10,000th post; 1100 words

The Judge

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#1
I was hoping my 10,000th post would occur on the 10th anniversary of my joining Chrons, but it's already arrived, a couple of weeks ahead of the Chronniversary. Never mind. I'm happy for you to provide cake and pressies now and then again next month!

Anyhow, by way of celebrating both, in adherence to time-honoured tradition started long ago, far back in the foggiest of misty mists by members whose names shall be revered if we could only remember them, herewith a piece for critique. It's something that started as a piece of flash fiction for a contest elsewhere, which I then extended into a not-prologue and to which I added a first chapter. I've not done anything with it since the the spring, but I'm half-thinking of pushing on with the story again, so thought I'd resurrect it for this.

~~~~

The two men move into the alley just as midnight tolls – dark magic is greatest in the darkest hours, and night is ever the friend of terror. Thick cloud smothers the sky; not a glimmer of crescent moon or silver starlight escapes. But Executioners need no lamps to track their prey.

Sable cloaks billowing in the icy breeze, iron heels striking sparks off filth-strewn cobbles, the men continue until they reach the moneylender’s door. There in the shadows they ready themselves. Each holds his defensive ebony staff before his face, but his obsidian witch-blade – so imbued with power, magic spills from it like shards of crystal pitch – points directly forward. Standard precautions against any unbroken sorcerer illegally hiding among the non-lit, the ordinary magic-less common folk; essential against the renegade Executioner they are hunting.

Black lightning flares. The door is heavily warded with protective spells but holds for only moments against the Executioners’ combined power. The men enter. The silent screaming begins. None of the townsfolk will hear; no one ever hears such screams. No one but Executioners, and the victims themselves.

When the shrieks of pain finally end, the rapacious moneylender and her bully of a protector lie spread-eagled on the stained floor, eyes still open but no longer gleaming in lust for the trinkets they’d extorted and stolen and killed for.

The Executioners were unopposed – time is needed for sorcerous powers to be summoned and the moneylender was given none. Yet if they wonder at her failure even to attempt counter-spells against the torment they steadily and bloodily inflicted, they give no sign as they walk away.


Only when the Executioners’ dragonboat has lifted into the sky and they are half a league distant from Jansby, on their return to the island, do I emerge from the alley’s shadows, my sable cloak now held tight against the midnight chill, my ebon staff and obsidian blade once again secured within its folds.

As I recoup a few bleak remnants of the power I gave the hovel to create its wards, I study the broken, bleeding bodies of the moneylender and her man, two non-lit common folk, with no whit of sorcerous power between them, only a cruel malignancy of spirit. Their victims will find joy in this night’s darkling work, but for me there is only acceptance of two more lives that I’ve destroyed, though these at least were justified by the crimes they had committed.

Renegade I might be. An Executioner I remain.


Chapter One

The two men were back. She’d watched the dragonboat return, watched their swagger as they walked from the landing ground to the Executioners’ Hall, watched them studiously ignore their fellows while basking in the attention they received, watched them confer behind the closed door before they entered her office. Despite her rank, they refused to give her their report, not even the brief outline as was required by all returning Executioners, insisting they had first to present themselves to the Master. But the smug expression of the one and the smirk of the other had already told Ravna all she needed to know.

She sent one servant with the news to the Grand Master – though undoubtedly his spies had already informed him of the men’s return – and several more to the heads of the other Chapters advising them an impromptu Conclave would soon be convened. Then she made her slow way to the Hustinghall, with a short detour to her chambers, to dress in the formality of her sable cloak.

Valis she left in her rooms. The mist-crow’s absence from her shoulder, protecting her blind eye and crippled side, always left her feeling vulnerable, which was doubtless the reason she was forbidden to bring him into Conclave. So, in addition to her cloak, she collected one of her wrens. When she reached the empty Hall, she released the wren, flying him to a dragon-headed corbel supporting a roof beam, where his small brown body would be invisible against smoke-darkened timbers. From there, through his eyes, she’d be able to see everything and everyone, most particularly the double horseshoe of heavy wooden chairs and their occupants.

She paused by her seat in the outer ring of chairs. She ought to sit, to await the other aides and lieutenants, then their Chapter Masters, and finally the Grand Master himself. Sit, holding herself still, impassive, so no one would see anything but her usual stark implacable composure. But the windows drew her. The windows which looked east towards the mainland and the Tylfjord. Slowly she crossed to them.

Far beyond the fjord’s hinterland of cold green hills and isolated farmsteads, beyond even the glaciers pressing down upon the mountain spine of Nordeska, lay the valleys of the Vosfylke. There, in the middle of nowhere, squatted a small gods-forgotten town called Jansby, a place of no consequence whatsoever, save it was where Frey Hemevarg Alfinnsen, the only renegade Executioner in history, had been hunted down and killed.

Hemevarg. Renegade, rebel, a threat to the Order and all its power while he lived. The man who had maimed her and left her for dead. Her once-loved, now-lost, brother.

She stood motionless, staring across the icy waters of the strait, uncertain how she felt, uncertain how she should feel, whether to gloat or to grieve, though a single tear trickled beneath the ivory mask which covered the ruined half of her face. At length, hearing excited voices approaching the Hall, she turned and limped back to her seat, and waited to learn exactly how Hemevarg had died.

*​

“And so, my lords, the renegade is dead.”

The Master of Executioners finally sat, as proud and self-satisfied as his two men who remained standing within the formal embrace of Conclave. Their report had been long and detailed, if not actually thorough; the Master’s peroration had been quite as long, but vague, pointless and tedious, just like the Master himself.

One or two minor aides softly applauded; others murmured approvingly. Ravna kept silent, the living half of her face cold and rigid, showing no more emotion than her mask, though contempt and bitter laughter bubbled underneath. Hemevarg still lived, that was clear. The question was, when – or indeed whether – she should tell anyone else.

Immediately denouncing the two Executioners as incompetents before the whole Conclave was tempting, greatly tempting, and especially delicious in the humiliation it would excrete over Aage Agnar Hagensen, the elder of the two and her perpetual rival. He’d been conspiring to overthrow her before he left. With this perceived success he would feel himself secure as the Master’s heir-apparent.

But she hadn’t achieved her position by giving in to temptation. To know, when others didn’t know, gave her power. She would use it.
.
 

TheEndIsNigh

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#2
Picky me :)

I was hoping my 10,000th post would occur on the 10th anniversary of my joining Chrons, but it's already arrived, a couple of weeks ahead of the Chronniversary. Never mind. I'm happy for you to provide cake and pressies now and then again next month!

Anyhow, by way of celebrating both, in adherence to time-honoured tradition started long ago, far back in the foggiest of misty mists by members whose names shall be revered if we could only remember them, herewith a piece for critique. It's something that started as a piece of flash fiction for a contest elsewhere, which I then extended into a not-prologue and to which I added a first chapter. I've not done anything with it since the the spring, but I'm half-thinking of pushing on with the story again, so thought I'd resurrect it for this.

~~~~

The two men move into the alley just as midnight tolls – dark magic is greatest in the darkest hours, (perhaps too much dark - early maybe ) and night is ever the friend of terror (nice). Thick cloud smothers the sky; not a glimmer of crescent moon or silver starlight escapes (tehnically it's not escaping it's just not reaching the ground). But Executioners need no lamps to track their prey (? lamps - starlight light).

Sable cloaks billowing in the icy breeze, iron heels striking sparks off filth-strewn cobbles, (jarry - If the filth is bad enough to get a mention then the sparks would be difficult) the men continue until they reach the moneylender’s door. There in the shadows (shadows need the light) they ready themselves. Each holds his defensive ebony staff before his face, but his obsidian witch-blade – so imbued with power, magic spills from it like shards of crystal pitch – points directly forward. (clumsey sentence IMO) Standard precautions against any unbroken sorcerer illegally hiding among the non-lit, the ordinary magic-less common folk; essential against the renegade Executioner they are hunting.

Black lightning flares. The door is heavily warded with protective spells but holds for only moments against the Executioners’ combined power. The men enter. The silent screaming begins. None of the townsfolk will hear; no one ever hears such screams. No one but Executioners, and the victims themselves.

When the shrieks of pain finally end, the rapacious moneylender and her bully of a protector lie spread-eagled on the stained floor, eyes still open but no longer gleaming in lust for the trinkets they’d extorted and stolen and killed for.

The Executioners were unopposed – time is needed for sorcerous powers to be summoned and the moneylender was given none. Yet if they wonder at her failure even to attempt counter-spells against the torment they steadily and bloodily inflicted, they give no sign as they walk away.


Only when the Executioners’ dragonboat has lifted into the sky and they are half a league distant from Jansby, on their return to the island, do I emerge from the alley’s shadows, my sable cloak now held tight against the midnight chill, my ebon staff and obsidian blade once again secured within its folds.

As I recoup a few bleak remnants of the power I gave the hovel to create its wards, I study the broken, bleeding bodies of the moneylender and her man, two non-lit common folk, with no whit of sorcerous power between them, only a cruel malignancy of spirit. Their victims will find joy in this night’s darkling work, but for me there is only acceptance of two more lives that I’ve destroyed, though these at least were justified by the crimes they had committed.

Renegade I might be. An Executioner I remain.

Of course you know how I feel about prologues (or even not prologues) and really this would work as a chapter one. Even so, it's good prologue and at least we haven't lept 3000 yearsforward so it remains glued nicely to what follows.


Chapter One

The two men were back. She’d watched the dragonboat return, watched their swagger as they walked from the landing ground to the Executioners’ Hall, watched them studiously ignore their fellows while basking in the attention they received, watched them confer behind the closed door before they entered her office. Despite her rank, they refused to give her their report, not even the brief outline as was required by all returning Executioners, insisting they had first to present themselves to the Master. But the smug expression of the one and the smirk of the other had already told Ravna all she needed to know.

She sent one servant with the news to the Grand Master (thought they had done that above) – though undoubtedly his spies had already informed him of the men’s return – and several more to the heads of the other Chapters advising them an impromptu Conclave would soon be convened. Then she made her slow way to the Hustinghall, with a short detour to her chambers, to dress in the formality of her sable cloak. (what no dressing down. "Where the .... have you been since you're return etc." In fact no nteraction at all - seems odd)

Valis she left in her rooms. The mist-crow’s absence from her shoulder, protecting her blind eye and crippled side, always left her feeling vulnerable, which was doubtless the reason she was forbidden to bring him into Conclave. So, in addition to her cloak, she collected one of her wrens. When she reached the empty Hall, she released the wren, flying him to a dragon-headed corbel supporting a roof beam, where his small brown body would be invisible against smoke-darkened timbers. From there, through his eyes, she’d be able to see everything and everyone, most particularly the double horseshoe of heavy wooden chairs and their occupants.

She paused by her seat in the outer ring of chairs. She ought to sit, to await the other aides and lieutenants, then their Chapter Masters, and finally the Grand Master himself. Sit, holding herself still, impassive, so no one would see anything but her usual stark implacable composure. But the windows drew her. The windows which looked east towards the mainland and the Tylfjord. Slowly she crossed to them. (OK so there are masters and a grand master, but the two seemed melded above)

Far beyond the fjord’s hinterland of cold green hills and isolated farmsteads, beyond even the glaciers pressing down upon the mountain spine of Nordeska (nice), lay the valleys of the Vosfylke. There, in the middle of nowhere, squatted a small gods-forgotten town called Jansby, a place of no consequence whatsoever, save it was where Frey Hemevarg Alfinnsen, the only renegade Executioner in history, had been hunted down and killed. (above it sounded like they were quite common what with all the precautions against one)

Hemevarg. Renegade, rebel, a threat to the Order and all its power while he lived. The man who had maimed her and left her for dead. Her once-loved, now-lost, brother.

She stood motionless, staring across the icy waters of the strait, uncertain how she felt, uncertain how she should feel, whether to gloat or to grieve, though a single tear trickled beneath the ivory mask which covered the ruined half of her face. At length, hearing excited voices approaching the Hall, she turned and limped back to her seat, and waited to learn exactly how Hemevarg had died.

Something innards says a bit of the story should be told, and yet I can see why it might work with no details. I'm guesing the plan is to reveal the details during the investigation our heroine undertakes. As in :-

She approached the house expecting the blasted ruin Gruegain has described in his report to the Masters...


“And so, my lords, the renegade is dead.”

The Master of Executioners finally sat, as proud and self-satisfied as his two men who remained standing within the formal embrace of Conclave. Their report had been long and detailed, if not actually thorough; the Master’s peroration had been quite as long, but vague, pointless and tedious, just like the Master himself.

One or two minor aides softly applauded; others murmured approvingly. Ravna kept silent, the living half of her face cold and rigid, showing no more emotion than her mask, though contempt and bitter laughter bubbled underneath. Hemevarg still lived, that was clear. The question was, when – or indeed whether – she should tell anyone else.

Immediately denouncing the two Executioners as incompetents before the whole Conclave was tempting, greatly tempting, and especially delicious in the humiliation it would excrete over Aage Agnar Hagensen, the elder of the two and her perpetual rival. He’d been conspiring to overthrow her before he left. With this perceived success he would feel himself secure as the Master’s heir-apparent. (again a bit of confusion about masters)

But she hadn’t achieved her position by giving in to temptation (being wreckless). To know, when others didn’t know, gave her power. She would use it.
.

Obviously over picky given the gravitas of a 10,000 post critique :)

Certainly intriging and it has all the right throat grabbing properties required for further reading.

Excellent descriptive bits loved the "pressing down" bit

Characterisation needs some attention IMO - but it may be you're going for a slow burner in that regard.

Confusion of the Masters and the renegade aspects. Especially as for some reason, I got the impression the observing executioner was a woman, or at least a different person to the brother.

I thoght the lack of a telling off of the two returning executioners was odd - If they were supposed to report and hadn't done so most bosses would have something to say.

Other than that, and given I had my extra special picky hat on.

Very good - liked it - want more - preferably in book form.

Hope I helped

Tein
 

Brian G Turner

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#3
I don't like the apparent omniscience of the Prologue - my reading mind cries out for a POV - but it's so nicely written that the sharp choice of words easily bring me in. Even though it's all mostly tell, it was only really this sentence I found to be too much:

Standard precautions against any unbroken sorcerer illegally hiding among the non-lit, the ordinary magic-less common folk; essential against the renegade Executioner they are hunting.
Even then, the reveal at the end that we're actually in First POV was a surprise, but made me wonder why you didn't at least include some hint from the start, such as "I see..." at the first line.

Chapter 1 - I'm thrown by the change to third-person limited. After moving to First, this jars.

The first paragraph feels a little muddled to me - I'd like to see you centre the POV character in the scene, as otherwise she feels somewhat like an afterthought. For example, if they are supposed to approach her and report, you could open with her watching and waiting for them to report to her - only to be surprised when they don't. Maybe that's what you intended in the first place, but you seem more focused on the overall movement of characters rather than the center they revolve around. This would also allow you to open with her name and make it more memorable - again, you leave it till the end of the first paragraph, like an afterthought, and it has less impact there IMO.

The paragraphs about the birds is good - ironic that the name of one opens a paragraph so it really stands out - but overall it introduces a nice feeling of setting.

Looking out of the window stretches things a little - IMO you're pushing for too much infodumping too quickly. This also jars because the description of the renegade sounds like distant history, but it's a jolt to discover Ravna is simply assuming him to be dead, which feels inconsistent. It also means we're missing the sense of expectation she might have at learning of his death.

My suggestion would be to have the meeting first, and Ravna be none the wiser for who's been targeted (the reader will presume this follows the moneylender death, and so is the moneylender being reported as killed). After that, have the others leave the room and have her look out of the window with the shock of mourning for him - then finish on the revelation that he was her brother for the stronger finish.


So, overall, a good piece of writing, but I think a little bit of juggling with the structure will give you a more high-impact piece.
 

psychotick

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#4
Hi,

10,000 posts? Wow! I don't think I can count that high!!!

As for the piece, I liked it. But there were places where it felt a little as if you were trying too hard. Attempting to be too much the literary and stealing from the story because of it.

One line stuck out for me:

Their report had been long and detailed, if not actually thorough; the Master’s peroration had been quite as long, but vague, pointless and tedious, just like the Master himself.

Peroration? Are you trying to make me read a dictionary?! Remember if I - and by extension other readers - don't know a necessary word in a sentence it detracts from our immersion in the story. In short you lose readers. I'd also make this into two sentences, and replace quite as long with just as long.

Later on you mention the humiliation it would excrete and even though I get what you're trying to convey, this just reads wrong.

There's also a piece missing in this section to my mind. Previously she was staring out the window, unsure if she was feeling grief for her bro. And that makes sense. But then in the choice not to reveal that her bro lives, shouldn't the possibility that she doesn't want him to die weigh in on her choice?

I also agree with the others that I was puzzled when she didn't get into an argument when the others refused to give her their report. Maybe you need a short explanation there.

Generally I liked this, and thought it could go somewhere.

Cheers, Greg.
 

Plucky Novice

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#5
Hi Judge, I was quietly congratulating myself, with an accompanying inner cheer, at reaching 100 posts when I spotted this thread. However, the inferiority I felt when presented with the magnificence of 10,000 posts paled when I realised the disparity between our posts was matched by the disparity of our writing skill!

I do not consider myself a sophisticated reader and certainly not a sophisticated writer but I thought I'd have a go at a critique... the least I can do for 10,000 posts. Make of it what you will.

Overall, I enjoyed the piece - the "not prologue" more so than the first chapter. It was moody and exciting, I was there in the alley right up to the revelation of the watching renegade. The ostensible switch from omniscient (as I was reading it) to first person jarred enough that I was no longer in the story. There were a few other issues for me personally that meant I didn't get back into the story within this excerpt:

- The switches from omniscient present tense to first person present tense to third person past tense (I realise the first of these doesn't really exist but it did when I read it).

- I thought that the renegade Executioner was female but it turned out not. I had to reread to work out why.

- I found I was a little overloaded with new information in chapter 1, introduced skilfully yes but a lot of it nevertheless. In particular the window viewing didn't add much to the scene for me and seemed out of character for Ravna who is otherwise portrayed as having great personal control, yet here couldn't resist the draw of a view she's seen a thousand times before.

- Ravna thinks her brother is dead, she hears the report of how it happened and comes away knowing he is alive - why? We don't need to hear the report but I found I wanted to know what the tells were that gave it away.

I do have a few specifics that could be considered as well but I'm being picky now.

Cobblestones aren't normally in alleys, they were used to prevent ruts and the roads becoming too muddy. The alley, I think, would be dirt.

The door to the house was off an alley? Surely a street?

Black lightning flares.
I'm not sure black can flare, especially in the dark - would you even see it?

I hope that is useful for you.
 

HareBrain

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#6
Congratulations on 10,000 posts!

I had much the same reaction to this as when I first read it back in the spring -- it has some great writing, and I love the setting and the general feel of it. I think I made much the same comment as @Plucky Novice , though, about there being three apparent voices in short succession. I like the prologue as a piece of self-contained fiction, but there is a jarring when carrying on, especially as we've only just had to adjust to the "twist" of it being first person. I'm not sure what advantage there is in it being first person, or present tense, when it looks like the main body of the story will be third-past. Yes, the last line strikes harder, but I don't think that's enough to make up for the disadvantages. Why not another third-past voice?

And this is just me being impatient, but when I open a new book to see if I'm interested in reading it, one of the things I first check for is how much dialogue there is in the first few pages. I'm much happier if I see a fair bit, whereas here you have one line in the first thousand words. You're under no obligation to pander to my particular tastes, but I thought I'd mention it.

I'm half-thinking of pushing on with the story again
You certainly should, as I said at the time.
 

yorelm

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#7
I felt this was a solid piece, but with an esoteric style of prose. I tend to get pulled in by the "clean and clear" where I can glide across the words with an occasional subtle elegance, and without the words getting too much in the way of the story. Here, I couldn't "glide" because, to me, too many times the words called more attention to themselves, causing me to have to slow down from the story.
But again, some solid content, and definitely not poor writing; I just couldn't flow across the page. I do feel, though, this is more of a style/preference type deal more than anything, and I'm of a different audience.
 

The Judge

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#8
Thanks, guys. All very helpful.

The trouble with introducing first person early into the first scene rather than fool readers into thinking it's omniscient, is it then effectively gives away that someone is watching, and that this someone knows all about Executioners, which to my mind rather gives the game away. And I was planning for many more small scenes from his POV throughout the story, which I also wanted in first present for stylistic reasons. I frankly don't think it would work for me if I changed it, and I certainly wouldn't enjoy writing it. Since it's obviously not working for anyone else, though, this is clearly another story for the locked cabinet in the dungeons. So thanks for helping me decide to bin it.

Plucky, thanks for the compliments, though I really don't think they're justified. But she does give chapter and verse as to how she knows he's still alive, but much later in the chapter, so it wouldn't have fitted into the 1500 word limit.

Yeah, Greg. Go buy a dictionary! :p

Thanks again.
 

Joshua Jones

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#9
Thanks, guys. All very helpful.

The trouble with introducing first person early into the first scene rather than fool readers into thinking it's omniscient, is it then effectively gives away that someone is watching, and that this someone knows all about Executioners, which to my mind rather gives the game away. And I was planning for many more small scenes from his POV throughout the story, which I also wanted in first present for stylistic reasons. I frankly don't think it would work for me if I changed it, and I certainly wouldn't enjoy writing it. Since it's obviously not working for anyone else, though, this is clearly another story for the locked cabinet in the dungeons. So thanks for helping me decide to bin it.

Plucky, thanks for the compliments, though I really don't think they're justified. But she does give chapter and verse as to how she knows he's still alive, but much later in the chapter, so it wouldn't have fitted into the 1500 word limit.

Yeah, Greg. Go buy a dictionary! :p

Thanks again.
I object, your honor! I actually enjoyed it, and thought the pseudo-perspective switch worked well. And, you are absolutely right that having it revealed earlier would have spoiled the gambit. I think what caught me regarding perspective was more it then going into third for chapter 1. Is there any chance of changing chapter 1 to first?

As it stands, I enjoyed it, and would likely continue reading if I read this in a novel. As I am sure you know from the travesties I have inflicted on this community, I don't mind more colorful vocabulary when it is appropriate, and I think you did well here altogether. I think there were a couple of places where expressions were flowery for the sake of being flowery, but they have mostly been touched upon by others.

I would keep reading, though. It seems like an interesting world with interesting characters.
 

Phyrebrat

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#10
Hi TJ,

Sorry to be late to the party...

I liked it. It ticked along nicely, just skirting the inside edge of too long, and making the premise's set up clear. These are thoughts that sprung to mind.

The two men move into the alley just as midnight tolls – dark magic is greatest in the darkest hours, and night is ever the friend of terror. Thick cloud smothers the sky; not a glimmer of crescent moon or silver starlight escapes. But Executioners need no lamps to track their prey.
I think this is an awesome opener, but I think it might be stronger if you switch the second and first sentences, thus (for ease of reference):

Thick cloud smothers the sky; not a glimmer of crescent moon or silver starlight escapes. The two men move into the alley just as midnight tolls – dark magic is greatest in the darkest hours, and night is ever the friend of terror. But Executioners need no lamps to track their prey.

Sable cloaks billowing in the icy breeze, iron heels striking sparks off filth-strewn cobbles,
I loved this image. It's crammed with environmental context, and it's very striking.

I wasn't sure what unbroken meant and...

Standard precautions against any unbroken sorcerer illegally hiding among the non-lit, the ordinary magic-less common folk; essential against the renegade Executioner they are hunting.
I stumbled on this sentence and had to read it three or so times. I'm not sure that it's clunky, so much as so dense or jargon-y (jargon-y inasmuch as what non-lit but I decided it was something along the lines of 'benighted').

no one ever hears such screams
When I read this sentence, I thought the inclusion of 'such screams' took away the impact. I tried reading it with and without, and think you could lose 'such screams' and perhaps make it sound more sinister, too.

my sable cloak now held tight against the midnight chill, my ebon staff and obsidian blade once again secured within its folds.
At this point I stopped and backed up to read the previous description of the 2 Executioners as I was momentarily confused. Then I got that they were the same kind of 'professionals' ;).

And then :

Renegade I might be. An Executioner I remain.
This confirmed it. Are you keen to play out the identity? It seems for clarity that as this is so short, you could get away with letting this slip before the bit about the ebon staff to avoid any possible from idiots who do not read fantasy. ;) It might be just me - I've not read whay the others have said above - but it would stop people like me backing up to read about the two executioners' attire/implements to check.

smug expression of the one and the smirk of the other
The inclusion of 'the' before one and other ... it's an awkward read. I wonder if it's to do with you possibly using the correct grammar but it sounding better without

Not relevant to this really, but I just loved the use of these words. It's funny how one word or two can give such a broad sense of place and atmosphere.

blind eye and crippled side,
With something this big, I'd expect to be told which side. There's a danger someone will imagine it on the right and later something will happen and we find it's the left or vice versa. Being wrong like disturbs me...

he released the wren, flying him to a dragon-headed corbel
First time I read this I thought he'd ridden the wren himself.

OT but.... I was trying desperately to describe this formation for my monks last year in Henry's bit and I couldn't come up with something so clean and simple. Consider this stolen!

Hemevarg. Renegade, rebel, a threat to the Order and all its power while he lived. The man who had maimed her and left her for dead. Her once-loved, now-lost, brother.
I'm starting to get confused over who's male and who's female. I wonder if that is because I'm reading it in your 'voice' and making assumptions some you've written as men are women, but just wanted to say that popped up.

hough a single tear trickled beneath the ivory mask which covered the ruined half of her face.
Oohh, nice.

That's the long and the short of my take on this. I'm sorry it's not as in depth as the help you've given me over the years, but it comes from the heart, deary. :D :D

And yes. Definitely write more.

pH
 

Cat's Cradle

Time, now, to read...
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#13
Congrats on 10,000, TJ!! :) At my current rate of posting, it'll take me another 16 years or so to get there.

Okay, thoughts (from a reader's perspective, not a writer's; it might all be of no use): first, I love how you write. There is great atmosphere in these posted bits. I would vote: Yes! continue writing this. IMO the story has great potential.

I actually enjoyed the nifty little POV trickery in the prologue. It didn't bother me, and I thought it was pretty cool, when the renegade revealed himself (though I didn't know the person's gender till later).

I mention gender because in reading the prologue it almost seems that there is some writerly misdirection to obfuscate who the prey of the Executioners is. The two Executioners are seeking a third, renegade Executioner...they break the wards on the door in the alley, then go in and kill a female moneylender, and her protector. It's mentioned that time is needed for magic to be summoned, and the hunters had given no time to the moneylender to prepare; it's also stated that they possibly could have been surprised she hadn't tried some basic spells against them. Then they leave, evidently content that their mission had been accomplished. This implies/suggests at this point, to me at least, the two executioners believe they've killed their prey, and so it must have been the moneylender. I'd have guessed here the renegade Executioner must also be the female moneylender. (And we don't know of the coming POV trickery here.)

But that thought was discarded when the actual renegade is introduced...it's a he. I then read back and wondered why the other two would just leave, and assume they'd succeeded. And I reasoned that the rogue Executioner might be, perhaps, more powerful than the two hunters, and had somehow ensorcelled the others so they'd not recognize that he wasn't among their victims; or to think the moneylender was their intended victim. I don't know if other people read the way I do, but I kind of need to understand something before moving on, so I'm saying this all took me out of the story, to try to work out a seeming incongruity; and if you see my point, and agree, I wonder if this bit couldn't be presented in such a way as to minimize any incongruities; or to present them in such a way that they add to the mystery, rather than bring a reader out of the story (but it might just be me who worried over this).

In reading the whole through several times, it seemed to me - especially with, in chapter 1, the strength of conviction of the two hunters that they had killed the renegade, when they recounted their story to the Conclave - that their ought to be some hint if the two men had been bewitched/tricked, if this is in fact what has happened; especially given the importance of the one hunter/Executioner to Ravna - he is her perpetual rival; and the importance of the renegade to her - he is her estranged brother. How could she tell that her brother was still alive, and that the hunters had failed, just by the way the two Executioners told their story? Was there a residue of her brother's magic on them that she sensed, and so knew they'd been magically tricked? I had to stop and try to figure this all out, which took me out of the story a bit in chapter 1, as well.

Sorry, long-winded there! I don't know how to write long stories, so it might be that the few things that I'm seeing as misdirection/ambiguities might be justified by the dictates of novel-length storytelling. If so, please disregard my comments! :) But very nice piece, and I hope you do continue, CC

ps - another tiny thing, but it seems clear there will be rivalries and intrigues of power in the story. In this bit:

...which was doubtless the reason she was forbidden to bring him into Conclave.

the 'she was forbidden' seems a bit passive. Could the rivalries be suggested here with the more aggressive sounding:

...which was doubtless the reason they'd forbidden her from bringing him into Conclave.
?
 
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The Judge

Truth. Order. Moderation.
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#14
Thanks, CC. All very helpful. I remember how you like to understand things as you read. I'm the opposite, in that I'm happy to be kept a little off-balance at the beginning of a story with just hints and half-clues, so I write what I like to read and completely ignore poor readers like you who want more. Sorry!

A little further on in Ch1 the Executioners make it clear why they're so confident, and as I mentioned to Plucky, Ravna does give details as to the extent of the Executioners' failure, from which she deduces Hemevarg is still alive, and I think both need to stay where they are for dramatic purposes. If I do continue with the story, though, I'll have a think about making the moneylender a man, since that might avoid more confusion on that score at least, and/or have Hemevarg regaining some shreds of the shape-shifting magic he'd left inside the hovel, which might make that less opaque.

Anyhow, thanks again for this. And sorry you had to read the whole thing several times -- you deserve a medal for that alone!
 

The Big Peat

Darth Buddha
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Apr 9, 2016
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#15
The PoV trickery is my favourite thing about this. And while I'm not a fan of present tense, I thought in this context it worked very well.

But overall something about this didn't grab me. If the setting and the Executioners are meant to be the hook, I think I'd like to hear more about them. If its Ravna's beef with the Executioners and the aftermath of a failed killing... not sure tbh. I feel like Ravna realising they botched it should be the denouement of chapter 1. Maybe that means I want to see Ravna interacting with the Executioners earlier, rather than doing a lot of thinking.
 
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