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Author Topic: PC091: Three Days And Nights In Lord Darkdrake’s Hall  (Read 7230 times)
Heradel
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« on: February 16, 2010, 08:43:36 AM »

PodCastle 91: Three Days And Nights In Lord Darkdrake’s Hall

by Leah Bobet.
Read by Mur Lafferty.
Originally published in Strange Horizons.

The sun slanted ever further in, pooling warm and uncomfortable at my feet as I noted the exits and matched walls to arms of the compass, itemized my situation neatly in my head.

They had taken my armor. Instead I wore a long dress of white linen, the kind of dress that would have been too simple in my previous life and was much too impractically frivolous now. They had taken my arms, my secondhand sword and the bow my lord uncle had given me, and the reason for that was obvious. He wanted vulnerability, not strength; he wanted me to look and feel and be vulnerable.

Somewhere beneath the coldness of my regard, I began to get angry. He was setting a stage. He was creating the battlefield. I could not buy into it.

I resolved to ask Captain Stoneburn, when next I saw him, what had transpired between him and Lord Darkdrake to provoke such a desire for vengeance.

When the light-dapples on the floor were long and tinged with sickly orange, a servant came in with bread and cheese and water. Peasant food: perhaps it was meant to be a slight. Mercenary food, Company food: perhaps it was meant to remind. I moved to take it, and remembered that my hands were bound fast.

Rated R for kickass heroines and human suffering.
« Last Edit: March 02, 2010, 08:14:07 PM by Heradel » Logged

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yicheng
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« Reply #1 on: February 16, 2010, 05:05:08 PM »

I enjoyed this.  The female protagonist (was she a heroine?) was very convincing as a soldier.  I can't tell you how refreshing it is to have a female warrior-archetype that is strong & ruthless without losing her femininity.  You can almost picture that this is the same kind of woman soldier as Lyudmila Pavlichenko (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lyudmila_Pavlichenko), who had a total of 309 confirmed kills in WW2.  Ultimately what won me over is that tinge of ambiguity you have about her and her (I believe) genuine interest in human suffering.  I think it's same sort of personality trait that makes male soldiers (the really good ones) do what they do.
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Listener
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« Reply #2 on: February 18, 2010, 11:34:15 AM »

The story was very straightforward, but felt lifted out of a larger piece, perhaps with this story taking place at the end -- Lord Darkdrake has been pretty much defeated, but he still manages to abduct the MC, kind of like the end of True Lies when The Day Is Saved and then O NOES THEY HAZ ELIZA DUSHKU LETS SAVE HER GUYZ! I think my only real problem with the story itself was that, even though the MC is clearly an excellent mercenary/soldier with a royal upbringing that influences her decisions, she can still kick the crap out of two trained guards (even with one being distracted) after two days of being chained to a chair and eating only the bare necessities. Plus whatever magic/potion was used on her beforehand that cut more time out of her life. And then, LD is clearly playing with her at the end -- did she take that mortal wound specifically to make LD lower his guard? And if he's so smart, why did he allow her to trick him? It just seemed to fall apart a little, is all.

I know we're really not supposed to talk about the intros per se, but many people are vulnerable to priming, and by MKH reading a review of the story before we actually heard the story -- and one that was so specific -- I think some of us were primed to hear "The Question" instead of paying attention to some of the story details. I'm guessing The Question was "what of human suffering is it that the MC wants to know more about?" but I don't know. And that distracted me from the ending.

I get the feeling the reader tried to do the entire thing in one take, because there were very minor hiccups that disrupted the flow of the story.
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kibitzer
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« Reply #3 on: February 18, 2010, 04:18:37 PM »

Agree with the comments about a review before the story. For myself, I couldn't pick the "significant" question and it left me wondering what I missed.

Anyway, overall it didn't detract from my enjoyment of the story. I have to say, though, the ending seemed extremely unlikely, unless LD wanted that outcome. And it seemed to me he didn't.
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danooli
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« Reply #4 on: February 18, 2010, 07:23:18 PM »

. I'm guessing The Question was "what of human suffering is it that the MC wants to know more about?" but I don't know.

That was my thought about The Question as well.  I don't think that my wondering what it was detracted from my enjoyment of the story though.  If anything, it made me really ponder the soldier's interest in human suffering.  Especially since she twice quickly killed in order to lessen the suffering of the dying.  I found that pretty interesting.
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cdugger
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« Reply #5 on: February 19, 2010, 07:20:47 PM »

Good tale, good reading.

I, too, felt like it was the end of a portion of a larger story. If there is more in the Universe, great, I would like to hear it. It should be, but doesn't do a whole lot by itself.
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feste451
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« Reply #6 on: February 20, 2010, 03:59:00 PM »

By the end of this story, I felt as though I was two or three chapters away from the end of a much larger story, but also think it does stand on its own. It leaves much to the imagination as to what happened before and what happens after. I like stories like this.

The mention of the "significant question" should have been in the outro as it foreshadowed a significant point of the story and kept me on tenterhooks waiting for it. Still, it was a minor distraction and didn't limit me from enjoying the the story.

In the end I got the feeling Darkdrake knew his destiny so the outcome of the duel meant very little. If he won, he would prolong the inevitable. If he lost, it would end that much sooner. Revenge as motivation does not always sustain. She, however, sought justice so it was no wonder she was determined to get back to camp.
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« Reply #7 on: February 21, 2010, 01:15:03 PM »

Why is "sounds like part of a larger story" always leveled as a criticism?  That's one of the highest compliments I can pay to a story, personally.

"Unfinished" is another thing altogether, but this story most definitely completed its relevant arcs.  All the rest of it, the backstory and the implied sequel events, are the authorial equivalent of a trompe l'oeil, giving the impression of depth without the need to actually put it all down and slog through it.
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« Reply #8 on: February 21, 2010, 02:34:10 PM »

Hi guys:

To those listeners whose enjoyment of the story was impacted by my intro, I do apologize. I try to be very careful about foreshadowing the content of the story, or giving anything important away—but in this case, I was really intrigued by how the readers' individual experience of the story impacted their opinion of the writer qua writer, rather than writer qua storyteller.

Sometimes I let my inner pedant run away with me. I'll do better in the future. Grin

M

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MacArthurBug
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« Reply #9 on: February 21, 2010, 09:08:28 PM »

Very very good story. I , too was set to wondering on that question. A bit of pondering would have fit better at the end, but since I'm great at just letting myself go to a story it didn't bother me overmuch.

There were some loose bits. I agree with a lot of what Listener said on this story, and since his spelling and grammer are better then mine I won't bother to echo. Smiley
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« Reply #10 on: February 22, 2010, 10:06:22 AM »

Hi guys:

To those listeners whose enjoyment of the story was impacted by my intro, I do apologize. I try to be very careful about foreshadowing the content of the story, or giving anything important away—but in this case, I was really intrigued by how the readers' individual experience of the story impacted their opinion of the writer qua writer, rather than writer qua storyteller.

Sometimes I let my inner pedant run away with me. I'll do better in the future. Grin

M

I still enjoyed the story, and the details were interesting, but I think it might've served better as a guest outro than a guest intro.  Smiley

Anyway, good story, good to see a female warrior protagonist taken seriously (as in a believable warrior instead of a funny chainmail bikini tale).  The gray areas and the interactions felt very real.

But I did find it hard to believe the easy disabling of the 2nd guard after the bath.  He should've seen his fellow get killed, so why wasn't he more ready?  And, her skill with throwing knives aside, the knife she stole did not seem to be intended as a throwing-knife.  I've never thrown a knife before, but from what I understand, throwing-knives are generally designed to be thrown with certain weight balances and such.  But that's just a minor quibble, and I'm no expert in any case.
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yicheng
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« Reply #11 on: February 24, 2010, 09:34:56 AM »

But I did find it hard to believe the easy disabling of the 2nd guard after the bath.  He should've seen his fellow get killed, so why wasn't he more ready?  And, her skill with throwing knives aside, the knife she stole did not seem to be intended as a throwing-knife.  I've never thrown a knife before, but from what I understand, throwing-knives are generally designed to be thrown with certain weight balances and such.  But that's just a minor quibble, and I'm no expert in any case.

I agree with you there.  I attribute it to all the brain-washing from Action-Adventure movies.  Getting a throwing knife to stick takes a tremendous amount of fine-motor-control and muscle-strength.  She probably wouldn't have had either after being chained, nearly starved, and magically charmed.  Even assuming a kitchen knife was sharp enough to kill someone, it was a very risky move to throw you only weapon at a fully armed (and I assume armored) opponent.  If you miss, you're basically screwed.  A smarter, more realistic, move would have probably been to tackle the guard before he can get his sword out and stab him in a weak spot like the groin or the neck.

But then, on the flip side, Darkdrake admitted that he expected these guard to be expendable.  Maybe they were evil equivalent of Gomer Pyle.
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« Reply #12 on: February 24, 2010, 09:39:49 AM »

But then, on the flip side, Darkdrake admitted that he expected these guard to be expendable.  Maybe they were evil equivalent of Gomer Pyle.

That's true, though it did seem he wanted them to be a challenge, just a surmountable one.
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Gamercow
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« Reply #13 on: February 24, 2010, 09:41:22 AM »

This one didn't catch me.  Seemed very tropey, and I actually said out loud "Come ON" when she killed the Lord at the end.  It was too easy, and just happened, against a man who she, not 3 minutes ago, said was faster and better than her on her best day.  Sorry, I can't stretch my disbelief that far. 
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yicheng
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« Reply #14 on: February 24, 2010, 11:49:28 AM »

This one didn't catch me.  Seemed very tropey, and I actually said out loud "Come ON" when she killed the Lord at the end.  It was too easy, and just happened, against a man who she, not 3 minutes ago, said was faster and better than her on her best day.  Sorry, I can't stretch my disbelief that far. 

"The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all."

Watch MMA sometimes, slower and less skilled fighters win fights against faster, and more skilled opponents all the time.  The key factor, IMHO, is the motivation.  Darkdrake was not trying to kill the MC, where as she was perfectly willing to kill him.
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eytanz
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« Reply #15 on: February 26, 2010, 12:04:35 PM »

I am not sure about this one. It was very well written, a great exploration of the psychology of a mercenary and of moral ambiguity. But it felt, well, hollow. Not so much that it's part of a bigger story - though I see why some people got that reaction - but more that it was a template, a character study divorced of a narrative for that character to be in. There were so many open questions - some very clearly deliberately open questions, others (as intimated by the intro) less clearly deliberate - that I never really got a sense of what I was dealing with.

But I can't figure out if that's good or bad. I think it's a matter of context - thinking of this as a former lit major, I really admire a lot about this story. Thinking about it as a reader/listener of fantasy, I found it unsatisfying.

I guess what I'm saying is - at the end of the story, I felt like I should be writing an essay about it, not appreciate it.

And I want to thank MKHobson for her response regarding the intro.
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trebilcox
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« Reply #16 on: February 26, 2010, 09:22:23 PM »

I liked this story!  She faced her fears, worked through extreme pain, and became a self-rescuing princess.  Well, sort of self-rescuing.  She did lie down at the end to wait for her lover and comrade.
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« Reply #17 on: March 01, 2010, 09:56:58 AM »

I liked this story!  She faced her fears, worked through extreme pain, and became a self-rescuing princess.  Well, sort of self-rescuing.  She did lie down at the end to wait for her lover and comrade.

I think anyone could forgive her for lying down at that point, considering the wound she'd taken.  If she kept on swashbuckling she'll bleed out pretty quickly!  Smiley
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« Reply #18 on: March 03, 2010, 09:44:50 AM »

I'm catching up a bit on back episodes, so I'm probably commenting on this long after it has passed from everyone else's interest.

OK, I enjoyed it.  It kept my interest.  I felt for the protagonist.  The psychological tension was nicely built, and the ambiguity between who's the good guy and who's the bad guy. 

I do share a previous poster's lack of enthusiasm for the random way the final fight turned around, but not being much of a swordfighter myself, I dunno, I suppose it could happen...

Above all, what I'd like to know is: Where's the fantasy?  This is sword and sorcery, hold the sorcery.  It's just a medieval-style fight story. It could have been set in modern day with modern weapons, or in the Civil War, or any conflict in any day between local warlords. The only element of fantasy that I see is the presence of the strong female warrior protagonist, which is not fantastic in and of itself, but a point of commonality with the "chicks in chain mail" fantasy sub-genre.

In short, a pretty good story as a story, but I don't see why it belongs in Podcastle.
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Talia
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« Reply #19 on: March 03, 2010, 10:17:26 AM »

I'm catching up a bit on back episodes, so I'm probably commenting on this long after it has passed from everyone else's interest.

OK, I enjoyed it.  It kept my interest.  I felt for the protagonist.  The psychological tension was nicely built, and the ambiguity between who's the good guy and who's the bad guy. 

I do share a previous poster's lack of enthusiasm for the random way the final fight turned around, but not being much of a swordfighter myself, I dunno, I suppose it could happen...

Above all, what I'd like to know is: Where's the fantasy?  This is sword and sorcery, hold the sorcery.  It's just a medieval-style fight story. It could have been set in modern day with modern weapons, or in the Civil War, or any conflict in any day between local warlords. The only element of fantasy that I see is the presence of the strong female warrior protagonist, which is not fantastic in and of itself, but a point of commonality with the "chicks in chain mail" fantasy sub-genre.

In short, a pretty good story as a story, but I don't see why it belongs in Podcastle.


Because the editors said it did. :p

There's no one true, solid definition of what fantasy is or isn't. Therefore, what's fantasy to one person may not be to another. Whether something belongs on Podcastle or not is the editor's call, not yours, nor anyone else's (except the author's, I suppose, heh). Ya just gotta roll with it.

And furthermore, if you liked the story, why kvetch?
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