for Demonia, her attempts to arrange marriages is a proxy for her love for him). She doesn’t understand that his emotional needs are different from hers.
        • She tries to get him to relax, as she sees he’s burning himself out. He refuses.
        • Demonia talks to Quintus on the side. They’re both worried.
      • Neri
        • In this scene, Neri clutches to his fear tighter than ever. After his loss to the demon/brother, he is channelling his terror into his training. He thinks that if he trains hard enough, he’ll become such a good warrior that he can conquor any foe.
        • He rejects both her attempts to hook him up with a bride, and also to relax and not burn out. Demonia is upset by this, as her concern=her love. She feels more lonely than ever.
        • He has a neurosis involving relaxation, viewing it as wasted time better spent improving.
  • Act 3
    • Text (A Plot)
      • Nerikare second trail against the demon. He loses.
      • From the perspective of Demonia in the audience surrounding the stadium.
      • Emotional tone: pain and terror seeing her nephew be *killed.* (Really an illusion.)
      • After the illusion fades, she goes down into the stadium to comfort Nerikare.
      • Nerikare’s older brother is there, but as soon as Nerikare loses he laughs, toasts with his town clown buddies, and leaves to go get drunk. “Ignore him,” Demonia encourages him.
    • Subtext (B Plot)
      • Nerikare has a mental break. After a year of sword practice, having been completely owned in an instant overcomes him completely. He starts laughing madly, crying.
      • Demonia is right; he is burning himself out.
    • End the act with “Demonia and Neri returned home together.”
      • Show her love for him, and how she externally supports him, while he internally supports her.
    • ADD demon arc words
      • ‘I will always be greater than you.’ This is sliterally the lesson the demon is trying to teach Neri. Again, wearing the bro’s skin Nerikare interprets this as his brother’s cockiness.
    • Character Arcs
      • Demonia
        • Demonia has a silent ‘I told you so’ moment after Neri loses and burns out.
        • Quintus and Demonia take Neri back to Demonia’s place to recover after his mental snap.
        • Quintus and Demonia bond over Neri.
        • The Demon mocks demonia again. She answers- “You are a rude creature.” Demon- “Ma’am, I am what the gods made me. I test weakness. I smell weakness in you, just as I smell it in your nephew.”
      • Neri
        • First he trash talks the demon. Then the fight. Then he loses the fight promptly.
        • Demon says arc words ‘I will always be greater than you.”
        • He has a mental break. He starts laugh/crying.

  • Act 4
    • Text (B Plot is the main plot in this scene)
      • Nerikare has cracked. He’s gone off the deep end, where before he was so pro preparation that he was willing to practice fighting nonstop for a year, now he’s not willing to practice at all. He’s depressed, and committed to his failure.
      • In short, Demonia is teaching him temperance. Yes, he should practice, no he shouldn’t practice and worry too much.
      • Maybe she goes to a bar and drags him out before he gets sent to the drunk tank, or something. Think it over.
        • Maybe he’s locked himself in his bedroom.
      • “I love you Neri. No matter what happens, I want you to know you have a home with me.”
      • Discussion
        • “It is important to face defeat with dignity. Sometimes you lose, no matter how hard you try. Your opponent just has the upper hand, and there’s nothing you can do to win. Maybe this trial is beyond your skills. And if it is, that’s alright. Life isn’t about fighting, service to lords and knighthood. Life is about enjoying small moments of pleasure with your friends and family. “
        • “You’re right. There’s nothing I can do. I’ll lose no matter how hard I try.”
        • “No, that’s not what I said. There is honor in going down fighting, but anything taken to too great an extreme is a sin. You need to balance the two poles against one another.”
    • Subtext (A Plot)
      • Nerikare’s learning magical combat.
      • Demonia brings Olivia (his future fiance) into talk to him in this scene. Not only is she a potential suitor for him, but she also is skilled in magic.
      • “There’s nothing wrong with practicing and striving for self improvement, but might need to adapt your learning style to something which works for your brain better.” (Or something. Me no words proper. Figure it out.) (Mention needing a new tutor/teacher.)
      • “I see what you’re doing. You want me to start dating her.”
      • “Guilty as charged. But if you pass your magical duelist test in the process, so much the better.”
      • “I just want to drown in a bottle.”
      • “Please keep trying to pass your Paladin trial. For me?” I begged. “Take some breaks and maybe take a more positive attitude about it? Life isn’t about fighting, it’s about living. You can study to become a Paladin and be alive.”
    • End the act with “Demonia and Neri returned home together.” Show her love for him, and how she externally supports him, while he internally supports her.
    • Character arcs
      • Demonia,
        • Neri is depressed and can’t get out of bed. At first Demonia let him stay in bed because in the aftermath of his lost Act 3 fight he needed to emotionally recover. But after several weeks Demonia realized that he’s not leaving his bed.
        • Demonia’s called Quintus over.
        • QUINTUS AND DEMONIA TALK. This is how the chapter begins. They talk about
          • Demonia’s goals for Neri. Explain that as Neri doesn’t intend to go through and become a full Paladin, so they need to organize a marriage for him.
          • While on the topic, they talk about why Quintus chose to become a Paladin. SEXUAL CHEMISTRY!
        • Demonia gives Neri a pep talk.
          • Thesis 1: “You are afraid, and that is okay. By letting your fear of your brother control you, you are letting your brother control you. You hate him, don’t you?”
          • Thesis 2: “Look, I’m afraid too. I’ve never emotionally recovered from our family being killed. (Something something something. Flesh this out. Let her reflect upon her personal grief, and through that shared pain let her bond with him.)”
        • Demonia introduces a potential magic tutor… who also happens to be a potential suitor.
          • The suitor represents a combination of goals: Nerikare’s desire to improve as a squire/paladin, and Demonia’s desire for Nerikare to relax and get married.
        • Then Quintus and Demonia both encourage Neri to look into dating this new potential suitor. Neri needs to relax, and he needs friends outside of the Paladin Order. Olivia can potentially provide that.
        • d
      • Neri
        • Neri is a mess in this scene. He’s either in the bar drinking, or he’s locked himself in his bedroom.
        • At first they brought him back to the house to recover after his mental break. But after the mental break itself ended, it was followed by a depressive phase. Now he doesn’t leave his bed.
        • Demonia’s called Quintus over
        • See above.
        • He gets cheered up.
      • This act is the emotional crux of the story
        • Demonia learns that she has to meet Neri on his terms (providing a suitor who is able to engage with him on his interest of being a paladin/warrior), and validate his fears by bonding with him over being shared survivors of their killed family. She lost her family, and now tries to control Neri to keep what’s left of her family. She’s consequently losing him, because he hates being controlled. So she has to learn fear is natural and cannot be entirely controlled. Nerikare will only love her and respect her (her true desire) if she learns to let him go and do his thing. To keep him, she has to let him go.
        • Nerikare learns that fear is natural and cannot be entirely controlled. (He bounced between desire for control (lots of training) and complete apathy (bedbound)) To live, he has to thread the needle between the two, and accept that sometimes your worst nightmares will happen and there’s nothing you can do to prevent them. His bond with his aunt is what helps him come to the realization that life is messy, and to live you have to live.
          • Dune Motto: Embrace your fear and let it pass through you.
  • Act 5
    • Text (A Plot)
      • Repeat of the last two trials.
        • In the prior two times, Neri trash talks the demon before he fights him. (Why? because he was psychiching himself up those times. he wasn’t confident, and that was played out in trash talk)
        • This trial, he doesn’t trash talk. (Why? because he’s become self aware enough of to realize that trash talk was a sign of his lack of authentic, internal confidence.)
        • Have the demon bring up this lack of trash talk. Neri realizes this truth, and tells it to the demon (not loud enough for the crowd to hear). Emphasize the point that now Neri has had his confidence shattered. he’s realized he’s not skilled enough to pass this trial no matter what he does. “You’re a demon. You’re not of this reality. How can I beat you? You cheat.”
        • “Ah, I see you’ve become self-aware,” the demon mocked me. “The fool thinks he’s smart, but the wise man knows he’s a fool. Either way, fool you.”
        • Demonia is in the amphatheater, so she hears this conversation.
      • The fight begins, the demon pulls out a gun and just shoots Neri. Neri loses.
      • The illusion ends. The King Imhotep leaves, embarrased by his son’s failure. His brother laughts at Neri. Even Quintus leaves (quintus is forced to leave by the Paladin order.) The only person left in the stadium is Demonia, and the demon. Neri is devastated.
      • The demon helps Neri to stand.
      • “You did your best, and you behaved with honor throughout,” the demon said.
      • “Yeah, but I lost. I won’t achieve my knighthood now.”
      • “Don’t feel shame. There is no loss in honor for failing to win a fight. You tried, and effort is what matters. In the last two years, you learned the merit of your soul. You have lots of discipline. I think the gods have a great future ahead of you.”
      • “You thinks so?” Neri asked (lord this prose is bad. Work on it)
      • “Yeah. It’s official. You pass my test. Congrats, you’re a Squire now.”
    • Subtext (B Plot)
      • Demonia earnestly believed Nerikare would fail.
      • Nerikare was a failure in everything else he’s done in his entire life up until this point. After his mother died, and now Quintus decided to give him a chance, Neri decided to turn his life around.
      • This story is the story of Neri succeeding in something based on his own merits for the first time. Demonia realizes, when Neri passes the test, that he’s not the same rash boy who survived her sister’s death.
      • She feels bittersweet, knowing that she’s succeeded as an adoptive mother figure but failed in keeping her family close to her. As a squire, he won’t live with her any longer. She’s losing her son.
    • End the act with “Demonia returned home alone.
    • Show her love for him, and how she externally supports him, while he internally supports her.
    • Character Arcs
      • This act is all about payoffs for seeds planted earlier.
      • Demonia
        • She must learn to let Nerikare stand on his own. In the last act, she taught him that he needs to rely on other people, and allow himself to embrace his fear and let it pass through him (dune)
        • She must learn to embrace her fear of being alone. She can’t protect him forever- she can’t even protect him now. She can either live with that crippling fear, or she can accept it as just the way things are and strive to do the best she can.
        • After Nerikare succeeds, he leaves with Quintus- leaving her alone with the demon.
        • “Your nephew was not the only one the gods had on trial. Have you learned your lesson, ma’am?”
        • “I can’t protect him forever. The tighter I seek to control him, the more he seeks to break free,” I answered, watching my nephew leave. I smiled, sadly. “Sometimes the greatest act of love a person can do is saying goodbye. I hope he has a happy life. I now know I won’t be a major part in his life, and that’s okay. I’ll just have to start over, and make another family now that I’ve lost mine.
        • “Don’t fret, ma’am,” the thing of angles and mirrors said kindly. “I think you won’t be lonely for long.”
        • Demonia went home alone that night (This echoes prior scene endings, where Nerikare went home with Demonia). She feels bittersweet.
      • Nerikare
        • He DOES NOT taunt the demon in this act, because he at last realizes that he doesn’t need to overcompensate for him being afraid.
        • He loses to the demon anyway. “I will always be greater than you.”
        • His heart plummets when the audience jeers at him. Even the Paladin Order loses faith in him and leaves, snubbing him.
        • His brother laughs at him, and says “I’ll be seeing you soon, Neri. I think I’ll have your skull adorn my midden!”
        • In the end, it’s just Neri, Quintus, Demonia in the stadium, and the demon.
        • In prior cycles, Neri would insult the demon after losing. This time, he treats the demon with respect. This time, Neri’s dispirited.
        • “Sir demon, thank you for trying to help me pass this trial. I know you are here not to oppose me, but to help teach me what I’m doing wrong.”
        • “I thought you hated me?”
        • “I hate my brother. You’re not him,” he said, shaking his head. “And I’m done with hating my brother too. He’s occupied my brainspace rent-free for the last three years. If he kills me, he kills me. If he doesn’t kill me, so much the better. I’ve got other things to do with my life, for as long as I have left.”
        • “I will always be greater than you in combat; your trial was not a trial of combat, but of learning to finding strength in your fear,” the demon said, bowing. It resumed it’s true form, a thing of angles and mirrors. “Well done, Squire Nerikare. You are the first to pass this test in many a long year.”
        • The angles and mirrors bestow upon him a boon to prove he passed the test.
        • Nerikare has another breakdown. A happy breakdown this time. It only lasts a few seconds.
      • The demon
        • Demon has his arc words to Nerikare ‘I will always be greater than you.’


  • Nerikare’s first trial as a Page of the Paladin order. He is older than your average Page, and he is temperamentally unsuitable for becoming a Paladin. He has failed in this task twice already, because of his temperament. If he fails this third time, he’s out for good.
  • For the trial, he must overcome his greatest fears. He is sent to fight a demon in an arena, a demon which takes the shape of that which he fears most. The demon is sent by the gods to teach you an important lesson.
    • The gods want to teach Nerikare humility, and that sometimes you lose no matter how hard you try.
  • The demon takes the shape of his oldest brother, who wants Nerikare dead so his brother stands to inherit more of his father’s lands when their father dies. That is why Neri fears his brother.
  • The first two times they fought, Nerikare lost the trial.
    • The first time he fought the demon, he lost due to trying to violently defeat it with his sword. Nerikare was not yet a swordsman, so he lost. In the last moments of the battle, the demon cut his head off. He screamed at the the demon until the moment he died.
      • The death was an illusion.
      • When he lost, he had a freak out. he doubled down in his training thereafter. he HATES losing.
    • The second time he fought the demon he defeated the demon in swordplay because he practice swordplay in the time between first and second trial. He lost anyway when his ‘brother’ pulled out a wand and used magic to paralyze Neri. In the last moments of the battle, the demon cut his head off. He screamed at the the demon until the moment he died.
      • When he lost, Neri had another freak out. He spent the next year (there’s a year between trials) practicing his battle magic. He HATES losing.
  • This is the third time they’ll fight. Quintus and Nerikare both think (inaccurately) that Neri’s got this. They think the lesson the gods are trying to teach Nerikare is that he has to be strong and fierce. They are wrong.
  • In the lead up to battle, Demonia tells her nephew that she loves Nerikare, and that even if he’s kicked out of the Paladin Order (the stakes), he has a place with her household.
    • her motive: emotionally prepare neri for losing. She thinks he’s going to lose, so she wants him to be ready for that
    • “Neri, right now you are completely invested into becoming a Paladin, and that’s okay. But I want you to know there’s so much more to life than fighting or passing trials. You’ve devoted your every waking moment for the last two years to passing this moment. When this is over, whether you win or lose, I want you to live a little, and move on.”
    • “Don’t you think I’ll win?” He sounded hurt.
    • “Of course I do,” I lied. “But that’s besides my point. Even if you win, you need to learn to move on. For the last two years you’ve done nothing but practice fighting. I know you’re not happy, you used to read books and have hobbies (expand this)… Don’t fight because you want to win. Fight because you want to go back to your hobbies…?(This isn’t right. Work on this).”
  • Neri DOES lose. When the battle begins he taunts the demon/his brother that he’s come prepared for all his tricks. He’s now more skilled a swordsman and battle-magister than his brother. There’s nothing the demon can do to win.
    • The demon pulls out an arquebus and pops a bullet in his hip. Nerikare instantly loses the battle.
  • At first Nerikare screams and shouts as the illusion-brother walks over to cut off his head, but then he pulls himself together and apologizes.
  • It’s Nerikare’s apology which the demon respects. Being a paladin isn’t about fighting; it’s about making the world a better place.
  • “Be respectful to everyone, even your enemies,” the brother-replica said, helping Nerikare to stand. “That is the lesson I was testing you. Congradulations, you have passed.”


  • Hopeful, a bit sad, a bit bittersweet.


  • Rely more on ‘beautiful’ prose. This isn’t quintus, it’s from Demonia’s perspective, and she’s high class.



  • “I will embrace my fear and let it pass through me.”

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