• Another scrumptious episode of Bulbacast has been uploaded to YouTube. Watch it here. I hope you don't feel desserted after watching this one.
  • Hello all! The forum staff have introduced a new rule set. We've reduced the number of rules, made trick language easier to understand, and have hopefully simplified the rules to make understanding them easier. Please have a read over the new forum rules here.
  • Fun & Games is searching for new mods! Did I catch your attention? Head on over here!

TEEN: The Chemist of Grandbell [Summer 2019 Oneshot Competition]

lapisora

この銀河へようこそ!
Joined
Mar 28, 2019
Messages
331
Reaction score
370
Rated Teen for death and allusions to abuse. Hey, it's set during a war. What do you expect? :p

This was originally written for the Summer 2019 Oneshot competition, the theme of which was "undelivered messages."

It was also written in a very short, and intense, time frame of two days, thanks to my abysmal time management skills :') But I'm glad I got it finished - I wanted to challenge myself for this competition, and this story isn't the kind of thing I usually write, so there's plenty of room for improvement.

Enjoy!





The Chemist of Grandbell


The Chief of the Army of Jadelgand traced his finger across the map spread over the table in front of him.

“Now, if we place our cannons here, we should be able to bust down the walls... remember that our recon team said that it was particularly thin there...”

He glanced up at the group of straight-faced commanders gathered before him, half-illuminated in the dim candlelight against the dark tent walls. Their ranks ranged from the lowest squad leader to the most decorated general; he felt it was important to make sure that everyone was included in the scheming of his army’s strategy. At any rate, it meant that he could make sure his troops knew what they were doing, instead of having some idiot misremember things and lead their squad to their deaths because of it.

“The problem is that the enemy knows that too,” he continued. “If they’re not stupid, and the King of Grandbell is certainly not stupid, then they’ll be defending that place tooth and nail.”

He noticed the shadows on a few of the commander’s faces deepen.

“Yes,” he sighed, “yes, their chemist, Velthomer, will be using chemicals against us. We’re prepared for that, though, we’ve brought non-corrosive metal equipment with us. It’s not going to melt when chemicals touch it like last time. Make sure you tell your troops about this, because I don’t want anyone’s cannons to collapse like last time.”

Muttering broke out among the crowd, which promptly stopped when someone addressed the chief.

“Sir,” they said, “we’ll get Velthomer too, won’t we? Like we said we would?”

The chief stared at the map.

“Rest assured, my friend, that we will.”

***​

A few nights later, Velthomer was watching the ensuing battle from her window. She picked up the pocket telescope for what seemed like the millionth time, and peered at the battlefield, morbid curiosity compelling her to find out the latest developments - despite knowing that it would do nothing to assuage her fears. At the start of the battle, she had quickly noticed that the gallium solution she had so carefully formulated was no longer having an effect on the enemy’s weapons. Only a few tattered Grandbell sigils remained aloft above the teeming masses of soldiers, faded and dull next to the glints of their armour... A testament to how the Jadelgand army had come, in record time, uncomfortably close to the foot of the cliff her fort was perched on. A cannonball suddenly hit a distant part of the castle, and she jumped, losing her footing as the floor juddered for a few moments. They had wisely chosen to target the weak spot on the north side of the wall.

Laying down the telescope, her hands slid back into the pockets of her lab coat, picking at fragments of various paper scraps from who knew when. There was nobody left in the castle except her; the rest of the troops had gone out to help their struggling teammates. She cursed the situation soundly in her head. Why did they ask her to stay here? Didn’t they know she wasn’t much of a fighter? There was no way she could defend herself if soldiers ever entered the fort. And on top of that, the king then paid her to shut up about the sorts of poisons she was forced to create to hasten the deaths of Grandbell’s enemies. Luckily, she’d never actually had to see her poisons in action since they were taken down to the jails to be tested, but the guards reported of prisoners writhing in pain for hours - and sometimes days - on end. Others were perfectly normal, until they dropped like flies a week later, vomiting their insides out. The only reason she hadn’t left her job was because the king had told her he’d throw her in jail and force her to eat her own venoms if she didn’t join his campaign. A few more cannons hit the wall in quick succession, and each time, she heard thick clumps of stone fall to the ground. Her jaws clenched as her thoughts slowly spiralled into anxious misery.

There was no use being like this, Velthomer told herself, squeezing her fists shut. Becoming so frustrated would mean that she’d make rash decisions, and those rash decisions would probably get her killed. She paced over to the window on the opposite side of the room and forced herself to focus on the idyllic view from the southern side of the fort: a lush green forest with the Jadel river snaking through it, a gleaming silver ribbon under the sun, cleaving apart the territories of Grandbell and Jadelgand. Removed from the battlefield, untarnished by violence, its peaceful atmosphere instilled in her the urge to run away, as if it somehow represented an enticing life with no worries.

A crash shook the floor once more.

Cold air blustered into the room, followed by the sustained whistle of a fast-moving wind. The cannons had finally broken part of the building, and the army of Jadelgand had reached the fort much quicker than she had thought they would. Chaotic shouts from the mob of soldiers gathered outside rose and fell around her. She wanted to escape. Escape. Escape... escape under the cover of war... a place where it was natural that she might not be found. If she wasn’t bound to this job by the king, then perhaps she would have started that chemist’s shop like she had always wanted, selling medicines to the populace and bringing about positive changes in their lives. Perhaps, if she crossed the Jadel river, she could start her life over again, and put her misguided career in the Grandbell army behind her.

Maybe she would. Adrenaline flooded through her and she haphazardly threw some items into a scruffy jute bag: matches, a knife, some bombs which she had - she remembered with pride - created the recipe for herself, and her half-eaten lunch from yesterday. Then she hauled a thick coil of rope, which she found in a storeroom, to the window and tossed it outside; it pooled on a small, grassy ledge of land jutting out from the fort. Part of it slipped over the edge of the cliff. She swung her legs over one after another and dropped onto the ledge. It suddenly struck her that a sudden drop loomed next to her only a few steps ahead. Thoughts of falling filled her mind and refused to go away. Her heart began racing.

Her hands instinctively gripped the wall behind her for a moment, even as she heard the distant rumble of footsteps from behind. They were already inside the fort. Why wouldn’t they want to kill her? She, donning a lab coat, who had clearly played a part in their previous defeats?

Velthomer frantically tied the rope around a wizened, sturdy-looking shrub, double and triple-knotting for good measure. She glanced up at the window in case someone had seen her, then looked back at her handiwork. Even if she might fall, she thought, she had a better chance of living by climbing down than by staying in the fort, which was now overrun by the Jadelgand forces. She looked back down, this time at the cliff edge. Its jagged surface went on forever before it reached the treetops. The fort had only one entrance and exit - the heavy iron gates on the north side, facing the battlefield, which Grandbell’s army had lost control of. The south side of the castle perched on the edge of a steep cliff . Next to it, the tips of the treetops formed a rustling green carpet that rolled up to the river’s banks. This was the only way to escape into the forest now.

Breathing in deeply, she took a tentative step closer to the cliff edge, then carefully nudged the coil of rope away from her. It unfurled over the edge and disappeared into the trees with sickening speed. Taking a hold of it, she crouched with her back facing the void and hung her foot next to the rock. Her boots brushed against it as she tried to find a good place to rest her foot. They felt too big compared to the tiny ridges criss-crossing the rock. Sweat was beginning to form a slippery layer between her hands and the rope. This wasn’t going to work. She pulled herself back up, took off her boots and put them in her bag, then tried to place her feet on the ridges again. Much better.

Velthomer slowly made her way down, calculating and second-guessing each move she made. From time to time, armour clanked faintly from above her, but the window remained empty, so she could only suppose that the soldiers hadn’t come to the south wing of the fort yet. Soon she fell into a comfortable rhythm of finding a foothold, moving her hands a little further down the rope, and then lowering herself. She was too focused on escaping to care or notice how much her legs ached and her fingers hurt. There were a few close encounters with crumbling ledges, but the rope held fast and she managed to recover quickly. By the time she had reached the ground, the sky had deepened to a dusky purple, streaked with pinkish-orange clouds and the odd star.

Her shoulders relaxed as her feet bounced on the forest floor, which was covered in a thick mat of pine needles. Velthomer allowed the bag to slip off her shoulder and took a moment to let herself breathe in the refreshingly crisp air. She could no longer hear the echoes of cannons.

She was free...

She walked into the forest to find a place to sleep. Her legs felt as if they would drop off if she didn’t rest, but she pushed herself forward, promising herself that she would be able to, soon. Eventually, she was deep enough in the forest that she had lost sight of the cliff, and only small patches of sky glimmered between silhouettes of leaves above her head. Tree roots curled around her invitingly, the rough wood oddly gentle against her bare feet. Velthomer scraped some brittle twigs together and set them on fire. It danced and crackled as her eyesight blurred, and soon everything turned as black as the woods had been before she cast light on it.

***​

It had only taken Velthomer a few days to reach the river. Each small hill and valley on its surface disappeared and reformed as the water flowed onwards. From where she was standing, the river did not seem particularly wide, and it was probably possible to swim across. But as she paused to wonder how to take across her bag, a small group of horsemen emerged out the trees on the other side. One of them, wearing heavily decorated armour, seemed to be their chief. He stared at her contemptuously.

“Don’t try to attack, Velthomer,” he said quietly.
“Who are you?” Velthomer said.

“You’ll see.”

She noticed that there were yet more horsemen behind her. Guns rested at their belts.

“Come with us quietly, and things will be much easier for you.”

Velthomer rummaged through her bag, trying to find the bombs she thought she wouldn’t have to use. She could throw them at the soldiers behind her, then try to hide in the forest until they left. But the chief was watching her every move.

“Take her bag,” he called.

One of the soldiers behind her advanced and peeled the bag off her shoulders as if it was something poisonous. Her hand, clutching a bomb, emerged from it and Velthomer swung, but one of the men grabbed her wrist before she could do anything. She was surrounded. The tangy smell of sweat and dung filled her nostrils as her hands were bound, and she was led across the river to a camp.

Her final destination was a ragged clearing in the forest, only just fitting a small tent flying the Jadelgand flag. A stake was outside, surrounded by piles of logs being stacked by soldiers. They stopped to watch as she passed by, frozen like statues except for their blank eyes. Soon, she was pushed onto a chair, her legs strapped together by hobbles. The chief pulled off his helmet and placed it on the rickety desk in front of him.

“So, you have been found.”

Velthomer did not respond.

“One of our soldiers saw you from the window, and we thought you’d gone into the forest to hide. We didn’t think that, that... you, of all people, would want to cross into Jadelgand,” he spat. “Some might say you wouldn’t dare to. The people who came to catch you. The lives of their friends and brothers have been ruined by your poisons, your... chemicals. Even so, even so, we thought we would give you a second chance. A way to repent. And you refused!”

“What?” Velthomer snapped. “What chance?”


“Five messengers were sent, asking if you would join our side, and help us develop weapons to win the war. Five! Five messengers telling you that! And none of them arrived, you never heard their voices? How unlikely is that, Velthomer? No, what’s more likely is you thought you would save your own slithering hide and run off to the king...”

The chief’s face distorted.

“No! I hate the king as much as you do,” she said, pinning her hopes on the fact they had wanted to forgive her once. “He - he forced me to make all of those chemicals. He said he’d kill me if I didn’t! I never wanted to do any of this!”

“Oh, and that’s why you took the job, is it? I thought chemists could read something as simple as a job description.”

Sarcastic laughter ripped behind her.

“You don’t get it. I never knew before I took the job... I thought it was just a job as an understudy to his physician...”

“The- the king changed the job after I was accepted. You know I told you that, that ... I’d get killed if I didn’t...”

Her voice lost itself in her throat.

“We don’t believe your sob story,” said the chief. “That, or you were weak enough not to run away... weak enough not to do the right thing, and save our men from the hell you created... Go on, light the fire then. Light the fire!” he roared.

She stumbled towards the stake. She wanted to stop, but the two soldiers behind her pushed her forwards. Over the logs she went, rolling and collapsing, her boots unable to grip it properly, losing sight of everything but her imminent death. Wood stacked around her, protecting her, cornering her, the stake hugging her closer with its arms of rope, unpleasantly tight and choking. Her feet scraped the floor as she pulled herself higher, wanting to escape the soft fire dancing below her. It leapt above her head as her eyesight blurred, and soon everything turned as black as the smoke from the bombs she had made, so long ago in the fort.
 
Last edited:

namohysip

Dragon Enthusiast
Joined
Aug 18, 2018
Messages
244
Reaction score
153
The Chief of the Army of Jadelgand traced his finger across the map spread over the table in front of him.
Hmm, an interesting opening sentence. It's quick to establish what's going on, though unfortunately the following sentences don't quite illustrate things for me as a scene, so I had to fill in a lot of blanks. Not necessarily a bad thing, though it did make things somewhat nebulous.

--

Hey! I'm taking a look at this as part of the competition, and felt that I should at least also leave a review for each one while I'm at it, if only to help gather my thoughts. Overall, before I get into specific quotes, I want to say that for two days, this was a pretty good run! There were a few moments that I felt could have been padded out a bit more for the sake of tension, however, such as the moment with seeing the three horsemen, or pleading for her innocence.

As it stands, it comes off as a bit on the contrived side, especially when you compare the beginning of the story to the end, since I had the impression they wanted to save her from the start, and not much time had passed since then. I guess that's a problem with tragedies in general when trying to arrange things in a certain way--people always need to be needlessly hasty. But it's hard to pull off when it's so many people thinking that same way, after what felt like a short period of time.

At any rate, it meant that he could make sure his troops knew what they were doing,
I don't think "at any rate" applies to this sentence, since it's, for one, a bit too conversational, and second, it's not really diverting away from the original topic, but adding to it.

“The problem is that the enemy knows that too,” he continued.
Pretty sure you want a comma after "that" here.

We’re prepared for that, though, we’ve brought non-corrosive metal equipment with us.
I think the comma after thought should be a semicolon.

She paced over to the window on the opposite side of the room and forced herself to focus on the idyllic view from the southern side of the fort: a lush green forest with the Jadel river snaking through it, a gleaming silver ribbon under the sun, cleaving apart the territories of Grandbell and Jadelgand.
This came off as a bit strange. Since this is a complex list, you might want the comma after "it" to be a semicolon. Along with that, maybe follow the rule of threes and find a third complex thing to talk about, since the rest of the clause is a single thing being described, just with two clauses.

Maybe she would. Adrenaline flooded through her and she haphazardly threw some items into a scruffy jute bag:
Right here is another part that I think could have done with a bit more padding or lengthening to build tension and lead to her decision to finally run away after everything that had happened.

--

But in any case, this was an interesting tiny story to go over. Not Pokemon, but an original work, and one that was short and to the point. Thanks for entering~
 

lapisora

この銀河へようこそ!
Joined
Mar 28, 2019
Messages
331
Reaction score
370
Thanks for the review, namohysip!

I don't usually write stories with a lot of tension, so thanks for pointing out areas where more of it is needed. Like the writing, the plot was also rather rushed, and I will probably change the chief's motivations for capturing/killing Velthomer if I ever get around to rewriting this.
 
Top