As I’ve gotten deeper into the season one revisions, I’ve found myself less and less excited to do them, mostly because there was less and less to do. Many of the early episodes featured significant problems that I was eager to address through the revision process, but the later episodes are stronger, and more importantly, they are more complex in their continuity. While I know that there are ways in which I could improve them, doing so would require me to make more significant changes that would alter the series in more fundamental ways than I promised to make when I started these revisions.
That leaves mostly grammar, sentence structure, and word choice changes to make. I can tighten up descriptions and make technical changes to the writing, but while this is important and will improve the episodes, it is not nearly as exciting and engaging as doing something more significant to improve the story, like the addition of side plots or the inclusion of background elements, or the major revisions that I added to All Cooped Up and No Place to Go that drastically improved that formerly very flawed episode. That’s probably why I now find myself delaying doing the revisions until they’re almost due to go live.
It makes me wonder if I should bother doing posts like this for the season two episodes. I know that they need revisions, if only in an editing sense to improve on the fact that I usually give them only a cursory read over before pushing them out, without stopping to clean up the grammar, punctuation, word choice, and other technical elements. Yet I fear that in many cases I will be unable (or unwilling) to make significant revisions from a desire not to drastically alter the series after it’s gone live. That won’t leave me very much to talk about in the revision posts that I wouldn’t have already discussed in the original release posts. I highly doubt that anyone is visiting this website to listen to me babble on about dangling prepositions.
Speaking of, S1:E11’s revisions were very much of this type. I tend to be more careful in the first place with the plotting of the two part episodes, so changing the story in significant ways would have required more or less rewriting the entire two-part episode. Plus, I like this episode. While I worry that it doesn’t have enough emphasis on Kiluron and Doil, with a lot of viewpoints to which we will never really return, I think it works to tell the story that I want to tell, and the second part makes up for that dearth.
One major, technical “flaw” that I identified was the viewpoint switch I do in the Daribro scene. Technically, I should mark that better, or do a section break, or write the whole scene from a different perspective, but I chose not to. It might seem odd to choose not to correct a major technical flaw in revisions that are intended for that exact purpose, but I made the choice deliberately, because I didn’t like any of my options for changing it. If I did a proper viewpoint switch, the resulting second scene would have been too short, and I didn’t want to do away with the Daribro viewpoint entirely, because his perspective was exactly right for conveying the sense of unknown, panic, and skepticism that I wanted to include in the scene. I don’t know if it will bother readers as much as it bothers me, but I must force myself to be content with my choice of keeping it.
There is more that I want to improve about part two, but we’ll talk about that in next month’s revision post. In the meantime, I hope that you enjoy the revised version of Old Blood, Part One.
For thirty-seven years, Jorvin had been working the same farm. His father had worked the land for forty-nine years before that, and his grandfather had worked the soil through the wars of Merolate’s forced unification of Corbulate. He knew to rotate the crops each year to avoid depleting the soil. He knew when the last frost of the year would be, and he knew how to work the still-stiff ground so that the hardier crops could be planted early. He knew exactly when the spring shoots would begin to push their way out of the soil, and he knew precisely what they ought to look like. This was his life, after all, and there was order to it, structure, as in every good Corb’s life. His farm was not just his livelihood, nor just his job; it was his solemn duty.
When Jorvin walked out of his farmhouse at the coming of dawn to inspect the crops, he also knew immediately that something was very, very wrong. He had planted each seed with the military precision upon which all Corbs prided themselves, and he had tended them with the same dedication. There was no reason for the crops to be emerging wrong, but that they were was not in doubt even from a distance. Jorvin fell to his knees in the soil between rows of sickened sprouts and fought down a cry. It would not do to cry, no matter how terrible the situation. There would be another way, a chance to try again, to plant another crop, to change out the soil, to fix what was broken. It was the only way he knew.
It wasn’t even that they were sick, not with any disease he could identify; Jorvin knew the signs of sickness, and these were not the same. This was something different, something new. Each of the sprouts was grey at the leaves, with black, oily spots coating the stems; when Jorvin touched them, fondling them in thin, calloused fingers, the ashen leaves crumbled away, and his fingers came away slick with an iridescent film that the dust from the leaves clung to unpleasantly. Putting his fingers to his face, it smelled like those fields where the wildflowers are so thick and overwhelming that it smells rotten-sweet. Somehow, he was not surprised that there was no sign of insect life that might have been eating the sprouts; these things were too rotten, too broken, too wrong even for the dirty, crawling things of the world.
All that Jorvin could do for a moment was kneel there, his fingers dirty with the remains of his crops. Last year had been a hard year, and he had only been able to put away one planting’s worth of seeds. There was no way for him to replant, and he could see from where he knelt that his entire crop was exhibiting the same symptoms. Jorvin’s fingers dug into the soil, and he bowed his head. Then, he took a deep, unsteady breath, he forced himself to his feet, and hurried to his farmhouse.
His wife, Obeline, took one look at his face and put down the jar of meal she had been wielding. “What happened?” she asked.
Jorvin’s fingers grasped on empty air as he searched for words. “The crops,” he managed, in barely more than a whisper. “They’re…they’re gone. All gone. They’ve sprouted, but they’re, they’re wrong, somehow, so wrong. Like a sickness, but worse. And it’s not just a few; it’s all of them.”
By that time, the rest of the family had crowded into the little farmhouse kitchen: his four sons and two daughters. Curiously, the cats that seemed to follow wherever his youngest son went were nowhere to be seen. His oldest son, Jorxin, had seen nearly twenty summers, and he looked at his father in confusion. “How can that be? We done everything right, just like grandpa showed.”
It took an effort of will for Jorvin to nod in agreement. “And your great-grandpa, too,” he remarked. “I don’t know how this can be…it doesn’t make any sense at all.”
Obeline clapped her hands, the noise sharp and surprising in the silence that had descended. “Well, there’s no point standing around here bemoaning and wondering about it,” she snapped. “Jorvin, why don’t you get yourself over to the neighbor’s place and see if they’re in the same boat as us. If nothing else, misery loves company. And tell ‘em that I’ll make them dinner tonight if they’ll help us figure this thing out.”
“At least one of us can keep her head together,” Jorvin observed, giving his wife a hug. He already felt more confident that something could be done and that all was not yet lost. “I’ll go right away.”
It was quiet when he reached his neighbor’s farm. No one answered when Jorvin knocked on the door, so he walked around to the fields in the back. His neighbors had a significantly smaller farm with only two fields; both were exhibiting the same symptoms of sickness as he had seen on his own crops. Fighting down his dismay, Jorvin looked around, searching for the people; there seemed to be no sign of the neighbors themselves. A few of the sick crops appeared to have been harvested. Growing concerned, Jorvin jogged to the barn, where the main doors had been left slightly ajar. They creaked in the still, early morning air as Jorvin pulled them apart, and he slipped inside.
The first thing he noticed was the smell, the same smell from his own fields, but much stronger, more intense and concentrated. Choking on the cloying stench, Jorvin forced himself to walk deeper into the barn, pulling his shirt up over his mouth and nose as he did. It helped, a little. The light from outside fell on a form lying on the ground not far from a table, where the remains of several sprouts lay in pieces. Jarvin came up to the form, and leapt backwards, breathing heavily through his mouth, and fighting down his gorge, along with the urge to scream. His neighbor was lying on the ground, his fingers and lips ashen like the plants, his eyes filled with that oily, slick film. He was very, very dead, but there was no evidence of insects or worms attacking the corpse.
In farm life, Jorvin was no stranger to wounds, injuries, sicknesses, even corpses, but there was something particularly horrifying, even unnatural, about the body that had once been his neighbor lying on the ground. Jorvin more than half expected it to rise up again at the bidding of some unseen, malignant force, though he knew that was irrational. Squeezing his eyes shut, Jorvin could not dispel the vision that he himself might face a similar fate. Racing from the barn, Jorvin found the well, and scrubbed his hands until they were raw and bleeding. Even so, it felt like the oily film was still present on his weeping fingertips.
When Jorvin walked back to his own farm, he spent the entire distance trying to calm himself. Probably he should have checked for his neighbor’s wife, but he couldn’t bring himself to enter that farmhouse. There had been no response to his knock initially, and he feared what that meant; the idea of coming across another body like that was too much for him to handle. He would visit the other farms in the area, see if anyone’s crops had escaped the sickness, warn them about the fate that might await them, but in his heart he already knew what he would find there. Before the end of the day, he had his whole family on the road, going towards the capital. There was nothing more Jorvin could think to do, so it was time to elevate the problem. Governor Parl would be able to help.
Soon, he found that he and his family were not the only ones hoping that Governor Parl would be able to help, or perhaps simply fleeing from the horrors they had seen at their farms and houses. A stream of refugees – it was a hard thing for Jorvin to admit that was what they were, as they trundled along on their wagon with a few meager possessions and supplies to share amongst them – became a river, which became a flood, which before long was a veritable deluge. Everyone he met had the same kinds of stories: their crops had been ruined, their metal had rusted through overnight, the animals had proven full of maggots. Soon, Jorvin had to leave the wagon behind, and he and his family continued on foot, when the blummoxes died. On and on the horrors went, but all the refugees had the same hope; that Governor Parl would be able to do something, somehow, to put their lives back in order, or at least that he would be able to hold the world together. Sometimes, it seemed a very flimsy hope to which to cling.
Click here to read the rest of Blood Magic S1:E11: Old Blood, Part One (Revised Edition)
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