Chronicles Of The Shorewalker - Book Four - Chapter 2

Shorewalker

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Started 2nd draft of this beast and am surprised that it's not as rough as I imagined. There are a few keys scenes early on and this one is probably the most important. Sion and Darius are going to lead a massive sub-plot and this is their first meeting. I'm aiming for a father/exasperated daughter sort of relationship, with a bit of caustic humour sprinkled in...


Darius bent his head and retched, his hair hanging in sodden ropes around his face. He had not eaten since the previous evening and so little came up save sour bile. He coughed and gagged again before slowly struggling to his aching feet.

When on hands and knees, he had seen something through the trees. Or at least he thought he had. His vision was not reliable right now, swimming in and out of focus as it was. He took the last of the water from his skin and set off on unsteady legs.

It could have been a cabin. I reckon I’m close enough to Burnt Oak lands now. He looked to the blue skies, visible through the mesh of bare branches. And in good time, too. It’s not yet noon.

He stumbled up a mossy rise and through a tangle of brush. He disturbed a hare in the process, the creature bounding away with more energy than he could muster. Shifting out of the trees, he came into a clearing, its spread covered with the whites and purples of snowdrops and hellebores, their scents a light edge in the chill air. Ahead of him was a pen, chickens clucking in agitation as they turned black eyes to regard him warily.

Raised up on rocks to his left was a small single-storey log cabin, neatly kept and with smoke curling lazily from its stone chimney. On its door was hung a wreath, a circle of bright flowers and sprigs. There was a woodshed, cords stacked high, and beside it, a goat was tethered, its expression suggesting it was no happier to see Darius than the chickens. He sank to the turf and tried to rub some ease into his thighs.

“Hello!” he shouted. He had no idea who lived here and had no desire to hammer on their door and startle them. It would be a poor end to his trek if he ended up with a knife in his gut.

The cabin remained silent, though, and so he shouted again. “Hello? Is anyone at home? I mean you no harm.”

With a low creak, the door cracked open and a face appeared around its edge. It was a young woman of perhaps twenty years with blonde hair curling over her shoulder and doe eyes. Those eyes widened as they alighted on Darius. She lifted one hand to her mouth.

“Oh.”

Darius levered himself to his feet. It was not exactly graceful but with his legs and arms still trembling, it was the best he could do.

“M’lady, I’m sorry to disturb you but are these the lands of the Burnt Oak?”

The young woman came out onto the stoop. One hand clutched at her throat, she nodded.

Darius sighed his relief. “In which case, do the Burnt Oak have a hedge witch or do they at least know where there is one?”

The woman nodded again and for a moment, Darius worried that she might be simple.

“Can you direct me, please? I need their services and I need them urgently.”

The woman spoke but her words were too low to hear. Darius cupped an ear and shrugged.

The woman rolled her eyes to the heavens. “I said you’ve found her.”

A broad smile came unbidden to Darius’ lips as he approached. His legs were still shaking but he managed to keep upright. “Could you get her for me, please? My need is dire.”

The woman lowered her head and wiped her hands on her apron. “It’s me. I’m the hedge witch.”

Darius stopped. “You? But you can’t be more than…”

Her eyes flared, the deepest of emerald green. “I have seen nineteen winters and have been training since the fifth.”

Darius held up a hand. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to offend. It’s just that…”

“…I’m not what you’d hoped for. You’d hoped for someone with honed skills, deep knowledge and decades of experience.” She sighed and looked to the ground. “We can both count ourselves disappointed, then, for I didn’t want any part of this, either.”

“Any part of what?"

“Your need, Darius Bandor. The trouble you’ve gotten yourself into.”

Darius pulled up short. “How do you know this? How do you know who I am?”

“That’s for later. Just wait here.”

“Where are you going?”

She scowled and pulled at her skirts. “I can hardly go racing through the forest in this, can I? I might have known you’d be coming but nobody bothered to advise me of the time and day.”

Before Darius could question further, she ducked back inside the cabin. He had not explained what was required but somehow, she seemed to know. He went and stood by the door.

“Do you have a name?”

From inside came the dull sounds of rummaging and things being moved. He thought he heard a voice but could not make out what was being said.

“Pardon?”

“I said my name is Sion!” came a yell, its exasperation clear. The door cracked again and a hand shot out. In it was a stone mug.

“Drink this.”

Darius took it and the door slammed shut again. He sniffed at the contents, detecting mint, lemon and some unknown spices.

“What is it?”

There was no response, just more vague sounds. He put his nose to the cup again and decided he would do as he had been told. She might not be what he had expected but he needed this young woman’s help. To turn down the offered drink would not be the best way to start.

With a swift flick of his wrist, Darius downed the contents in one. The liquid was quite vile but it did clear his mouth and throat, easing their dryness. He was about to call out his admittedly insincere gratitude when the door flew open and Sion marched out. She had swapped dress and apron for trousers, boots and thick jerkin, a short jacket coming down to her hips. Around her slender waist was a belt studded with pouches and she was carrying a satchel that was looped over her shoulder and chest. She said nothing but instead approached the goat, who she untied. Next, she went to the chicken pen and pulled open the gate. With clucks of glee, the birds raced out into the clearing.

“Why are you doing that? They might not come back?”

Sion looked to her boots. “And that is for the good, for I will not be here. I’ll not be returning to this place. Not today, not tomorrow, not ever. Now, we need to go slightly north, do we not?”

She did not wait for confirmation but instead marched across the clearing and started down the gentle rise into the trees.
 
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The Judge

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Shorewalker, as ever the software has torn out formatting, and in this case added extra blank spaces between the paragraphs. I've taken the liberty of editing your post to remove the extra as it might have proved to be a little off-putting for readers. Another time, do remember to check a post afterwards as the software is a b*gger for doing things like this.

I don't have time to do a critique now, but I have to say for my taste things needed to move a little more quickly -- it felt too longwinded and too repetitive. It was also very obvious that she was going to be the hedge witch, so I don't think spinning his mistake out helped in that respect. I was also pulled out a little by the use of "log cabin" when there's been nothing previously that suggested this was US based, (so either add more US feel, or make it eg "cob cottage" if it's vaguely English) and while the name "hellebore" is ancient, it felt distinctly out of place for the folksy feel of the rest, so I'd suggest using a folk name eg winter rose or finding another plant.
 

Shorewalker

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Shorewalker, as ever the software has torn out formatting, and in this case added extra blank spaces between the paragraphs. I've taken the liberty of editing your post to remove the extra as it might have proved to be a little off-putting for readers. Another time, do remember to check a post afterwards as the software is a b*gger for doing things like this.

I don't have time to do a critique now, but I have to say for my taste things needed to move a little more quickly -- it felt too longwinded and too repetitive. It was also very obvious that she was going to be the hedge witch, so I don't think spinning his mistake out helped in that respect. I was also pulled out a little by the use of "log cabin" when there's been nothing previously that suggested this was US based, (so either add more US feel, or make it eg "cob cottage" if it's vaguely English) and while the name "hellebore" is ancient, it felt distinctly out of place for the folksy feel of the rest, so I'd suggest using a folk name eg winter rose or finding another plant.
Thank you muchly...for both tech help and feedback.

Yeah, log cabin slipped through there! I blame the (American) wife!
 

Brian G Turner

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Only glanced over it, but it looks like you need to work on the POV. The first bit started nicely, but you include details that wouldn't be in the character experience, ie, his hair over his face when retching. When you reach the dialogue this really becomes underlined because you drop into describing every physical action to make up for the lack of character POV. There's promise here, but you're writing it as a screenplay with director's notes instead of a novel with a character experience. :)
 

Wayne Mack

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This is slightly difficult to review as it it indicated that this is chapter two, but there is no synopsis of what has happened and what the reader may already know. A short summary of chapter one would help, assuming that it provides set up for chapter two.

I liked the descriptive text early on and felt that the slow pacing should be appropriate to build tension. My challenge with reading, though, seems to be that I was not feeling engaged with Darius. A more minor point, but I felt that some of the very early actions occurred out of chronological sequence.

I have grown fond of Brandon Sanderson's Three P approach--Promise, Progress, Payoff--so I'll use that terminology. I see two payoffs in this scene. One, Darius finds the hedge witch and two the hedge witch cures Darius. What I find missing is the Promise. As there is a lack of set up letting the reader know that Darius is looking for the hedge witch and that he has a condition that must be cured, him finding the hedge witch and her giving him a potion seem like random events. Even if this information is covered in chapter one, consider providing a recap at the start of this section. Tell us at the start that he is poisoned or ill and that he is seeking the hedge witch to cure him. Maybe even specify how long Darius has to live if he is not cured. This gives me, as a reader, a feeling of concern for Darius and the slower pacing serves to raise my tension levels.

A more minor point, but I felt a little jerked back and forth in the early section. First, Darius falls to his knees, then he gets back up. Then he is down on his knees again, where he sees something. Then he is walking forward. Then, Darius reveals what he saw when he was on his knees. Consider reordering the sequence so that he falls to his knees, sees something (this might be a good time to reveal he is looking for a hedge witch), then gets up and goes forward.

Lastly, and this may be a personal style issue, but I felt the dialog in the second half was overly tagged. I think the conversation was sufficient to largely stand on its own and the action beats before a character speaks were distracting. You might try crossing out most of them and seeing how it reads, but this may be more of a personal style issue. I would consider the first two suggestions to be more important.

Overall, I think this is a good scene to bring a new character into the story. I would definitely keep the slow, descriptive pace of the opening half, but give the reader some reason to feel concerned about the slow progress.
 

Shorewalker

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Only glanced over it, but it looks like you need to work on the POV. The first bit started nicely, but you include details that wouldn't be in the character experience, ie, his hair over his face when retching. When you reach the dialogue this really becomes underlined because you drop into describing every physical action to make up for the lack of character POV. There's promise here, but you're writing it as a screenplay with director's notes instead of a novel with a character experience. :)
Thanks a lot, Brian!
 

Shorewalker

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Messages
216
Location
Buried beneath too many words
This is slightly difficult to review as it it indicated that this is chapter two, but there is no synopsis of what has happened and what the reader may already know. A short summary of chapter one would help, assuming that it provides set up for chapter two.

I liked the descriptive text early on and felt that the slow pacing should be appropriate to build tension. My challenge with reading, though, seems to be that I was not feeling engaged with Darius. A more minor point, but I felt that some of the very early actions occurred out of chronological sequence.

I have grown fond of Brandon Sanderson's Three P approach--Promise, Progress, Payoff--so I'll use that terminology. I see two payoffs in this scene. One, Darius finds the hedge witch and two the hedge witch cures Darius. What I find missing is the Promise. As there is a lack of set up letting the reader know that Darius is looking for the hedge witch and that he has a condition that must be cured, him finding the hedge witch and her giving him a potion seem like random events. Even if this information is covered in chapter one, consider providing a recap at the start of this section. Tell us at the start that he is poisoned or ill and that he is seeking the hedge witch to cure him. Maybe even specify how long Darius has to live if he is not cured. This gives me, as a reader, a feeling of concern for Darius and the slower pacing serves to raise my tension levels.

A more minor point, but I felt a little jerked back and forth in the early section. First, Darius falls to his knees, then he gets back up. Then he is down on his knees again, where he sees something. Then he is walking forward. Then, Darius reveals what he saw when he was on his knees. Consider reordering the sequence so that he falls to his knees, sees something (this might be a good time to reveal he is looking for a hedge witch), then gets up and goes forward.

Lastly, and this may be a personal style issue, but I felt the dialog in the second half was overly tagged. I think the conversation was sufficient to largely stand on its own and the action beats before a character speaks were distracting. You might try crossing out most of them and seeing how it reads, but this may be more of a personal style issue. I would consider the first two suggestions to be more important.

Overall, I think this is a good scene to bring a new character into the story. I would definitely keep the slow, descriptive pace of the opening half, but give the reader some reason to feel concerned about the slow progress.
Thanks, Wayne!

This is halfway through chapter two of book four and chapter one lays out the issue...which is much greater than Darius alone. He's ill because he's just run close to 25 miles. and he has very ill companions he's left behind.

It's not easy to get the drift from just a section, I understand.
 

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