In the war-torn land of Cyraveil, four heroes strove to overthrow an empire. By cold steel and elemental sorcery, they brought peace to a warring land on the brink of destruction. As the flames died, the realm needed strong leadership, and who better than the champions who had saved the kingdom? But when the people sought out their saviors... they vanished.
Matt, Blake, Jen, and Carl: the four mysterious companions, who together had deposed an insane ruler and saved countless lives, were gone—spirited back in a whirlwind of magic to a sleepy suburb in Mellbridge, Oregon, never to return. The friends found themselves home in the real world, exactly as they'd been the night they were taken, as if no time had passed... except only three came back.
Hi there! This was my entry for National Novel Writing Month, because why only write one series at a time? The more the merrier! (meanwhile, my keyboard bursts into flames...)
I'm also the writer of The Last Science, an ongoing low-fantasy/speculative sci-fi series. If you're familiar with that, you know what to expect here: lots of character-focused drama and dialogue, not a whole lot of traditional action. However, I'm writing a bit differently than usual here, and in a very different structure, so there should be some surprises for returning readers. I hope you enjoy it!
[Discord] — for those of you who want to hang out and chat.
Cover art (fullsize): Path of Revelation, by taenaron (Tobias Roetsch), modified by Etzoli. Normally I like to do my own cover art from scratch, but I was in a rush for the contest. Might be replaced down the line if I get time.
[winner of the NaNoWriMo Royal Road 2018 challenge—Most Favorites]
This story has not been posted or published anywhere else besides RoyalRoad.com, at this URL: https://www.royalroad.com/fiction/21374/epilogue
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I can't believe that this story is so relatively short and has almost no background information, yet still was able to absolutely destroy me. This was truly an amazing story.
Style:This is probably the best done style out of any story I've read here. It's amazing how the author drops the reader into a story after it already happened yet still manages to make the reader feel involved and gradually provides information. There's a subtle shift throughout the story as more and more is revealed, and I thought it worked outstandingly.
Story: I was skeptical when I saw this was an epilogue to a story that never actually existed, but I found the overall story to be fascinating. Just enough from the past is revealed to provide some context, but the present storyline is still given enough weight to make the reader feel engaged.
Grammar: There were a couple things in the earlier chapters, but nothing too noticable.
Character: For knowing nothing about their past, I found myself getting really involved with each of the characters. They each have their own unique personalities, and it's clear that what they're doing and what they've done weighs heavily on them. It was surpising to say the least.
In short: I was immediately enthralled with the world and characters. The story progressed subtlely and beautifuly. I'm sad this ended. It's one of my favorites. Thank you for writing it.
Epilogue is what every writer of fantasy web serial should strive to produce: an instantly engaging tense and intense character-driven story that grabs you and won’t let go.
As the name implies, Epilogue starts not at the beginning of the story, but at – or perhaps more precisely, after – its end. Telling the tale of three survivors of a seemingly-typical isekai (“different world”) story, the story bears few of the tropes that often bog down and dull these stories. This can be ascribed to the stories structure: having returned to their home, an utterly average suburb in a forgettable town on the west coast of the United States, the characters are bereft of almost all of the power they came into in the course of their lengthy seven-year adventure – a period equating to a few moments on Earth. Restored to their adolescent forms, with all limitations those entail, these three once-again-teenagers must struggle to come to grips with what they have experienced and how those experiences have changed them.
And struggle they do. Things start to fall apart immediately: relationships, school schedules, even languages all long-forgotten suddenly become relevant, and three young adults used to wearing the weight of the world on their shoulders now find their burdens reduced to the inconsequential matters of teenagers – and find further that the fit chafes. Matt strives to force himself to fit in and forget about it all; Carl has none of it and almost immediately begins to seeking a way back. Jen, caught between these two, suffers a critical loss of identity even as she tries to rediscover the person she was. The characters are the meat, the backbone, and the beating heart of Epilogue, and they make their pains acutely felt. Facing constant challenges from themselves and each other, the interplay between these three is at times strained and even heartrending. Indelibly marked by significant traumatic experiences, all three must come reconcile with a journey that changed them irrevocably – and the results are gripping for the reader.
Told from the character’s perspectives, the story embraces the inner monologues of these three, and reminds us that communication between people is hard, especially when what we want or even need to express is uncomfortable. Etzoli makes great use of point-of-view to illustrate how an overlap of experience and trauma can end up being divisive and even destructive in relationships once thought infallible. While the word choice and writing style are eminently readable, the text as presented could absolutely benefit from a proper proofreading – minor grammatical errors abound, though they rarely break immersion.
Overall, Epilogue tells the tale that many of us have wondered about, and does so in an appropriately challenging manner. This is not a happy story, and the conclusion leaves one concerned for the futures of these characters. Yet Etzoli largely keeps the stress from feeling overwrought, and the results, while somewhat sad, do make for a satisfying journey. Likely the best new story on Royal Road in 2018, the relative brevity (only slightly longer than an average novel) means that there is no reason not to give this tale a look.
Usually, when I'm reading fics on RRL, I'm just looking for some good way to pass the time. Yeah, there are good stories out there, some that pull you in, but most of them are just fluff that work to kill time.
This story pulled me in completely, and I basically read it in full in one sitting, considering it was short enough to do so
The story is good in and of itself - interesting plot, well-paced action, some amount of uncertainty and enough agency for the characters without feeling like they benefit from any sort of plot armor.
However, where the story really shines is in the world-building and the characters - this story starts at the end of a story, as indicated by the name, Epilogue. The three main characters just freshly made it back out of 7 years of an alternate, high-fantasy universe, and we're thrown right into it. However, without feeling heavy-handed or unnatural, the author is able to build up the entire 7 years and the entire alternate dimension in ways that feel meaningful and realistic. This story really makes me want to read a tale about the 7 years they went through.
As to the characters, I'd rate them a 7 out of 5 if I could. They are incredibly well put-together, with rich backstories and complex characters born from those experiences. The closest character I can think of to Matt is Rand Al'Thor from the Wheel of Time, in terms of both his attitude and the detail put into his character. My only criticism in this regard is that Sara feels a bit too good: She takes things in remarkable stride, with little doubt, and is incredibly perceptive to the point where she is a match for the other characters, despite the fact that the 3 other characters were forced to hone their wits and instincts through 7 years of bloodshed.
Overall an incredible read, I've never left a review before but I feel like this deserved one
When I was a kid, the ending of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe baffled me. This group of kids saves the kingdom, grow to respected adults that rule the lands they saved, and wind up back in their original world, physically the same as if they never left.
In a nutshell that's what this story is about: A group of characters that have finished their quest. They've learned, they've grown, they've aged. Now they find themselves literally back where they started as if nothing ever happened.
Think on that for a moment: Horrifying, isn't it?
Despite the premise, the story isn't one of horror. It is a character-driven story of four people finding their place in the world again. A fantastical coming-of-age story, except they've been there and done that, and have the psychological scarring to prove it.
At times the narrative feels a bit disjointed, jumping between the limited PoV of the main characters, the limited background information that explains the world they came from contributes to this as well.
This turns out to be a strength. The feeling of dropping into the end of an epic adventure with only the limited information the characters provide, helps you empathize and bond with them.
Just as they struggle to piece together information from the old/new world they find themselves in, the reader will slowly piece together their backstories, and come to understand what makes these characters tick.
They each feel distinctive. Each personality shines through, and each voice is clear and distinctive. It is very apparent which characters are talking and interacting with the world, and not just because of the chapter headings.
There are times when one of the characters feels like they have more narrative weight, given that the skills that they carry over from the other world are a bit more obvious, but each character gets a chance to shine.
Given the shorter length of the novel, the pacing is very quick, added to by the author’s use of smaller sentences. The prose itself, like the Etoline language, flows like a babbling brook on a beautiful morning.
There are a few grammatical rocks in the river, but nothing jarring that breaks the narrative immersion.
This makes the title perfect for binge-reading.Which is something you will want to do within the first couple of chapters. Overall, if you are a fan of in-depth, character-driven narratives that focus on internal conflict and character development, this is worth a look.
I even went against my slothful instincts, breaking a nap cycle to binge-read it. Worth every star!
This... was a wonderful read, a genuinely engaging story of what would realistically happen after the wonderous madness of fantasy that encompasses the lives of children leaves them dumped back where they once were, in a world of the mundane. It gives a harshness that should be present in isekai things but just isn't and benefits for it, it gives a harshness to the everyday lives we live and have lived from a perspective not many can give and likewise benefits for it. It did not shy away from those broken and lost but neither did it shy from showing the strengths of those forged under chains and moral strength.
I think the Isekai genre needs a story like Epilogue. Screw that, I think fantasy as a whole does. It surprises me, that in 13 years of reading fantasy, I've yet to encounter a story like this. When I review a story, I don't look at the awesomeness of a story, or the epicness of the adventure. I look at what the story is, and what it tries to be. How it lives up to it's own expectations. Epilogue, is, in my opinion, the perfect example of that.
It wants to be unique, well-written and deep. It suceeded. This is a story, about what happens after the adventure is over. When three people, used to fighting and dying on a daily basis are thrust back into life on Earth. There's a lot I want to say about this one topic, but it'll have to wait until later. I do want to say this: Epilogue is a character driven story, perhaps one of the best I've seen on RoyalRoad. The fact that, until this point, I haven't found a story with it's premise astounds me. Looking at it, it just made sense. This is the perfect topic to write a deep story on. Fantasy stories of epic adventures are a dime a dozen. But has anyone ever written a story about what happens when it's all over?
This is one I'll remember for quite a while. Epilogue follows three teenagers from the sleepy suburbs, suddenly thrust back into normal life after years of constant danger. And, I'll go out on a limb and say this: I love how Etzoli handled this. Okay, I'll explain here. It wasn't just the story, it was the direction in which it was taken.
Lemme explain. More often then not, stories that involve do-overs or world transfers just go on and on about how the MC uses their knowledge to win at everything. How they suceed and awe everyone with their knoqledge and strength. Epilogue sneers at that. Instead, it focuses on much more satisfying issues. How people accustomed to power deal without it, deal with having to live in a weak after yeara of strength, even how someone who hasn't spoken english in seven yeara and forgotten half the words tries to blend back into society. These are the problems and conflicts that made me love Epilogue.
As for the overall plot, I have to say it was very well constructed and fascinating. I found myself looking forward to events, and actually enamored by the writing and the pacing. You have a great premise, great execution, a solid plotline, more or less everything I could want from a story. One little thing, however. Just a question that been bugging me for a while. How did Matt find a way back from Cyraveil, That the others didn't know about? That's one of the few things that went unanswered in the story. That, and Carl still knowing how to perfectly code despite seven years of absesnse.
Aside from that, the story deals heavily in coping, recovery, actions and consequences. I should also go out on a limb and mention I loved the pre-chapter blurbs. Just from those, I formed a fleshed out picture of the officers, the case and they helped give tension to the story. Excellently done.
I like it. A lot. While you heavily focus on characterization, the world-building isn't left out in the slightest, and the prose is good. I all but raced through the chapters, never feeling bored or even having my mind wander for a second. Some parts were so good I went and re-read them, just for the heck of it. Your style lacks for nothing, and contains nothing I can critique on -a rarity on RR-, In fact, I want to copy it at times. I?mma just skip my usual Grammar section too, because there's nothing to adress there.
This is the section where Epilogue truly shines. I often say that a story is made by it's characters, and Epilogue doesn't just succeed here, it goes above and beyond. Slowly, over the course of the story, layer after layer is peeled away on each character, exposing not only their stories, but their strengths and flaws to the world. And they are deep.
Matt wants everything to just be normal again, to forget about this other world and try to live a peaceful, boring life.
Jen left something behind, has been so disconnected from human society -She's forgotten over half the words in the english language- that she just can't blend back in.
Carl doesn't WANT to blend back in. In Cryaveil, he had power, real power. Strength, and army, influence. Coming back to suburbia is a nightname to him. The years in another world have turned him into a ruthless dangerous man, and he'll do whatever it takes to get back. Even if there isn't a way back.
See the potential for an amazing story here already? Well, this is just scratching the surface. Characters all feel unique, different, and three-dimensional. The story has no real antagonist, but is gripping all the same. Character interactions are some of the finest I've seen in a long time. The story evoked real emotions from me, and that doesn't happen very damn often. One thing I am going to out and say was that I liked the fact you didn't take an anti-authoruty stance here. You could have portrayed the police as the antagonists or villians when looking into Blake's dissapearance, but you didn't. I like that.
Even the characters I never met, just heard talk of them or appeared in a character's memories evoked powerful emotions. Just one other thing. If there's somwthing I'd have like more details on, it was the antagonist they faced back on Cryaveil. He was obviously the cause of a lot of the tension between Matt and Carl, but I learned little about him. Just popping that in there.
Epilogue is a powerful story, one done so well that it has earned a permenant spot on my recommendations list. It's a story I reccomend fans of every genre read. In short, I think of it as one of the essential reads of RoyalRoad. I've reccomended it in real life, on Discord and Reddit. And never heard someone say it was bad. It delivers so ething I didn't know I needed to read, with a premise I cannot believe no one thought of before.
Etzoli didn't just pull it off, she made it shine. Gave it the power and feeling it deserves. I just hope she can hold up to my now sky-high expectations in future works.
This was one of the best stories I have ever read.
The emotions are deep and it is surprising how attached I got with the characters even with each one having only ne third of the screen time.
It is so worth reading that I went trough it all in one sitting.
I hated it. I completely hated it. I don't hate crap stories, I've seen and read a lot of them and if you just relax and laugh at the little mistakes, maybe fill in the little blanks in the details, it works just fine for a casual read. This is not a crappy story. In fact, by my metric, it's one of the best I've ever read. But my metric isn't by good feelings or enjoyment, it's about the magnitude of emotion a book makes me feel, and I HATE this book.
It ruins isekai for me. Isekai is, to me, wish fulfillment, and I don't at all eman that in a bad way. Lots of books are wish fulfillment and that's a good thing but this is the exact opposite. It crushes wishes and all the things I thought good about isekai. It exposes some brutal reality onto that innocent image I've set in my mind as a trend and just... ruins it. For this alone you should have put in the tradgedy tag.
Now the characters. They were flawed, sometimes blatantly so, sometimes subtly enough that you didn't think much of it until midway through the story or later on. They were very much people, defined and dynamic, instead of paper cutouts of one idea or another. You could see how they dealt with problems and, most shakingly, how they broke under pressure. I hated seeing that, seeing characters I empathised with fall to those levels in their own unique ways. Just another thing to hate about this story. To go deeper into the charactarization I'd have to spoil parts of it and no potential reader deserves that. If you invest in the characters, which I both hope and dread that you will, then good luck.
To finish this off I'll go into the story, since the grammar's totally fine - no issues I could notice, it started out slow. And then it kept ramping up, intensifying, and then beat me to the floor in the climax. Ah, but that wasn't the climax. The climax wasn't the whole intense, 'beat to the floor' part, it's what comes after, the consequences. In a way that's what this whole story is about, at least to me, the consequences of actions, of adventure, of living out what might have been a fantasy if things were just a little more... I don't know, better, if people were less horrible and if circumstances hadn't forced sacrifice, if there had been a good way of resolving things. But I'm talking about nothing substantial now. The story is devestating in all the worst ways.
This isn't a must-read book in the case of something to read immediately. In fact, I'd heavily advise against it. This is a meta book, a blatant insult to the series it bases itself around. It's a 'fuck you' to the genre of isekai, of adventure, and of people. It's horrible and I can't properly show people how I hate it and all it stands for. I hate the characters, the direction of the story, the morals behind it, the world the characters are set in, I hate the way it twists the knife with an artful lack of details when I just want to know why X happened the way it did, why my most related character got the most horrific fate I can imagine, something honestly so terrible that I would relate it to torture, and that I can't say terrible things about the story because my hate is just some twisted, awful form of love for it...
I hate this story. I'll never read it again, and I'll make sure to never read any of your other stories because I just can't enjoy this. You aren't the author for me and this was never the story for me to begin with. And, altough I don't want to say it and I don't really mean it, thank you for writing this.
Words cannot begin to describe the sheer magnitude nor the sociological effects this created when I first read it.
Each chapter holds a grand mixture of deeply enriched meaning, specially tailored to reflect the character represented. The interactions are like a grasp of tentacles mingling together, all leaving traces amongst each other; adequately changing at a pace. This story is a wonder with the portrayals of its characters, and its own setting. To many it will have adverse effects but in testament, it left a burning sensation in me; like that of a stark madness.
In its entirety, this fiction is one of the top on RR and I could not recommend enough to have a peek inside. The potentially faux mental scars are worth it.
This is truly, truly good writing. It's not some fantasy litrpg trash novel that most of us like reading on RoyalRoad - the quality really reminds me of the The Wandering Inn. It has depth, complex characters, and a twisted plot.
Don't underestimate the title/description. This is NOT just a story about characters struggling to adapt to coming back home. Their past plays a major role in how they perceive and interact with each other, and it gets dark.
I always felt that using multiple POVs was overused. As a reader, I like the focus on one character to really flesh out the personality, and give a skewed perspective. I like to guage how the main character's bias/personality makes them ignorant of what's going on, and to see if I as a reader can pick up on things to predict what's really happening. Imo, multiple POVs makes it too easy, and the quality of writing usually shows. It takes a really good cast of characters/plot to pull it off, but Epilogue did.
I've been on RoyalRoad for years, and every chapter I expected dozens of comments - but I only ever saw a few at most. Maybe cause the author posted all the chapters right after each other. Either way, I had to leave a review to contribute to the recognition this story deserves. Definitely going to take a look at the author's other novel.