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Rieal-Dragonsbane
Amala
Artist | Hobbyist | Literature
United Kingdom
It's mostly prose here in a whole mix of genres, though I prefer speculative fiction.

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Author’s Note – This is a work-in-progress which I’ll be updating scene by scene, for doughboycafe and neurotype’s historical fiction workshop. Click away if you only want to read my final draft.


Dharam suppressed the yawn as best he could and blinked hard to get the drowsiness out of his eyes. The sun, itself not fully awakened, lit the cantonment’s courtyard in a sweet orange while crows debated across several palm trees. To his left his squad mates stood evenly spaced, and to his pride, they too hid any tiredness. Even the new recruit, Kamalesh, took his cue from the older soldiers and held perfect composure. They and the rest of their platoon balanced an Enfield rifle in the slope position, ready for the inspection.

“These blasted mosquitos.” Out of the two white men stood in front of them, this was the one Dharam didn’t recognise. “Blasted heat and blasted ‘Jewel of the . . . Empire.’ He seemed to be suffocating in that officer’s uniform though it was the coolest part of the day. Dharam supposed that it didn’t help that his rotund figure begged a larger uniform.

<<Our native bugs lust over the taste of white men’s blood,>> whispered Nataraj in Hindi. <<It’s far too dangerous for you here, Sir Piggy. Why don’t you . . .>>

Nataraj trailed off when he looked at Dharam, but the playfulness remained on his young lips. Dharam would have to speak to him afterwards. Even if Sir Piggy couldn’t understand the language of the men he commanded, certain talk is best left for the barracks.

To Dharam’s embarrassment, Lieutenant Mitchell had Nataraj locked in a most severe stare. Beside him, Nataraj shifted the rifle a little to cover up his wilting. Fool. The Lieutenant understood Hindi well enough ,but at least he was too far to have heard Nataraj’s exact words. While Dharam told himself that, Mitchell’s face reddened. The whole platoon must have noticed by now. Everyone except, Sir Piggy.

“Let us see what we came to see,” he said, smacking a mosquito on his neck.

Mitchell’s attention snapped away from its focus on Nataraj and he addressed the platoon. “This is Lieutenant Colonel Hogge and he has been sent by the honourable East India Trading Company to observe you as you carry out the new Enfield rifle drills. I trust that you will do yourself and me proud in your skill and conduct.”

Dharam heard an exhalation from Nataraj that blew by the knife edge of a scoff. They would do themselves proud, yes, always – but the praise of this Lieutenant Colonel was not as valuable as these officers may have assumed. Hogge and Mitchell moved to their positions beside the now firing squad.

“Platoon exercise by motions, standing!” Mitchell called out. “Prepare to load!”

Half turn to the right. Rifle butt stamps to ground. Remove cartridge from the pouch. Dharam noted that the paper cartridge was different today. Glossy.

“Load!”

Bite and rip the paper cartridge. Pour the gunpowder down the barrel. Reverse the cartridge and seat the bullet in the muzzle. Drop cartridge. Grip ramrod.

“Rod!”

Draw out ramrod and ready it.

“Home!”

Push the bullet down. Tap it twice to check.

“Return!”

Pull out the ramrod. Return to its slot under the barrel.

“Cap!”

Raise rifle to horizontal position. Half-cock. Remove cap from pouch. Seat it.

“As a front rank, at three hundred yards, ready!”

Set sight at range. Full-cock.

“Present!”

Gun to shoulder height. Finger on trigger. Aim at hypothetical enemy. And fire. A jagged volley of gunfire beside him. Paper confetti and gun smoke. Return to prepare to load position. Dharam fingered the glossy cartridge, ready for the order.



Dharam found Nataraj where Kamalesh said he would be: behind the barracks, refusing to go in. He had missed breakfast and was now sat here in the dirt. The young man hid his face and wept.

<<What happened?>> Dharam asked. <<Has someone died? Your mother?>>

Nataraj threw his hands down. <<Yes, sergeant!>> he said. <<Someone has died, but not my mother. Me. I have been murdered. I’m dead! You’re . . .>> He covered his face again.

The dramatic performance threw Dharam for a moment. <<Come. Calm down and get up, brother. Stop crying and tell me what happened.>> He placed his hands over Nataraj’s arms and brought him to his feet. <<What happened?>>

With gasping breaths Nataraj calmed himself down, but the tears trickled through his whole story. <<I left the cantonment to get some breakfast, because I didn’t – didn’t want to be scolded by you. I did not care so much, but I did not want everyone to laugh at me in the canteen.

<<When I went to a shop to order food, I was refused service. They said I was unclean and had to leave their premises. I said that they were mistaken. I am a Brahmin. But they pointed at my uniform and said that we were all unclean . . . that the cartridges we used were lubricated with the fat of . . . cow and pig.>>

Dharam flinched. << Those are disgusting lies, Nataraj. Why would you believe them?>>

<<They said rumours are coming from Dum Dum. Protests. Mutiny. The British are doing this to us.>> His eyes were wide with fear. Nataraj believed this. He believed life as he knew it had ended.

<<The British would do no such thing. You must calm down.>>

<<The Christian preachers!>>

<<What?>>

<<They’re everywhere! Always in the streets, trying to spread their reach. They want us to lose our caste so when we’re rejected by our families and communities, when we’re friendless and godless, they think they will take us.>> Nataraj wiped his tears. The moment of anger passed and his grief returned. Enough of this nonsense. Rumours should not break a man’s heart.

Dharam put a hand on Nataraj’s shoulder. <<Go inside the barracks. Nobody will say you are unclean, because you are not. You are still a Brahmin. Everything is well. I will go to Lieutenant Mitchell now and ask him with what the new cartridges are lubricated with and then you shall know the truth.>>

Nataraj’s lips trembled. <<No. I can't trust them. They will lie.>>

<<Then trust me. Everything is well.>>



Hogge wafted himself with some paperwork as he sat behind Mitchell’s desk. Mitchell stood against an open window, probably to find relief in the smallest breeze. Dharam saluted them both.

“Is this important, sergeant?” Mitchell asked.

“Yes. Sirs, I’ve come to inquire about something I noticed in this morning’s exercise.”

“Oh?” It was no surprise that Hogge was irritated, seeing as he was still being suffocated by that uniform. “Come on then. Out with it!”

Mitchell waved his hand. “Now is not a good time. You will have to come back later. The Lieutenant Colonel and I–” Hogge laughed over Mitchell’s dismissal.

“Oh no no no,” Hogge said without mirth. “Let’s hear this. What is it you wish to inquire?”

“The cartridges, sir. They –”

Hogge slammed his fist onto the desk. “The cartridges! The cartridges!” he yelled. “What about the cartridges? No, don’t look at Mitchell, look at me. What about the cartridges?”

“They’re different,” Dharam said. “We wondered–”

“We?! There are more of you, are there? What did I say, Mitchell? What did I say?”

Dharam froze with the unfinished question. What is happening?

“Sir, if you’d let Sergeant Dharamshal finish,” Mitchell said. “I’m sure his line of questioning would not have led to any . . . trouble. We have fine Indians here. Loyal soldiers.”

His words seemed to quell Hogge. “Yes, well,” Hogge said. “Many a fine nigger has been turned by this cartridge business. I’ve seen it. A type of madness goes over them.”

The men lapsed into silence. Dharam knew Mitchell could not rebuke a superior, but it burned him.

“Sirs? The . . . rumours?”

<<It’s nothing,>> Mitchell said. “Vicious lies to destabilise the Bengal Army. Think nothing of it.”

Hogge shook his head. “These lies will need to be addressed. This mutiny shall be quashed before it begins.”

“Yes,” Mitchell said. “We shall talk to the troops. Reassure them.”

Dharam nodded in relief. It was more painful that he thought it would be, but it was done. “Sirs, thank you. It is most appreciated.”

“Good,” Mitchell said.  “Sergeant, I can trust you and your squad won’t play any part in the spreading of these rumours.”

“Of course not, Sir. It would do us ill if these rumours were believed.”

Mitchell nodded. “Dismissed then.”
Honour (Rough Draft)
This is not perfect! Or finished! :nuu:

Three scenes written out of a planned six.
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To Research

Treatment of sepoys by British Commanders.

Sepoys’ sense of loyalty.

How to use the rifle.

What caste would be appropriate for the characters.


Books

The Lion and the Tiger by Denis Judd

1857 edited by Pramod K. Nayar


JSTOR

‘The Habitual Nobility of Being’: British Officers and the Social Construction of the Bengal Army in the Early Nineteenth Century by Douglas M. Peers

The Immediate Cause of the Indian Mutiny, As Set Forth In The Official Correspondence by Geo. Crawshay

Free Spaces as Organizational Weapons of the Weak: Religious Festivals and Regimental Mutinies in the 1857 Bengal Native Army by  Hayagreeva Rao and Sunasir Dutta



Video

The P53 Enfield Rifle-Musket: Platoon Exercise c. 1859 www.youtube.com/watch?v=eHCwes…
Historical Fiction Workshop - Sources
Third assignment for doughboycafe and neurotype's historical fiction workshop.
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I can critique your story

Sat Dec 24, 2016, 5:15 AM
Critmas begins! It's an annual event hosted by BeccaJS where participants are tasked with writing twelve critiques (or more) in twelve days. This year is extra cool because everyone who signs up is assigned a random group which they help win by increasing their collective critiques. I’m with the elves, hence the cool new icon! Becca explains it in more detail in her launch journal. It’s not only for literature so everybody should have a look and see if they want to play!



I’m only comfortable critiquing stories. If you have one you want critique on, link it below!

Also, an anonymous deviant has gifted me one month of core membership! Thank you so much! I spent an incredibly long time looking through journal skins.


  • Reading: The Black Prism by Brent Weeks
  • Playing: Guild Wars 2
I think.

I think . . .

I think! Yes. Good. I am. This is good. Happy. I’m here. What’s here? Where am I? What is this? Round. Cylinder! Glass. This is glass. Cylinder is made of glass. I am inside it. I touch it. Good! It feels good. Cold. Smooth. Wow! I left marks on it. Three marks. From all the fingers on my hand.

And I can draw. It’s fun. I draw criss-crosses. I draw it on the condensation made from my breath. But they go. And the loneliness, it cascades over my inside. Unexpected hurt. I breathe upon my glass tube and they return. So good to see them again.

See. Glass and transparency. Look.

And they are looking back at me.

They? A whoop bursts out of my mouth – heart jump! –  my head hits the back of tube. The people laugh and my pride swells, mirroring theirs as they look at me. I know them. I’ve just met them and I know them. They created me.

“It’s a funny one,” Man says. There’s two of them. Man and Woman. They are in small bodies, but their essence is big, I know. They are makers. “Can we call it ‘Funny Man’?” I laugh, because I called him Man and then he gave the same name back to me, but better.

“No, because if you put it in your notes and it slips into the database, I’ll have to sing your praises to the bosses again so they don’t fire you.”

They’re talking. I can talk too. I know the words.

“Whauaaaooo,” I say. I shake my head. That’s not what I meant. “Whaaaah. Mmmmm.” Oh. How vexing.

Man plants a kiss on Woman’s cheek. She smiles with the side of her mouth. They turn and walk away from me. No. Don’t do that! “Whaaaaaaaaa! Maaaaaaaaah!” Doors slide open. They go. Man turns to look at me. Doors close.

The lights go out.

They’re gone. Gone forever.

And I – I am lost.



Sitting. Thinking. Alone.



The doors open. From the floor of my tube, I press my hands to the glass; press my nose to it. Man has returned!

“Maaaahhhhhaaa! Ooooaaa!” I rise and jump and keep jumping and bang on the glass and keep banging. Understand me. Don’t leave me. Understand.

His beautiful face makes little creases. I stop my noise and rest myself against the glass, closing the distance between myself and Man. Press. Is he going to leave again? Heart-jump. I cannot be alone. Don’t leave me alone.

There is something in his hands. Things. To make marks with, but different to the marks I made on the glass. His marks are his thoughts and they will stay there after his thinks them. Perhaps he will think about me.

Clear doors part as he goes to the room inside the room where the computers sit. They have thoughts too. And they can speak them in their language of lights on the myriad of screens all along the wall. They serve the makers. Is that what I’m supposed to do? I don’t know how. Of their own volition my lips tremble and my tear ducts leak. These breaths are tight. What do I fear?

“Right,” he says to the computers. “I think we can start.”

My tube hisses and in rising, opens. I blink, twice, thrice and then give up and shelter my eyes with my hands. The angles of the world have changed. My throat whines.

“It’s alright,” Man says. “You can come out.”

“Meeeeehh,” I say, unwilling to see the way the world is now. I liked my tube of glass and my drawings of breath.

“Come on now, funny guy. Out. Now. And watch the step in front of you.”

“Hiiiiiiiiiiiinnnnnnnng . . .” I take my hands away and squint to see the step he spoke of. There. I step. I step down.

“Good. No wobbles.” He marks down some thoughts.

But good! He said I am good! I have to be good. I have to be most good. Man comes toward me and there are small hemispheres in his hand. He places them on my temples.

“Now you’re in for a treat,” he says. Then he goes back to the computers and speaks to them with quick and precise presses. The lights of the room change. Everything is blue. And then it starts. Gentle notes. The first I’ve heard. I suck in air and release it in a sigh. I don’t know where it’s coming from, only that Man brought it here. The music plays. Blue colours my inside with peace.

Man leaves to go but before I can make a sound he touches his lips and, “Shhh.” Then he flicks his hand and looks up. There’s nothing there, but he sways his hand and I see the music in the way it moves.

He leaves. I don’t understand.



I sit in my cylinder though it is a cylinder no more. It is a raised platform now, with no walls, yet I have compacted my position so that I do not cross its boundaries. It has been a long time since the music has ended and the lights have returned to white. Man has not yet returned, but I believe he will come back because he has before. I worry my reasoning is not sound.

I cannot think of what I should do while I wait, except exist. While I do that, the memory of the instrumental I heard vibrates inside me. String instruments. A quartet. I’ve never seen one with my eyes but I can imagine them inside the room, playing by themselves. Imperfectly, I hum.

The lights change colour. Red. Heart-jump. Will the doors open? What music is red? Behind glass walls, the computers’ lights flicker in secret patterns. I leave my platform and walk towards it. Man is not here, so I must assume it means to communicate with me.

“Nnnn,” I say.

My legs spasm and buckle and I fall and at first all I feel is confusion. Then I scream. Pain. Everywhere. Twisting. Writhing. Spasms. A memory I’ve never had wakes up inside me and just like I know of computers and violins, I know of fire. I learn what it is to have invisible flames play with the nerves under my skin. My spine arcs and I claw at smooth tiles. A scream rips my throat. The computer flashes coded curses as I die in the red.



On my platform, I stay curled and imagine the transparent walls had never left me. The world is dark and small. I do not want to think. The computer has made no further attempts at communication. It is dormant. I do not want to think.

Sound of doors opening. I jerk up to see Man walk in. The lights turn blue and the music plays. I weep and though I want to go to him, I can’t. The relief and love overpowers all motor functions and all I can do is cry as he comes to me, crouches down and touches my face.

“That’s right,” he says. “I know you’ve had a bad experience, but in this moment, everything is fine. See?”

Of course. Everything is perfect, because he is here.

“We all have good and bad times. Blue and red. But we can try to limit the bad and increase the good. That’s what I wanted to talk to you about. Stop crying now.”

I hold my breath. The tears trickle down but I contain the sobs.

“Deep breaths.”

I do as he says and hope the quiver in my breathing doesn’t offend him.

“Now, if you look behind me, there’s a friend I’d like you to meet.”

Between my focus on Man and the blurring from my tears, I had not noticed the being standing there in the middle of the room. They look like a reflection I glimpsed on my cylinder. Like me, they are bulkier and taller than our makers, with three fingers on each hand instead of five. Our faces are not as beautiful as Man’s or Woman’s. It is only now I notice we are naked while Man is clothed.

They raise a hand at me and recognising the greeting, I raise one back.

“Good!” Man said. A touch of joy. “I’m sure there won’t be any problems between you. I have to leave now. No, no, no. Don’t make any fuss. Our friend here, we’ll call it – hmm, the quiet one, will help you stop the red. That’s good news, isn’t it?”

“Whaaa!” I say. Indeed it is!

Man smiles, gets up and leaves, but strangely, the loss doesn’t send me back to tears. Listening to the music, remembering his hand sway, I realise why. I can still feel his presence here in the blue.



The red returns and with it the collapse and the pain. My platform couldn’t save me. Nowhere is safe from the red. The computer screens flash and flash. Quiet runs to me and I have hope. They place their hands on me and I have hope. They try to stop my thrashing, but they fail. Weak. They’re weaker than me. My bones stay whole but I feel them break. Quiet tries again and fails. Is this it? Fire. Needles. Shattering.  Stop!

I can’t talk beyond my screams. Quiet only looks at me with anxiety. Why do they not feel the red? Why does the computer not hurt them? And why can’t they help me! Help me! Do something!

I hate them. I hate them. I hate them. I hate them.

I claw at Quiet so they can join my screams.



The light is back in neutral. There is no music and there is no pain, but the red is still here, under my nails and in my head. I’m shaking. I know what I’ve done. For once, I dread the sound of the doors opening and Man’s return. I don’t want him to see what I’ve done.

Quiet sits near the door. They rock themselves as they clutch their arm. It’s dripping. They’re shaking. They tried to help me. Why did I hate them? The red in my head knows why I hate them. The red in my head still hates them! But the red is not the big part of me. It is only a whisper now. I flinch at myself.

The door opens and it takes Man a second to see all is not well. I avert my eyes, unable to face him. There is blood on the floor.

“Up we get.”

I think he’s talking to me, but when I look I see him help Quiet from the floor and bring them over to me. He sits my sibling next to me.

“I see there’s been some trouble.”

“Ouaa,” I say. I show him my hands.

“Yes, well. You were under a great deal of stress, weren’t you?”

“Nnnnn. Ghaaaa.”

“These kind of situations – they make us do things we don’t want to do.”

I look at my maker and I see in him . . . I see in him . . . I don’t know what I see. It’s not the anger I thought I would find. Nor is it disappointment. He just looks back. Trying to read me as try to read him.

“But sometimes, we need to do things we don’t want to do. We need to do them because they’re important.”

The doors open and Man’s face creases a little as Woman walks in. My shame doubles. I would have been joyful to see her had it not have been for my wrongdoing. She stands off to the side and does not interrupt our conversation. I can see there is worry in Man’s face. It is my fault. I have caused problems. I have not been good.

“There is a way to stop the red.” Many thoughts fight in my head, but the one which wins is Tell me, tell me, tell me, I’ll do anything. It beats I don’t believe you and I deserve the red. It beats them by such a margin that I forget them.

Tell me, tell me, tell me, I’ll do anything.

“You only have to stop,” he looks to Quiet, “it breathing.”

The lights turn red. I tremble, expecting the pain. I wait. It doesn’t come. I think. I think on what Man told me. I can stop the Red. Crying. I wipe it away. Shame. I don’t want to do this. But it’s important. Man told me to do it, so there is no shame. The room is red. Red means pain. I have to stop it breathing. Stop it breathing. Stop. It.

I look at it. Them. It. They look like a reflection I once glimpsed, before I left the safety and ignorance of my tube. It looks just like me, but they’re frozen staring at Man, eyes wide. Disbelief. Betrayal. It shouldn’t look at Man like that. They couldn’t help me. It was weak. They couldn’t do anything.

“You remember what the red feels like, don’t you?” Woman asks.

“We don’t need to–”

The pain electrifies me. A moment. It’s gone. I gasp for breath. I remember, I remember, I remember! Just stop it breathing. Need to stop it. My hands around its neck. Squeezing. No screams. Choking. No breaths. No pain. In red. It tries, but it can’t pry away my fingers. It tries, but it can’t. It. It. It.

“It’s a success,” Woman says. “Well done, Adam.”

The first words I ever heard – It’s a funny one. Can we call it ‘Funny Man’? The computers – they only communicate with Man – they only serve Man. Just now – You remember what the red feels like, don’t you? And pain.

I think.

I release Quiet and show my makers red.
In Red
Shhhh. Secret Santa. :)
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Comments


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:iconpepper-the-phoenix:
Pepper-the-phoenix Featured By Owner Jan 7, 2017  Hobbyist
Thank you for the llama!
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:iconrieal-dragonsbane:
Rieal-Dragonsbane Featured By Owner Jan 13, 2017  Hobbyist Writer
:D
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:iconk-naille:
K-naille Featured By Owner Jan 3, 2017  Hobbyist General Artist
Thanks a lot for th favs and Watch :)
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:iconrieal-dragonsbane:
Rieal-Dragonsbane Featured By Owner Jan 13, 2017  Hobbyist Writer
:heart:
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:iconblackbowfin:
BlackBowfin Featured By Owner Dec 26, 2016  Hobbyist Writer
Thank you much for the support. :)
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:iconrieal-dragonsbane:
Rieal-Dragonsbane Featured By Owner Jan 13, 2017  Hobbyist Writer
You're welcome. :)
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:iconaloyssiah:
Aloyssiah Featured By Owner Dec 24, 2016  Professional Digital Artist
Read them all! ^_^ I actually had already read most of them! They are as fantastic as they always are though I especially like Zero Pence.
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:iconrieal-dragonsbane:
Rieal-Dragonsbane Featured By Owner Dec 25, 2016  Hobbyist Writer
Ahhh, thank you! :D I'm glad you enjoyed them.
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:iconjessamar:
JessaMar Featured By Owner Dec 21, 2016  Hobbyist Writer
I am loving your stories!
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:iconrieal-dragonsbane:
Rieal-Dragonsbane Featured By Owner Dec 21, 2016  Hobbyist Writer
Aww, I'm glad! Thank you for taking the time to say so. :)
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