Hello, and welcome back to Riffing the Riff-Raff! I’m your host SC, here with a slight change of pace from my usual thing.
Normally, I just riff badfics, and occasionally bad forum comments, but recently I learned of an… “incident” on GoodReads that introduced me to self-named “indie author,” whatever the hell that means, Dylan Saccoccio. And from there, I learned about his book series, Tales of Onora.
Well, the name alone doesn’t sound too bad, right?
Just wait, you’ll see why I’m doing this.
First and foremost, let me make it painfully clear that Dylan Saccoccio is a spoiled, whiny, thesaurus-thumping little dick. Just read that whole page, or what of it you can stomach, and you’ll know exactly what I mean.
So based on that alone, I already didn’t have good thoughts for the book. And then I downloaded the free Kindle sample to see just how bad it really is.
And things went downhill from there.
Unfortunately, my usual copy-paste method won’t work here, so I have to make do with typing it all. This is gonna suuuck.
Welp, in any case, this is part one of my riff of the free Kindle sample of “Tales of Onora: The Boy and the Peddler of Death.”
So let’s begin with the foreword:
To you, that you may awaken to understand
How about we have that in plain, PROPER English, please?
that the whole universe is a dance of energy, and that energy is God, and that energy is you.
I am literally one sentence in, and it already reeks of bullshit here. Wow. That is a record for me. And I’m still riffing Kelly The Roman Warrior!
You are something that the whole universe is doing, that God is doing,
just as a wave is something that the whole ocean is doing.
This just in: The ground is covered in dirt. More from Captain Obvious at eleven.
The real you, the energy, the soul, is not a puppet that life pushes around.
You’re right – I’m actually an animatronic!
The real you is the whole universe.
The real you is God,
Well, then I got pretty badly ripped off in the celestial might department.
destined to follow no one,
And then get lost and wonder how the hell you got there.
destined to ignite the ether,
Yo, huffing ether is illegal, dude.
experience life from an individual perspective,
As if it’s possible for me to experience it any other way. Come on, quit with your bullshitting already.
and take part in the creation.
See, the last time I took part in creating anything, I got put on the FBI’s top ten most wanted list for unleashing a kaiju upon the streets of San Francisco.*
And that’s why I’m not allowed into laboratories anymore.
*Of course this didn’t happen, stop looking at me like that.
So this is for you, my fellow creators, my fellow gods
Did you just imply that you consider yourself to be God?
Back the fuck up with your blasphemy, boy.
and my fellow selves,
Implying that we’re one in the same is a good way to get yourself punched out, fuckboy. I like to think I’m a better person than you every day of the week, which is less a brag than a fact, considering that I don’t bitch out my critics when I get them.
that coincidence may never disguise itself with the mask of fate and torment you
What the fuck-diddly is this, now?
that every moment be meaningful, and that no experience be lost.
I’d very much like to lose this experience, frankly.
From here, we cut right in to the prologue:
Prologue – The Inquiries of Devils
*Devils* “Remind me again, we sent this guy to earth to screw with humans, or…?”
Winter’s breath dusted the landscape with icy snowdrifts.
What is it with fantasy stories and starting in the dead of fucking winter? Like, fine, sure, start in whatever season you like, but it seems like winter is suddenly getting real popular for some reason.
Is it the snow?
I bet it’s the snow.
The stark trees quivered nakedly in the blistering swells of wind.
Someone get those poor trees some sweaters or something, shit. They’ll catch treemonia like this.
Barren ridges of rock jutted out of gravel and dirt. Patches of grass were seldom seen and mostly dead.
I’ll give Dylan this much, he’s not terrible at setting a mood. He wanted to portray a cold-ass winter, and I’m certainly feeling it. Likely, that’s the last time I’ll praise anything in this sample.
A cloaked figure’s boots
Can we for once have a character be introduced who isn’t hidden under a heavy cloak? I mean, you can still get the air of mystery from something as simple as an overcoat and a wide-brimmed hat, come on. Hell, I have characters who just dress casually that are mysterious by their own merit.
It’s not necessarily how the character looks that sets the mystery, children – it’s how you reveal who they are as a person.
crunched through the terrain with purpose.
*Boots* “It is not a pleasant day until I have FUCKED UP ALL THIS SNOW!”
There burned a fire in his heart, fueled by the one true thing needed to keep him warm.
We have now confirmed our hero to be a passionate man. Making progress, yes we are.
The taste of defeat can spur a man to do awe-inspiring things. It sows the seeds of vengeance in the soil of his soul, irreversibly so.
And suddenly, fake-ass philosophical bullshit from out of nowhere.
Exile nourishes those seeds, giving them all the room they need to grow and flourish, till the day their roots spread out of the earth and spread their matrix of branches that bear fruit of the most terrible kind.
I feel like there was supposed to be a point here. Damn if I can find it, though. All this purple is starting to blend together, and this is barely even the second paragraph of the prologue.
This was not the first time the cloaked figure approached the Gates of Septentrion. History had not been kind to him on the first excursion. However, this time was different. This time there was no army behind him or weapons in his hands. This time, he came alone.
Septentrion. Really. You named your snow-covered fort or city or whatever it’s going to turn out to be in the next paragraph or two, after a Latin word that translates, “of the north,” and is used to refer to the seven stars in the Big Dipper. I’d give you points for creativity, since my phone doesn’t even recognize Septentrion as a word, and the meaning behind it is actually pretty interesting, but considering who I’m riffing here, I’m not going to bother.
But as for the rest of this paragraph… so you were the field commander, at least, of a prior assault on what I assume to be a fort or city or whatever, and it ended poorly for you… and now you’re coming back with even less numbers and strength than you had before? Dude, what if there’s a bounty out for your head because of that attack? What if your face is still familiar to the guards on the ground? Are you trying to get shot on sight?
What he had within him was more dangerous than a standing army.
I sincerely doubt that. Unless you’re some kind of master wizard who can force death upon thine enemies with but a mere blink of the eye, you are walking stark-fucking-naked into enemy territory with no means of fighting back. You’re an idiot. End of discussion.
And so he advanced towards the entrance to the Nordic lands,
Nordic lands. Named after a Latin word.
…You fail linguistics forever.
sealed off from the rest of the world by an ever-expanding rampart of magnificent, monumental walls. They divided and protected the entire country. At mile-long intervals, for as far as the eye could see, lookout towers scraped the bottom of the sky. On each side of the gate, monolithic statues of ancient Nordic elves reminded all those who approach that they were advancing towards the birthplace of destruction magic.
So a Frozen Land in the North, whose territory is marked by a discount Great Wall of China, which is protecting Ye Olde Tolkien Elflands, which are the birth home of RPG black magic, to the surprise of none. So many tropes, so little time…
I’m starting to see why Cloaky McGee got his ass handed to him when he tried to lead an attack against these guys. I’m also more than certain now that he’s an idiot for coming alone and unarmed.
“Halt!” a guard from the city watch called down.
I can’t really call out the city for being several miles in diameter, according to the wall, but it seems rather ridiculous that you’d have the city guard on a wall which should be guarded by full-fledged soldiers. The city guard are literally just the cops of fantasyland. They’re meant for justice on the civilian level. Protecting the wall, and thus your homeland, from outward invaders should be the army’s job. Even in Mulan, who had a legitimate Great Wall, it was soldiers who lined the ramparts, not city guardsmen.
Ya dun goof’d, boi.
The cloaked figure stopped in his tracks.
“What business have you in the north, stranger?” the guard asked.
“Che’el De’Trezen,” the cloaked figure replied.
Here’s an important rule when creating fantasy languages: if there’s multiple apostrophes in a single sentence, you’re doing it wrong. Once again, you have failed linguistics. If you want to see how a proper fantasy language is crafted, take a page from Tolkien’s book – or, literally, look up his legendarium of the Elvish, Orcish, Black Speech, Dwarvish and other such languages of Middle-Earth. That’s how you make a fantasy language properly. What you’ve got going? It rolls off the tongue with all the fluidity of a rock. Kind of sounds like you’re eating one too, of you say it out loud.
“The capital?” the guard asked, smiling at his fellow watchmen. “My apologies, sir. We’re at capacity and the city hasn’t a need for austral beggars at the moment!”
Let me just focus in on that word there, “austral.” It’s a word which means “of the south,” and as you might have guessed, it gets its name from Australia, which is well-known as the Land Down Under. Australia, in the same vein, gets its name from the Latin “Auster,” later “Australis,” both meaning “the south” or “the south wind.” Why a bunch of fantasy world guards would even have that word in their vocabulary is beyond me, because I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t go shoving Australia into a fantasy story.
…Well, unless it’s Etrian Odyssey, but that’s set on Fantasy!Earth one thousand years after the apocalypse, so they have an excuse.
The guards jeered with laughter.
The cloaked figure remained still and silent.
The air simmered around the guard who had insulted him. The guard’s eyes opened wide and a blank expression eclipsed his face. Blood trickled from his nose and began to ooze out his ears like a crimson fountain. He put his hands over it then held them out in front of his face so he could see what it looked like.
Okay, so I guess my offhand insult about the cloaked dude being a wizard was more on point than I thought.
Also, guard? I think you’d know what your own blood is.
He whimpered a little as he stumbled to stay on his feet. His comrades stared in horror as they watched more blood spill out of his mouth and his eyes bulge from their sockets. They popped out like projectiles, leaving streaks of slime on the surfaces they bounced off of, spewing gore out of the pits in his skull as he dropped to his knees and slumped to his side.
“By the time I’m finished with your city,” the clashed figure shouted up at them.
*Cloakster* “I still will not have finished my sentence!”
“There will be nothing but beggars left of your race!
Or that too, I suppose.
You shall be the austral ones as you look up at me from your knees, slave!
And I’d like to reiterate that austral means “of the south.” Even if the author intended it as a way of saying the elves would be beneath this guy, I’m still reading it as this guy somehow making them come from the south, when they’re IN THE NORTH, which makes no fucking sense as a threat.
Beseech me for mercy, for this time tomorrow, the rest of the world shall baptize you as the guttersnipes who thought they knew magic!”
Baptism is the rite of acceptance into a church, dumbass. Learn the word before you go misusing it.
The Nordic guards spun their wizardry in an attempt to shame the cloaked figure for his insolence,
Hey nimrods, while you’re all busy trying to make the guy LOOK BAD instead of killing him, at least one of you could be taking initiative and firing an arrow straight through his fucking face to prevent him from doing what happens next.
but he was quick to interrupt their spells with his own. His breath drained the energy out of the aether and the spheres of magic forming in the guards’ palms disintegrated like dead dandelions losing their seeds to the wind.
So he’s a magic-sucking vampire? I’m not asking because I find it interesting, I’m asking because that’s how it sounds.
The cloaked figure
Find a new descriptor already. This reads like some of the sophomoric shit I used to write as a Freshman.
raised his open palms towards the colossal statutes and closed his fists tight like a spectator celebrating a champion’s victory.
Really? That’s how you describe someone Force-crushing a statue? Like some doofus in the stands about to start doing a victorious pelvic thrust?
You disgust me, Dylan.
An unnatural crack of immeasurable weight breaking in half upon itself and crumbling earthward split through the quiet landscape.
Just fucking say that the statues collapsed so loudly that it could be heard through the area! We don’t need all this flowery bullshit! IT’S OKAY TO WRITE LIKE A SIMPLETON, DYLAN, AUTHORS FAR BETTER THAN YOU HAVE DONE IT BEFORE.
The cloaked figure brought the statues down like a conductor orchestrating a symphony.
Herr’s gonna hate reading that line.
The broken halves plummeted through the city walls and the beautifully crafted Gates of Septentrion, reducing them to rubble. A giant plume of dust and soot skyrocketed towards the heavens like the eruption of a volcano.
Rocks fall, everyone dies.
Chunks of debris exploded in all directions as the cloaked figure guided them to his will. Once they finished crashing to the ground, everything became silent again.
Wow, this guy pulled off in five minutes what Saruman needed like a whole twenty to do while the Fellowship was passing over the mountains to try and avoid Moria.
The cloaked figure walked towards the once impregnable entrance to the north, now a pile of wreckage and a gaping void in the Nordic defenses. His lips discharged a dreadful smile as he admired the aftermath of his dark work.
That paragraph was doing fine up until the discharge part. I mean, ew.
Littered corpses twisted themselves over the shambles. The cloaked figure approached one he recognized. The Nordic guard stared up at him. His face was caked with dust and blood. His body body was contorted in an unnatural position and and pinned under slabs of debris.
Hell, I’m pretty sure he’s amazed he even survived that drop. By all accounts, he had no reason to.
“Please,” the guard begged, “Quick… Make it… quick.”
See, now, if I had gotten a wall dropped on me, I’d be using what little of my dying breath was left to cuss out the sumbitch who did it, but that’s just me.
The cloaked figure took pity on him. “Most shall know me as the greatest there ever was.”
Dylan fancies himself an author of no equal, but can’t even be bothered to start his dialogue in a new paragraph properly? What a joke.
He took his eyes off the guard and assessed the destruction around them. “But not your kind. No, your kind shall only know me by the trail of death I leave behind.”
Nah, I know you as some magical asshole with a chip on his shoulder.
The cloaked man brought his gaze back down to meet the guard’s teary eyes. The Nord stared up helplessly as the shadow of a boot eclipsed his face. He flinched but said nothing.
The cloaked figure stepped down upon the guard’s throat and shifted his weight upon it. The guard made a painful wheezing sound as his esophagus was crushed. A loud snap gave way under the boot like a dead branch in the middle of the road being broken by the weight of a passing carriage.
I mean, the guy was basically dead anyhow, but would someone like to point out to Dylan that breaking someone’s neck doesn’t usually guarantee death?
Charcoal clouds rained darkness over the nation’s capital, Che’el De’Trezen. Cinder fell like snowfall while red-tinged streaks of lightning flashed out of the clouds and stuck the tops of steeples. They blasted massive splinters into jagged hailstorms that fell upon the fleeing victims. Meteors split the sky with their sooty wakes, hurling themselves into buildings relentlessly.
Getting some hefty 2012-vibes here.
The cloaked figure stood amidst the the meteor storm of his conjuring. Broken statues of mighty heroes and exemplars lay crumbled at his feet in the plaza.
Kind of starting to slip into villainous Stu mode, now. I mean, holy crap, can literally NOBODY try and put up a fight against this prick?
A mother and her two small children, covered in soot, not having a clue what was happening to them, fled through the square.
…Ah hell, this is about to get real shitty.
Might need to put a berserk button warning here, just in case.
“Where are your tin gods now?” The cloaked figure shouted at them.
Hopefully, they’re still helping me out with my tin cans. Trash compactor’s getting a bit clogged up recently…
They shot a frightened look in rerurn.
“They’ve fled!” He continued. “Like you!”
Other displaced Nords stumbled through the ruins of the city in a confused stupid stupor.
“Look at me!” The cloaked figure screamed.
*SC ties a blindfold over his eyes and flips off the cloaked figure*
Shock glazed over their faces. The whites of their eyes contrasted brilliantly with the grime of their dirty skin.
Orbs of aether swirled wildly around the cloaked figure’s hands. “I desire your gaze upon me as I destroy you! When the deformities of your flesh draw the inquiries of devils, I want their questions to elicit this for the entirety of your eternal damnation!”
Fucking hell, guy’s a bastard AND an attention whore.
Also title drop.
Exploding flames engulfed the city as gale winds swept burning hot embers wildly about, igniting everything they touched. The cloaked figure used telekinesis to draw the embers to him and convert them into fireballs. He flung then at the fleeing citizenry.
The fireballs exploded into crowds of people, setting their bursting limbs ablaze, ejecting chunks of their burning sinews in all directions.
The cloaked figure turned his focus back upon the woman and her two children. The mother’s poise was fractured by distress.
“I long for your souls to haunt me,” he called out to them. “That I may best you over and over again for all of time!”
He heaved a fireball at them. The shockwave from its detonation blew his hair back and illuminated the whole square with a bright orange glow. When the flames subsided, scattered corpses lay gnarled over the cobblestones. Their clothes were singed off their unrecognizable bodies and their bald flesh was glossy like melted wax.
Gee, I sure fucking hope I wasn’t supposed to be rooting for this piece of shit. He’s pretty well lost my support now.
The tragedy of all things being equal in Nordic Elfin society, on this day, was that the cloaked figure also saw all things as being equal. There was no king to seek out and execute publicly, no leaders to make examples of. There were no statesmen to despoil, our houses or parliament to burn.
Wait, then how the hell did the Nords evolve as a race? Without some kind of established chain of command, they had to have been living under anarchy, and that’s not really living so much as hoping nobody steals your stuff and murders your ass.
It was all or nothing, and so he chose to destroy it all.
Why can’t we all just get along?
It had been lifetimes since Woden Caliph used the power of The Trivium to destroy Che’el De’Trezen.
Oh, we’re finally naming the vill-
Uh, back the fuck right up with that noise.
…You do know what Caliphs are, don’t you, Dylan?
They’re Islamic religious leaders.
Holy fuck, your villain is a racist stereotype! I knew Dylan was an awful writer, but THIS just added a new layer to it!
Thankfully, Trivium is much tamer:
“an introductory curriculum at a medieval university involving the study of grammar, rhetoric, and logic.”
So Racist Man destroyed the elvish capital with Practical Thinking 101. Yeah, sure, whatever.
Let’s move on before I become violently ill.
Burning slag no longer charred the city, the clouds were no longer the color of charcoal, but now the color of pearls, and the streets were no longer gardens of dead bodies.
Everything else was just as Woden had left it, lifeless, only now the crumbled statues and ruined buildings were covered in snow and what little vegetation this time of year yielded.
Yeah yeah, real depressing, I’m sure, can we move on, please? I’d like to be done with this insanely long prologue already.
A boy, not quite an adult but old enough to fend for himself, stood in the same footing as Woden did in the city’s plaza, when he brought fire down from the heavens and lobbed it at innocent victims.
Ugh. Knowing the fucker’s name makes that whole scene so much worse now.
A cold chill have him goosebumps all over his body as he stood in the eerie stillness, scanning his desolate surroundings.
If you’re worried about getting jumped, kid, I’d say you’re probably not in any huge danger.
Nature is the fairest judge.
Oh, here we go with the philosophical bullshit again…
It is equally cruel to all things.
…Are you implying that you think all judges are assholes, you son of a bitch?
It left Che’el De’Trezen vacant and seemingly bereft of life, now, just as it did all those years ago.
The boy wondered if anything dwelled in the blackness beyond the shattered windows or the dark halls beyond the porticos and colonnades of the abandoned buildings. He equipped his bow and nocked an arrow.
“Just in case,” he told himself. “Just in case.”
I hope he also has a sword on him somewhere, because if he does get jumped, it probably won’t take long for him to find himself in close combat. Bows are, shockingly, not very good at that, you know?
He’d never been this far north before, but it somehow felt familiar. Something about the ancient city resonated with him. Even in its ruins, the layout of Che’el De’Trezen was mathematically perfect.
Not sure why math factors into familiarity, but okay.
As much as he wanted to stay and explore it, he was alone without a guide, and this was the last place he wanted to be when dusk swallowed the light.
The boy walked away from the plaza and left the residual effects of Woden’s energy behind. There were answers up ahead on the other side of the city, beyond the reaches of its annihilation. All he had to do was make it through, and then he would be closer to the truth than ever before.
Well, that was the prologue. I feel filthy having riffed through all of it, but now I’m one step closer to being done with this repugnant pile of trash.
Thanks for reading, folks, and stay tuned for part two! At this point, I can honestly say that I’m a little worried what I’ll find from here. In the meantime, I’m SC, and I’ll see you next time!
…I need a shower now…