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Author Topic: Revised chapter one  (Read 290 times)
scarlett25oh
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« on: February 09, 2018, 10:29:16 AM »

  I wanted to take the critiques from my first post and apply it in this draft, I just don't know if I got it right.

                   
                                                               CHAPTER ONE       
                                                       THE DRAGON OF DEATH

   Those who were still breathing after the war were grateful. Alekse Pax stood in the Thessolonica sea and watched the invaders' ships sailing from the Exlandik shore. The same deep set eyes his father had were dark like the water sloshing against him. His thin, narrow cheeks appeared sunken in and burned by the sun. A round chin just like his mother's had been covered in sand when he fell on his way into the sea.  He dragged his boots through the rush of waves and the water rose again around his knees. There wasn't anyone left he recognized from school. Alekse looked at the faces of the men passing him by, celebrating in the water and floating in the surf.

“I made it, I'm goimg home....” Alekse whispered.

    It was his sixteenth birthday when he was called to war. Each time the captain commanded him to run, he wondered if he was going to die before he got the chance to see his father again. The boys he knew from school told him they would all make their fathers proud, only Alekse didn't know where his father was. He thought about him at the strangest times, including this one. He tried to dry his trembling hands on his coat. The moonlight shining over the water made it seem like the sea went on forever. At dawn, his homeland would be safe once the ships of the invaders disappeared into the dark.

“Alekse....” A familiar voice called.

   Alekse's soaked coat felt heavy on his shoulders. Blood that was not his own was splashed across it like the water rising and falling against him. When he first ran into the water, he thought it was a cold journey to his own death and he wished he knew why it couldn't be more peaceful. He wished that if he had to die, it would be somewhere warm and when the sun was shining. He wished he could have given his mother and younger brother a proper goodbye.

“Alekse....” the voice called again.

   Alekse grimaced, surprised. It sounded like his brother's voice, calling him back. He turned to the shore, behind him.

“Ersol?” Alekse called.

   The thought of coming home once seemed like an impossible dream. Alekse listened for the voice of his younger brother calling out to him, wandering through the soldiers who were dead.  An old man in a captain's uniform nodded as though he meant to say farewell, as Alekse marched out of the sea. The gentlest wind made Alekse shiver, the waves brought more of the soldiers from Exlandik to shore with him. He felt an arm against his boot and Alekse looked away, startled by the invader he fought against, floating at his feet. Not far from the water, Alekse walked toward the only invader's ship left to burn in his country. A single strike of lightning was spelled into the ship's hull and the flames glowed inside of it, dancing into the night sky. 

    Alekse walked away from the water's edge and into the firelight through a land filled with the dead. He tried to keep his eyes on the ship instead of on the sand where all the dead men laid as though they were only asleep, dreaming of home as he did. The carved mermaid on the ship's mast raised her arms toward the moon as the ship burned away with her. Her long, carved hair burned from the bottom first and the light illuminated her eyes, moving upward. Alekse shielded his face with his arm, watching her head falling limp. Ashes from the ship fell gently, like snow over their heads. Alekse waited in the mermaid's shadow, searching across the shoreline for Ersol.

“Alekse, help me!”

“Ersol?” Alekse called.

   He waited for an answer.

“Ersol?” Alekse repeated.

   His boots sluggishly marched through the sand because of all the water still trapped inside with his feet. Somewhere, his sword might still be near this ship, where he threw it into lightning the invaders spelled against them. He looked for a gleam of silver from the blade as he went after the voice, through the shadows of the passing soldiers. Just beyond the shore, the trees were thin and crooked like old fingers rising from the sand. Alekse marched toward them in disbelief of the familiar figure waiting for him. He had the same brown hair, a rounded chin, and the same white sleeved vest that his brother often wore to school. The familiar, figure of a young boy waved back at him. In the shadows, it was difficult to see his face, only Alekse was sure now it was him.

“Ersol, I'm here!” He yelled.

   Alekse ran after his younger brother and the wind pushed the ashes against him. He struck them away from his eyes trying to hurry through the snow like ash and the crowd. The dead along the shoreline and the injured seemed to be everywhere and it made it more diffcult to run.

“Im here, Ersol! I'm coming!”

   If Ersol went into the forest, he would surely be lost. The great Ebanian forest was called the black forest because of how impossible it was to navigate. It was like a different world than the Ebanian countryside that was their home. Alekse ran in fear of what was going to happen to him if he let Ersol be lost in the forest without him.

“Wait for me, Ersol! Don't go, I'm coming!” Alekse shouted.

   He saw his brother disappearing in the shadow of the crooked trees. A burning chunk of the ship blocked Alekse's path and he stumbled back, deciding against leaping across it. He ran from it and a wooden barrel sticking out of the sand blocked his path again.  Alekse couldn't see past the flames rising from the barrel. He hurried to get past the debris and run again to the crooked trees.

“Ersol! Ersol!” Alekse shouted.

   He came to the tree line and Ersol was gone. Breathless, Alekse stepped back where Ersol could see him in the firelight.

“Ersol, wait for me!”

   The black forest felt empty, somehow. Alekse tried to imagine where Ersol would go to hide. There were wagons hidden in secret along the road that took Alekse to the sea. Houses built in a short amount of time by the invaders were left in crumbles, Alekse could almost hear the cries from the people who lived in them, even knowing they were gone. Ersol might have gone to them, to find a place to hide. Alekse looked behind him to the burning ship. He would have to make a torch and go into the forest after Ersol. He ran from the forest's edge, leaping over the bodies and the smashed piles of wood across the sand.

“Take cover!” A voice cried.

   Alekse looked up with dread and saw the arrows falling through the ash. A man running to join him reached out his arm, it was as though he meant to protect Alekse from the fight. His two brown eyes stared upward at the night sky as he fell and his blood spilled in the wind. The arrows landed on the living and the dead. The soldiers in the water raised up their swords, running out of the waves.  Alekse stopped and he shielded his face again with his arm. Arrows fell from the sky into the soldier's limbs and backs, crashing into shields and armored vests. Fire was set to Exlandik soldiers in the distance. Alekse could see their reflection in the water, the tiny bursts of light.

“Run! Run for your lives!” a Captain pleaded, striking his sword through the arrow falling ahead of him, running in leaping bounds over burning debris.

   An Exlandik soldier appeared on the other side of the rising flames, holding up his sword.  He cried out, fearless as he ran to the black forest. He too welcomed death as a fire was set to his chest. A long arrow sank through him and he screamed a defiant and mournful scream as he fell into the sand.  Alekse felt the heat from the ship and the man on fire who welcomed death, the nearness of death as he went to take up the man's sword.

“I'm going to die out here,” Alekse whispered.

   A barricaded group of invaders marched together as one large group out of the forest. They hurried through the crooked trees, screaming as some fell and others who were stepping over their bodies found it difficult to send their arrows out. The ground began to shake as the invaders pounded their weapons against their shields as drums. They marched  through the scattered pieces of the burning ship, over one of the sails blown away in the wind. An injured Exlandik captain hobbled on his one good leg and called everyone to hurry and cut their way through the barricaded invaders, hiding behind their shields. Alekse ran to the barricade, holding up his sword.

   The invaders' shields shined in the firelight like a brightening star. The faces of the invaders were desperate. They lifted their voices higher each time one of them fell to the ground. Alekse leaped over fallen debris. He ran toward the star, his fingers still frozen from his time in the sea were firmly wrapped around the dead man's sword. He saw glimpses of the invaders in the light shining from their shields. The terror in their faces frightened Alekse too. He ran after them trembling. The invaders shot arrows from the cover of the barricade into the Exlandik soldiers coming after them. Alekse saw the other soldiers like him, running and falling in the sand.

“Run to the forest!” The captain with one good leg commanded.

   Alekse recognized his voice. He looked back at the hobbling captain, his fist raised defiant into the clouds of smoke. His cloak flew into the wind toward the fire and the captain began to fall to his knees. The thunderous shriek of a dragon shook the ground and the cries of the soldiers were for one moment, silenced.

“It's the Dragon of Death,” Alekse realized aloud.

   He felt like he was going to be sick with dread when he realized the shrieking voice had to belong to the same dragon he learned about in school. It was called the Dragon of Death because of the fire it breathed. The enormous dragon's shadow traveled across the shore. In the moonlight, his long body seemed neverending. His back curved like a snake as he flew against the wind's current. Long claws curled inward. The dragon's legs were muscular, striking against the smoke and the arrows as he circled the shore.

“A dragon is coming! A dragon! Run to the forest, hide!” an Exlandik soldier warned.

   Barricaded invaders turned their arrows to the sky, running back toward the forest. Alekse stopped, breathless on the shore. The Dragon of Death climbed down from the sky and its claws grasped the sand and debris under his feet. The flames escaped its clenched jaws as it turned its head, looking across the scattered soldiers. Some who ran in his shadow screamed they were ready to die.

   Alekse lowered his sword and grimaced. He ran with the other Exlandik soldiers toward the black forest to hide, and the dragon shrieked fire on to the soldiers running from him. Alekse looked back, the night sky was illuminated so brightly behind him it looked like a second dawn. The dragon's long silvery body was reddened by the heat from within. It moved its tail that was long and sharply pointed through the air, grasping its claws on the sand. Alekse nearly fell, stumbling on a man lying dead in the shadows as he left the shoreline and fled into the black forest.

    Torches were lit from the arrows and tiny lights scattered through the trees. Alekse hurried after them, holding up his sword. An invader leaped from behind one of the trees to stop him. The scent of the fire on his clothes and the glimpse of his face from the firelight made it easier for Alekse to find the invader in the dark. He saw a glimpse of silver, the man's sword rising over their heads and he struck his sword against the invaders to stop him.

   A wooden sword cut into his arm. Alekse saw the blade coming from behind him and he cried out. He slashed his sword through the air and struck at the invader's shoulder. The invader's thick clothes tore and reddened with his blood, his mouth aghast as Alekse struck him through the chest. He turned his back and thrust his sword against the second invader's attack. The invader lifted up his arm again to strike him. Alekse couldn't see the man's face, he imagined his eyes looking upward for the moon as he cut through him with his sword. He heard him scream and fall on to the sand.

“No!” Alekse cried.

   He lifted up his sword and turned in a circle to find where the others were running.

“I don't want to die here,” Alekse muttered.

   He felt his tears and the blood from his arm flowing out of him. Rounded drops trickled into the wind. The ground began to shake and the dragon flew over the forest. The light from the torches moved more slowly through the trees and Alekse rushed to them, struggling to breathe. The moonlight disappeared and Alekse realized with sorrowful, exhausted gasps there was nowhere safe to hide. Commands to extinguish the torches were panicked. Tiny flames disappeared and some sank through the air and lit the ground.

   The moonlight reappeared when the dragon flew down from the sky and the men in the forest screamed. The Dragon of Death's gruesome, silvery claws grasped at the trees and he lowered his head. The loud, warm breaths of the dragon fanned through the top of the trees. It rattled the branches and scattered the men on the ground, standing underneath his head.  Alekse saw the dragon's eyes through the trees and his jaws opening, shrieking fire on the soldiers beneath. The fire lit up the sky and Alekse panicked. He lowered his sword, trembling. It felt like he was drowning in the smoke. Heat from the flames scorched the air. The dragon's throaty voice and the screams of the men were terrifying. Men who were burning lifted up their arms and their voices were suddenly silenced . Their arms rattlled with their heads as they burned. Alekse watched with despair and the peace of having lived at all, believing he would die and the fire was gone.

   The Dragon of Death lifted its claws from the tree tops and took flight. It soared in the empty, starless sky farther into the black forest. Alekse saw him disappearing with the soldiers who were still alive in a haze of smoke. He hurried back along the same path he followed into the forest. He wished to return to shore and to listen again for a familiar voice before his time came to die. If he was going to die, he wanted it to be in the water, to float in the sunlight at dawn.
   
   Alekse dropped his sword when he returned to shore. Smoke filled the forest behind him and settled like dark clouds on the ground. Invaders he fought against would soon all be dead when the clouds were gone. The forest behind him felt empty again. The burning ship consumed the mermaid hanging on the mast. Alekse looked for her as he walked through the debris. After a long walk across the sand, he  removed his blood stained coat and returned to the cold, dark water of the Thessolonica sea.

“Drokare,” Alekse whispered.

   A cut from a wooden sword on his arm made it tremble worse than it had before.He moved his trembling fingers over his face and followed the lines of all the scratches that were on his cheeks. The drokare spell was taught to him by his mother. He had forgotten it required the small gray stone that she gave to him. He held his feet firmly in the sand as a wave pushed against his knees. If he stood very still, he believed he would see a sign the enchantment worked. He thought of home, outside the village of Ebania. It was a flat, grassy valley where the strength of the midday sun was responsible for the streaks of yellow in Alekse's long hair. It was tied back now, the way he might have kept it for a day's work. 

“Drokare,” Alekse repeated.

   He reached into the pocket sewed upon his vest and took out the small stone.
   
“Drokare!”

   He held up the stone toward the moonlight and shook it. He squeezed it in his cold angry fist and waited. There was nothing, no light at all came from the stone to guide him home. He had not been given the true drokare stone. Alekse grimaced, wondering why nobody believed he would return home. Alekse threw the stone as far as he could into the sea. He looked again at the moon and believed the worst had not yet happened to him. Worse than dying was to go on living as terribly sad as he had lived before. He held his head in his hands. It was the end of the war and somehow it felt to him now, as he shivered in the water and he struggled to breathe as he cried and screamed, it was only the beginning.

« Last Edit: Yesterday at 12:03:02 PM by scarlett25oh » Logged
debbie.rosenberg58
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« Reply #1 on: February 21, 2018, 07:41:08 AM »

Hi, Scarlett. 

The opening scene reminded me of the film, Saving Private Ryan, post battle, with a lot of blood and carnage. You lay a vivid scene, however I thought there was quite a bit of repetition.

Consider this point as your opening: “I'm going to die out here,” Alekse whispered.

If the scene is post big battle, with another coming, I think you should stay in the moment. There's no reason for any backstory, as it slows down the investment the reader has in this emotional, bloody scene.  You MC is obviously extraordinary and a hero, which you can demonstrate more directly by finding and saving his brother in the run to the forest. Also, if his brother was in the battle, wouldn't that be the first thing on his mind beside himself?

I'm worried about your dragon being considered cliche. Since GOT, I think it's hard to do dragons in a unique way. Does he change color, perhaps like a chameleon, so the soldiers don't see him until it's almost too late, or does the air change somehow in its presence. 

One more thing about the opening: Personally, it's hard to follow when more than one unique name is introduced in the opening, i.e, the character's name, then Thessolonica and Exlandik.

I guess the bottom line of my input is virtually no backstory in the opening; less repetition and more of the hero's action so the reader will be more invested in him.
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scarlett25oh
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« Reply #2 on: Yesterday at 12:01:21 PM »

Thanks Debbie! I'm still working on this chapter but  I wanted to highlight a section I'm pasting below to see if that resolved the brother question since its so critical to get that right.


             
                                                               CHAPTER ONE       
                                                       THE DRAGON OF DEATH

   Those who were still breathing after the war were grateful. Alekse Pax stood in the Thessolonica sea and watched the invaders' ships sailing from the Exlandik shore. The same deep set eyes his father had were dark like the water sloshing against him. His thin, narrow cheeks appeared sunken in and burned by the sun. A round chin just like his mother's had been covered in sand when he fell on his way into the sea.  He dragged his boots through the rush of waves and the water rose again around his knees. There wasn't anyone left he recognized from school. Alekse looked at the faces of the men passing him by, celebrating in the water and floating in the surf.

“I made it, I'm going home....” Alekse whispered.

    It was his sixteenth birthday when he was called to war. Each time the captain commanded him to run, he wondered if he was going to die before he got the chance to see his father again. The boys he knew from school told him they would all make their fathers proud, only Alekse didn't know where his father was. He thought about him at the strangest times, including this one. He tried to dry his trembling hands on his coat. The moonlight shining over the water made it seem like the sea went on forever. At dawn, his homeland would be safe once the ships of the invaders disappeared into the dark.

“Alekse....” A familiar voice called.

   Alekse's soaked coat felt heavy on his shoulders. Blood that was not his own was splashed across it like the water rising and falling against him. When he first ran into the water, he thought it was a cold journey to his own death and he wished he knew why it couldn't be more peaceful. He wished that if he had to die, it would be somewhere warm and when the sun was shining. He wished he could have given his mother and younger brother a proper goodbye.

“Alekse....” the voice called again.

   Alekse grimaced, surprised. It sounded like his brother's voice, calling him back. He turned to the shore, behind him.

“Ersol?” Alekse called.

   The thought of coming home once seemed like an impossible dream. Alekse listened for the voice of his younger brother calling out to him, wandering through the soldiers who were dead. He knew his brother was still safe at home and he was never here, only Alekse was certain now it was his brother's voice. There was a chance it wasn't his imagination, Alekse hurried to follow the voice and stumbled through the waves. An old man in a captain's uniform nodded as thought he meant to say farewell, as Alekse marched out of the sea. The gentlest wind made Alekse shiver, the waves brought more of the soldiers from Exlandik to shore with him. He felt an arm against his boot and Alekse looked away, startled by the invader he fought against, floating at his feet. Not far from the water, Alekse walked toward the only invader's ship left to burn in his country. A single strike of lightning was spelled into the ship's hull and the flames glowed inside of it, dancing into the night sky. 
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