Life In 19x19

The Stonemaker's Granddaughter - A Fantasy Go short story
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Author:  Ian Butler [ Mon Mar 04, 2019 6:07 am ]
Post subject:  The Stonemaker's Granddaughter - A Fantasy Go short story

Another short story from the same "universe" as my previous one (which can be found here). I hope to write more stories within this universe, as it really combines my 2 great passions, that of stories and that of Go.
However, I am also experimenting some with these stories. So for the prologue, I hope to get feedback on the following questions:

- Is it clear to the readers why Gen'ichi acts the way he does?
- Is it obvious (not too obvious, but can you figure out) what happened?

If not, I may have to re-write so it becomes more obvious. I think a reader can connect the dots but knowing the whole story yourself, it's always tough to judge if that is possible, I may have to add a few things to make it clear. So do let me know!


The fire was slowly dying out, shadows stretched across the board. The sun had long set and two men had been playing at this particular game for far too long. One of the men scratched the stubble on his chin. He let out a moan.
‘You got me there, senpai.’
The older man just nodded and started cleaning up the stones.
It was just an ordinary game of Go. The skill of these two was nowhere near high enough to tap into the mysterious powers of the Stones, though the youngest of these two often claimed he could feel a slight cramp whenever he lost a game.

A sound came from the darkness surrounding their campsite.
‘Is someone there?’ The young man asked, with a shaking voice.
The only sound that could be heard was that of stones being put in a bowl.
‘Senpai, please, stop it.’ It came out as barely a whisper.

‘Sorry to intrude, may I join you?’
A man stepped into the light. He had a charcoal dark skin, black hair and dark eyes. His clothes were torn and he looked like as if he hadn’t slept for days.
‘Of course you may.’ The older man spoke. He gestured towards the fire. ‘Be seated, my friend. I am Gen’ichi, this is Keiji.’
The dark-skinned man sat down near the fire. For the first time, he spotted the Goban. He picked up a stone and examined it.
‘You are a player of the game of Go?’ he asked of Gen’ichi.
The old man smiled a kind smile.
‘You are not from around here, are you, my friend?’
The dark-skinned man didn’t answer. He placed one of the white shell stones on the board. It gave a warm sound.
‘How much for these stones, old man?’
Keiji jumped up, his eyes wide open in anger. Yet before he could say anything, Gen’ichi spoke in a calm voice.
‘Sit down, Keiji. Remember your hospitality. This man is our guest.’
‘Our guest?’ Keiji almost spat.
‘Keiji,’ Gen’ichi spoke, for the first time there was a harsh undertone in his voice.

Gen’ichi turned back to the dark-skinned man.
‘You have a keen eye, my friend.’
‘What do you mean, old man?’ He replied.
‘These are true Hiroshi shell stones. Some consider them priceless.’
‘That so?’ The dark-skinned man asked.
‘Yes. They are also my gift to you, my friend.’
The dark-skinned man looked at Gen’ichi, suspicion in his eyes. Meanwhile, Keiji looked at his Senpai, his mouth a little open.
‘Senpai?’ he asked.

The fire was almost out, the final log was burning up, only illuminating a part of Keiji’s face. His eyes were wide open. Clutched in his hand were several shell stones. Next to him lay Gen’ichi. Except for the stab wound in his chest, he looked peaceful, as if he were sleeping.
There was no sign of the dark-skinned man.
Only silence.

Author:  Joaz Banbeck [ Mon Mar 04, 2019 9:33 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The Stonemaker's Granddaughter - A Fantasy Go short stor

Ian Butler wrote:
- Is it clear to the readers why Gen'ichi acts the way he does?
- Is it obvious (not too obvious, but can you figure out) what happened?

It is not clear, and I think that is good. At the beginning of a story, you want the reader to have questions. This leads him to read more.

My guess is that Gen'ichi is trying to bribe the visitor to leave them alone, but Keiji spoils this by forcibly trying to retain the stones. In the resulting conflict, the visitor killed Gen'ichi and maybe Keiji.

Stylistic quibbles:
1) "...shadows consumed the board more and more."
This has a Dick-and-Jane simplicity, not fitting the rest of the text.
I would have written it: "...shadows slowly stretched across the board.."
Or if I were aiming for a more poetic effect: "...the board slowly sunk into the gloom..." or: ...tentacles of shadow advanced across the board..."

2) "...The sun had long set and two men had been playing at this particular game for far too long..."
This interjects the author's interpretation. Don't tell me that the game has been played too long. Show me.
"The sun had long set, and the board was crowded. The largest moves were now a point or less."

3) "...He had a rather dark skin..."
'Rather' weakens the sentence. Give me something solid and visual.
"...He had charcoal dark skin..."
Or keep it simple and clean: "...He had dark skin..."

Grammatical quibbles:
1) " looked like he hadn’t slept for days..."
should be
"...he looked as if he hadn’t slept for days..."

2) " if he was sleeping..."
should be
" if he were sleeping..."

IMHO, this is your best start yet. The reader is left with many questions. I'm waiting for more.

Author:  Ian Butler [ Mon Mar 04, 2019 10:03 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The Stonemaker's Granddaughter - A Fantasy Go short stor

Thanks, Joaz, for the feedback.
Especially everything relating to the language is highly appreciated. It would be a lot easier to write in my native language, but English is the language to go to if I want to share these stories, and I do. but, of course, that means there's going to be mistakes there. Thanks for helping me correct them. Maybe I'd have to look for someone who helps me proofread before I post them, even.
Still, I don't think the language is a deal breaker. Or at least I hope so :)

Hope you don't mind if I edit your corrections into the text ;-)

Author:  Ian Butler [ Tue Mar 05, 2019 12:59 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The Stonemaker's Granddaughter - A Fantasy Go short stor

Part I - The Stonemaker
She closed the door quietly. Grandfather was sleeping and she didn’t want to wake him up. It was the first sleep he’s had in days. His coughing usually kept him up.
Grandfather was ill, very ill.

Amaya started her walk towards the shore. It was only a good five minute walk. Grandfather had built this house himself, almost 40 years ago. The house had to be close to the ocean, but far enough to be protected against the occasional high waves in the off-season. The woods surrounding the house provided perfect protection against that. More, the ground here was decent enough for farming some food, and the woods were filled with berries and nuts, if you knew where to look. Grandfather did, as did Amaya.

Grandfather was what they called a stonemaker. He fished for shells in the ocean, often weeks and weeks, seemingly without end. After that, he picked only the highest quality of shells, and sold off the rest. Grandfather only produced the very best of shell stones. So with the those shells, he went to work, crafting top quality shell stones. He always tried to pretend it was nothing, that he was just doing something to earn him a little money, enough to stay alive, but Amaya knew better. There was no one who made better stones than him. Hiroshi stones were famous. It had earned him the nickname: The Stonemaker. As if there were only one real stonemaker in the world.
But now grandfather was ill. And for the first time in decades, there were no new Hiroshi stones being made.

The ocean was calm today, as it usually was. Gentle waves slapped lightly against the rocks. For two weeks, Amaya had been taking over grandfather’s job. Her respect for him had only grown. Fishing up shells was hard work. The best shells to make stones with were more than 15 feet underwater. You could find them between the rocks. That meant you had to dive underwater, search the bottom of the sea, examine every shell you see, take only those that look good enough to make stones with, put it in a net, search some more, mark the area, go up again when your lungs are about to burst, take a deep breath and go under again. Do that for a few hours and you may get enough shells for about 25 to 30 stones. Not much, but that happened if you only picked the highest quality. It also didn’t help that grandfather did an extra quality check before he went to work on the shells. The shells that didn’t make the cut there, were sold to other stonemakers. All in all, it was a damn demanding job.

Amaya took off all unnecessary clothing. Things that only weigh you down in the water, you’d better do without. After that, she checked her net. If the rope was worn out, it might snap and she might lose her day’s catch, like it did the very first time grandfather took her diving. She learned her lesson the hard way that day. Grandfather has had her diving since she was 6 years old. At first in the shallow waters, then slowly moving on to deeper waters. She still couldn’t dive as deep as grandfather could, but she’d get there eventually. He also had her practise making the stones, on the lower quality shells she had found. In the trunk near her bed, she still had the very first set of stones she ever made. They were pretty awful, and no stone was perfect, but she loved looking at them. It made her feel proud.

No matter how exciting it sounded, diving quickly became a very boring and routine job. A girl of nine had a hard enough time concentrating on only one thing. If that one thing takes up hours without pause, it’s a thousand times worse. But she endured. Occasionally, her thoughts wandered off. But diving in the ocean requires a constant vigilance, so often earlier rather than later did something force her to snap her mind back to focus.
Three hours later, she had a net with about seven shells. She had examined hundreds, but if her grandfather had taught her one thing, it was to have an eye for quality. In that aspect, she may have even surpassed her grandfather. The seven shells she carried were nigh perfect, and they’d make the most beautiful stones.

When she came back home, Amaya was quickly aware that her grandfather was awake again.
‘Grandfather, are you okay?’
‘Dear Amaya,’ he whispered. Since a week ago, he was unable to speak out loud. With much effort, he turned to her.
‘Water, please.’
Amaya hurried to give him some water. When she returned, she found him asleep again.
She put her hand on his forehead.
‘You sleep, grandfather. It’ll do you good.’
She left his room and went straight to the workbench. The past few weeks, she had been able to collect almost 150 shells. About a dozen of them she had successfully finished into beautiful shell stones. The rest of them, she had messed up. She kept them next to the workbench. A whole heap of failed attempts. Being a stonemaker wasn’t easy. And nowhere near as fun as just being a stonemaker’s granddaughter.

Author:  Ian Butler [ Wed Mar 06, 2019 1:47 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The Stonemaker's Granddaughter - A Fantasy Go short stor

Part II - The Visitors
As evening fell, Amaya cleaned up the bowls. Grandfather had not eaten, again. After finishing up her work, she sneaked into his bedroom. He looked so old. Grandfather had always been a strong man, a happy man. But now Amaya saw him lying there, motionless, old, frail, ill. It was more than she could handle. She cried, but softly. After days with that nasty cough, keeping him up, he was finally sleeping again.
She tiptoed to grandfather’s chair. There, she had set up a 9x9 Go board, weeks ago. She knew next to nothing about the game of Go, and she regretted that Grandfather had never taught her. Once, she had asked him about it, and he had simply laughed and said they were stonemakers, not Go players, and you shouldn’t confuse one with the other.
Grandfather only had white stones in the house. So even if she wanted to, she couldn’t play Go.

And still she had set up a 9x9 board she had found lying around. When grandfather got sick, she started to put down stones every evening. The stones comforted her, they were made by her grandfather’s hands. It quickly became her evening ritual. Before going to sleep, she’d lay down nine stones. Nine, because she was nine years old. She always put them on the same spot. In the morning, she’d put them back in the bowl. At first, her grandfather was amused and interested in her strange little ritual, but after a while, he seemingly stopped caring. These days, he hardly cared about anything at all. But he cared about Amaya. He would always care about Amaya.

The next morning, Amaya woke to knocking on the door. She certainly wasn’t expecting anyone. More, her grandfather never sold stones from this house, he always went to a Go Temple in town to sell his stones. So nobody knew he lived here, not as far as she knew.
Slowly she approached the door, opened the door slightly and looked out. A man and a woman, both dressed in fancy clothing.
‘Yes?’ she asked.
The man looked down at her and broke into a smile.
‘Hey there. Is your father home, perhaps?’
‘Just me and grandfather, mister.’
‘Could you call him, maybe?’ the man asked.
‘Grandfather’s not very well, mister.’
The woman squatted so that she became level to Amaya.
‘I’m sorry to hear that, darling. Could we perhaps come in, then?’
Amaya pulled her lip.
‘I don’t know.’
‘It’s okay,’ the woman said. She gently pushed the door open. She scanned the room. Amaya had done her best to keep the house clean, but there was only so much a girl of nine could do. However, the woman kept smiling.
‘Well,’ she said, ‘I can see that your grandfather is ill.’ She winked at Amaya.

Five minutes later, Amaya was standing at the door of her grandfather’s bedroom. He and the two visitors wanted to talk without being disturbed. Amaya figured eavesdropping isn’t the same as disturbing, so she had pressed her ear against the door.
With grandfather whispering, it was hard to make out what was being said, though.

Two minutes later, the door opened. The woman peeked into the hallway and found Amaya.
‘Can you come in, love?’ she asked.
Amaya stepped in the room. Her grandfather was still in bed, but he had a look in his eyes, she had never seen before. Was it fear?
It was the man’s turn to squat now. He put a hand on Amaya’s shoulder. She didn’t like that.
‘Listen, Amaya, is it?’
She nodded.
‘Do you know what Go is?’
She nodded.
‘Have you ever played it?’
She shook her head.
The man frowned. He stood up straight again and walked towards where she had set up the 9x9 board. As he passed by his woman companion, he whispered something. Amaya barely understood. She thought he had said: ‘She’s lying.’
‘I’m not!’ Amaya said, a little louder than she had intended.
‘Yeah?’ the man asked, with a sneer: ‘We’ll see.’
He cleared the 9x9 board of her stones and knelt down next to it.
‘Sit down,’ not a request.
Amaya knelt down on the other side of the board.
The man produced two pouches. One with black stones, the other with white ones.
Amaya could see the white stones were of terrible quality.
Fortunately, he gave her the pouch with black stones.

‘Play,’ he commanded: ‘If you lose, we burn down this house and everyone in it.’

Author:  Ian Butler [ Thu Mar 07, 2019 12:43 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The Stonemaker's Granddaughter - A Fantasy Go short stor

Part III - Amaya’s Loss
While she picked up her first stone, tears came to her eyes. She knew enough to put the stone where the lines meet, and not inside a square. But that was about it.
Amaya was seated with her back towards her grandfather and that woman, so she couldn’t see him. The man who knelt opposite of her put his first stone down. The way he held his stone looked strange to Amaya’s eyes. She picked another stone out of the pouch and put it on the board.

The game only lasted a few minutes, but to Amaya it felt as though hours has passed. She used her sleeve to wipe the sweat from her forehead and the tears from her eyes. Only then did she realize she was still in her pyjamas.
The man gave her a stern look.
‘It’s over,’ he declared.
Amaya cried.

‘She wasn’t lying, Asahiko,’ the woman said.
The man looked down on the board. Many black stones had been removed from the board. At first, Amaya hadn’t understood why they were being removed, but near the end of the game, she thought she had it figured out. Little good it did to her then.
‘No,’ he said: ‘She wasn’t.’
Amaya looked down. Her hands started shaking.
She felt a hand on her shoulder. That woman again.
‘It’s okay, Amaya. We aren’t going to hurt you. We just wanted to make sure. It’s all right.’
Before Amaya could say anything, the woman pressed a finger against her lips.
‘Listen, Amaya. You may have a very special talent. But first, you must tell us everything.’
‘What do you mean?’
The man, Asahiko, cut in.
‘The stones, girl. The stones!’
‘I find them in the ocean,’ Amaya started to explain. Asahiko cut her off.
‘No, the stones on this board. Your grandfather says you put them down every evening. Nine white stones, always in that exact configuration.’ While he said it, he put down nine white stones in the pattern she always made. Ugly stones, though, not of a very high quality, Amaya could tell.
Asahiko took a sharp intake of breath. Just as he was about to speak up, the woman said, with a soft voice: ‘How do you know to set up the stones like this, Amaya?’
Amaya shrugged.
‘I don’t know. I like them like that. I like to think they keep grandfather safe.’ She blushed as she said it.
‘But… White stones?’ Asahiko said, to no one in particular.
‘Dear,’ the woman said: ‘Could you leave us alone with your grandfather for a while, please?’
‘But…’ Amaya started to protest.
Grandfather looked at her and whispered: ‘I could use a cup of tea, my sweet Amaya.’

Amaya was going crazy. After she had made the tea as quickly as she could and went back to give grandfather a cup, they had immediately stopped talking when she had come in, only to start talking again after she left.
What were they talking about?
What was happening?
What was so special about her stones?

About half an hour later, Asahiko and his friend came into the kitchen, where Amaya was sitting.
‘Your grandfather wants to talk to you, dear,’ the woman said.
Amaya hated it when she called her that.
Nevertheless, she quickly went to see grandfather.

‘Grandfather, who are these people?’
‘Amaya. My sweet Amaya,’ he whispered. He fell silent and gazed at her.
Finally, he spoke again.
‘I love you.’
‘Grandfather.’ slightly annoyed.
‘It is time for you to leave, Amaya, and start your life. You… You have a gift.’
‘A gift?’
‘Asahiko and Hisako will take you with them, to a place where they will teach you. Amaya, you will be treated well, you will be treasured by many.’
‘But, grandfather… I don’t want to leave.’
‘But you must.’
‘What about you?’
‘Oh child. You have your mother’s kindness. I am old, my place is here. But yours isn’t. You belong to the world, now.’
‘Grandfather.’ Tears again.
‘I love you,’ he repeated.
‘I love you, grandfather.’

Two hours later, she was packed. Of course, she had brought the first set of stones her grandfather had helped her make. She had left the new, well crafted stones on the workbench. Grandfather would need those to sell when he was better. Asahiko and Hisako stood outside. Asahiko glanced over her.
‘Okay,’ he said: ‘looks like we’re ready to go.’
‘Don’t worry, dear, your grandfather will be fine,’ Hisako added.
‘Can we come back to visit him soon?’ Amaya asked.
‘Of course.’ She smiled.

A few dozen feet later, she turned back one final time.
‘Goodbye, house. Bye, grandfather.’
As the three of them walked away. Hisako put her arm around Amaya again. Amaya didn’t protest. Maybe it wasn’t so bad, after all.
‘He’ll be fine, Amaya, don’t worry so much.’
Another few steps.
‘So what’s your grandfather’s name, dear?’
Asahiko stopped dead in his tracks. He looked at Amaya, his eyes wide open.
‘Wait a minute,’ he was mumbling, Amaya could barely understand: ‘those stones…’
‘Hiroshi, the Stonemaker?’ he asked.
‘That man was Hiroshi, the Stonemaker?’
Amaya nodded.
Asahiko looked at Hisako, dumbstruck. Then he looked back at Amaya.
‘So you are Hiroshi’s granddaughter?’
Asahiko stood still for a few more seconds.
‘What do you know… The Stonemaker’s Granddaughter.’
Asahiko chuckled and started walking again. Amaya looked at Hisako, but the woman only smiled and put her arm back around Amaya.
Yes, Amaya thought, it definitely wasn’t so bad after all...

Author:  Ian Butler [ Fri Mar 08, 2019 3:03 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The Stonemaker's Granddaughter - A Fantasy Go short stor

It was dark, and it was raining. Not a single light burned in Hiroshi’s house. The door opened with a creak. A man with heavy boots stepped inside. He was holding a lantern. The man had a dark skin, and even darker eyes. His clothes were dripping on the wooden floor. He mumbled something before taking off his hat and putting it on the table. There was dust on it, he noticed.

The dark skinned man looked around the cabin. He eventually spotted Hiroshi’s workbench. He reached out and felt the white shell stones that were on it. He examined one of them more closely under the light of his lantern.
Remembering to be as quiet as he can, he checked the rest of the cabin. When he came to the last room, he opened the door slowly. The light of his lantern crept inside and cast faint light and dancing shadows in a room where there had been nothing but complete darkness moments before.
A face illuminated. It was an old man.
It was Hiroshi, the Stonemaker.
He was dead.

Author:  Elom [ Thu Mar 21, 2019 10:14 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The Stonemaker's Granddaughter - A Fantasy Go short stor

I wouldn't really know how to improve it if you will, being 20 kyu at this sort of thing. But it was beautiful, nor could I have guessed that you were writing in your second language) :clap: :clap: :clap: :bow:.

I feel the mystery in this story so far. . .

Joaz Banbeck wrote:

My guess is that Gen'ichi is trying to bribe the visitor to leave them alone, but Keiji spoils this by forcibly trying to retain the stones. In the resulting conflict, the visitor killed Gen'ichi and maybe Keiji. . .

I guessed that could be the case, but wasn't sure; if this is common then it seems well balanced :).

Joaz Banbeck wrote:
. . . IMHO, this is your best start yet. The reader is left with many questions. I'm waiting for more.

Same here.

Author:  Elom [ Sat Mar 23, 2019 4:24 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The Stonemaker's Granddaughter - A Fantasy Go short stor

For what it's worth, I may note my thoughts on some of the parts a I liked most and the the parts I possibly see more potential in :salute:.

Here's one:
'The fire was slowly dying out and so shadows slowly stretched across the board.'

Its probably a typo left over after you changed it from 'The fire was slowly dying out and shadows consumed the board more and more',
but it may read easier as 'the fire was slowly dying out and so shadows slowly stretched across the board.'

Learning from Joaz Banbeck, I wonder if you could have the sentence feel what is expressed plainly by something like:
The fire was slowly dying; shadows slowly stretched across the board.
Or maybe even:
Shadows slowly stretched across the board; the fire was slowly dying
Which then makes me think of two things: one is that we may only need one of the slowlys. The one of the fire's slowness seems to imly the shadow. . .
Shadows stretched across the board; the fire was slowly dying
Second is that a full stop may fit the writing style more than a semi colon.
Shadows stretched across the board. The fire was slowly dying
However, it may be best to leave it in the flavour you left it as an intro before smoothing into the short sentences of the rest of the text (which would then work with the next sentence in that its a purpose they both seem to fulfill). Removing the was hoping for neatness and rythm seems to get:
Shadows stretched across the board, the fire slowly dying.
But then again taking a leaf from Joaz Banbeck's page, I wonder if one can get away with putting more metaphor on the page!
The fire clasped the board in shadow as it slowly died
In the the original you had an and in the first and second sentence likely by intent so may keep that pattern by something like:
The fire clasped the board in shadow as it slowly died. Far before that, so too had the sun clasped the horizon, through which two men had played this particular game for far too long.
The fire clasped the board in shadow as it slowly died. Far before that, so too had the sun clasped two men who had played this particular game for far too long.

Giving life to what I like about the intro, I hope!

My kyu-level kibbitz so far :D! (I may have more when my brain is thinking well like this :). Although some most able are not here at the moment ;-)).

Author:  Ian Butler [ Sun Mar 24, 2019 4:57 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The Stonemaker's Granddaughter - A Fantasy Go short stor

Thanks for the suggestion, Elom! I changed the opening sentence to something a bit more fluent!

I hope to get another inspiration soon to write another short ;)

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