Experience the birth and growth of a digital art experience. Or just stick around for the drawings.
Polished and more-polished versions of the four-page comic.
The first image was my first attempt at cleaning things up, adding more definite lines and adding shading and tones to the scene to add to the characters and atmosphere. The second image was a step beyond that, adding more gradients to the shading to make the shadows softer and adding a few more defining tones to the characters as well as correcting spelling and grammar errors from the original.
The changing and improvement of this comic is slow going, but I already see major changes that I enjoy and hope to add to all my future comics. I know the lettering is still an issue, and I plan on tackling that as soon as I can, whether I get to continue working on this comic or create a new one.
I am aware of the spelling issues, and those are being corrected along with the pretty additions of light, shadow and tone. I added these effects in page 2, but I plan on making more changes here.
ALL RIGHT LISTEN
I’m no fan of excuse stories, so I’ll call the missing passage here a “Failure of Taylor,” meaning I had a passage written for this scene, but in the foolishness of my hubris, I deleted it while gathering the passages together.
A true failure.
Elevator description of the scene: Before a battle, the brother of the army commander poses as a commoner to sit among soldiers and listen for signs of mutiny.
When Olivitess peered through the smoky glass set into the front door, she was certain a man had stood outside, but when the port was opened and light allowed to brighten her visitor’ face, it was a woman who looked back at her.
She was tall, for a woman, and well muscled, though Olivitess could only see that by the way she held two small bundles in either arm, as if they weighted nothing.
“Can I do something for you, my lady?” Olivitess offered, though she was certain she was of higher rank than the woman at her door. “Are your babes sick?”
The woman looked between Olivitess and the two babes without saying a word, her face wrought with ache.
“My … They are not ill, your highness.” The woman said softly, her voice soft and husky, but a touch choked. Olivitess looked at the woman, searching for a name to go with the face, but finding none. She knew she was a princess, but had not introduced herself. A thousand thoughts of treasons and traps and manipulations flooded her mind, but the look of distress on the woman’s face gave pause to these thoughts.
“Are you ill, then?” she asked. The woman shook her head.
“No, but I must ask a great favor of you, your highness, more of a burden than a favor, in truth.”
“I will hear your request, if I have a name.” Olivitess offered. The woman looked at the princess with sad hazel eyes.
“I am Kassari eu Fultha, a lady knight sword to the service of her Imperial Majesty Ida eu Ecthelenor. I serve Prince Kariston more directly.”
Olivitess nodded. She knew the name and the family, though what the Fultha’s and babies had to do with her, she did not understand. She stood aside from the door.
“Would you come in?”
“Forgive me, highness, but I cannot. This matter is not for sitting and talking.” She said, her voice tight and distraught. “I must ask you to take over guardianship of my-“ she choked a moment and blinked back tears. “of these little ones.” Olivitess was taken aback.
“You wish to give away your own children?” she asked, allowing a touch of disbelief to enter her voice.
“Only because I cannot give them what they need, what they deserve.” She whispered, her voice trembling. “They were not to be meant to be born into my poor house, born to a mother who is not meant to raise babes.”
“What of their father?” Olivitess asked. Kassari was silent for a long while, tears streaming down her cheeks as she chewed her lip and fought to find words. Olivitess was ready to assume the worst when Kassari whispered,
“I grieve for your loss,” Olivitess said, and she meant it. In the past year, she had learned too well what it was to loose loved ones.
“You grieve more than you know,” Kassari said, bouncing the child in her left arm when it fussed. She was silent for another long moment. “Their father is your own late brother, Prince Kathzel.”
Death and Darkness
Ida wore her iron mask until she returned to her rooms, and even then, she wore it while servants tittered about to warm the room for her. It had been a frigid evening. Ida sent them away as soon as fires were lit. She did not seek the warmth of the fire, as far as she was concerned, she didn’t deserve it. Instead she found the darkest part of her room and sat there, wrapped her arms around her knees and removed her mask.
Tears immediately wetted her cheeks, but she couldn’t bother herself to wipe them away. Everything she did, all that was happening around her seemed small and foolish.
Why would they do it? She asked herself. Why would they kill Kathzel?
That’s civil war, a cold part of her mind reminded her. They’ll kill any and all of the royal family if it means they get to sit in a high chair and wear a golden hat.
But Kathzel? He never wanted the crown, or anything to do with the throne if it didn’t involve family. What was there to be gained from killing him?
They want to weaken your resolve, the cold part told her. They showed you that they will kill whoever they have to, innocent or not, if it will get them the throne. They want you to hand it over willingly, so they can kill you with a clean conscience. Your death would not end anything either. Mother and Father, Olivitess, Kariston, Nara and their babies; all will be stricken, quickly or painfully.
“What do I do then?” she whispered aloud, struggling to keep her tears quiet. “If I fight, they’ll kill everyone, if I yield, they’ll kill everyone.” The image of Kathzel’s head, half-eaten and decaying, his hair matted with dead blood as the messenger hoist it across the floor was burned behind her eyelids.
“I wish this never happened,” she wept. “I want my brother back!”
She knew she could not have him back. The rebels, the True Men, they called themselves, they had killed him and taken his head to lay at her feet. It had been Kathzel, but the more she wept, the more she could see the head’s of her other family members being dropped at her feet. The True Men had intended for Kariston’s head to be the one on the floor today.
“I can’t have this go on,” she whispered, gripping her gown tightly in her fists. “More have suffered this, and no one should have this pain.” She stood and looked out into the moonlit night, the heavens were as bright as ever, defiant toward her grief.
“I’m so sorry, Kathzel.” She told the night, feeling tears as they made the moon a great rippling glimmer in her vision. “Wherever you are, I hope I can bring you peace.”
I’m no help to the search party if I’m stuck here, Nara thought angrily. Why did I climb up so high? She scolded herself in several circles before finally mustering courage enough to look around. Perhaps there was a way around the mountain that was less of a climb downward. Turning, she nearly leapt from her skin when she saw a full-fleshed figure amongst the trash of bone and rot.
Thought the man was larger than she was, he was half-starved and crumbled against the driest part of the rock. He wore a tunic with the Empress’s colors, dark red bordered in black, though the colors had lost most of their vivacity. The man’s skin and hair were also dull and weathered, bronze skin turned grey and blonde curls turned ruddy and limp.
Nara leapt to her feet, knocking her head against the roof of her new hideout. She rubbed her head and tried to ignore the new pain and she moved over next to the man. Relief and horror filled her chest when she discovered that the man was who he appeared to be.
“Kariston!” she said in a harsh whisper. Nara never forgot the looming threat only a few feet away. When she turned him onto his back, his body was cool to the touch, but a pulse still throbbed weakly against his neck when Nara checked.
“Kariston, wake up!” She demanded, panic creeping into her whisper. “Wake up!” She went to shake his shoulder, only to find it swollen and blotched red and purple beneath his tunic. Broken. Nara pinched his cheeks instead, trying to wake him as much as get some color into them. His skin was cold, but sweat beaded on his brow and ran down his neck. Kariston’s eyes looked as foggy and feverish as he felt when he finally opened them, bringing a small bit of relief to Nara. At first his eyes saw nothing, unfocused and cloudy, but after a moment his gaze moved and rested on Nara.
“Nara,” he rasped. His throat was raw and lips cracked and bloody, but he was awake and aware, more than Nara could have hoped for. “Is it true? Are you … are you here?” He shivered when he spoke, reminding Nara of the cold. She unfastened her cloak and wrapped it around him, carefully tucking it around his broken shoulder.
“It is me,” she said quietly. This was not the time to get emotional. “I came here to rescue you.”
“We need to get back in the trees!” he thought aloud. “If it can’t see us, there’s a chance it will leave us be.”
Yet as he turned for the cover of the thicket, Lamia took his arm.
“No, across the clearing, there’s a cave. Or a niche at least. The solid rock will hide us better than the branches will.” She said, pointing. The crevice looked small, but not likely to cave in, and with space enough for the four of them to hide if they squeezed together.
“And if it sees us? If we hide in there, we’ll be trapped.”
“It is more secure,” Aegis agreed. “And the two of us are sorcerers. We can hide the opening once we’re all inside.”
Above them, a roar echoed through the air, chorusing off the high peaks for several seconds after the dragon had stopped bellowing. When they looked up, however, it could not be seen anywhere. They had to run now, or risk being spotted.
“All right,” he said. “Let’s go.”
Without waiting for another word, the four dashed into the open, not daring to pause and look around before finding cover in the cove. The entrance was wide at the front, but it narrowed almost immediately, forcing the group to squeeze through the crack one at a time. Lamia slipped in easiest, tall and blade-thin as she was. Aegis was urging Kariston to go next when the rush of wind returned. This time it was more powerful, kicking up gravel and small stones from the mountainside before the dragon landed in the center of the clearing. The ground lurched when it fell, throwing Aegis and Matrick off of their feet and rattling Kariston against the stone walls of the cave.
Though it had landed in the center of the clearing, the dragon’s tail was long enough to uproot a half dozen trees to secure its landing. Even closer, they could see a great horned head with a long snout littered with stone and shale. Teeth like great daggers shone white within the grey jaws, giving the dragon a grim smile beneath eyes that flickered with living flame.
For a moment it sat before them, hunched forward on winged forelegs and head lowered until it was near level with the tiny humans. All stood frozen, terrified and unsure. Only Lamia was safe from the dragon’s jaws, if it chose to strike. Kariston might have been able to get through the gap in time to escape, but he feared if he moved even a breath the dragon would strike.
Matrick, closest to the gleaming teeth of the beast, dared to take a breath and a step away. Immediately the dragon turned his head to watch Matrick, a low hiss shrieking between his fangs and sting the air. Its breath reeked of ash, smoke and fire, making it difficult to breathe. Hair-like feathers puffed and shivered at the back of the dragon’s head, rising to make the beast look even larger than it did already.
Kariston scoured his brain for something to do, some course of action that would save his friends, a spell that would drive the beast away, anything to better their situation. Nothing came to him, as he never would have dreamed of having to fight a dragon.
Then it pulled it head back, jaws opening and sucking in a great lungful of air before lurching forward again. Its mouth opened wide and released a great shriek, deafening in its closeness to the knights. Everyone stumbled back and covered their ears. It rung so loud against Kariston’s ears that his vision shivered until it went blurry and he dropped to his knees. A tiny whining filled his head when the roar finally stopped, no other sound came to him, though the scene continued around him. The dragon had pulled its head away from the mouth of their cave and stretched itself high above them. Kariston could no longer see its head, but from the way Aegis was screaming silently at Matrick, it didn’t look like the dragon meant to leave.
His small friend grabbed the other man by his leather jerkin and hoisted him back, sending him sprawling into the wide eave of the crevice before she raised her hands. Kariston’s hearing began to return as the dragon shrieked a second time, the sound this time was accompanied by flame.
Aegis threw her magic into a thick shield, bright green until the flames hit it. White heat engulfed the group of young knights, placing them suddenly in the middle of a wildfire. The air was too hot to breathe and the temperature was unbearable, burning at their skin without the flames of the dragonfire even touching them. When the flames stopped, Aegis offered a magical blast of her own, sending out a wave of scorching energy in the dragon’s direction.
Kariston could feel the strength she put behind it like icy needles poking at his spine, but he feared she might have put too much power into it. The dragon hissed in anger at the magical retort and twisted its body to slam its tail against the mountainside. The force shook the ground and the mountain alike, breaking tiny stones from the inside of the cave and cascading larger, looser rocks from the cliffs outside. They thundered to the ground as Aegis wheeled to get out of the way, dodging one boulder only to be struck by a wall of shale.
“Aegis!” Kariston shouted, running from the eave to pull his friend from the rubble. Heaving her from beneath a mound of gravel, Kariston carried Aegis back to the mouth of the cave while the dragon reared back, spreading his wings wide to threaten another attack. Matrick came forward to meet Kariston, his eyes wide and frightened when he looked up into his friend’s face.
“Take her and get inside, both of you!” He said sternly, though he could only hear his own voice in his head. Matrick seemed unsure, deafened himself, forcing Kariston to put Aegis in his hold and point him back at the cave. Not waiting for a nod or shake of the head, Kariston rushed out to face the dragon. It drew close again, its jaws parted in a beastly grin as another growl rumbled deep in its throat.
“Dragon,” Kariston shouted, praying that words would do what force could not. “We mean you no harm! Please let us go in peace!”
The dragon continued to grin down at him, its eyes unreadable in their fiery ferocity.
“Please,” Kariston said again.
The dragon’s jaw opened again, the fleshy walls of its throat aglow with embers. The light filled his open mouth, surrounding his fangs with trembling hot air. Kariston held himself firm, though he was unsure if he could win a fight against dragonfire.
There is no uncertainty, he thought. There is only survival. Survival or death.
Concept Design Final Images!
I’m really excited with how each of these grew from their original designs, and through they could use more refining, I think this final speaks for the concept process. A few more redo’s and I could have something great!
Of course each of these came with a passage, as I dreamed of the final product being a book, but I thought I should post all of the images together to keep my followers from having to root through the archive.