another long piece...

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chopper

Steven Poore - Epic Fantasist & SFSF Socialist
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this comes after a brief bit of action opens chapter two and is a slight change of pace. is the scene-setting a bit too info-dumpy, or is the detail enough to keep the story going?

The Portsvales connected the shores of the Tiendre Ocean in the west to those of the Ce’Wauh Ocean in the east through a long series of interlocking valleys. Here the distance between the two coasts was reduced to a journey of four or five days by horseback. This was the most direct trading route back to the Ce’Wauh basin from the busy town of Westport but, surrounded by woods on both sides, it was not necessarily the safest.

Merrill’s Woods dominated the hills to the north until they finally reached the grasses and plains of the Northern Barrens. Dense dark and trackless, they were unexplored and home to hundreds of folk tales. These woods had harboured bands of murderers, oath breakers and rag baggers - kept them and never let them free again, though travellers in the Portsvales might hear their screams at night. These wood had swallowed a manor whole, the good folk vanishing without a trace. The manors around Eastport, Ce’Wauh and Westport had cut into the edges of Merrill’s Woods for lumber and to clear arable and grazing land, but it was said they never turned their backs on the trees without feeling uneasy.

The Dead Forest took over on the southern side of the Portsvales, hugging the western coastline and spreading east to Bene, and driving almost as far south as Merrill’s Woods had grown to the north. This was a forest of stark contrasts where verdant greenery sat side by side with ancient twisted trunks and arid patches of grey, dusty ground. Here too there were neither paths nor manors: the land could not be farmed and the trees were useless as lumber. In any case, this forest had once devoured an entire army, leaving no trace and never giving back even the smallest remnant. The most foolhardy prospector would not settle this land if it was gifted to them.

Animals and strange beasts lurked in both the Dead Forest and Merrill’s Woods alike: wildcats and dogs; herds of agile springheel, tender and succulent if they could only be caught; majestic birds with piercing songs; snuffling nocturnal lopers trawling the ground for berries. But there were also packs of unwolfs, indiscriminate in their choice of prey and entirely at home in the dense woodlands. Some tales said that the unwolfs kept to the edges of the woods because beasts even more brutal and frightening roamed the distant unravelled interiors.

Aelia had heard all these tales and more at Castell Dreif and from the Markers now escorting her, but she was thankful she had never been inclined to hear all of the horrible details. She feared her imagination would have run free with the vivid descriptions. With Merrill’s Woods looming down from her left and the Dead Forest away to her right she felt hemmed into the middle of a nightmare.

Here and there a thin stand of trees reached down a hillside, sometimes managing to form a ragged and isolated copse in the valley itself. In these places one or both of the forests had closed in over the valley, heightening the sensation of being watched. Some said that the two woods feared each other and had left this gap between themselves as a mutual boundary. Aelia’s tutor had told her that the Portsvales were lined with different and infertile soils. Right now Aelia was inclined to believe the tales more than Garran Ashbaard.

In the two days that they had so far spent crossing the Portsvales the Mark had passed more than a score of the larger copses and stands, all of which had shown the debris of human occupation: trampled ground, blackened remains of campfires, and even an abandoned makeshift shelter. But only once had they come across fellow travellers: a few hours after leaving Westport, with the sun still peering over the horizon, they had caught up with a long caravan that had departed the previous day. The Mark had raced up the flanks of the comparatively slow train of wagons, under the envious and wary stares of the rough and poorly armed boys who sat atop some of the loads.

“Ride with us!” a well-dressed man on the lead wagon had called, his tone cracked and pleading. “I can pay - whatever you ask!”

The Cymdir only shook his head. The Mark had not paused, keeping the bruising pace he had set at the start, and they’d left the over-laden wagons out of sight very quickly. Aelia was surprised that this was the only caravan they’d seen, given the route’s importance. Tarpaendir, naturally enough, was not surprised at all when she had questioned him at their next rest.

“People feel that the Portsvales are more dangerous now than they were a few years ago. These days most traders will combine their loads and wait until their caravan is large enough before leaving the safety of the walls. There is safety in numbers - there were over thirty wagons back there, Jagter. They will be safe enough I think, but it will take them twice as long to make the journey.”

In truth Aelia would have been happy to slow down; she felt she had not been able to stand still for more than five minutes since leaving Dreif a month ago. She never thought she would actually come to miss the old Castell.
Despite her discomfort as her body complained and ached with the Mark’s haste, Aelia smiled as she reminisced. All she had ever known was Dreif, a bleak and dull island that was said to be so flat nothing stood taller than the sheep. For the last ten or twelve years, leaving the island had been a burning desire: there had to be more to this life than windy corridors, damp bedchambers and endlessly dry books and papers, and the young apprentice wanted to see it all.

And look at me now, she thought. The youngest raised Jagter that even Garran ever heard of, and sent out with a full Mark as well! She would have loved to have seen the faces of the other apprentices when they found out, but she had been raised less than five minutes before being sent to collect a small box of unearthed relics from the Fifth of the Endon Isles, off the west coast of Rauma.

She’d been seasick all the way through the Straits of Chance, destroying her euphoria entirely - how in the world could those waters be called calm? - and the voyage south from there to Endon had been almost as bad, with gales rocking the ship constantly. By this time Aelia had regretted ever agreeing to the journey. Then, on dry land at last and with the ground no longer swaying beneath her, a bird arrived from Dreif with an urgent message. Jagter Aelia and the Grey Cliff Markers were to ship out again immediately with orders to attend the Kinsmeet that would be called at Castell Ash.

She had only to think the word for her heart to skip a beat, and she dared not say it aloud for fear of cursing herself. Such a whirlwind of a month and now this - she didn’t think her feet had yet touched the ground. Even the unpleasant encounter with the unwolfs that morning had failed to spoil her overall good humour. The only cloud in her sky was the Cymdir’s contradictory moods of haste and caution that bordered on paranoia.

I think I could put up with travelling for five more years just to attend one Kinsmeet, she thought. Every Fifth in Rauma there in one hall, with honour guards, and games, and tourneys…and I’m going to a Kinsmeet. She knew she ought to be examining it more rationally, thinking of the alliances that might be brokered or broken and of the eventual outcomes for each Fifth, but her mind simply refused to be so serious.

The letter containing the orders was in her saddlebags, safe in the same wooden box as the Endon relics for the time being. She had not recognised the hand in which it was written but the seal was that of Lady Faelis Ce’Randt, Jagter of the Water. Cymdir Tarpaendir had looked troubled by the orders, as he had done by everything since, and had even gone to the extent of scratching his fingernails on the waxy parchment, perhaps to see if the letters would come off, but he had no answer to the glorious black seal.

Castell Ash: another ship to be chartered then, once we reach Eastport. Five or six days more by sea and hopefully with far better weather, and then an island with no unwolfs at all. She looked forward to sleeping in a dry, warm bed - something their rapid departure from Endon had cruelly deprived her of. They had left the islands before the Fifth had even begun his own preparations for the Kinsmeet, and were easily two days ahead of him.

Her mind fell into dreams of dashing young Lords and rose-scented pillows - the staples of the florid romances that lay on the shelves of even Castell Dreif’s staid and learned libraries, and she wished the long and numbing journey through these valleys would hurry to its end.
 

svalbard

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Info-dumping is something I am well versed in. With your excerpt it is ok, but it depends upon what comes before. If the preceding chapters are good enough then the info-dump, in my opinion is fine. The grammar I will leave up to others. 'ragbaggers', I love that term and wish I had thought of it. You are very good at the world building, but the pacing was not as good as your other post. No problem there as I know that you have the craft to repair that. Hope that helps...
 

nj1

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Has the mornings meeting of the unwolfs already been written about, if not a flash back would break it up a bit?
 

chopper

Steven Poore - Epic Fantasist & SFSF Socialist
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Info-dumping is something I am well versed in. With your excerpt it is ok, but it depends upon what comes before. If the preceding chapters are good enough then the info-dump, in my opinion is fine. The grammar I will leave up to others. 'ragbaggers', I love that term and wish I had thought of it. You are very good at the world building, but the pacing was not as good as your other post. No problem there as I know that you have the craft to repair that. Hope that helps...
yes it does, svalbard, thanks. i think i'm a little hindered by having to explain a bit about this portion of the world as it'd be even more info-dumpy for Aelia or the Cymdir to have to explain it all to John (& The Audience) later on. in fact i know there's a Portsvales info-dump in a later chapter that I haven't revised yet....hmmm. pace-wise, i'll look to see if i can improve it and speed it up a bit...
Has the mornings meeting of the unwolfs already been written about, if not a flash back would break it up a bit?
yep, the encounter with the unwolfs was the "bit of action" that opened the chapter. it's kinda structured as action, description, action in this chapter.
 

Zubi-Ondo

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Hi Chopper - Didn't have time to look at this 'til now. If I wasn't so busy reading SF to research for my project, this passage gets me interested in Fantasy again. I have read only 4 or five Fantasy books ever, but hope to read more in the future. That said, some of my comments may releate to unfamiliarity of the genre.

The Portsvales connected the shores of the Tiendre Ocean in the west to those of the Ce’Wauh Ocean in the east through a long series of interlocking valleys. Here the distance between the two coasts was reduced to a journey of four or five days by horseback.

"The 'A' connected the 'B' in the west to the 'C' in the east by a long series of interlocking valleys." was a little hard to follow. Here's my confusion: " A long series of interlocking valleys connected the 'B' in the west to the 'C' in the east. The relationship between the Portsvales and the valleys is (?)"

Then 'Here' the distance... leaves me asking the question Where?

Some tales said that the unwolfs kept to the edges of the woods because beasts even more brutal and frightening roamed the distant unravelled interiors.

Might I suggest the word ‘inmost’. (rather than distant)


In the two days that they had so far spent crossing the Portsvales the Mark had passed more than a score of the larger copses and stands, all of which had shown the debris of human occupation: trampled ground, blackened remains of campfires, and even an abandoned makeshift shelter. ----

The Mark had raced up the flanks of the comparatively slow train of wagons, under the envious and wary stares of the rough and poorly armed boys who sat atop some of the loads.

“Ride with us!” a well-dressed man on the lead wagon had called, his tone cracked and pleading. “I can pay - whatever you ask!”

The Cymdir only shook his head. The Mark had not paused, keeping the bruising pace he had set at the start, and they’d left the over-laden wagons out of sight very quickly.

I am confused as to who or what the “Mark” is. It/He is also known as “The Cymdir”? (possibly explained in previous chapters)

“People feel that the Portsvales are more dangerous now than they were a few years ago. These days most traders will combine their loads and wait until their caravan is large enough before leaving the safety of the walls. There is safety in numbers - there were over thirty wagons back there, Jagter. They will be safe enough I think, but it will take them twice as long to make the journey.”

I don’t understand who is talking here.

She had only to think the word for her heart to skip a beat, and she dared not say it aloud for fear of cursing herself.

Perhaps ‘She had only to think of the word’

Every Fifth in Rauma there in one hall, with honour guards, and games, and tourneys…and I’m going to a Kinsmeet.

What/who is a “Fifth”? (possibly explained in previous chapters)

- Zubi.
 

chopper

Steven Poore - Epic Fantasist & SFSF Socialist
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hey there, z

thanks for taking the time to read this one. i'm flattered that i might get you to read fantasy again, when i'm actually desperate to read the latest peter f hamilton tome...!:)

so, bit by bit...

"The Portsvales connected...": yup this is a convoluted sentence and probably rather clunky. my starting sentences are usually clunky. i'll have a bash at it....

"distant un[t]ravelled interiors": oops, just spotted my own typo. actually, i think i've overwritten and just "untravelled interiors" would do just as well.

"In the two days...": here's a context thing. without a big info dump - which you don't want to have to read in every single excerpt everybody writes, and i'm trying to avoid here anyway - you've got to guess who/what the Mark and the Cymdir are from the context. The Cymdir is the Commander of the unit (mark) of soldiers.
likewise further down with the reference to the Fifth - in our world, feudal lords/the church took a tithe (a tenth) of a man's crops. in my world, the feudal lord takes a fifth, and is known as the Fifth (of wherever). if that sounds greedy though, just look at the income tax rates....ouch.

"She had only to think...": yup. sounds better, cheers.

who is talking here? : the previous sentence makes it clear, i hope. "Tarpaendir, naturally enough, was not surprised at all when she had questioned him at their next rest."

glad you enjoyed it, and good luck with your research, z.

s
 
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