Working Title: Ostanes – Session Ten & Eleven

I’m doing both, because I skipped over a big section while writing each of these so they’re rather short. I’m afraid, they need a lot of work, although they have a couple of good character moments.

I’d be willing to post Chapter 12, which is better, if I get, let’s say, three or more requests. Otherwise, y’all have to wait until I get the whole thing shaped up.

Session Ten – Ostanes

Neill spent most of the weekend reading and taking notes. He’d never been good with Greek, and it seemed that half the words were in it, or Latin, which he wasn’t any better with. He also had to brush up on the latest tests, and a dozen other things.

Ostanes was nervous on Monday. Neill could tell as soon as the guards left. The therapy room was rearranged, with Ostanes’ chair on one side of a table and Neill’s on the other. Ostanes’ hands were uncuffed.

“Are you alright?” Neill asked.

“Sure doc. I’m just not good at tests.”

“Don’t worry. There’s no right or wrong answer.”

“Sure, doc. I’m just nervous.”

The results were remarkable. As far as Neill could tell, Ostanes had no imagination, no mental landscape at all. He was sweating by the time they were finished, trying to come up with something that just wasn’t there. Besides that, he seemed fairly average. Neill would have to rewatch the tape to be sure.

“It’s alright. We’re all done.”

“Okay, doc.”

“I looked up Ostanes.”

“Oh.”

“You’re right, he was interesting.”

“I wish I could tell you all the other things he did.”

“Acolytes only?”

“Yes. Sorry.”

“It’s alright. But there’s one word I can’t find the definition for.”

“What?”

Neill looked at his notes. “Ee- I- osis?”

“Oh, that’s the same as rubedo.

“How’s it said?”

He opened his mouth, then closed it. “I- I can’t say it.”

“You can’t-” It clicked. “It’s his name.”

Ostanes nodded. “Good guess, doc.” There was just a hint of his other self there. “How are we doing Wednesday? Will it be here?”

“No. There will be a television screen in your cell. And the guards will pass you the papers with the baphé alektruoneios.

A flicker of a frown.

“What’s wrong?”

“Oh. Just your accent is very good.”

“I’m sorry. Does it bother you?”

“No, no, it’s fine doc. He wanted to see you.”

“Security says it’s too dangerous.”

“I won’t hurt you, doc. I like you.”

“You speak Greek natively?”

“That’s right.”

“So one of your parents is Greek.”

“No. They had studied it for a long, long time.”

“What other languages do you speak?”

“I was raised speaking Greek and Latin, and English, of course. I can decipher pretty much any Romance language, but my accent is bad. I studied Italian and German.”

“And him?”

“The same. He has a harder time with German, for some reason.”

“I see. That’s interesting.” Neill checked the clock. “Just about time to go.”

“Alright, doc.”

Session Eleven – Iosis

The guard pushed a bundle of papers with Ostanes’ make-up box on top through the food pass. He took them awkwardly and sat down on the cot to apply his face.

“Hi, doc,” he said when he finished. The pattern was different – a lightning-like stripe of blue danced across his face.

“How do you do that?” Neill asked.

“What?”

“Know when I’m here.”

“I can feel you watching, doc.” He packed away the make-up. “That was cheating you know, asking Ostanes.”

“I didn’t know.”

His lip quirked. “And it’s E-osis. I assume you actually know the rest.”

“Yes.”

“I’ll check, later. These” – he tapped the papers – “are going to take most of the time, right?”

“Probably.”

They went through the tests. Unlike Ostanes, he was imaginative, extravagantly so. He breezed through the portions Ostanes struggled with.

“I don’t understand half of what I read,” Neill said.

“If you understand half on the first go, you’re doing better than most. So, doc, the  opus alchymicum?”

“The process to make a philosopher’s stone. It’s, uh, nigredo-“

“In Greek, if you please.”

“Why?”

“You have a nice accent, that’s all. And I don’t get to hear Greek often enough.”

“Alright.” He took a moment to remember it. “Melanosis, leucosis, xanthosis, iosis.

“That’s right,” he said with a smile. “And the associated animals?”

“In Greek?” Neill asked dryly.

“Do you know them in Greek?”

“No.”

“Then English is fine.”

“The crow or toad, the white swan or eagle, the golden egg or goat, and the pelican or cockerel.”

“Very good, doc.”

“Who named you?”

“I named myself, of course.”

“And not humbly,” Neill said drily.

“You know, doc, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a humble alchemist.”

“Ostanes?” Neill suggested.

“No, not him either. Either one of them.” Iosis stretched out on the cot.

(Note on the alchemy: everything here is actual alchemy stuff, except for the symbols for xanthosis, because I couldn’t find animals for it.)

2 thoughts on “Working Title: Ostanes – Session Ten & Eleven”

  1. Just to talk a bit about writing craft, let’s take one para there and look at it closely.

    “Ostanes was nervous on Monday. Neill could tell as soon as the guards left. The therapy room was rearranged, with Ostanes’ chair on one side of a table and Neill’s on the other. Ostanes’ hands were uncuffed.”

    First thing: show, don’t tell. “Ostanes was nervous on Monday. Neill could tell as soon as the guards left” is telling. Unless the room being rearranged and the cuffs being off are symptoms of nervousness (and if they are, it isn’t clear), then you’ve missed a moment for a) character development and b) description that will involve the reader more in the scene. What clues Neill in to Ostanes’ being nervous?

    The order of events in that small passage is difficult to parse. As noted, I can’t work out if Neill is in the (rearranged) room and then the guards bring in Ostanes (in which case, who rearranged the room), or if Ostanes is in the room with guards, unhandcuffed and has rearranged the room before Neill’s arrival. I think it’s more likely the latter, but I’m not sure.

    “When Neill went in, Ostanes was there. Uncuffed, but two guards still in the room because, even sitting at the desk, Ostanes was wired: back stiff, shoulders rigid. The test, or changes to the room? Neill dismissed the guards, and sat opposite Ostanes.”

    That is a long way from perfect, but the order’s clearer, and it’s showing. There’s a bit of internal life to Neill as he asks himself what’s getting to Ostanes, and it happens without namby bullshit like “Ostanes was nervous, Neill could tell.”

  2. Thanks for the feedback. As I’ve said – this was a very rough draft that I wrote is 17 days. I’m not sure how your version is clearer than mine, and I don’t see how ‘wired’ is any more showing than ‘nervous.’ (And it’s out of character)

    It’ll end up something like (and this is just quick): “Neill glanced around the room; it’d be rearranged as he’d requested, with a table between his and Ostanes’ chairs. Ostanes sat stiffly as the guards left, his uncuffed hands in his lap. His normally blank face was a little pale, his eyes a little wide. He clenched his hands as the door shut.”

    They’re not going to trust a murderer that they keep chained to the floor to move furniture.

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