Friday, November 20, 2009

Identity 02 outlined

I've finished the outline for "The Village," a chapter in four acts. As always, things are subject to change, but for interested parties, the full outline is below the read more link. I like to do this as a before and after exercise, not only for myself but for prospective writers.

Spoilers below!

Ranma seeks escape from the den of the Ki Sorcerers or to understand the secret at the heart of the village.


Sindoor receives news of Captain Wuya's arrival. She ventures from the Sorcerer's Den, consorting with her people, who struggle to keep their emotions in check with the failing Sieve. Sindoor greets Wuya at the outskirts, and the dour captain has only one thing to say: "Saffron."

Act 1

Ranma awakens in a tent, greeted by Kohl. Kohl informs him that he is to be held until he can meet with Sindoor. Kohl stubbornly refuses to tell Ranma anything about the village or why they took him, but he says that Ranma is free to leave the tent as he likes, so long as he doesn't leave the village.

At that, Ranma takes off, surprised and mystified by the wonders of the village, of a people who can manipulate objects, even whole buildings, only with their minds. He wishes idly to learn of these arts, but the villagers are intensely xenophobic. Only from a few can he even gather information, with vague and shrouded references to a Sieve. Unable to get further intelligence, Ranma looks for a way out instead, and he discovers that the road out of town is lightly guarded. Brazenly, he makes a run for it, bowling over the two guards, but as he makes his way from the village, the road seems to turn back on itself. He's in wide open space, but the realm is circular. He's trapped in here, and to his shock, Wuya and her men capture him easily. She decks him for his escape attempt and drags him back to the village.

Act 2

With four armed guards, Kohl escorts Ranma to the palace, a monumental pagoda spire that towers over the landscape. Only through the magic of the blockers does the village escape detection or sight from outside. Ranma is awed, to be sure: if these people can build a structure like this in less than a year, they're formidable indeed. How can he get out of here?

Ranma and Kohl take the long, winding route to the top of the spire, observing the training of the Sorcerer Guard on one of the rings of the structure. Ranma wonders where the "bitch" is, to which Kohl answers that the captain is very busy and Finch, her second, customarily leads the guard in her absence. Ranma also observes the blockers, a group of souls who pay little attention to the outside world. At last, they reach Sindoor's chambers, and the monarch greets Ranma warmly, lamenting that they have so little contact with the outside world. Sindoor explains that she reformed this village as a paradise, a place where the villagers could practice their arts without interference from the outside, in perfect peace and harmony, free of the dangerous impulses that control lesser men. She explains that they've had run-ins with people who "deny their true form," who embrace the animalistic impulses within. Such people, in their tradition, must be punished, though Wuya acted outside her bounds in detaining an outsider, a remark that Kohl chafes at. When questioned about Saffron, however, Ranma admits nothing, and so, in private conference, Sindoor advises Kohl: take him to Tilaka.

Act 3

As Kohl escorts Ranma out, he explains that few villagers even have the honor about to be bestowed upon him. Kohl takes Ranma to Tilaka's chambers at the top of the spire. Tilaka appears like an ordinary boy, perhaps 18 or 19, with short, dark hair. He's tall and thin and greets Ranma warmly. He explains he seldom has visitors, usually only Sindoor herself and Kohl. Upon prompting, he explains, as best he can, his function in society as Sieve: there are unwanted energies that poison and cloud the minds of men and sorcerer alike. They prohibit the full unlocking of ki-based power. The sieve absorbs these energies and bears the burden for society, so that the village may be safe from them.

Initially, Ranma is not interested in this story, looking instead for some way to escape, but as the conversation persists, he notices something's very wrong with how Tilaka behaves and talks. The boy is unstable, prone to fits of emotion, sadness, anger, or sudden joy. Soon, Ranma forgets his original purpose in seeking escape avenues and inquiries how Tilaka became this Sieve thing in the first place. Tilaka tells the story of how he and trained with another in their childhood, a person he only calls Crow. Certain things are forbidden in training; the Sieve is supposed to protect people from themselves, but Tilaka and Crow started to violate these sanctions, and soon they were discovered. More than that, the Sieve failed as a result of them, and the Sieve demands replacement. When a Sieve begins to fail, the weight of the energies he's absorbed saturates him; he can handle no more, and those energies run free. It's only been for the last week that Tilaka found himself unable to absorb them, but from time to time, he feels the pull. He explains they're looking for the one who broke him, the one powerful enough that he felt it, even as far as the spring ground. Tilaka looks curiously at Ranma, touches him, and begins dredging up memories of Jusendou. ``I see you know these energies too,'' says Tilaka. Tilaka engenders more of these feelings in Ranma, until Ranma finally snaps and attacks, spurring Kohl to intervene. Brutally, they drag Ranma away.

Act 4

To interrogation. Wuya insists to know about Saffron, about why Ranma knows of him, about what Ranma knows, but Ranma is insistent. He can't tell them he killed Saffron; they'll kill him, surely. There has to be some way out, some other tactic he can use to bide time until he can escape, but he can scarcely think of it. Instead, to escape from the pain of torture, he dreams while waking, dreams that Akane is there with him, kissing his wounds, telling him it's going to be all right. He puts all his focus on her, even as Wuya breaks his pinky bone right before his eyes.

At last, the torture ceases, and Ranma dresses his wounds with what supplies he has available. It was a mistake to come here alone, he realizes, without any support or friends to rely on. Even if Mousse and Ryouga weren't the most steady traveling companions, even if at times they wanted him dead for holding the affections of girls they loved, they were capable, and they watched each other's backs. At the least, he would not wish Akane here.

He realizes he's not being watched. The whole village has gathered for some ceremony at the pond down the main road. Ranma considers escaping, but he knows that he won't get far. But Tilaka did mention this ceremony, and maybe it will help him understand the enemy he faces, why these people are so screwed up.

He ventures to the pond, hiding behind the other buildings. There's chanting in Chinese, which he doesn't understand. The villagers hold torches. One by one, they dunk a bundle in the pond. Only at the end does Ranma hear the crying of the babies. Now he begins to put the pieces together. They curse the babies on purpose, so they never know what they used to be. They curse themselves as part of this paradise, whatever it is, but it's not. It's wrong, and this really sets Ranma off. He looks to the castle and forms a plan: he'll go in, find the blockers, and show them their true forms, whatever those forms are. He bets, guesses, that if they're cursed as children, they don't even know what their other bodies are like. Why should they? How often are people doused in hot water?

He storms the castle, barges his way through and gets hot water for himself. Now a man, he can blast his way inside, and while the blockers try to confuse him, he knows, he can sense their presence. He flings the bucket of hot water blindly, hitting some, breaking their combined concentration, but...they're still human. Tilaka arrives, explaining that Ranma still doesn't understand: only the bodies they're born with have the full potential to manipulate ki, but this comes at a cost: a cost in inability to fully control oneself. Even their cursed forms benefit from the control of the sieve, a control that they no longer have. He tried to tell him this, but Ranma wouldn't listen. Tilaka tries to bring out strong emotions in Ranma again, to make him understand what he means, but Wuya and Sindoor arrive. Tilaka is injured in the battle, which sparks Wuya to cripple Ranma, pin him under oppressive, heavy ki. At last, Ranma makes a bargain: he knows who they're looking for--Saffron--and how to defeat him, how to bypass all the defenses of Mount Phoenix.

Aftermath. Ranma begins training with the Sorcerer Guard, under Wuya's stark gaze, waiting for the chance that he can use to escape and warn someone about these people and what they're doing. Wuya, however, heads to the top of the spire, to Tilaka's chambers. She has the guards take a break and cares for Tilaka's wounds. Tilaka assures her that he can learn to subjugate his own "energies" once more. It is his duty, after all, but Wuya will have none of it. He's suffered enough for their people; it's time an outsider bore this burden. He needs to feel for himself again. "This is what got us in trouble before," says Tilaka, but Wuya doesn't care.

After a time, she emerges, facing Sindoor. Sindoor questions Wuya's actions; even Sindoor is not blind to what goes on in her spire. Wuya justifies her actions, but Sindoor is not interested in explanations. She too prefers the idea of an outsider maintaining their paradise, but not for the same reasons. Sindoor admonishes her, all the same, reminding Wuya that she has duties, addressing her as "Captain Kohl." She hands him a pot of water, and Kohl reasserts himself. The human race is born cursed, thinks Kohl, and it is only through these blessed forms that we can rise above the feelings that drive us to sin.

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