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Entry #5

Discussion in 'Q4 2019' started by Xiph0, Nov 19, 2019.

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  1. Xiph0

    Xiph0 Yoda Admin

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    I will always love you, even in death.

    “We're nearly there, just rest a little longer, Tori.”

    Astoria sighed.

    The shadows beneath her eyes were ugly blots, but by Merlin, when she looked up at him, he could hardly look away.

    “No, Draco,” his wife said in a reedy whisper.

    His brow crinkled. Clouded gray eyes dipped to her right hand, as she gripped at the door handle. He leaned forward and placed his hand over her own, and his other around the small of her back.

    “If you want to sit up, let me help,” he said.

    She said nothing, only sighed again.

    He pulled her closer to him and shifted his grip to steady her. He tried to read something in her pained expression. She wouldn’t meet his gaze, instead looking out of the window.

    He followed her line of sight. The last trees whipped past and the castle loomed, just above a crescent-shaped lake. “It won't be much longer, Tori,” he said.

    “That’s what I’m afraid of.” She spoke quietly, after a pause. “I’m not afraid of dying.”

    He turned his head toward her again. For a moment he looked at her as if struck. “We’ll find the cure, Tori.”

    He had nothing else to say. He'd thought this discussion was already over before they had left the Manor behind. To bring it up again this close to salvation...

    He did the only other thing that he could, something he had been learning to do over the years.

    He leaned in and pulled her tight, his arms embracing the woman he loved.

    Astoria clutched at him. “Promise me that you won't go through with this if they cannot find another way, Draco.”

    “I…” again, the words would not come. The choice was hers in the end, but he was too selfish to just let her die in his arms in the weeks ahead. No, he answered silently. I can’t, Astoria.

    He felt tears dripping onto his shoulder.

    There was nothing else for her to say, either.

    With what little strength she had left, Astoria released him and withdrew, and he let her settle into her seat again. Her eyes were closed. The tears still dripped down her cheeks.

    He swallowed the lump in his throat and returned his attention to the window. The sky was dark with clouds, and moonlight came fleetingly through the gaps. They swung around the lake, following the curve, and carried up the hill toward the front of the castle.

    And then the carriage was slowing, stopping, and the black iron gates surrounding the courtyard opened with a dry creak.

    A man was already waiting outside of the carriage, standing close enough that Draco drew back in shock. The man’s red eyes glowed in the shadow of his hood. “Lord and Lady Malfoy,” he greeted. “Let us hurry. The rains will fall soon, and such ill weather is no passage for my guests.”

    Draco swallowed before his voice would come out. “Thank you, Lord Mircea, for offering us the shelter of your home in these trying times.”

    Mircea's gaze swept across them, starting with Astoria. His smile tightened. “But of course, Lord Malfoy. Your wife's plight is not unknown.”

    Draco dared to hope. “There have been others with this curse?”

    Mircea's claws clicked together. “In a manner. Come, let us discuss matters in more detail inside.” The first raindrops began to fall across the carriage, and Mircea gestured through the gates. The carriage door opened.

    Draco jerked back again, not realizing they had left it unlocked for all of this time.

    Mircea’s gaze returned to Astoria. “Are you well enough to walk, Lady Malfoy?"

    Astoria lifted herself upright.

    Her breath emerged in tight little gasps, and Draco made to support her, but he found their host there first. The vampire lifted Astoria as easily as Draco would have a kneazle, and cradled her against the rain, his red eyes narrowed. “Careful, Lady Malfoy. Do not strain yourself, lest your frailty proves greater than your will.” His gaze bore into Astoria's half-lidded green, and she closed her eyes with only a faint murmur.

    “Did you just--” Draco started.

    Mircea turned to face him. “A simple hypnosis, Lord Malfoy, worry not. She will awaken tomorrow, once the pains of travel have left her. Now come, if you please, for I favor this weather no more than she.” With that he was moving through the gates and toward the castle doors, his boots hardly touching the wet walkway as he soared forward.

    Draco swore and slid out into the rain. He shut the carriage door, hurrying as best he could to catch them. A beat later the gates crashed behind him, and the carriage began to pull away.

    He looked back for a moment before cursing louder, racing after the vampire. Mircea had already vanished inside the castle. The rain was worsening now, pounding the walkway. His traveling coat was soaked in moments, his hair plastered to the top of his head.

    Draco rushed through the doors and found himself inside of a large open foyer, lit by sparkling green flames from a dozen brackets on the walls. Mircea's kin were waiting inside, some loitering around the stairwells, some few trading knowing glances as he stood there breathing hard. Mircea stood motionless beside an arched doorway on the far left, Astoria still held to his chest.

    “This way, Lord Malfoy. The guest quarters, unless you would prefer we begin the assessment process now?”

    Draco’s heart was thundering. His gaze leaped from their host to the other vampires again, and anxious habit before such a crowd made him reach into his pocket for his wand. A few subtle motions and non-verbal charms dried him off, vanished the water on the floor.

    He felt more composed at once. Standing upright, he turned over Mircea’s question as he approached the vampire.

    It would be so easy to begin now. If only she hadn’t voiced her concerns again, he might have agreed.

    But he could not bring himself to turn her against her will like this. There would be time to speak with her again after she had woken up, to convince her one last time that this was the only way forward, as he had before.

    And if I can’t… his hand, still in his pocket, turned to a tiny vial. I’ll just have to live with the consequences.

    “Not yet, Lord Mircea.”

    Mircea inclined his head. “As you wish.”

    They stepped inside a large space, not greatly removed from the feel of Malfoy Manor’s master bedroom. Old world taste appeared to favor the same style in Romania as in England.

    Mircea laid Astoria upon her own bed with care and withdrew to the side, allowing for Draco to pull up a chair and sit next to her. His expression grew pained as he beheld her face in the light of the roaring fireplace.

    She looks so at peace. So much like the girl I met ten years ago...

    Guilt laced his voice now as he looked away and said, “Can you truly cure my wife?”

    Mircea's claws clicked together once more. “We do not prefer that term, cure. Many have been hunted in the name of a cure to vampirism. What we offer can be quick and simple, or more elaborate.”

    Draco already knew what the fastest method would be, but he had to ask. “Go on.”

    “For most afflictions, ours is stronger in the end. A single bite, and enough will to live, your wife will regain her hale vigor on her first feeding.”

    And who would be sacrificed for that feeding? Draco’s stomach tightened. Someone might die, so that she could live, and he felt nothing but a cold relief. “Our correspondence hinted at another possibility.”

    The vampire said nothing for a moment, but there was a tightening in his eyes. “We shall study what ailment has infected her blood, of course, if you would prefer a less… immediate resolution. Doctor Harkon has made advances in practical serums.”

    “How long will that take? We have already spent too long traveling across Europe to spare more weeks on treatments.”

    Mircea's claws clicked. “Perhaps it is best if you both rest, Lord Malfoy. I am but the chief donator to our studies, it is Doctor Harkon you must speak with about the intricacies of this process.”

    Draco sat upright. “Isn’t he here?”

    “He is attending to another patient in the village for their annual treatment. He should return by no later than tomorrow evening.” Mircea swept a low bow, one arm tucked to his stomach, the other at his back. “Should you hunger, the icebox has been well supplied from the forest and lake. The china and cutlery is in the cabinets to the left. Good night.”

    There’s nothing more that I… we can do right now. Draco turned to his wife again. “Goodnight,” he said quietly, attention upon Astoria more than Mircea.

    Mircea paused a beat and then left them be. The door clicked shut.

    Draco gripped Astoria's cool hand between his and bent over, resting his brow against them.

    Magic has failed us. No curse breaker, no healer, no master of the darkest of arts has found the solution, Tori, he said to her silently. This curse has taken so much. All the hope that we have left is with the unliving. If I must part from you in one way, why can't we stay together in the next?

    The last he voiced aloud. Her expression did not shift. He let go and stood up and walked around the room, full of restless anxiety. In his pocket he played with the vial again, another reason for his guilt: three drops of the Draught of Living Death.

    Their host had beat him to the punch. Perhaps such hypnosis would prove to be the key to convincing her...

    He shook his head, disgusted by his own weakness. “I’m sorry, Tori. For your sake, we’ll try this doctor’s help.” He shed his coat and threw it over the back of the chair, putting the vial from his thoughts. “But I won’t wait longer than a few more days for results. You…” his voice trailed off. It was too difficult to say the inevitable aloud.

    You may not have much longer than that. Healer Lucroy’s estimate is rapidly running out. We’ve lost all of these weeks already.

    A sudden fury filled him. He stormed over to the window, looking out at the raging night. Lightning burst and thunder echoed in the stones beneath his feet. He nearly tore the latch open to vent his anger into the night, but the thought that he might make Astoria’s condition darken stilled his hand where it rested, and he instead beat his fist upon the hard wall on his right.

    He hated this blood curse.

    He hated what it had taken from them, and what it would still take, one way or the other-- her love, or her life, perhaps both.

    And what of the child they would never have? What if Astoria had gone ahead, despite her frailty in recent years? What if the blood curse had passed on to them? Would he have taken this same path, turning both wife and daughter or son?

    Merlin help me, I don’t know. And I’ll never know.

    Just as soon as the fit had come over him, it departed. He was tired, hungry, worn down by the looming truth: Astoria was his everything, and he stood to lose her forever no matter what choice he made.

    He walked over to the icebox in the corner of the room. They hadn't eaten much during the day, Astoria given her fatigue, he because of the knot in his stomach the closer they came to their destination.

    Preparing a meal, he hoped, would distract him.

    Yet when he opened the box up, he found that Mircea's idea of 'well supplied' and his own were two separate notions. His eyes dilated, and his mouth slipped open, taking in the handful of... what he had to believe were the hearts of wildlife.

    He forced his gaze lower. Wildly gutted pike. As he reached his hand toward one, he realized that the marks could have been made by a human hand... if it ended in sharpened claws.

    Revulsion grew across his face. For the first time, he felt something of Astoria’s reserve in coming to vampires for help.

    “I suppose they would hunt in their own ways...” he uttered.

    The pike would suffice. He collected his wand and set about the task.

    Afterward, as he sat there alone, Draco found his appetite lacking. He ate mechanically.

    Whether the meal was good or not, it stayed down, and satisfied the dull ache in his belly.

    He cast a preservation charm over the remainder.

    Then he sat at her side again, and held her hand in his own. The hours whittled away. The storm outside held strong all throughout the evening hours, lasting long into the night. He eventually closed his eyes and let sleep take him.

    \\\\\\\

    Knocking outside of the door jolted Draco awake.

    Daylight poured into the room, tinged with the red of early dusk. He sat upright and grabbed for his wand, belatedly realizing that he had set it aside on the nightstand earlier.

    The knocking continued, firm, yet not hurried. Insistent without impatience.

    “Just a moment,” he called, and the knocking ceased at once.

    He looked at Astoria. She hadn't shifted in her sleep. Nothing of her pains showed as she laid there. He brushed his hand lightly across her cheek, and stood, making his way to the door.


    A different man was waiting when Draco opened up. Tall, older, with gray in his short hair.

    “Mister Malfoy, I presume,” the stranger said. He extended his left hand, clad in a traveler's glove to match his overcoat. Spots of dark brown and red stained the edges, Draco saw, and he reluctantly held his own hand out. They shook.

    “Are you the man that Lord Mircea spoke of? Doctor Harkon, wasn’t it?”

    “Reinhard Harkon, yes. I have been of service to greater Romania for quite some time, not merely to Lord Mircea. Longer than you have been alive, in fact.” He tried to smile, but there was pain in his eyes, and his expression drifted toward pity instead. “Please, forgive me. It is necessary to explain that, so that you understand, I have studied the workings, and failings, of the human body quite intimately. Your wife’s condition is new even to me.”

    Draco felt the tightness in his gut return. “There isn’t anything that you can do?”

    “I can examine Misses Malfoy, and if so desired, we may draw blood to test against my serums. But I would not give you false hope. These,” he paused, shedding his gloves so that he could draw a familiar set of letters from his pocket the next moment, “I have studied in great detail. Lord Mircea passed them on to me before I departed earlier this month. I have assisted many who sit upon death’s doorstep, Mister Malfoy, but I also understand that I cannot help everyone. Lord Mircea offers his.”

    Promise me that you won’t go through with this if they cannot find another way, Draco, her voice echoed in his head.

    His voice was hard again when he said, “Turning is the only way?”

    “The surest way. And the sooner the better.”

    “Will she have to kill?”

    Pity stared back at Draco. “The first time always does. They cannot help it. The thirst is what drives their survival instinct.”

    Astoria, forgive me.

    He closed his eyes. “Then I’ll need your help.”

    “I know of what you intend to ask, Mister Malfoy. I have usually been spared that guilt, for I do not know who Lord Mircea selects among the villagers until my next visit. This is the exception. The boy was not much longer for the world, and if in death he may breathe new life into another, then may we both be absolved of this sin.”

    \\\\\\

    “You have decided, then?” Mircea stood beside Astoria’s bed as the moon rose above the castle. She hadn’t woken.

    Draco sat in the chair with her cooling hand held between his, his brow pressed against them. “Do it. Please. Before she passes.”

    “You have made the correct choice, Lord Malfoy. Now, step aside. Your part has concluded.”

    Draco let go. He walked over to the bound child and renewed the Imperius Curse keeping the boy quiet. Foreign gibberish battered against the serene calm. This was not a fate that the villagers were blind to, especially not the smallest and weakest.

    He was reminded of the pike in the icebox. A vampire’s sense of mercy was to kill quickly. The child would not suffer for long like this, Draco told himself.

    He looked back. Mircea was bent over Astoria. She flinched awake when his fangs bit into her flesh. She screamed, and the sound cut Draco to the bone. Understanding. Anguish. His wife wailed, and the closest thing that he could equate her suffering to was that of a banshee’s keening.

    Then… Mircea withdrew, blood still dripping from his lips. He gestured. Astoria’s figure contorted. She rose. Then she flew across the room, her green eyes darkened with red. Her bare mouth latched upon the child’s neck, but her eyes stared into Draco’s, and all that he could see inside of them was hunger.

    The gibberish stopped.

    She released the corpse. Under the light from the fireplace, Draco watched her skin glow, her figure fill out again. The shadows beneath her eyes lifted.

    Then she turned her head down to her bloody claws.

    “What have you done to me?” her voice was a whisper. He could hardly hear her over the thunder of his heart.

    “Tori, I--”

    “WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO ME?” she screamed. She looked down upon the child’s body between them. Her hands shook. “What have you done? What have I…”

    He reached toward her.

    She recoiled.

    “I begged you. I told you to let me die, Draco, let me die with the warmth of your love still wrapped around me. Not this. I never wanted this!”

    “Tori, please, look at yourself! You’re alive again like the first day we met!” He took a step toward her, passing over the boy. She drew further back. Tears fell from her eyes.

    “I’m not alive. This…” she pushed further away, her red eyes looking down at the child. “This isn’t life.”

    He stepped forward quickly, dropping to his knees to hug her. “Tori,” he said, holding tightly. “Tori, please, we can make it through this. Together.”

    Her claws dug into his back. Her mouth settled against the side of his neck. He could feel her fangs dancing with the rhythm of his pulse, and for the first time, fear lit up his eyes. She broke contact just long enough to whisper, “I cannot live like this. And I can’t leave you alone.”

    “Tori, what--agh!

    She fed.

    The strength left him, but as his vision began to darken, the last moments of his life seemed to take place slowly. He saw her anguished expression as she pushed him to the floor. And the claws she pressed into her own throat above him. A flash of red. Tilting to join him there, staring into each other’s eyes one last time...

    They died, the warmth of his blood flooding across her cold skin, faintly embraced to the end.
     
  2. BTT

    BTT Viol̀e͜n̛t͝ D̶e͡li͡g҉h̛t҉s̀ ~ Prestige ~

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    EDIT:Wrong thread for this review. My b. Give me a moment.

    Anyway, this is a tragic piece. Astoria and Draco needing to consult a vampire is a logical step to try and cure the blood curse, while you do sell the desperation necessary for them to need to do so at all.

    My problem is a bit twofold, because on one hand you need a sense of looming inevitability to the tragedies that occur. You set it up so Astoria begs Draco to kill her/let her die if she can't be cured, and Draco refusing, which is of course exactly what happens.

    On the other, though, the emotions could be louder. Draco's hesitation once he learns that Turning her is the only way is kinda muted. Sure, he's probably made his mind up by that point, but you could've mined it for more pathos.

    What I'm also missing is a sense of how inhuman the vampires actually are. You make references to claws and red eyes - obvious signifiers of "otherness" and inhumanity - but they act pretty human. Callousness about the fate of their sacrifices, an odd stillness, emphasis on them only moving around at night, are all things I think the story could've used to really sell us on the idea that being a vampire is a cursed unlife. As is we've got a relatively kindly doctor, whose very presence makes it sound like being a vampire isn't so bad.

    All that said, I'm giving this a 3/5.
     
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2019
  3. Shinysavage

    Shinysavage Madman With A Box ~ Prestige ~

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    Again, this seems more interested in the characters and, to a lesser extent, vampire...not exactly culture, but that sort of thing, than the place it's set. Which, admittedly, is effectively Vampire Castle 101, but also, the only room we really see is pretty similar to England, although I suppose it's open to interpretation whether that's its normal state or whether it's been done up to make the Malfoys feel more at home. Really though, this could have been taking place anywhere in the world, if you hadn't specified Romania. I suppose you could argue that the seeming acceptance of vampires locally is a sign of the different setting, but then, a vampire comes to Slughorn's party in HBP with no apparent repercussions, so presumably that's not as big a deal in HP.

    Other than that, it's mostly fine. I wouldn't have minded a bit more emotional engagement, as this is a pretty dark story, but it feels mostly like that's all been done and dusted. Which is fair enough, you don't go to vampires for medical treatment unless you've really, really thought about it - or given up arguing, perhaps, in Astoria's case - but I still didn't really feel the horror and sadness of it all. It's technically competent, just a little dry.
     
  4. FitzDizzyspells

    FitzDizzyspells Fifth Year DLP Supporter ⭐⭐

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    I really enjoyed this. This author did a great job describing scenes, and I was completely immersed in this story from beginning to end.

    Good job slowly revealing what’s going on in the opening scene. It was nice to gradually realize that Astoria, who is at death’s door, is traveling with Draco in a carriage. Then, the minute I read the word “vampire,” their plan came together in my head in a nice, chilling way.

    I loved this moment. Gave me chills:
    There were some really excellent creature-building elements for the vampire here: how he hypnotized Astoria and glided with her to the castle; his claws clicking; his eyes tightening when Draco expressed reluctance to let him bite Astoria; the contents of the ice box. Good choice of name, too (based on my cursory Googling).

    His red eyes were a nice touch. I was less thrilled to learn the colors of Draco’s and Astoria’s eyes. I’m not crazy about exposition that describes eye color. I definitely prefer learning about other aspects of a character’s appearance — something that actually speaks to their personality.

    The plot of your story is perfect — I love Draco’s heart-breaking dilemma. The execution is a little shaky, but I think easily fixable.

    The shift from the staunch “I will never betray your wish” to the desperate “actually, nevermind” is a little too abrupt. I mean, Draco was always close to giving in — he was thinking of drugging her, after all — but this did not initially seem like a man who would easily give in.

    Personally, I would be much more interested to watch him really struggle and almost give in the minute that Astoria is put to sleep. We know from canon that Draco is… kinda weak. I don’t see him holding up well against an ethical dilemma, and I think it would be a more compelling story to see him just on the verge of giving in — before he pulls back each time — for several different scenes.

    Another reason I like this plot a lot is because there are parallels between being lured in by a vampire and being lured in by a tempting mistake. I think that you could do more with this, either metaphorically (exposition about how Draco feels inevitably drawn in by the irresistible forces of grief and love) or literally (hint and imply that Draco may have been unknowingly hypnotized by Mircea — or Dr. Harkon! — the minute he stepped inside the mansion, which made it easier to give into what he wanted).

    These turns of phrases come to mind: intoxicating choice, powerless against the fantasy of a happy life, the hazy memory of a healthy Astoria beckoned to him. The idea of Draco leaning over his sick wife, hungry for a happy life with her, could be a powerful image if and when Mircea stares hungrily at her later on.

    I loved how it ended. Astoria’s shriek of “understanding” broke my heart. As I neared the end, I knew there were five people in the room and thought, “Who is she actually going to kill tonight?” I think you picked the right ones.

    If I were you, I would cut the second WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO ME. It’s more powerful if she only whispers it. I also don’t think that “agh!” is the right noise choice there when Draco is bitten, it comes off a little comical.
     
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2019
  5. Blorcyn

    Blorcyn Minister of Magic DLP Supporter DLP Silver Supporter

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    Protagonist:
    Poor, poor Draco. I think, in keeping with the depths of his despair, the relatively contextless sense of time is good. Some time post war, some time pre-Scorpius. Draco’s goal is clear and he’s so desperate to save his wife that he’s actively driving her away and ruining the last of their time together. This is good stuff of tragedy. Draco has always seemed of a likeness with Zuko for me. He tends towards inner turmoil and I think this is captured well here. His moral compass is easily spun and he’s desperate to figure out what to do but not often successful on a first attempt. I think we, all of us, know how this is going to work out for him and that sense of inevitability is the keystone of your story. Everything must rest on it, everything must touch it.

    Antagonist:
    Astoria is a serviceable antagonist. I think it was a good choice to show her falling under the vampire’s sway and how they hypnotised her, but the passive antagonism of her existence should have been the active antagonism of resistance at the moment of her turning. You turned a dozen thumbnails on Draco but I feel there were a few spare in your reach if you’d wanted them.

    Plot and prompt-use:
    The plot is a good tragedy and the prompt use serviceable. I suppose, compared to the others, it was less integrated into the reason for the events of the story itself. But it’s a fine line and I’d call it splitting hair. The vampire castle and ambience was well depicted. Perhaps you should’ve spent an additional scene in the environs, given Astoria a last look at sunrise with Draco or something.

    Theme:
    I think it’s discernible but not necessarily crystal clear. For a tragedy. We know that Draco made the wrong choice, that he should have accepted her decision not forced this on her and he’s getting his unfortunate comeuppance. Still, it does weave through the whole story and it’s very much the reason for the story and I think it’s well done.

    Climax:
    I would’ve liked to see more building tension after the turning. There should’ve been a back and a forth to prolong the suspense. What will she do, but we know what she’ll do, but maybe she won’t, Draco and her might survive... oh she did it. I think an additional twist might also have added to the tragedy, could’ve built upon how Draco had caused unhappy circumstances and troubles for others in his desperation. Have Scorpius exist, and now he is an orphan. Or have the vampire kill Astoria just as she sounds Draco and now he is cursed, she is dead and she died cursing him. Bam. Much sadness.

    Dialogue:
    Sometimes a little much exposition in your dialogue. Sometimes a little straightforward in revealing motivation. Nothing I’d notice if I was reading this for pleasure. Very serviceable.

    Setting and narrative:
    I enjoyed the castle and the Vampires. I enjoyed the internal monologue of Draco and believe you captured him well. I could visualise the fish and the claw marks remarkably clearly, so well done.

    I could envisage the drive up to the castle well and the vampires that they made their way through.

    General Opinion:
    I’m giving this two fangs and ten claws out of fifteen. I enjoyed it, I liked how it was written. So often my enjoyment of a fic depends on well tying up the ending and you did that while projecting it was inevitable. I just feel it could’ve landed heavier if you’d gone even further into it. Tragedy in a short story must be tremendously difficult though and you’ve done a great job.
     
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2019
  6. Halt

    Halt 1/3 of the Note Bros. Moderator

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    Quite the tragic story we have here. Draco's tragedy, his inner turmoil of loving Astoria and wanting to save her, the blood curse, the vampirism, it all ties neatly together to create this drama and tension.

    However, I have my problems with this piece.

    First, it doesn't really capture the prompt? While it's tehcnically set in a different culture, I feel you could have added more emphasis on the otherness of it. Either through seeing how vampires are inhuman (we do get a hint of that with references to claws and eyes, and the hunting), but this should have been further emphasized and the kindly doctor's appearance and behaviour kind of detracted from this feeling of otherness. Made them feel more human and less of a cursed unlife.

    As it is, this feel more about characters (and vampires I guess), and less about culture? If more was done to give us a real idea of how different this place was, perhaps, but removing all references to travelling and I still would have just thought this was set in some random English castle.

    Second, the emotions Draco feels could hit harder. Draco's hesitation is rather muted. More emotional engagement. This is meant to be a tragedy after all, we're meant to feel our hearts wrench (as vampires may or may not be tearing it out of our chests). The writing is decent, but it could use some spicing up.
     
  7. Sorrows

    Sorrows Queen of the Flamingos Moderator DLP Gold Supporter

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    This tragedy has a looming sense of inevitability that I like. You know where the story is going from the beginning, but that is not a weakness and it is suitably grim at the end.

    You have some poetic phrases in here. I particularly liked 'time whittled away.' Sentence structure was at times a little rough, but that is nothing a good beta couldn't fix.

    Tonally it is consistent, I got very classic Hammer Horror vibes from the whole thing, in my head this was playing out like a quintessential 60s Dracula movie.

    I think where it falls down a little is Draco's motives are quite confused. We are introduced to his dilemma here:

    This tells us:
    a) They are going to the vampires for a cure that does not involve being turned.
    b) Astoria does not want to be turned
    c) Draco is willing to have her turned if there is no other way of saving her.

    Once at the vampires castle, Astoria is immediately taken out of the picture. This could have served to place the choice squarely in Draco's hands, instead things get rather muddled.

    Personally I would have had her condition abruptly worsen and her unconsciousness been a result of it, adding a ticking clock element to his choice. Instead she is hypnotised for no real reason and we have a vague indication that 'there is no time.' Their primary goal of having the curse looked at by specialists is swept aside by the rather weak-sauce notion that the Doctor had read some letters and decided there was no other way but turning.

    The fact that Draco always planned to knock out his wife and have her turned also took a lot of the bite out of the dilemma, since essentially he had always intended to do what he ended up doing. Other things that might have given him pause such as sacraficing a child seem to hardly move him.

    I think you had a strong idea and overall I liked it. A good start and structure held it together.
     
  8. Ched

    Ched Da Trek Moderator DLP Supporter ⭐⭐

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    Draco and Astoria, alright. Curious where this will go.

    My immediate thought is that they're in a car since Draco says they are 'nearly there' and then Astoria is gripping a door handle, but that doesn't seem right. Still some form of equivalent transport though, and the scene is set nicely. They're going abroad (my guess, b/c prompt) to try and fix Astoria's illness/curse.

    Vampires! Makes sense if this is about her Blood Curse. And it's interesting that Malfoy isn't sneering at them for being non-human in his thoughts (not a criticism).

    The relationship between husband and wife is portrayed well. I like that Draco plans to move forward if at all possible, but that he recognizes he needs to talk to his wife again before doing so because she had recently expressed reservation. He wants to convince her, not go against her will, and it seems it's because he actually values her as a person.

    Now I'm imagining the both of them becoming Vampires and living life as a powerful, vampiric couple for the next century or three. Actually an image I can see for these two, oddly enough.

    I liked the provided sustenance and the way it drove home some of Astoria's concerns to Draco in a way nothing else had before.

    But... then, I feel like I missed something?

    Astoria was put under a "simple hypnosis" when they got there. It's never implied that she couldn't wake up from it, or at least not that I remember. I know Draco didn't make much effort to wake her up, as I couldn't have missed that, but yet you made it clear that he wanted to talk to her before proceeding with this plan. Where are his efforts to wake her up and convince her of his plan one more time?

    I don't mind the ending having Draco die due to his foolishness, but I feel a little lied to as a reader about how things would play out because Draco clearly stated that he was going to talk to her before doing this then made no attempt to do so.

    Fun story though, apart from that one thing.
     
  9. Niez

    Niez Slug Club Member

    Joined:
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    Hello :)
    Apologies for the lacklustre review. I'm about to cheekily skirt the rules and post a barebones comment so I don't get locked out of the thread, and then edit it tomorrow into something with a bit more protein. It's a bit late, you see, and my capacity for judgement is already impaired enough under normal circumstances.

    Ok, so the review itself.

    My main impression out of this whole piece is that of untapped potential. I ain’t saying its bad, do not get me wrong, but it's not as well realised as it could have been. You mentioned you rushed this piece a little bit, so you are likely aware of a couple of things I’m going to say, but I’ll try to find flaws offer suggestions that you may not have considered instead of going over the points you have acknowledged. Without further ado...

    You tease. You absolute tease. So Malfoy arrives to a gothic castle in the middle of nowhere, at night, in a fucking carriage, desperate for a cure to save his ailing wife. It's pouring outside, and he is met by a sinister figure with red glowing eyes. He is lead inside to await for the arrival of a certain Doctor Harkon, who isn't there at the moment, meaning that Draco must spend a night in solitude in a place he doesn’t know, with an unconscious dying person as his only companion.

    ...​

    Are you kidding me right now. Its like you created the perfect setting for a horror story and then left it to one side because the publishing house wanted to make a shakespearean tragedy instead. No kidding, I initially thought this was going to be an (Edgar Allan) Poeish horror/tragedy messed up story and was excited as fuck. I was legit looking forward to all the messed up things that were surely about to happen, and how everything was going to go so wrong. But then things went wrong in the most straightforward way possible and I was a sad boy. But not in the way you intended, I’m afraid. You went straight for the tears and I will speak later of why I didn’t even get a sheen of water in my little nearsighted eyeball.

    How would you go about mixing in a few horror elements then, person-who-is-glad-to-dish-it-but-never-writes-anything-of-value-himself?

    I’m glad you asked me, me. I will now tell you, me, a couple of my, your, ideas.

    First of all if they are vampires it's better to not know until the end. The Malfoys know of course, but we shouldn't be told outright. We may guess, clues may be dropped, it may even be evident from their conversation but we won’t definetly know. Uncertainty is good to build up unease. To that end we must also reduce the numbers. There is no count, no strange vampire coven, just the Doctor’s home. There is no Doctor right now, of course, as he is away but there may be manservants. A good old fashioned ancient butler perhaps. It fits thematically and also it makes sense in the wizarding world, which tends to be a tad old fashioned in that sense. Reinforce that feeling of solitude every good horror story must have.

    Draco should promise to uphold Astoria’s wishes (and then break his word). This is what kick starts the plot ('I promise' could even be the opening line), the initial lie which will start the chain of events (for otherwise Astoria would not have agreed to come). It leads to guilt, remorse, self-conflict, all good ingredients for these types of stories. Alternatively Draco might have heard of the cure, but not realise what it entailed until the end, when he is presented by a stark choice, life or unlife (all which the Doctor Harkon really sells as a cure is vampirism). Then again that would require changing the story too much perhaps.

    The double dealer. Why is Harkon helping them? It cannot be out of the goodness of his heart if this is to be the creepiest of tales. Mayhaps he likes his experiments, he gets a kick out of them. Depending on the ending it could even be something more sinister. Vampires are useful creatures after all…

    Nice vampires? Willing subjects? What is this, Undead Propaganda? There is a reason why the greatest undersecretary of all times consider such beings an abomination (probably).

    In all seriousness though. Wanna reinforce the feeling of wrongness so prevalent in good horror stories? Make the human sacrifice an unwilling one. Make Draco desperate enough to do it. The Doctor might tell him that the victim is willing, Draco might even choose to believe that. But in his heart of hearts he knows. What he’s doing is wrong, in fact, the ultimate wrong, but how can he live without the love of his live? (mistake after mistake after mistake, this is how you get that sense of inevitable doom - Malfoy has just made too many wrong decisions for this to turn out all right)

    There is so many different possibilities for the ending. Of course my favourite one is that Draco gets more than he bargained for - literally. Astoria turns and though in a sense ‘survives’ in another she doesn't; she loses her humanity, and now becomes an uncaring an unfeeling monster, driven only by thirst of blood. There are many ways to play it from there. Dramatic irony tells us that Draco should then be killed by her to satisfy her inhuman bloodlust. A life for a life. Or perhaps it is Draco who kills her and then himself, out of the horror of what he has done and the depth of his mistake (perhaps he sees her feed on the sacrificed and realises she aint’ his wife no more) . It’s a nice little twist on what you have written.

    I understand this over-all arc/theme may not have been what you intended, but fuck you cannot present us with this horror setting and hit us with all the themes and then leave us unsatisfied. That being said I respect that you wanted to tell a little tragedy about love and poor choices, and I now will say why it didn’t work for me 100%

    (Quickly because this review is in danger of becoming longer than the actual story and though my life is sad, it ain't that sad.)

    1. Draco never promises not to turn her. Where is the inward struggle? The tension? The broken promise? We know from the beginning what he will choose, given that you make it crystal clear. Hence, when the choice goes wrong, it is neither ‘deserved’ nor particularly surprising, and Astoria does not have the excuse of feeling betrayed to do what she does.

    2. I don’t know Astoria and I don’t like Draco. I can sympathize with them, true, just as I can sympathise when someone dies in the paper that I didn't previously know (i.e. I may feel bad for a couple of seconds but that it - not a high bar to clear). Furthermore, Draco is not compelling enough to carry the tragedy (not your fault) and Astoria is asleep (your fault). Really you are not leaving yourself much to work with.

    3. Where is the deeper struggle? The feel of the individual struggling against fate? The fatal flaw? I won’t throw Aristotle at your face, but I need some catharsis in my tragedies dammit. Astoria being ill and the cure being worse for her than death itself could come close in terms of concept, but the theme would have to be far more developed than it is here to work.

    Anyhoo. This is the obligatory line-by-line

    How fast is this carriage going? Slow down driver, we don’t want to kill the horses (missed an opportunity to have them travel by thestral too :()


    Remove comma.


    I think it works better if you modify this to something like this; With what little strength she had left Astoria released him and withdrew, settling back into her seat with a sigh.

    Make it a single flowing motion, ‘s what I’m trying to say, instead of three separate actions taken by two different characters.


    Bit cliché. How bout this: He hawked, trying to clear the tightness in his throat. (...)


    I don’t know if this image works. The sky was blanketed with clouds? Dark skies brought about by thick clouds? Skies made dark by wispy grey clouds?

    I fail at imagining things though so take this with a pinch of salt. And maybe some pepper.


    Concise and evocative. I like this one.


    I initially thought Draco had exited from the carriage to speak with his host, and was momentarily confused by this. Either make it clear that Draco is making a point to speak from the carriage (due to apprehension or not getting wet, or simply not caring that it is rude) or cut this bit out.


    How can it return when it hasn’t left in the first place? Besides, I don’t think you need this show who he is addressing, if he is about to call out her name. ‘Are you well enough to walk, Lady Malfoy?’ works well enough on its own.


    How can the host be there first if Draco is sitting beside her? Did he come into the carriage to put hands on his wife without asking permission to either of them? A bit weird. However, if intended, then perhaps a line of two about Draco being unsettled but not wanting to upset his hosts could be worked in. Works with the underlying theme of Draco having to overcome his disdain of non-humans to save his wife (that is not really present but could be).


    If the gates opened with a dry creak (itself unusual since it appears to be raining) should they really close with a crash? And if the gates are crashing shut (which I believe is implied) where is the carriage going?


    Bit of a doozy. Anxious habit before such a crowd? I’m not sure what that means. It makes sense that he is anxious, surrounded by vampires as he is. But is being surrounded by dangerous creatures something that Malfoy makes a habit of? In any case I don’t think feeling anxious and going for your wand could be considered a habit anyways. It seems common sense tbh.


    I swear to God there is something wrong with this sentence, I just don’t know what. Vanishing instead of vanished (?).


    If Malfoy’s choice is going to be agonising for him, it is better if you show us, rather than flat out say it.


    I think it is better if you leave it unstated what the ‘procedure’ (the cure) implies. True, anyone with minimal IQ is going to guess it's turning Astoria into a Vampire almost immediately, but it always better if your leave readers to figure things out, rather than spoon feed them.


    What is this paragraph break. Have you no dignity Sir.

    Nice characterisation. I have my issues with the content of his words, but the way he speaks is very well done.


    Again, why can’t she leave him alone? She seems to be in possession of her wits, so why would she kill him? I understand her wanting to commit suicide, but a murder suicide is a rather different proposition, even if the body count technically only increases by one.

    And these are other interesting themes/suggestions that could be explored.

    Draco having to overcome his bigotry as he grows ever more desperate to cure his wife - even to the point of being willing to turn her into a vampire (we don’t know his opinions about them but we can guess) is one.

    You don’t really utilise the prompt much at all, given that we don’t see anything that could be construed as a different culture. Some good ol descriptions of the creepy castle he is inhabiting could work wonders for that. Maybe the count having a an Eastern European a accent. You know, details like that.


    As it stands it still a good story, worthy of a 3.53421/5 in my book, but I can’t help seeing through the lense of its untapped potential, so I was a tad disappointed by it truth be told. Even if you ignore my suggestions regarding the horror elements however, I think it could easily be polished into a good solid 4.16774/5.

    So well done, bon vibre and I don't know. Shoot a pigeon.
     
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2019
  10. H_A_Greene

    H_A_Greene Professor –§ Prestigious §– DLP Supporter

    Joined:
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    [​IMG]
    What's up Youtube? It's your boy, 8-hour-to-deadline-writer! Back with a surprise twist on a classic! Major props to homeslice Blorcyn for providing critical beta work on the first scenes introducing Draco, Astoria, and Mircea.

    Shame on that wanker Zenzao for wasting sixteen days hemming and hawing over how to advance following Mircea's departure in the guestroom. Guess how much was written/re-written after seeing Xiph's 'only 3 entries' message on the last day?Oh yeah!Just slamming out the scenes! Skip the Romanian village that could have tied on more prompt relevance and given Draco some extra dilemma! Skip Astoria waking up and Harkon performing his tests with her blood! We don't got time for crucial character building or scene building, we're on a depleting deadline and it is a one-way trip forward, this train don't got no brakes~!

    [​IMG]

    Honestly though. I'm proud of this. This one had potential. I can't blame it on the time-crunch, that was all me being an indecisive asshole knowing what I wanted to happen, but not making up my mind for how to make it happen until... I did during the last 6 to 8 hours of the deadline.

    Thank you all for the reviews(not-you-meme re:Niez... jk). I'd like to say I've put together a stronger entry at this point, but let's be honest, we know how this game goes. Hoping to change that with Blorcyn's and Scott's help and eventually pop the perfected story into the work-by-author in six to eight months.

    Thank you for attending my TED talk. Exit is on the right, snacks may be purchased from the front desk on your way home.
     
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