The Falconer - Maddig Vachon

sknox

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This is a background clip, written to help me get to know my villain better. I'm not quite sure where this gets used, as prologue or some other way. Anyway, here it is.


Maddig Vachon was ten years old with the trolls came to her village. They burned the homes, carried away the men and women as slaves, and left the younger ones for the wolves. For some reason, not that reasons mattered, a troll killed Maddig’s mother. He wielded a monstrous hammer. The girl saw this happen, but could never afterward remember any details. Her recollection was only a red fog through which shapes moved and fell. Only that, and a deep cold that lay at the bottom of her belly like winter soil.

On that day, though, in that moment, Maddig saw with utter clarity. Her mother’s head exploded as the war hammer swept through and her body collapsed. The troll stood just beyond, his powerful legs in a wide stance, bloody hammer in one huge hand. His chest was covered with designs. All trolls did this—even at ten Maddig knew this much—but this particular troll bore a crude figure of a human that stretched from his neck to his waist. The figure was headless.

As soon as her mother fell, Maddig attacked. She summoned stones and sticks, hurtling these at the troll, causing him to grunt like an ox but doing no damage. She tried to seize control of the hammer, to use it against him, but the weapon never budged, so she charged, furious as an avalanche, intending to tear out the troll’s eyes.

This was a mistake.

The troll glanced at her, watched her tiny assault. As she launched herself over her dead mother, the troll swung his other arm and batted her away. She tumbled sideways like a tossed pebble, then slammed into the hard ground. For a moment, everything stopped—her breathing, her perception, even her blood seemed to stop its movement. Her thoughts remained utterly clear.

Don’t move.

Breathe quiet.

Wait.


She soon heard the troll’s heavy tread as he moved away, toward other cruelties. Maddig turned her head just enough to track him with one eye. She recorded everything about him—his gait, the color of the hammer, the long earring of bone that hung down over his left shoulder. This was her target; she would not forget; she would not mistake.

The creature made his way around a burning hut. Black smoke writhed upward into a pale sky. The ground smelled cold, for autumn was fading. Screams tore the air from time to time, but mostly she heard the deep grunts and growls of the trolls, as if bears were rooting through her village.

Maddig waited, unmoving, until she judged the moment right. She had the cunning of the young and the trapped. Scrambling to her feet, she darted low and quick until her troll-for that’s how she though of him now—was again in view. At once she cast herself to the ground, motionless, waiting. Another of the dead.

She realized she would need a real weapon, not the flails and rakes and mattocks that lay scattered about. She passed one sword, but it was as big as she. Having to play dead most of the time made the searching harder.

Across the village, the trolls were getting ready to leave. Their captives, collared and chained, stood with heads down, most bloodied. A boy, still free, ran at a troll, screaming rage and murder. Another troll gutted him from the side with a short spear. He twisted and fell with a high-pitched cry that sounded like a rabbit. Maddig took note of another mistake she would not make. She would wait until her troll was alone when she killed him.

The sun was well up now, driving off the last of the chill. The stench of fire and blood and offal poisoned the air. The girl sidled and edged her way closer. She found a knife and tested it against her own flesh, then set it down again. Too dull. Not that mistake, either.

The trolls began to move. A few had whips, using these to move and direct the train of slaves that yesterday had been her village. She paid no attention. There was her troll, and he was leaving. Maddig followed, small, furtive, wet leaves in her hair, sly as a wild dog.

At the edge of the village, the pale sun showed her a knife. She picked it up on the run, for trolls move fast, even when herding slaves. She tested the blade on her arm. Blood sprang forth at once and she suppressed a cry of pain even as she smiled. The knife was as sharp as her need. She tucked the knife into her rope belt, clamped a hand over her would, and settled into a run. Not pain, not breath or laboring lungs, not aching muscles, nothing would stop her. She watched everything as she ran, never losing sight of her troll.

Behind her, the village burned, small children wept and wandered, and not once did Maddig Vachon glance back.
 

tinkerdan

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Ok--this is interesting.
Just one thing.
Maddig Vachon was ten years old with the trolls came to her village. They burned the homes, carried away the men and women as slaves, and left the younger ones for the wolves. For some reason, not that reasons mattered, a troll killed Maddig’s mother. He wielded a monstrous hammer. The girl saw this happen, but could never afterward remember any details. Her recollection was only a red fog through which shapes moved and fell. Only that, and a deep cold that lay at the bottom of her belly like winter soil.
Having this at the start sort of muddies up the POV for me and then takes away some of the power of what's happening.

Starting with this...
On that day, though, in that moment, Maddig saw with utter clarity. Her mother’s head exploded as the war hammer swept through and her body collapsed. The troll stood just beyond, his powerful legs in a wide stance, bloody hammer in one huge hand. His chest was covered with designs. All trolls did this—even at ten Maddig knew this much—but this particular troll bore a crude figure of a human that stretched from his neck to his waist. The figure was headless.
Might help and you could even stick that other paragraph at the end

Behind her, the village burned, small children wept and wandered, and not once did Maddig Vachon glance back

Maddig Vachon was ten years old with the trolls came to her village. They burned the homes, carried away the men and women as slaves, and left the younger ones for the wolves. For some reason, not that reasons mattered, a troll killed Maddig’s mother. He wielded a monstrous hammer. The girl saw this happen, but could never afterward remember any details. Her recollection was only a red fog through which shapes moved and fell. Only that, and a deep cold that lay at the bottom of her belly like winter soil.
 

sule

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I agree that the first paragraph has more distance from the narrative than the rest of the passage. The first paragraph frames the whole thing as a recollection, then the rest of it is very much in the moment of the event. I personally feel the first paragraph is out of place with the rest of the passage as it is currently written, but I think you could rework it to fit the closeness of the rest.

I certainly enjoyed reading this. I felt like you did really well building and sustaining tension through the scene as she stalks her troll, giving us enough of her point of view that we understand her way of thinking without slowing down the narrative.

You also gave us a hint toward her abilities in her first tussle with the troll; I assume that you delved more deeply into it later in your story, but for my personal taste as a reader I would have liked to see that come up again--even in a small way--in this passage.
 

CTRandall

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I agree with the others that the start doesn't fit with the rest. You say Maddig couldn't remember details then give a detailed description of events. Jarring.

But the rest of it also feels like a first draft. The action lacks intensity and punch and reads almost like you were putting an initial description of the scene on the page with the intention of going back and fleshing it out. There's no emotional reaction to her mother's death and, while the sentence describing her killing is good, everything around it is very flat and distant. This could be fine if it really is a memory but, at this point, it seems more like we're there in the moment. The line "His chest was covered with designs" is also a problem. Are they crudely painted in the blood of victims? Are they intricate tattoos with some unknown significance? You quickly add more information but the result, for me, is that the sentence about designs feels like a placeholder, a reminder to you, the author, to put in more detail about the troll's chest designs.

It improves after that. As Maddig notes various mistakes, you effectively build up the traits that make her into a memorable character: single-minded focus, intelligence and tenacity. And you show us those traits in action. That is well done!
 

.matthew.

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I found the sentences to be a little sharp. By that I mean it felt that there were too many short staccato punches. I really liked them individually, and for large parts they made a lot of sense and helped ramp up the tension, but I felt the piece was a little too long to keep that pace up for so long.

I actually am a fan of that sort of sentence, so don't get me wrong, I definitely enjoyed it, but too much of a good thing, ehh...

As to what others have mentioned, I'd agree that the first two paragraphs feel disconnected, but that could be understandable with trauma. Maybe be better if she didn't see all that detail at the time and in fact just saw the red mist, with the details of the troll (the markings etc) coming as she stalks her target?
 

Bren G

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Hi Sknox,

Firstly, let me state that writing is subjective and style is one of those things that is liked by one and hated by another. However, there are some elements that I believe are common to making up a good story. The opening line is compelling. I draws me in to the story as I can envision them waltzing in, confidently and having their way. The ensuig chaos of this scene is my cup of tea. However, you may consider a few things.

1) Show don't tell. Instead of explaning the scene depict it in the reader's mind. You do this after the mother's death but should do it from the outset. There's no guarentee the reader will get beyond the first few lines so fire away! I crack a book open in the store, ready three lines or so, before I put it back or decide to read on. These opening lines are critical. Here's a rough example for your consideration:

Maddig had just celebrated her ten year old birthday when they came. It was the green pock-marked face, wide mouth with upturned tusks and the amber teared drop eyes that first caught her attention, and as the creature passed through the market sqaure, she could see its gargantuan-sized head was set upon shoulder's twice the size of the largest man in the village. It snorted and snarled and held its back straight with an unmistakeable confidence that there was no one who would contest it. {You could also write in the chest markings here so it doesn't slow down your narrative later on }

2) Consider wordiness and non-value words. For example :

For some reason, not that reasons mattered, a troll killed Maddig’s mother.

You've six words that don't add any value to the narrative. Also, it would be untrue to say there was no reason. There is a reason, and it is that the Troll's job is to kill and steal. Anyone who is in the way, is simply, in the way of the Troll doing its job.

3) Second, show don't tell applies here as well. Also, look to build suspense by not revealing it is her mother to starkly.

Consider this as a rough example :

The monster's eyes narrowed as if it focused on something nearby, and it grinned a wry smile and barked a harsh guttural laugh. With fluid ease, it grasped a large hammer slung around its shoulder and lunged forward as it raised the weapon high above its head. In that instant, she saw what it had targetted. Mom. What was she doing there? She stood within the cobblestone plaza, alone and frozen in fear, the red apples she had carried rolled aimlessly at her feet. The monstrous hammer swung down but by the grace of the gods, the sole mercy of that day was that Maddig couldn't remember what happened next. Time had pushed the dark memory aside, bottled it away, somewhere beyond her recollection. Until now.

[Note: you could use a dream scene perhaps here when she has her first recollection]


Good start to be sure! Keep up the process! Hope these ideas help you. :)
 

Richard-Allen

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hi,
That was good. The way that you began the piece telling us she was only ten does not make sense. She would have surely been killed by the troll.
She desired to stop them. Her first attack proved futile, She decided she would need a serious weapon. Watching as they killed the boy by gutting him with the spear. The description as good. I to have a problem showing things that are done. I also tell the reader what I would rather show him/her. This is something I have to learn to do. Try and shorten the description make it more efficient.
The figure draw up his sword. Brought it down in the arm of the troll, The other way, the figure leapt forward reached the sword drew it up, swung it with out hesitation. Catching the trolls arm with it, Blood leapt from the wound. To shower him in its blood. It died as the blood drained from the wound.
If you shorten it. The reader does not have to read ten words when five will do. Your story is great. Keep up the work you are doing here.

Thank you. I am pleased that I was able to help you in this story. Keep up the good work.
 
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