Fear gripped him. For many long months he had dreaded
this day. Standing but a few paces from the dilapidated shack, his body had finally given in to the fear. The dark night and cold wind did not help his confidence or strength either. He just stood there as a frightened sheep did when it knew a wolf lurked in the distant brush.
[This phrasing strikes me as clumsy: He just stood there, like a frightened sheep that... etc]
Curse my greedy soul! he thought for what might be the hundredth time that night. I could be asleep in my warm palace were it not for my pride!
Restructured, to place the (internal) dialogue tag centrally instead of at the end.
He had traded his royal silks and glittering jewels for a weathered coat and some
breeches. Instead of his golden staff, he carried a wooden walking stick. Tonight he was not the Lord of Valanor. Tonight he was the faithful servant of Lord Mashiak and he was close to being late.
The Lord of Valanor He
was a good distance from home. Only his most loyal subjects knew of this secret trip and even fewer knew of the danger. None knew of the purpose. None but those that were left inside the shack.
[the implication here is that the people in the shack are his servants - but as it proves, they aren't.]
Whomever the Emperor hasn't already gotten....
The shack was at the edge of a simple town. The town which
held no other significance than being the perfect place to have a secret gathering. The shack had seen many days and the broken shutters along with the wilting roof showed it had not aged for the better.
He took one more deep breath, slipped his mask over his face, and pushed his way inside. There he found only three other masked individuals. None spoke a word at his entrance. They never did. He did not know their names nor their faces,
only their voices. They were not allowed to know [who each other were]
for the Emperor's questions [/interrogators]
could make the strongest man wilt.
Glad that he had not been too late he settled in to one of the remaining chairs. The other three all
sat as well. One wearing wore
a bird mask, lounged more than sat in his chair as if he could slip off to sleep at any moment. He always had that air of non nonchalantness
, as if none of what went on at these gatherings scared him. Or at least he hid it well [if it did]
[yuck: a nonchalant air]
The other two were like him, s
cared and nervous. The Lord of Valanor
could tell by the constant looks the dog masked woman gave over her shoulder
and the nervous twitching of the tiger masked man's
hands in his lap, that they too were aware of the dangers of this gathering. Plotting against men of power was never safe, especially plotting against the Emperor himself. The lord grimaced. He felt the same way himself [repeat of earlier note]
, the same way he had ever since the Emperor's assassins had begun to lower their numbers. Nervous and scared.
[does he not have a name? This became more annoying when The Lord of V and The Lord of M are engaged in direct conversation. Lord, Lord, Lord? Lord! Lord Lord Lord. Being Lord Malkovich...]
[all these labels are uncomfortable to read - we know they are wearing masks now, so why not just say Tiger man, or even just Tiger]
A sudden pressure snapped him out of his thoughts. It felt as if the air around him was slowly crushing him to death. The shadows in the corner of the shack seemed to swell. They stretched slowly across the floor as breath became hard to get. Then just as suddenly the pressure was gone, breath had returned, and the shadows had retreated to their corner. Now standing just in front of the shadows [/Before them]
was Lord Mashiak.
Immediately the four travelers hit their knees [sounds very contemporary]
and pressed their fists to their brows.
“Blessings, Lord Mashiak.” They all
recited at once.
“Peace my servants. Rise and be seated. We have much to discuss.”
They took their seats quickly. Every time the Lord of Valanor saw Lord Mashiak
he had the same thoughts and reactions. He was amazed every time by the his
immense size of the lord
. He towered a good foot above every person in the room and the broadness of his shoulders reminded the lord
of a large bear. The common thought that Lord Valanor
had every time he was in the presence of Lord Mashiak crept into his head. This is what a real emperor should look like.
[once you have identified Mashiak by his title you can drop it outside of dialogue; but you REALLY need to give your protagonist an actual name...]
[this is the problem, see? If the protag was called "Barry" then issues of distinguishing male characters fade away]
[what's this? A name? It isn't in the next paragraph!]
“So few of you remain,” he said with sadness as he too
took his place among the circle. “It appears the Emperor's traps and snares have either caught or scared off more of my servants. Only four now stand ready to inherit the world.”
Lord Mashiak's voice was strong. The sound of his booming voice [repetitious]
rumbled inside the Lord of Valanor's soul. Every time he spoke, it was with such an air of authority that there was no doubt whom everyone in his presence answered too
. There was power in his voice. Dark, terrible power. This whole paragraph is somewhat redundant actually.
“We must press on,
my loyal subjects,” he boomed. “The time has almost come for us to strike. The Centuriot is but a month away.”
Turning to his right he asked the bird masked man, ["He turned to X." Keep it simple.]
“Are the pieces in place? Will Kalanth be ours when the time is right?
A smile crept across the bird masked man's face [presumably unseen by all].
“It will be ours Lord Mashiak. Our people will be in place and will be ready when the time comes.”
“Good. It is crucial we take the capitol immediately. Cut out the heart of the beast and it will die quickly.” Lord Mashiak then asked the dog masked woman, “And how about the east my dear? Will we have the chaos needed?”
Her voice came out muted and in almost a whisper.
“It will be as you command Lord Mashiak.”
The simple answer seemed to be enough for him as he gave a slow nod in response. [Over-written]
Then facing the tiger masked man, he asked with a sly grin, “And what of the Gamot, my faithful servant. Will the Gamot rise when called?”
The Lord of Valanor heard the tiger masked man take a deep breath before responding.
“It has been challenging my lord but I am certain that it
will be yours to control. The Gamot is not easily
moved but their hatred for the Emperor makes them easier
[this structure you are using does not segue directly into dialogue, hence all the .'s I keep introducing]
[I have no idea what "it" might be, and in a moment you describe it as "them"]
[find a different word for one of these]
“We need them my child. All of what we do will unravel if Oligamot becomes an enemy,
” Lord Mashiak said with a firm stare. The tiger masked man seemed to shrink in his chair but he gave a quick nod that seemed to satisfy Lord Mashiak.
Turning to the Lord of Valanor, Lord Mashiak asked, “And finally,
my dear friend, what of the western armies? Have they been held too long in Kalanth's grasp or will they rise at the chance we will give them?
The Lord of Valanor steadied himself before responding. “Yes my lord. We have not stood in Kalanth's shadow so long that we have forgotten our roots. The west will rise when it is needed.”
[This basically rephrases the question asked, which makes it sound redundant]
His response earned him a grin from Lord Mashiak.
“Then it is set. A month from this night, on the eve of the Centuriot, the Kalanthian Emperor will be murdered in his own chambers. At that moment the world will be open for control. And it will be us who seize it!”
[Lord Mahiak grinned. Keep it simple!]
All four masked servants grunted their approval. The One protect us if we fail.
They had schemed, debated, and hid in shadows over the past year putting together the pieces of Lord Mashiak's plan. They had started with twenty men but now only four had survived the year. But they were a month away from bringing the greatest empire to its knees.
And in the process killing a demi-god and taking his place of power in the land.
[Are we to assume tLoV is thinking this?]
[Basically repeating information already provided.]
As if reading the Lord of Valanor's thoughts, Lord Mashiak roared, “Prepare yourselves my faithful servants! A dark storm is coming. It brings change but not without blood and destruction first. We must break down what has been made before building what is needed. Stand strong in the winds of change and you will be rewarded. Leave now and know that when we meet again it will be as rulers of this land!”