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Author Topic: THE HERON KINGS, Adult fantasy, five pages.  (Read 163 times)
mafiaking1936
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« on: June 29, 2017, 06:26:41 AM »

Here's the first few of my great albatross. Thanks for reading; please rip it apart!



A fresh spurt of blood flew up into Alessia’s face to paint a smear across her cheek. She didn’t flinch this time, barely noticed it. All her attention was focused on the task at hand—the sharp instruments, the rent flesh, her own precise movements. The man beneath howled in agony and the walls of the sepulchral chamber echoed it back tenfold. “Mother of gods, stop—!”

“Shut up,” said Alessia while digging her elbow into his clavicle to try and stop the squirming. “And hold still, you’re only making it worse.”

“Bitch, you’re makin’ it worse. It hurts!”

“Good! That’s how you know you’re still alive.”

“Just let me die!”

“Oh, not getting off that easy. It’s probably what you deserve, but not… quite… yet.” She tore into the jagged hole in his side again, one last time and it’d be over. Still he screamed.

“Aargh, you evil cunt! f**kin’ bitch, f**kin’ temple—”

Alessia slapped her victim, hard. “Insult me all you like. But you will not blaspheme against the Polytheon in here. There, done. You’ll live, for what it’s worth.”

Alessia turned away, exhausted. Across the nave a dozen and more like scenes played out— some with screamed profanities, some with moans, and some in silence. The sisters flitted about like angels of death, praying for the lost souls of some and sending others back into the world for another measure of misery. She dipped her hands into the ewer set in the middle of it all. The water was near scalding but she’d been scrubbed numb too many times to feel it. A young acolyte darted from somewhere to replace the pink water and soiled rags on the floor with fresh, then disappeared again.

“You enjoyed that.” The accusing voice behind her absolutely did make her flinch, even after three years.

“Is it not proper,” Alessia said, turning slowly, “to take joy from one’s work, Mother?” She tried to hold back a grin and failed.

“Don’t play clever with me girl, you know what I mean.” Mother Tanusia was herself covered in gore that lent her aged disapproval an unsettling aspect.

“Aye, and why not? Hard to drum up much sympathy; these men are the lucky ones. Those they killed not so much.”

Tanusia shook a gnarled finger in Alessia’s blooded face. “That is not your concern, nor mine! Nothing outside these walls is.”

“I know, I know. Where’s this lot from, anyway?”

“Who can say anymore,” Tanusia sighed, “some pointless skirmish not far from here, come to us from both sides. It’s hard to believe but the fighting was less savage when it was professional men-at-arms doing it. These poor fools know nothing but to hack at each other like lunatics. This war has to end soon, they’re running out of men to fight it.”

“Maybe they’ll start drafting women,” Alessia remarked.

“Don’t you even think that! You just try to find new reserves of sympathy. It’d be a shame for a bright young thing like you to turn cynic so early.”

 “Yes, Mother.”

“And remember, this temple serves as a hospital, not a torture chamber. For the love of the gods try and find some...feverfew or plantain, or something before you cut men open.” Tanusia turned away toward some other task.

“Yes, Mother.” Alessia’s latest patient put an emphasis on the point by crying out anew.

“And will you please shut him up!”

Yes, Mother.”

***


Civil war it’s called. Ain’t a damn civil thing about it.


 This was the last thing to flash through Ulnoth’s mind before he crashed through a wall of brush and down the ravine, making way too much noise for someone trying to slip away. He was outnumbered three to one, but the farmer knew the woods far better than the recruiters set on drafting him, so his odds probably worked out about fair. Fair was the last thing Ulnoth was interested in.

Sliding to a halt, he crouched to peek back up the slope where the afternoon sun lanced through the trees. Had they given up? No, a healthy man in his twenties was too precious a prize to surrender easily. He grabbed a good, thick branch from the ground and crept along the bottom of the gully, making it almost ten paces before a blur of red whipped across his vision and slammed him into the mud. It resolved into a decidedly unhygienic fellow with a toothy grin and five-day stubble, clad in the worn scarlet livery of Pharamund. King Pharamund if you asked certain folk, something a bit cruder according to others. “Now let’s have no more o’ that,” said the recruiter. “You just come along with us and we’ll get you sorted out real n— huargh!”

Having no interest in getting sorted out any way at all Ulnoth swung the branch up across the man’s jaw, launching two yellowed teeth across the forest floor followed by tiny comet-tails of blood. He scrambled to his feet and tore off in the general direction of the village. Teach me to take a shortcut, he thought.

“Muhverfugger,” the recruiter moaned, bent over and spitting more blood. Two more burst forth after Ulnoth, leaving their companion forgotten behind.

“Come on son,” called out one of them, somewhat past his prime and huffing heavily. “King’s army...needs men! No use...running, they’ll get ya...sooner or later. They get everyone!”

“Yeah,” said the second man, “we’s just doin’ our jobs! Come back, make it easy on yourself!”

Ulnoth’s mind raced with options, mostly bad, until he heard a soft trickle not far off. Cadwall’s Run! He looked for the familiar landmarks— the overturned tree stump, there. The boulder with that patch of moss that looked like St. Nelwyn…right there. Not much farther then.

Ulnoth came at last to a rickety bridge. It certainly looked solid enough to bear him across, surely good for another season yet? He didn’t step onto it but cut north upstream, careful not to stomp into the marshy wet. Now where’s that stone? He leapt lightly onto the rock that jutted from the middle of the stream, and then again towards the other side. He didn’t quite make it, landing shin-deep in a clod of muck a few yards from the bank. Good enough. He waded ashore, came back to the bridge and continued on to the village just as the pair came upon the Run. Without a moment’s hesitation they trampled onto the bridge. A creak, a groan and the rotted-out planks collapsed, tossing the two men into the water crying alarm. The fast current dragged them on, their thrashing rewarded with handfuls of mud.

Ulnoth paused to jog back to the bank and admire his handiwork. “Fareyawell,” he called with a wave as they floated away. “Give my regards to the king!”

 

***

 

“Aye, it’s the same ever’where,” said Bedegar between swigs of beer. “I’m too old to bother with but the recruiters got my nephew last season. No idea where he is now.” The old man sighed. “You gave ‘em hells today though!” A rumble of approval passed through the place, and a few congratulatory hands pattered on Ulnoth’s shoulder.

“Sure, til next time,” he said, fingering the hole that’d been ripped in his tunic at some point. “When’ll it end Bed? King, queen, one country or two nobody gives a good godsdamn. Why can’t they just flip a coin or play a round of castra and be done with it?”

“Nah, that’d make too much sense,” replied Bed.

“And now that all them fool volunteers got themselves killed they steal folk from the land to keep it going. Who do the lords think’s gonna feed their fat asses if they turn us into spear fodder? I’m only here now to haggle with the bloodsucking grain factor, which I have to do myself in the baron’s continued absence. It’s not a game anymore, Bed—I’ve got mouths to feed!”’

“I know, I know,” said Bedegar. “Speaking o’ which, how are they?”

 “Well, Lisette’s three. That’s pretty much her story. Adorable, though. A chattering little ball of mostly hair, golden like her mother’s.” Ulnoth grinned in spite of his commitment to maintaining a bad mood. “She’s taken to giving names to all our animals. And the trees. And the farm tools…”

Bedegar chuckled. “Is that so! And Athewen?”

“Makes this whole damn mess of a world bearable. They both do. It’s a hard duty though, trying to keep ‘em safe in it.”

Bed raised an eyebrow. “Is that why you seek out a lighter duty with—?”

“Don’t,” Ulnoth replied with a sharp frown.

The old man shrugged. “You’re a lucky man Ulnoth. Despite everything.”

“I am. Not that you’d know it, by the surroundings.” That was true enough. Wartime rationing made anything more than the barest food and drink illegal. Thus the taproom they sat in was literally underground, in the cellar of a barn owned by some far-off bank. It was a bit of an open secret in the village of Plisten, far out of the gaze of any heighty lords more concerned with the war between Engwara and Pharamund than bootlegging peasants.

“You takes your comforts wheresoe’er you may, my boy,” said Bed, “as I often reminded your dad, gods assoil his soul. Drink up, and soon you’ll be addled enough to believe all that cack from the Polytheon about a just reward in the next life.”

Ulnoth took his drink, then set the cup down hard. “Can’t wait that long, Bed.” His eyes drifted past the crowd and the smoke, and the corner of his mouth turned up just a tick. “Speaking of comforts…”

“Huh, don’t need to guess what you’re spyin’ at. You’re playing a dangerous game there, son. I told you once—”

“I know, and I said don’t.”

“I’ll leave ya to ‘er then.” Bed lifted his cup in mock salute as his young friend stood. “Gods lightyerpath.”

“Uhuh, and yours,” Ulnoth muttered, his thoughts already miles away.

 


 
« Last Edit: July 16, 2017, 03:42:27 PM by mafiaking1936 » Logged
Farfadet
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« Reply #1 on: July 17, 2017, 10:30:38 AM »

Quote
A fresh spurt of blood flew up into Alessia’s face to paint a smear across her cheek. She didn’t flinch this time, barely noticed it. All her attention was focused on the task at hand—the sharp instruments, the rent flesh, her own precise movements. The man beneath howled in agony and the walls of the sepulchral chamber echoed it back tenfold. “Mother of gods, stop—!”

“Shut up,” said Alessia while digging her elbow into his clavicle to try and stop the squirming. “And hold still, you’re only making it worse.”

“Bitch, you’re makin’ it worse. It hurts!”

“Good! That’s how you know you’re still alive.”

“Just let me die!”

“Oh, not getting off that easy. It’s probably what you deserve, but not… quite… yet.” She tore into the jagged hole in his side again, one last time and it’d be over. Still he screamed.

“Aargh, you evil cunt! f**kin’ bitch, f**kin’ temple—”

Alessia slapped her victim, hard. “Insult me all you like. But you will not blaspheme against the Polytheon in here. There, done. You’ll live, for what it’s worth.”

Alessia turned away, exhausted. Across the nave a dozen and more like scenes played out— some with screamed profanities, some with moans, and some in silence. The sisters flitted about like angels of death, praying for the lost souls of some and sending others back into the world for another measure of misery. She dipped her hands into the ewer set in the middle of it all. The water was near scalding but she’d been scrubbed numb too many times to feel it. A young acolyte darted from somewhere to replace the pink water and soiled rags on the floor with fresh, then disappeared again.

“You enjoyed that.” The accusing voice behind her absolutely did make her flinch, even after three years.

“Is it not proper,” Alessia said, turning slowly, “to take joy from one’s work, Mother?” She tried to hold back a grin and failed.

“Don’t play clever with me girl, you know what I mean.” Mother Tanusia was herself covered in gore that lent her aged disapproval an unsettling aspect.

“Aye, and why not? Hard to drum up much sympathy; these men are the lucky ones. Those they killed not so much.”

Tanusia shook a gnarled finger in Alessia’s blooded face. “That is not your concern, nor mine! Nothing outside these walls is.”

“I know, I know. Where’s this lot from, anyway?”

“Who can say anymore,” Tanusia sighed, “some pointless skirmish not far from here, come to us from both sides. It’s hard to believe but the fighting was less savage when it was professional men-at-arms doing it. These poor fools know nothing but to hack at each other like lunatics. This war has to end soon, they’re running out of men to fight it.”

“Maybe they’ll start drafting women,” Alessia remarked.

“Don’t you even think that! You just try to find new reserves of sympathy. It’d be a shame for a bright young thing like you to turn cynic so early.”

 “Yes, Mother.”

“And remember, this temple serves as a hospital, not a torture chamber. For the love of the gods try and find some...feverfew or plantain, or something before you cut men open.” Tanusia turned away toward some other task.

“Yes, Mother.” Alessia’s latest patient put an emphasis on the point by crying out anew.

“And will you please shut him up!”

“Yes, Mother.”

I think you added that part later on as i've read your pages before and it wasn't there. I don't think you should start with that though. You know when in the review you said you have to empathize quickly with a character, well it's hard to like the torturing sister. It's interesting but at first i thought Alessia was a torturer. I think that's what you are trying to convey like she hates  war and the soldiers but later she speaks of women being drafted like she would like to be? Anyway it's an interesting scene maybe just not to start and maybe it needs clarification on Alessia's motivations because she seems to hate her patients, hate tanusia and might come across as mean

***


Civil war it’s called. Ain’t a damn civil thing about it. I really like this sentence but there's two things : 1- it seems like something i might heard somewhere else but maube it's just because it cool ;) so you might wanna make sure it hasn't and 2- I don't think it's something someone would think as he's being chased and falling down. Especially at the start of a novel it reads more like the first words of a movie. Like Civil war it's called * pause* Ain't a damn thing... I don't know if it's clear but that's how i read it.

 This was the last thing to flash through Ulnoth’s mind before he crashed through a wall of brush and down the ravine, making way too much noise for someone trying to slip away. He was outnumbered three to one, but the farmer knew the woods far better than the recruiters set on drafting him, so his odds probably worked out about fair. Fair was the last thing Ulnoth was interested in.[/font] This should be in just one sentence for the effect of the 2 fairs to work.

Sliding to a halt, he crouched to peek back up the slope where the afternoon sun lanced through the trees. Had they given up? No, a healthy man in his twenties was too precious a prize to surrender easily. He grabbed a good, thick branch from the ground and crept along the bottom of the gully, making it almost ten paces before a blur of red whipped across his vision and slammed him into the mud. It resolved into a decidedly unhygienic fellow with a toothy grin and five-day stubble, clad in the worn scarlet livery of Pharamund. King Pharamund if you asked certain folk, something a bit cruder according to others. i think you could use this to put what ulnoth thinks so it would add voice.  “Now let’s have no more o’ that,” said the recruiter. “You just come along with us and we’ll get you sorted out real n— huargh!”

Having no interest in getting sorted out any way at unnecessary we get it all Ulnoth swung the branch up across the man’s jaw, launching two yellowed teeth across the forest floor followed by tiny comet-tails of blood. He scrambled to his feet and tore off in the general direction of the village. Teach me to take a shortcut, he thought.

“Muhverfugger,” the recruiter moaned, bent over and spitting more blood. Two more burst forth after Ulnoth, leaving their companion forgotten behind.

“Come on son,” called out one of them, somewhat past his prime and huffing heavily. “King’s army...needs men! No use...running, they’ll get ya...sooner or later. They get everyone!”

“Yeah,” said the second man, “we’s just doin’ our jobs! Come back, make it easy on yourself!”

Ulnoth’s mind raced with options, mostly bad, until he heard a soft trickle not far off. Cadwall’s Run! He looked for the familiar landmarks— the overturned tree stump, there. The boulder with that patch of moss that looked like St. Nelwyn…right there. Not much farther then.

Ulnoth came at last to a rickety bridge. It certainly looked solid enough to bear him across, surely good for another season yet? He didn’t step onto it but cut north upstream, careful not to stomp into the marshy wet. Now where’s that stone? He leapt lightly onto the rock that jutted from the middle of the stream, and then again towards the other side. He didn’t quite make it, landing shin-deep in a clod of muck a few yards from the bank. Good enough. He waded ashore, came back to the bridge and continued on to the village just as the pair came upon the Run. Without a moment’s hesitation they trampled onto the bridge. A creak, a groan and the rotted-out planks collapsed, tossing the two men into the water crying alarm. The fast current dragged them on, their thrashing rewarded with handfuls of mud. i think thats an awesome paragraph  of how to show. and not tell thanks for that.

Ulnoth paused to jog back to the bank and admire his handiwork. “Fareyawell,” he called with a wave as they floated away. “Give my regards to the king!”

 

***

 

“Aye, it’s the same ever’where,” said Bedegar between swigs of beer. “I’m too old to bother with but the recruiters got my nephew last season. No idea where he is now.” The old man sighed. “You gave ‘em hells today though!” A rumble of approval passed through the place, and a few congratulatory hands pattered on Ulnoth’s shoulder.

“Sure, til next time,” he said, fingering the hole that’d been ripped in his tunic at some point. “When’ll it end Bed? King, queen, one country or two nobody gives a good godsdamn. Why can’t they just flip a coin or play a round of castra and be done with it?”

“Nah, that’d make too much sense,” replied Bed.

“And now that all them fool volunteers got themselves killed they steal folk from the land to keep it going. Who do the lords think’s gonna feed their fat asses if they turn us into spear fodder? I’m only here now to haggle with the bloodsucking grain factor, which I have to do myself in the baron’s continued absence. It’s not a game anymore, Bed—I’ve got mouths to feed!”’

“I know, I know,” said Bedegar. “Speaking o’ which, how are they?”

 “Well, Lisette’s three. That’s pretty much her story. Adorable, though. A chattering little ball of mostly hair, golden like her mother’s.” Ulnoth grinned in spite of his commitment to maintaining a bad mood. “She’s taken to giving names to all our animals. And the trees. And the farm tools…”

Bedegar chuckled. “Is that so! And Athewen?”

“Makes this whole damn mess of a world bearable. They both do. It’s a hard duty though, trying to keep ‘em safe in it.”

Bed raised an eyebrow. “Is that why you seek out a lighter duty with—?”

“Don’t,” Ulnoth replied with a sharp frown.

The old man shrugged. “You’re a lucky man Ulnoth. Despite everything.”

“I am. Not that you’d know it, by the surroundings.” That was true enough. Wartime rationing made anything more than the barest food and drink illegal. Thus the taproom they sat in was literally underground, in the cellar of a barn owned by some far-off bank. It was a bit of an open secret in the village of Plisten, far out of the gaze of any heighty lords more concerned with the war between Engwara and Pharamund than bootlegging peasants.

“You takes your comforts wheresoe’er you may, my boy,” said Bed, “as I often reminded your dad, gods assoil his soul. Drink up, and soon you’ll be addled enough to believe all that cack from the Polytheon about a just reward in the next life.”

Ulnoth took his drink, then set the cup down hard. “Can’t wait that long, Bed.” His eyes drifted past the crowd and the smoke, and the corner of his mouth turned up just a tick. “Speaking of comforts…”

“Huh, don’t need to guess what you’re spyin’ at. You’re playing a dangerous game there, son. I told you once—”

I know, and I said don’t.did not get that.

“I’ll leave ya to ‘er then.” Bed lifted his cup in mock salute as his young friend stood. “Gods lightyerpath.”

“Uhuh, and yours,” Ulnoth muttered, his thoughts already miles away

I like it. Your writing is solid and I tried to be as thorough as my skills allow me so take it all with a grain of salt. Sometimes being less involved gives a better perspective. I hope it helps and thanks for your insight on my piece.
« Last Edit: July 17, 2017, 10:34:29 AM by Farfadet » Logged
mafiaking1936
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« Reply #2 on: July 17, 2017, 12:05:34 PM »

Hey thanks! I wish more eyes came to this section of the forum, I think we could really use them. Yeah, so the deal with this thing is I originally had the Alessia section further down and started with Ulnoth. Then I posted the first 200 words of each in the 'hook me!' thread at Absolute Write, and people unanimously preferred the Alessia section, so I moved it up. But now I have this short piece right at the beginning of the book that I didn't intend, followed by a POV shift after one page! So...I don't know what to do.

Quote
It's interesting but at first i thought Alessia was a torturer. I think that's what you are trying to convey like she hates  war and the soldiers but later she speaks of women being drafted like she would like to be?

Perfect- that's exactly what I was going for!
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