Beast

WaterwheelWillem stood on the balcony of his father’s workshop. He was watching the waterwheel spin. The creaks and groans of the wooden mechanism were as familiar to him as the sound of his own breath, and nearly as abhorrent.

His father’s Decanter puttered around the workshop, tidying up after Willem’s failed attempt to improve on one of the canonical formulae. His mother’s Decanter now, he supposed. Damned corker. He hunched his shoulders and tried to ignore the other man.

Garrett had been with the family for as long as Willem could remember, and was highly respected within the Guild. More so than Willem himself, which was part of it. He wondered what it would feel like to push Garrett in, to watch the man’s body twist and thrash under the wheel. What would Willem see in his eyes?

“Aye, you’re a beast, you are.”

Something in Garrett’s tone made Willem’s stomach clench, and he turned, but the Decanter was not looking at him. Garrett’s nose was inches from the Guildmaster’s manual, his finger tracing the neat notations. “It took your father years to refine this. I doubt you could do better. You’ve not the gift.” He spoke with the utmost casualness: a simple statement of fact.

“What would a corker know of gifts?” Willem asked. He could not manage the other man’s offhand malice, and so resorted – as usual – to insults. Among a Decanter’s lesser duties was the sealing of the potion-maker’s bottles.

Garrett did not rise to the bait. “I know you don’t have it, nor your mother. Nor I,” he added. He closed the manual with a reverence that resembled a caress.

Twisting and thrashing. Willem shuddered and fumbled in his pocket for a teaspoon’s worth of fine powder wrapped in paper. Pouring it on his tongue, he let the bright bitterness wash over him, soothing the black thoughts away.


This post was made in response to two writing prompts this week.

The Red Writing Hood prompt at Write On Edge:

This week, we’d like you to take an honest look in your [writer’s] toolbox and pull out one of the tools you believe needs a little polishing. Word limit is 400.

While my biggest stumbling block is big-picture thinking and plot, this would be rather hard to address within the word limit. Instead, I decided to focus on another weakness of mine: creating a believable villain. (I’m not sure how well I succeeded, but I did create some characters I’d like to unravel further.)

With this goal in mind, I used this week’s Trifecta Writing Challenge prompt for inspiration:

You should write a creative response using the given word. You must use the word in your response, and you must use it correctly. Your response can be no fewer than 33 and no more than 333 words. This week’s word is:

beast noun \ˈbēst\

1:  a)  a four-footed mammal as distinguished from a human being
b)  a lower animal as distinguished from a human being
c)  an animal as distinguished from a plant
d) an animal under human control

2:  a contemptible person

3:  something formidably difficult to control or deal with

15 responses to “Beast

  1. “and nearly as abhorrent” I loved how that instantly gave us reference to Willem’s self-hatred

  2. Thank you for joining us for this week’s Trifecta Challenge. I really liked this response, and I read it through several times. It reminded me a bit of Patrick Suskind’s Perfume. The writing is atmospheric, without neglecting the plot. I like it. I hope you’ll come back on Friday for our weekend challenge.

  3. that’s really well done – gives a great glimpse into the less-nice inner workings of Wilhelm’s mind, as well as a sketch of someone who has obviously been very malicious towards him for a long time.

  4. Good descriptions of the world you bring us to. I’d love to read more about the history of what happened to bring us to this scene 🙂

  5. Plot! I understand what difficulty you may have there! This piece absolutely exudes the feel of traditional fantasy and made me smile while I was reading it. And villains are hard, because like real history – they’re only bad guys because the good guys are telling the story. I like it. Really I did. 🙂

  6. Villains really are so hard to do well. But I think you’ve got an excellent start here with Wilhelm. I think a good villain can’t just be evil… he has to be a believable person in order to be really scary and effective. Wilhelm as you’re characterizing him so far is coming off as someone damaged and hurting, and thus lashing out. Good stuff!

  7. I think the problem with ‘villains’ is that they can’t just be bad guys and Willem here was utterly believable because he was so ‘human’, he had feelings and you could see that his ‘badness’ was the result of a journey. Excellent work! 🙂

  8. I love this build up to Willem and his character. You dribbled just enough for the reader to begin to form some opinions and now we have to wait and see how it all plays out.

  9. Is this related to the other stories?

    I think your villain(s) both have motives and secrets and needs that preclude dark deeds. You may need to search deeper for a weakness…

    • It is, theoretically, though I’m not sure how everything will fit together yet. Right now I’m just meeting the characters.

    • Hang on, just reread your comment and realized I missed your compliment. 🙂 This was hard for me – sympathetic characters are much easier. What I’m trying to avoid is a “bad guy” who is bad just to be bad, y’know what I mean? Actually, my favorite stories are where the bad guy isn’t bad at all. (Guy Gavriel Kay excels at this, IMO – read “Lions of Al-Rassan” to see what I mean.)

      Anyhow, my biggest hurdle is always plot. I am comfortable with small scenes and character sketches, but am terrible at the big picture. Something I’ll be working on…

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