Wonderful critique, thank you so much! I'll try to give a few comments on your thoughts!
1:"What was the difference between saving someone and murder"? No way an eight\nine years old can go to that depth in ethics and morals; he simply can not have the maturity of thought, no matter how clever he is. Reminiscent of the "senex puer" of roman-etrurian culture. Also, it's not very likely to be the first thought jumping to ANYONE's mind in that situation. The thought can come maybe an hour later. Surely not from a child, though.
You're completely right here; as soon as I read your comment I realized how stupid that thought is. I think it was one of the things that ties into what you say in your other comments, namely that Armand seems to be kind of hard to grasp. Is he cold and calculating, mature or immature? Well, I think that it all stems from the fact that I didn't really know when I started writing. Good thing I can make changes!
2:Even it not specified, the tale strongly implies Armand believing Alphonso's "destruction" of Armand's sister's "figure". How it is Armand is so deep and mature 5 minutes before this, but he immediately believes the words of a stranger soiling the image he had of the most important person of his life? First Armand seems to have more dept, presence of spirit and resolve than any child is age. Then, he seems to have LESS...'Cause even an average children would object to "big sis doesn't love you", expecially if his past experiences have been opposite.
Very good point. I'm leaning towards adding in hints to the fact that Alphonso was using some form of mind control/manipulation magic to lend credibility to the fact that Armand accepts the premise.
3:After the Ḥashshāshīn ordaly, Armand cries...What? And "I still didn't want to kill anyone" too.
They spent eight years teaching him killing tecniques but they did zero to brainwash him into a real assassin? That is the exact contrary of how it works. They brainwash you first, then they teach you tecniques. This goes for any young assassin\soldier training group, ever. If you want to play against the role here, you have to specify how it came to be. Maybe one of the two teachers was too human? Armand cheated them into believe he was brainwashed, but he wasn't?
This is a very good point which I hadn't thought of. I guess I've just been so set on playing a character who is very good at killing but who doesn't actually want to do so. Your suggestions are excellent, and I will try and add to the part in order to make Armand resistance more apparent. (And I took out the part about the tears and instead wrote the much more dramatic line: "I was shaking with the shock of the adrenaline leaving my body and Alphonso did nothing to console me, leaving me with only my own bloody hands and a barren landscape for company."
4: Armand homicidally lashing out at Ichiro... Wasn't he the one that "still didn't want to kill anybody?" Pretty extreme reaction for someone like that.
This is for characterization.
Oh yeah, well, in my head it was more like muttering "Meh, should've taken Main Street instead of Highland Park Ave."; he had to do something to escape, and he didn't want to die himself, so he figured it was either kill Ichiro and make a break for it or do the deed. Now that I think about it, and now that you point it out, it might be a pretty bad alternative solution
the majority of the tale is spent narrating how Armand becomes an assassin; then he just kills his patron, and by a lucky strike his life is changed completely and he goes on to do something else entirely, with no resemblance whatsoever to the previous part of his life.
It's like describing in a short story the gruelling adolescence of a teenager forced by an osessive father to spend days and night playing piano to be the greatest musician of all time, and concluding the tale by saying: "but at eighteen I discovered I could put my natural endowment, a wanger the size of a cotto salami, to good use. I went on to be a porn actor, which I still am. The end."
You should either give more relevance to Armand's years as a politician\merchant prince\whatever, OR start the tale by saying: "you know me as a merchant, but the truth about the most important part of my life, my upbringing, is...".
This is a very good and valid point! However I believe that, since this is all still a backstory to a character who is very much alive and not in the least "finished", it more represents a turning point in his life. "Finally a chance to do something that doesn't involve killing." The interesting part of this is of course playing Armand as the character he is now; half trader Sheik and half unwilling assassin. The letter will be given to the character who is playing the "daughter" when I deem fit and then go on to see where that takes our campaign, hoping that our GM has prepped some awesome stuff (like her character having some kind of tie to the Inquisition perhaps) for it! Also, the way I'm playing Armand (we've played two sessions so far) he tries his best to hide his skills from the other PCs, and I'm trying my best to hide his abilities from the other players, so it will be interesting to see how they react when they realize Armand has been faking not being able to fight!
Preparing the "audience" for what happens in the end seems like a bit too much, and I don't really know where I would insert it, but it is something I'll remember for future pieces!
-Alphonso is shown to be a sneaky and manipulative character. Armand is a trained assassin. Their final confrontation being born by a simple hot blooded altercation is unstylish.
I agree, to some extent, but the way I see it Alphonso wasn't really trying to hurt Armand, just get another mind control/manipulation spell on him. Armand simply reacted on instinct, assuming it was an attack. I've juggled a few other ideas, and I might change it later, but right now I don't really have any good enough alternatives.
-Ichiro fixation on language is too Pai Mei.
Hah, I hadn't even thought about that! Subconscious stuff I guess. Anyway, I found that part to be cool, so I'm keeping it
On the positive side:
-the prose seems good and fluid to me.
-the geographical scope of the tale and "twists of fate" taste like 18th\early 19th century novels, or Barry Lindon , whichever you prefere, and that is good.
-Despite being clichè, Alphonse comes out as a convincing character
-"their skill lived in m now, and if I could defeat them, then they needed not live to gain glory in the afterlife" was pure gold. Synthetic and epic.
-the unexpected Ichiro kindness at the end of that part was a nice little twist
Once again, thank you immensely for the feedback! I hope you enjoyed reading it as well