Unicorn - 1181 Word Opening

Cathbad

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#1
“I wasn’t sure they was real!”

Jake guffawed. “They’s real, all right Paul, just like I told ‘ya!”

The four humans were standing over the body of the unicorn they’d just slain.

“Maybe we’d best take it an’ get outta here?” another of them asked nervously.

“Don’t let yer pants twist up them balls, Bryan! I told ‘ya, the only ones living on this mountain are elves – pacifist elves! No one’s ever been killed by an elf off this mountain!”

“S’okay for you to say, Jake,” Bryan retorted. “But maybe no one ever gave ‘em much cause to kill before. Don’t elves consider the unicorn to be some sort’a god of the forest?”

Lord of the forest. It ain’t no god.”

“Let’s just get the damn horn ‘n get the hells outta here!” Paul spat.

Jake pulled a thin, shiny dagger out of his tunic. He knelt down at the creature’s head.

“Why we gotta use that delicate-assed thing?” the fourth man asked. “It’ll take forever t’dig that damn horn out with that!”

Jake sighed heavily, obviously aggravated. “Because the wizard said it had to be cut out with this, and only this dagger. He made it clear he’d know if we used somethin’ else, and we wouldn’t be paid!

“Now, if yer all done whining, I’ll get to work!” With that, he leaned in – only to discover one of their arrows, stuck in the unicorn’s neck, was in his way. He broke it and threw it aside – but said nothing, since the fletching identified it as his own.

Jake – Jake Crowman by name – pushed the tip of the blade into the creature’s head, as clear of the boney extension as he dared. His eyes widened as the dagger suddenly glowed, and it slipped easily into the hide. He found it cut as easily as slicing through soft butter, as he guided it around the horn. When the sliced ends met, he discovered he needed to cut deeper. This time, he cut all the way to the skull – and discovered the horn was attached!

He cut away much more meat, drained the head of blood. “Gimme a canteen!” Bryan handed him one. Jake used the water and the dagger to clear everything away, so he could get a good look.

“Damn!” Bryan exclaimed. At the base of the horn was a clump of malformed bone, directly attached to the skull of the beast. “Looks like this might take longer’n we hoped,” Bryan told the others.

Jake, praying, tried to cut into the skull near the clump of bone.

The dagger shone even brighter, and sliced into the bone as easily as it had the unicorn’s flesh! He dug in until the dagger dimmed a bit, and he felt it cutting through something softer. He then cut around in a circle around the horn – until he saw the horn dip to one side. It was free!

He sat back on his haunches a moment, then grabbed the horn with both hands, and pulled. The horn ripped clear of the brain with an ugly, fluid-filled sucking sound.

Jake held the trophy up high, and the others cheered.

“Open the wine!” Paul declared, referring to the special (and expensive) bottle they’d brought to celebrate the successful end of the hunt.

“Not yet,” Jake told them. “Let’s wait ‘til we’re off the mountain.”

“But, Jake!” Bryan protested, “We always celebrate right after!”

“Well, um…” Jake chuckled nervously. “There’s something… something I um… lied about.”

Three faces confronted him, all looking both confused and a bit angry.

“You see,” Jake continued, “The elves living on this mountain? They ain’t exactly pacifists. In fact, they’re quite warlike.

“And we just killed their most sacred forest creature.”

Frack!” Paul cursed.

“Well, come on!” Jake commanded. “Grab up the gear. We have what we came for, now let’s hustle outta here!” The men worked fast, packing it all up and mounting their rides. On Jake’s signal, they all went straight into a gallop, heading south and on the trail leading off the mountain.

Adrianna was in a tree just a short way off that very same trail. She’d spotted a rose-colored bird she’d never seen before, and wanted to take a look. The bird resembled a wren, but a bit larger. It also had an almost perfectly round black spot just below its neck, and its beak was orange. Its song was as beautiful as it was!

The bird’s song suddenly stopped, and Adrianna also stopped to listen.

Galloping horses, she realized. Shoed horses! So not Plains Elfmen.

She stood up on the high branch. She soon saw four horsemen – all humans – moving quickly south on the trail. She almost laughed when she saw each face was showing a degree of fear. “You espy one of our sabre panthers then, did you, humans?” She spoke softly. She had no reason to engage these hunters. They were headed off the mountain, and she saw no signs they’d had a successful hunt. Only a few humans dared to hunt the mountain, and as long as it looked like they were hunting for food and not just trophies, the elves generally left them alone.

If a particular animal was experiencing a bad year, their numbers dwindling, an elf would be assigned to meet with the hunters to let them know to leave that particular animal be. There were very few beasts which were considered sacred, and none were eating game, so were not a problem.

When Adrianna looked back, the pretty bird had left. She sighed, but was still pleased with the experience. She would paint him when she returned to the village. She started thinking of a name for the new bird as she descended the tree.

Walking, it would take her a few hours to get back home; but the weather was pleasant, and a plethora of animals were moving about, so it would be a delightful walk!

But a quarter hour later, her smile disappeared. She caught the scent of blood – lots of it – and something else. Magic?

Adrianna changed course, toward the scent. She crossed the southern trail, and a few minutes later beheld the equine carcass.

She ran to it and knelt beside it. She had thought it to be one of the wild horses, rare on the mountain, but some wandered up from the plains from time to time.

When she saw the cut skull, the true horror became evident to her.

Adrianna stood. Her arms went straight down her sides, rigid with anger. Her hands were balled into fists.

Her golden-speckled eyes suddenly turned black. Her paleness was replaced with a red hue. She looked up – and screamed.

Magic roiled over her body. An involuntary release of her magic caused a ripple through the forest. Every creature within a mile fled. Birds filled the skies, fleeing in all directions. The hoofbeats of frightened animals would be heard fore more than an hour.

Adrianna looked southward. She brought to her mind the visage of each man she’d seen fleeing the mountain.

Four men she would kill.
 

Kerrybuchanan

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#2
I like this very much indeed, and I really want to read on, which is always a good sign! Very little to suggest.

I wonder if it might be slightly stronger if you start with the 3rd line, and have all the dialogue after it. I was told that beginning with dialogue can be disliked by agents and publishers (but I could be wrong!).

He cut away much more meat, drained the head of blood
This didn't quite work for me, probably because I'm a vet. Unicorns are horse-like creatures, and there's very little over the bones at the front of a horse's skull but skin. I didn't think it would drain with blood from this, but since you need the blood later for the smell, maybe have the arrow wound bleeding profusely instead?

When Adrianna hears galloping horses, they should be shod horses rather than shoed.

Otherwise, great job. Can I read the rest sometime, please?
 

ctg

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#3
“Don’t let yer pants twist up them balls, Bryan! I told ‘ya, the only ones living on this mountain are elves – pacifist elves! No one’s ever been killed by an elf off this mountain!”
The beginning of your dialogue doesn't work. What you say sounds silly. I would be snorting if not laughing out loud for hearing those words and not say it's okay.

“Let’s just get the damn horn ‘n get the hells outta here!” Paul spat.
The reader expects Paul or someone to look around nervously, but it's not there. The only nervousness is in the dialogue. Spitting around is arrogance.

Jake pulled a thin, shiny dagger out of his tunic. He knelt down at the creature’s head.
Jake sighed heavily, obviously aggravated. “Because the wizard said it had to be cut out with this, and only this dagger. He made it clear he’d know if we used somethin’ else, and we wouldn’t be paid!
You could use more emphasis through this piece, especially in this last sentence, as it's a bit clunky.

His eyes widened as the dagger suddenly glowed, and it slipped easily into the hide. He found it cut as easily as slicing through soft butter, as he guided it around the horn. When the sliced ends met, he discovered he needed to cut deeper. This time, he cut all the way to the skull – and discovered the horn was attached!
Attached to what? And why there is no blood splutters?

“Damn!” Bryan exclaimed. At the base of the horn was a clump of malformed bone, directly attached to the skull of the beast. “Looks like this might take longer’n we hoped,” Bryan told the others.
Unicorn is not a beast. I think it would be smoother if you would point the knife, as the butchers would do, to the bone structure instead of giving direct description.

The dagger shone even brighter, and sliced into the bone as easily as it had the unicorn’s flesh! He dug in until the dagger dimmed a bit, and he felt it cutting through something softer. He then cut around in a circle around the horn – until he saw the horn dip to one side. It was free!
Why they didn't hang the horse from the tree and the cut off his head? If the horn goes through whole skull, then surely it would be easier to take whole head than try to carve the horn and leave rest of the meat and the hide.

“And we just killed their most sacred forest creature.”

Frack!” Paul cursed.
I would expect to see a bit more reaction than just cursing.

When Adrianna looked back, the pretty bird had left. She sighed, but was still pleased with the experience. She would paint him when she returned to the village. She started thinking of a name for the new bird as she descended the tree.

Walking, it would take her a few hours to get back home; but the weather was pleasant, and a plethora of animals were moving about, so it would be a delightful walk!
That is an awkward break. It stops the flow.

But a quarter hour later, her smile disappeared. She caught the scent of blood – lots of it – and something else. Magic?

Adrianna changed course, toward the scent. She crossed the southern trail, and a few minutes later beheld the equine carcass.
Where does it come from? Surely she must have some sort of sense for a direction. Maybe join the two paragraphs together or say at least it's somewhere near.

Her golden-speckled eyes suddenly turned black. Her paleness was replaced with a red hue. She looked up – and screamed.

Magic roiled over her body. An involuntary release of her magic caused a ripple through the forest. Every creature within a mile fled. Birds filled the skies, fleeing in all directions. The hoofbeats of frightened animals would be heard fore more than an hour.

Adrianna looked southward. She brought to her mind the visage of each man she’d seen fleeing the mountain.

Four men she would kill.
This confused me. I don't really understand what happened. Otherwise it's good.
 

Toby Frost

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#4
I thought it was well-written and easy to follow. Like Kerry, I wasn't entirely convinced by the biology of it. Have you ever read T.H. White's Once and Future King? There's a killing of a unicorn in that, although it might be a step too far for what you're writing.

I was slightly surprised when they all just galloped away - perhaps a mention of their horses is needed earlier. I'd imagined them as peasants or poachers until then. I'm also not sure if "pacifist" is too modern a word for a classic fantasy setting, but I certainly don't think it's wrong as such.

My main dislike would be the exclamation marks, especially outside dialogue. I think they're a bit dated (Dragonlance was very fond of them, if I remember rightly) and they make it seem less grown-up than it is.
 

Cathbad

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#5
I like this very much indeed, and I really want to read on, which is always a good sign! Very little to suggest.

I wonder if it might be slightly stronger if you start with the 3rd line, and have all the dialogue after it. I was told that beginning with dialogue can be disliked by agents and publishers (but I could be wrong!).



This didn't quite work for me, probably because I'm a vet. Unicorns are horse-like creatures, and there's very little over the bones at the front of a horse's skull but skin. I didn't think it would drain with blood from this, but since you need the blood later for the smell, maybe have the arrow wound bleeding profusely instead?

When Adrianna hears galloping horses, they should be shod horses rather than shoed.

Otherwise, great job. Can I read the rest sometime, please?
Thanks! Those points about the horse are important, and I will make necessary changes! :)
 

Cathbad

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#7
My main dislike would be the exclamation marks, especially outside dialogue
Gads, I have a serious addiction to exclamation marks!!! Thanks for pointing it out!! (Is there a Exclamation Marks Anonymous?)

All your input is appreciated! And I will certainly correct the biology aspects!

(See? I held myself to just 7 exclamation marks in this post!) :D

dang... now it's 8!

9!

ARRRGGGHHH!!!!!
 

Brian G Turner

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#10
I'm frustrated by a few things here:

1. Lack of close POV use - we don't get close to any of the characters, so we don't get any real sense of them. Adrianna seems to be the nearest we get to that, but she's not in the first section of the story, so she doesn't feel a part of that. Even still, toward the end of the scene we end up looking at her rather than events through her.

2. Dialogue seems to be compensating for the above by telling us everything rather than showing us through character thoughts, feelings, and/or exposition.

3. I've no idea about setting - the group of males early on have modern names, but are these the human horse riders Adrianna talks about later on?

As the young males at the opening don't appear to be sympathetic, and we don't really get any depth of horror about what they're doing, is it worth starting with Adrianna and moving deeper into her experience, so that we can really feel and engage with that horror of what she finds? Just thinking aloud. :)
 

Cathbad

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#11
I've used 3rd Person, so no POV from a specific character in the first section. I don't believe it would be appropriate?

Dialogue seems to be compensating for the above by telling us everything rather than showing
Probably. :-/ Will work on it.

I've no idea about setting - the group of males early on have modern names, but are these the human horse riders Adrianna talks about later on?
That wasn't clear? I'll have to give this some thought.

As the young males at the opening don't appear to be sympathetic, and we don't really get any depth of horror about what they're doing
They were, after all, there for that specific purpose.

is it worth starting with Adrianna and moving deeper into her experience, so that we can really feel and engage with that horror of what she finds
Adrianna, as those who read Flight of the Elves could tell you, has anger issues. A horrified response would be out of character for her. Anger is her usual response. And although new readers wouldn't (yet) know this, I'm trying to stay true to the character.

the group of males early on have modern names
Hate to disagree with you on this, but Peter, Jake and Brian (Bryan) are very old names! ;)

Well, I appreciate your thoughts! :)
 

Toby Frost

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#12
I've used 3rd Person, so no POV from a specific character in the first section. I don't believe it would be appropriate?
There are two options here. Close third person is effectively told from the perspective of one character, as if you are looking over their shoulder (if it was first person, you'd be inside their head). So anything that they couldn't see, you wouldn't describe until you reached a break where you could switch to another person's point of view. This is very fashionable at the moment. A Game of Thrones is a good example.

The other option is a more distant third person - essentially a God's eye view - where you describe everyone to the same extent. Dune is a good example of this. It's not fashionable right now, although it can work very well. If done wrong, it can lead to disconcerting jumps between character points of view (head-hopping) Either is viable, to my mind, but they both have their disadvantages.
 

ctg

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#14
I don't intend to stay in 3rd person. The POV is about to change to 1st Person. :)
There is not much that you need to do to get this fixed in third. I'm pretty sure you can fix it with your next rewrite, and if you need then to do the first person switch over, it's not going to be big deal. The thing is this doesn't read like a prologue but as an exciting and somewhat dark entry chapter. It hooks the reader from the beginning, but towards the end, I find hard to figure out the transition from human to a ghostly unicorn? or even a war centaur or something similar.
 

psychotick

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#18
Hi Cathbad,

I liked it. I thought it was well written and had a hook but could use a little more description of characters and the scene here and there.

There were a couple of things that stood out for me. The first was that whole idea of the elves living on a mountain. It just strikes me that if you have mountain elves they'd actually live in the foothills surrounding a mountain range. That way you have trails and forests etc.

The next was why does your man need a canteen to drain the blood from the head? Wouldn't it it just pour onto the grass.

The other thing was the transition between the hunters and Adrianna. Considering your POV - sort of a distant third - you need to create some actual transitional text in my view. It just seemed to jump to me. You could either do that with more description etc or an actual chapter break.

Hope that helps,

Cheers, Greg.
 

Cathbad

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#19
Hi Cathbad,

I liked it. I thought it was well written and had a hook but could use a little more description of characters and the scene here and there.

There were a couple of things that stood out for me. The first was that whole idea of the elves living on a mountain. It just strikes me that if you have mountain elves they'd actually live in the foothills surrounding a mountain range. That way you have trails and forests etc.

The next was why does your man need a canteen to drain the blood from the head? Wouldn't it it just pour onto the grass.

The other thing was the transition between the hunters and Adrianna. Considering your POV - sort of a distant third - you need to create some actual transitional text in my view. It just seemed to jump to me. You could either do that with more description etc or an actual chapter break.

Hope that helps,

Cheers, Greg.
Thanks, Greg! Certainly good advice. Will work on it!
 

crystal haven

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#20
Hi

I enjoyed reading this and would definitely read on - I want to know what happens next, a bit like Kerry's response.

The very opening didn't quite work for me, not totally. I think it's because of the dialect/speech. And the use of 'standing over the body' reads a little passive. I wondered if something like crowded round, might work better, but it depends on what you want to achieve.

After reading the other comments, I'd like to add that I didn't read this as a prologue but the beginning of the story. A change to first person was not something I envisaged. But I like books in first person a lot.

Crystal
 

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