Story Fragment 1

10 Mar

Now for some non-pony original material. While grappling with trying to think of a plot for my next story to put out there for money, I’ve been looking at some of the stuff in my writer folder. Just rummaging through lots of the bits and pieces I wrote in the past to see if any of them jump-start the inspiration engine. Nothing yet so far, but I did find a few good pieces. Figured I’d put them out here and share. Mostly because I’ve been liking having new content up more often and want to continue that, and copy-pasting from older stuff seems like a good shortcut. Addendum: Okay, copy-paste is not as much of a shortcut as I’d like when I have to manually edit out errors from one format to another. Augh.

Here is a writing exercise I did a long while back. I wanted to see how I could do using just dialogue and without referring directly to the game the two characters were playing, yet try to evoke a sense of a larger world anyway. Sort of a test to see how well I could do worldbuilding indirectly at one remove. No bigger plans for this fragment. Unlike a lot of my bits and pieces I didn’t have any larger story or a complex world in mind. Just a basic idea and a set of strict limitations.

The Game

“You can’t do that”

“What? I double-checked and there isn’t any obstructions.”

“No, I mean you can’t move that piece.”

“But I have control over it. My piece is closest and threatening it.”

“I told you before. It doesn’t matter who is closest, only which side is threatening it with more pieces. See? I’ve got three pieces threatening it from several directions. You’ve only got the one piece threatening it from up close.”

“That’s ridiculous. If this was a battle and not a game that person would obey the guy next to him holding a sword at his throat.”

“First off, that’s not important because this is a game. Secondly, if those three were archers then that person would probably hesitate. You aren’t getting the point.”

“What point? As far as I can tell you are just making up the rules as you go along. Every single time I try to move a piece, or attack one of your pieces, or do much of anything, you tell me it is a illegal move.”

“That is because you are trying to be too direct. The point of the game is to simulate a struggle for control in a city. You keep thinking of direct actions. Attacking, defending, charging. You against your enemy with all these neutral pieces to be used for short-term gains or to work around.”

“Of course. You can’t rely on them since my opponent could move any of them away from any plan I use them for. What’s the point?”

“That is the point. You need to start thinking in terms of potential, of controlled spaces.”

“But there isn’t any rules for controlling spaces or areas.”

“Not directly.”

“That is the only way to control something. With direct application of force. If I have a piece in a space, it is mine.”

“Why did your family send you here?”

“What has that got to do with anything?”

“I find it difficult to believe you impressed anyone with your current talents, so your family must have pulled some strings with important people to get the school to accept you.”

“My family’s position in the royal court has nothing to do with any of this.”

“Ah. Royalty. I despair for the future. Make your move.”

“Fine. I know this is legal.”

“It is. There is a difference between legal and good. You still haven’t answered the question.”

“What question?”

“Why did your family sen-”

“Because they hoped I would pick up some discipline here. They heard all the rumors about how strict this school is, how demanding and challenging it is. So they thought the teachers here could force me to behave.”
“Ah. More good news.”

“You naturally gifted with sarcasm that thick, or does the advanced lessons teach it?”

“One must strive for perfection in all things.”

“That couldn’t possibly be a legal move! You don’t have any pieces threatening that neutral piece.”

“Of course not. At least not before I moved it. You captured that other neutral piece. If a neutral piece is captured the other side may move any neutral piece they threaten or that is unthreatened. Thank you. I was trying to figure out how to get that one out of the corner and into my control.”

“That is just ridiculous! What kind of lesson is this silly game supposed to teach! Don’t the masters here have better things for us to do?”

“Of course. Most students that earn their way into the school honestly with their own skills master the basic concept of this game in a single afternoon and are allowed to study other subjects.”

“Then what are you doing here playing this with me?”

“The best students learn it in a afternoon, but realize that mastering the game takes years and is much more important than almost any other subject.”

“Now you are just joking with me. The masters are making you play this.”

“Of course not. Once you are past your first year the masters can only decide if you can stay or not. What you study and how you study it are entirely up to each student’s own self-control and self-motivation.”

“But if you don’t do what the masters want, they kick you out?”

“A crude way of putting it.”

“A true way.”

“All truths have shades of meaning. It is your move.”

“Is there a rulebook for this game? I wouldn’t put it past you to simply make all these rules up when I have no way to contradict what you are saying.”

“Of course. You were told about it on your first day here when the grand master told you the rules and requirements. It is one of the important books on the shelves next to your bed.”

“Those. I looked at some of them and they were all on pointless subjects. What is the game called?”

“You wish to know what book to look for?”


“The name of the game is not in the title of the book. One of the tests for new students. I do not believe the masters will look poorly on me if I tell you.”

“If it is supposed to be a test, why ruin it?”


“Hardly. Is this a legal move?”

“Questioning before making a decision. You show improvement. Yes, it is.”

“I figure it might speed things up a bit. I still don’t understand why most of my other moves were illegal.”

“The book is titled ‘rules and structures for control’. The game’s name is in the book, but you might not notice it at first.”

“No wonder I didn’t figure it out. They all had those bothersome vague titles on them. How was I supposed to know what any of them were about?”

“Part of the test. Most students simply read them. Many pick that one to start with because they are interested in power and control over others, in one way or another.”

“What? I thought this was a school for-”

“Of course. The masters do their best to train their students to follow the correct patterns of thought. Yet most who have the desire, will, and skill to earn a place here often have ambition to match. Some for control, some for great skill, all for power. Luckily most come looking for power to help people, but that is power over others.”

“By that implied definition, everyone has power over others.”

“Which is true.”

“Wait… Does that mean I don’t have that ambition?”

“I would not pass such judgment on a first-year I barely know.”

“We have been playing this game several times a day for the past week. How do you not know me enough to tell?”

“Most of my fellow students I can guess at what they are thinking. I know how they got here, I know what they have decided to study and how they are pursuing those studies. To the analytical mind this can tell many things about a person. You…”

“What? Going to blame my family pulling strings again?”

“Not exactly. In your case the method on how you got into this school says much about your parents and family, but very little about you yourself. Since you are brand-new with no past to use as information, and you have not yet been able to earn the right to choose your own studies, I have very little to use in judging what kind of person you are.”

“I like to think I have ambition.”

“Which is a fairly major sign that you have the wrong kind of ambition.”

“Hey! I know that isn’t a legal move. We both have the same number of pieces threatening that one, mine are closer, and more powerful pieces.”

“Oh? At least you have a good memory. Very well. There are a few obscure rules that say I can move that piece in this situation, but none of them are official and we did not agree to use any of them when starting the game. See? Now I know another two things about you.”

“Two? If my memory is the first, then what is the second?”

“That you will not let even a trivial slight in a game go unnoticed or unchallenged. A good sign if you proceed along the right patterns of thought.”

“I suppose. Your move.”

“A legal move without asking? I will give you the benefit of the doubt and assume it was intentional.”

“I can learn even this silly game given enough time.”

“Yes, if given time even a pet can learn any lesson.”

“Did you just compare me to a cat?”

“Hardly. Cats are a few steps above being simply pets.”

“So you going to give me any hints on how to win?”

“I don’t think so. Not that important anyway.”

“What? You gave the impression that I would be playing this game until I won one!”

“Perhaps. It was not my intention, well, not completely. The goal is to understand the game. When you feel you are ready you may challenge one of the lower ranked masters and they will decide if you have grasped the lessons.”

“So I could walk away from this and go challenge one of them tonight? If winning isn’t the goal, then I assuming that I would not have to beat the master I challenge?”

“Of course not. Even I can’t beat one of the masters. The main trials between the masters use this game. Even the lowest-ranked master is undefeated in dozens of games since he earned his robes.”

“That is ridiculous! They can’t possibly place such importance on some complicated mess like this!”

“Of course they can. That you say that further emphasizes the fact that you do not understand.”

“I’m not sure I want to anymore. The more you talk, the more I become convinced this place is all rumor and no substance. Just a bunch of crazy people closing themselves off to the rest of the world.”

“Not crazy. Insane perhaps. Crazy is a mental condition. Insanity is simply a social thing imposed on from the outside.”

“The queen should have you all-”

“End game. You really should pay more attention to the board instead of making grand sweeping statements of ignorance. The queen is a high-ranked master of the school herself. One of the finest students ever to be admitted to the school in fact. The stories say she played this game twice a day, when she woke up and just before going to bed, for every day she was inside these walls.”

“Impossible. I’ve met her and she would have nothing to do with this mess of complications.”

“Do you remember the floor of the main royal court? It has been a few years since I was able to visit it myself, but I hear it has not changed.”

“Of course. Obsidian and pearl flagstones in geometric shapes.”

“I’ll take the pieces away. Stand up and look at the board.”

“…impossible. The pattern is the same. Slightly different in the details, but same basic layout.”

“She used the more advanced board as a model. This is just the beginners layout. The masters say she did it to remind herself of the lessons of the game. They don’t allow the game itself to be played outside the school, except for very special situations.”

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Posted by on March 10, 2014 in Uncategorized


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