I though I'd post a more detailed status update on my story. Even though I have most of the story done, I haven't uploaded the next chapter yet mainly because I'm still trying to figure out how to connect all the pieces together. It's probably high time I ask for a little assistance in figure this out. To do this, I'll have to elaborate on the segments I haven't released yet, so there are a bit of spoilers below. The story is a bit complex with a lot of plot threads going on, but I'll try to explain it as best I can.
Summary of Story:
Alder Carnelian, who is afflicted by a curse that rips apart his soul, is a knight who failed in his duties and as a result, joined the Militia, a centralized military force composed of orphans, runaways and petty criminals. There, Alder becomes a squad leader due to his prior experience in the military and becomes companions with Neil Illuvin - a upper middle class teen who joined the Militia willingly due to his idealistic view of the world, Crow Mahogany - a runaway street urchin that lived off of scraps in a large, urban city, and Darcy Lynette - a previously enslaved mage that was set free by her master.
During Alder's training, the city of Jacinth experiences increasing violence as a result of reactor meltdown that led to a ghoul invasion. Alder's unit is sent over there to provide assistance, but it ultimately turns out that the Militia is really just a purge to get rid of the unneeded populace of the country. Alder and his team are underequipped and do not possess the means to really do anything to help the local city watch. This is going on at the same time some of Alder's distant family, the Sardius mages, are murdering targets within Jacinth in efforts to please the Grand Idol, an entity which Alder's curse is directly associated with.
Later, Alder gets separated from the rest of his squad, and shortly after, gets accused of the use of black magic and promptly gets arrested. During the following trial, Alder's father vouches for him, claiming that it wasn't his fault, resulting in his father getting executed instead. Alder becomes free to go although the real reason the government did so was that they could control Alder via blackmail and use him as a pawn. The fact that Alder possesses the curse remains unknown to the public.
Reasoning that the curse had been creating far more bloodshed than the whole city of Jacinth, Alder comes to the conclusion that he needs to stop it for good and willingly wakes up the Grand Idol to unleash it upon the city. However, through his efforts, the Grand Idol is defeated, but Jacinth was reduced to rubble.
Afterwards, the remaining Militia soldiers see Alder as a hero and pledge their allegiance to him, not knowing that he was the one that unleashed the Grand Idol. Because of his father's death, Alder becomes a Baron, and now has developed a loyal following which potentially threatens the current, corrupted regime. The story ends with him uncertain of his next move.
The main theme and message of the Grand Idol story is all about actions and their consequences. Basically, that your decisions can drastically affect the lives of others. The mistakes you make in the past tend to be irreparable, but in no way should that stop you from continuing on with life.
There's also some political and religious commentary in there for good measure although this is mainly for background since this is a fairly dark setting. However, as with the case of all of my stories, there won't be any hidden allegories or anything like that since I want to deliberately avoid the Author Filibuster.
The actual identity of Alder's curse is some sort of link to a colossus known as the Grand Idol that lies at the bottom of the ocean just off the coast of Arguros. Essentially, the curse feeds off of his soul over time and tortures him with vivid nightmares. When Alder was much younger, he was fairly optimistic, but the curse over time essentially turned him into what I'll equate to a high-functioning sociopath since he's largely become desensitized to its effects. (In fact, the vast majority of Carnelian's sister house Sardius is descended from former bearers of the curse, and thus have become heavily associated with deranged criminals who kill for the sake of relieving the effects of the curse.) Alder can actually stop the curse by willing itself out of him, but doing so will wake the Grand Idol and send it on a city-destroying rampage. However, if Alder dies, the curse gets passed on to someone else who will go through the same hardship he is, a cycle that's endured for at least a few thousand years. Alder received the curse from his mother - she's a Sardius sorceress that got together with his father the Baron of Carnelian out of defiance of the rival houses akin to Romeo and Juliet. The relationship did not end well, although Alder's father does remain alive until shortly before the finale chapters.
Some extra info: While I haven't decided if there's meant to be more than one cursebearer at a time, the previous cursebearers essentially created Sardius' fanatic lifestyle, embracing the curse for what it is since they're no longer bound by moral obligation. Alder's mother was the first in a long time to reject that life style by getting together with Alder's father (they never married, so Alder is illegitimate) who at the time was also tired of the ultra prim and proper ways of Carnelian. Alder doesn't really angst about his past all that much in the story. In fact, he generally refuses to talk about it at all as doing so will trigger the nightmares associated with the curse.
Very few people know of Alder's curse, and some shady organizations that work for House Amethyst (the current occupiers of the throne of Arguros) want to exploit it and use it for their own propaganda and complex political schemes. Most of that is background info though, since the main focus of the story is Alder and his squadmates surviving in the ghoul-ridden city of Jacinth (which suffered a reactor meltdown several months prior). They get sent there after Jacinth requests some Militia soldiers to help deal with not only loose ghouls, but also the angry protesters gathering at the walls of the city. However, the Militia soldiers eventually get neglected from any sort of outside support or backup pretty much dooming most of them to die in the city. Functionally though, this is their purpose as it is Arguros' way of purging the poor populace.
So about halfway through, it turns into something like a zombie survival horror story as they scavenge for food and resources, all while living off of adamantide supplements which repel the effects of the miraculum radiation. This happens to all be going on while Sardius assassins are sneaking around the city, hunting down easy victims (i.e. innocent refugees that are stuck or trapped in the ghoul-infested areas) in hopes of pleasing the Grand Idol with sacrifices.
The current ending I have planned is that Alder chooses to deliberately unleash the Grand Idol so that it can be destroyed once and for all to put an end to the curse. While it essentially destroys Jacinth, it's a Pyrrhic victory and Alder ends up being seen as a hero since the public doesn't know that he was the one that unleashed it. However, the schemers of Amethyst choose to withhold this information from the public so that they could later crush him politically if he poses a threat to the current regime as Alder is the next in line for the title of Baron of House Carnelian. The story ends on a bittersweet note with Alder assuming the role of Baron knowing that he has to pick up the pieces of the disaster he caused.
What I need help with:
I really need the most assistance with characterizations as this is probably by far the most complex story I've written to date.
- Alder is more or less the main protagonist, but how much of the other Militia members should I write about? How far should Alder's squadmates be developed? Would it be wise to create other squad supporting characters?
- I actually don't have a clear cut reason as to why Alder joins the Militia in the first place. I have vague implications about him failing to become a knight, but what I want him to do is to commit some kind of atrocious act that got him kicked out. I don't want it to be the classic being tricked by an evil mentor trope since I'm aiming for it to be unambiguously Alder's fault to fit with the story's theme.
- I'm still a bit iffy on the details as to actually how Alder stops the Grand Idol. My initial plan was for him to perform some sort of ritual, but this doesn't really seem to reflect the kind of character I want to portray him as. I want to find a way for Alder to stop the Grand Idol using his wits and experience. Would it be realistic if Alder seizes command of the Militia soldiers and puts together a battle strategy? Right now, I've written that Amethyst is unwilling to provide their own troops to help out in the disaster so they're on their own.
Things I want to avoid:
- I want to specifically avoid Deus Ex Machina and have some kind of outside force save everything. The character need to be able to make due and survive in their situation.
- Alder will not be a sacrificial hero as one of the big themes of the story will be dealing with consequences. Alder heroically dying would go against that in my opinion as he needs to be alive to understand the aftermath his decision to release the Grand Idol.
All feedback is appreciated. If it is easier, I could upload more chapters, but the story is still very incomplete and in need of editing so what I have so far is fairly disconnected.
Also, I am very willing to change or retcon any background info that I've established. Once this story is completed, it will become the new primary source of Miraculum Chronicles lore.