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madalyn
September 24th, 2010, 07:28 AM
This is an excerpt (in rough draft) from the fantasy novel I am working on. It's towards the end so please bear with and focus on writing style rather than plot. I would love your feedback positive or negative. That said, please be gentle as I am a rather nascent writer!

A woman’s voice, tremulous but full of authority, came through what I assumed was a closed door.
“Who knocks?” it groaned.
“It is I, ma’am,” pronounced Eusebius, “with one who begs your audience.”
“A mess -- a message -- a -- oh GOD! -- ooooh my insides... have th-they a message?”
I did not hear the eunuch answer.
“Oh, come on in,” the Queen said with exasperation.
Eusebius led me by the hand into the room. I felt myself pushed gently into a chair, which was hard but comfortable enough. The door shut again as the chief eunuch left. The only sounds now in the room were the steady wheezing and panting of the Queen and, very softly, music I recognized at once -- Boccherini. I smiled as though the familiarity were a ray of light penetrating my blindness. I heard the Queen shift in her bed.
“Your name, messenger?” she said. Her tone was haughty, but I heard a great tension in her voice that meant she was restraining her moans and cries for the sake of politeness -- and with great difficulty.
As I opened my mouth to respond, something wrenched oddly in my forehead. Something was lodged in between my mind and my mouth.
“What, are you a mute as well?” cried the Queen. “Your name! Have you got one?”
I shook my head sadly.
“You... ah, but of course,” she mused. “Please forgive me. I often forget that she takes them. I suppose she’ll have quite a few by now.” She lapsed into silence for a few moments as if speculating on this.
“So...” she broke in hoarsely, “what brings you to me, blind one? What do you ask... or is it a message incumbent upon you to convey? Speak.”
I ran my tongue over my severely parched lips. “Both, oh Queen. I bring a message, and I ask a--”
“The message first,” snapped the Queen, then, bringing herself back to softness, “Well, it isn’t as though I’m terribly busy with -- with -- OOOOH this blasted baby!”
I saw fit to continue as I, myself, was pressed for time. I had to raise my voice over her agonized cries, which made my throat burn with pain.
“I come to tell you that Behemoth is winning his war. He has almost obliterated everything of ours -- and once he has finished it is to the Hollow and to your domain that he will turn his vengeance.”
She had fallen silent, evidently giving me her full attention.
“Behemoth must not be allowed to win. I suspect... with respect, my liege... that you know this as well as I.” I paused to breathe and to caress my aching throat.
“Hmmm...” said the Queen, “m-hm, m-hm... yes, go on.”
“Well, I... what I’m asking then is...” I felt my heart flutter strangely and suddenly no urge was as powerful as the urge to sleep. My head rolled a bit on my shoulders. I struggled to stay alert. This was the last step of my journey. If I could only complete that, then, and only then, I could go to sleep for all eternity. “I must do this,” I muttered very softly. “Rachel... must go back...”
“What’s that, dear?” crooned the Queen. I felt all of the sudden that she knew all my thoughts and was only playing a game with me.
“Isn’t it obvious?” I cried suddenly. “He must not be allowed to win... to take away everything... it can’t happen! He... he...”
My voice was breaking and tears streamed down my face. The Queen kept her silence.
“But without your help... that’s what -- what’s going to happen, so please... please will you help us... please... I beg...”
But as my head fell forward I sank into blackness.

Cold water trickled over my lips, my tongue lapping up the sweet relief without my direction. Why was it so dark?
“Thanks, Eusebius,” intoned the Queen.
“Easy does it, Lady...” said Eusebius’s soft, soothing voice.
I struggled to say, “What happened?” but only made some raspy half-speech come out.
“You fainted,” said Eusebius. “No worries, Lady, you’re in good hands.” It seemed like an odd thing to say for someone who was ultimately contracted to kill me.
Then a panicky thought entered my mind: What if I had failed? I knew I was on the brink of death. This did not frighten me -- not anymore -- but at the thought of my failing my friends, my loved ones, maybe the world, and passing into the darkness with the Queen unconvinced...
I squirmed against Eusebius’s hold on my body. Surprised, he dropped me, and I fell forward on my hands and knees.
“The battle!” I gasped in a horrible snarl. Suddenly my chin was wet, and I tasted blood. I started coughing and couldn’t stop. The Queen’s voice drifted to me in a surreal fog as two eunuchs stood me up and half-led, half-dragged my convulsing body from the room.
“Defeat what cannot be defeated? I’m sorry, dear. Bethel will become, again, more or less as it once was, and Behemoth as he once was. Some of the dead will live, some will fade from existence -- precious few will remember. This is the best I can do. I have heard you. I charge no cost but your own life. Go in peace...”
The two eunuchs carried me down, down the spiraling staircase, one to each arm, bearing me as though I were as light as an infant. Time no longer had meaning. They carried me for eternity, an eternity that was gone before I could draw one full breath.
They brought me into a room -- I thought vaguely it must have been the room in which they had tended my wounds only an hour or so ago.
“Leave us,” said Eusebius.
For a while all was silent except for the crackling of a fire. I was no longer convulsing, but I felt so weak that I merely lay with my face against the cold stones of the floor, unable to lift myself or even turn onto my side. I felt incredible peace.
“What... where...” I rasped.
“Don’t try to speak. We are in the infirmary. Soon they will bring down the draught of death to -- to release you.” He sounded tortured. I wondered if my passing was somehow painful to him, despite all the thousands of deaths he must have witnessed -- but no, it was inconceivable. All the same, I felt grateful.
Suddenly, I heard him moving around, and then felt that he was kneeling beside me. My heart beat like a low drum. Was he about to administer the potion?
I felt his breath as he kissed me on the forehead.
“It’s not allowed, but I’m going to give you some fairy ointment,” he said, almost whispering.
I smiled. “To me? With no eyes?” I muttered.
“It also helps the blind to see,” said Eusebius. Gently, he rubbed some ointment into the hollow cavities of my eyes.
Then there was a light. It overwhelmed me with its brilliance. It faded somewhat as I adjusted to sight. It was a flame, small, lambent and dancing like a living liquid.
I heard Eusebius stand and leave, but it hardly seemed to matter as the fire and its sparkling life filled my world completely.
In the light I saw myself, standing beside a tree that was casting dappled darkness onto the ground. I was in a park. A little ways away, standing across from me on the sloping grass, stood my parents, leaning against each other. The scene played silently, automatically. A squirrel crouched on a branch chattering at my ear. I laughed -- a child’s laugh...
There was darkness. The sun was blotted out. Through a keyhole a powerful flame cast its glow. A hand pulled the door open. The person’s shadow was very long, and the face was frightening...
A breeze was blowing my hair into my face as I stood gazing out at the Grand Canyon. Only a few feet away, it would be so easy to cast myself into its mouth. Nothing was between me and death except a moment’s decision. I felt myself beginning to tilt, beginning to crave the total release of unhindered falling. But I turned and walked away...
A beautiful girl was leaning her head against my shoulder. I told her something that made her smile. Rachel kissed me, then slowly turned into fire...
“Are you ready?” said Tallow.
I nodded. Fear was needless now, and seemed so far away, so absurd. The tree that I knew again from a long-forgotten memory stood like a brown-clothed giant with arms outstretched. The air was cool and silent, and the sky, although sunless, was a pure stretch of blue.
She pointed to the tree and said,
“Do you understand now?”
“Yes,” I said.
I started towards the tree, each step bringing me closer to home.

“Oh, now you come,” fussed the Queen. “What took you so long?”
Two men -- or rather eunuchs -- stood before the Queen, who was swaddled in bedclothes and dripping with sweat. She did not look the part of royalty. Her hair, although long and gossamer black, framed an oily, pudgy face that was twisted into a scowl.
The men-not-men were far more royally adorned than Her Majesty. Each wore a potpourri of bangles, jewels, and piercings fitted with sparkling, golden hoops. The shorter one, whose name was Ricket, had a round, feminine face with the pallor of someone who rarely goes out in the sun. His hair was shoulder-length and braided. The taller, who was called Shingle, was bald as a naked mole rat. His face was emblazoned with numerous exotic tattoos, and he wore a monocle.
“Your Queenlihood,” spoke Ricket, in a voice like a flute. “Excuse our tardiness. We have only just now been informed.”
“Hmph,” punctuated the Queen grumpily. “Then you will know that a girl has been taken down to the dungeons and now awaits the draught of death.”
Shingle bowed in assent. Then both men stood in awkward silence, fidgeting. Ricket grinned, displaying his rotted teeth.
“Well?” sighed the Queen. “You know where it is. Don’t just stand there like brainless sheep.”
“Sheep!” laughed Shingle in a jarringly deep voice, while Ricket obediently made for a wooden cabinet situated underneath a painting of a dog with several tails. “Brainless! Oh, it’s too much! Your High and Mightiness has such a fine sense of humor!”
The Queen nodded distastefully, then turned to Ricket, who now clutched a vial containing a milky-white substance.
“Just a drop, mind,” she added. “Poor thing is nearly dead as it is.”
The servants bowed solemnly before making for the door.
“Oh, but Queen!” exclaimed Ricket all of a sudden.
“I know, Ricket, I know,” said the Queen comfortingly. “You may take her to the hook room.”
“Oh, thank you, Queen, thank you! Gracious me, what a treat...”
They didn’t speak as they plodded down the stairs. As they reached the entrance to the dungeon, Shingle snorted and guffawed.
“A brainless sheep, can you picture it?”
“Yes, Shingle, yes,” sighed Ricket.
When they entered the infirmary the only person in it was the dead one on the floor.
“Has he gone off?” muttered Ricket. “Irresponsible, that one is.”
Shingle knelt on the floor in order to check for a pulse, but shook his head.
“What?” said Ricket.” You mean... oh, I hate it when that happens. Damned wasteful. Oh, well. To the hook room, then.”
“The hook room” could not have been more apropos a title. The room was simply four walls, every square foot of which was arrayed in sharp, deadly-looking hooks. On the hooks dangled innumerable rotting carcasses, like so many slabs of meat. The floor was a gory litter of bones, blood, and bodies decayed to such extent that they had fallen off their hooks. The air was a haze of flies and stink, but the two macabre servants did not seem to mind a bit.
Shingle affixed the body to a particularly long hook, and it hung there limp as a forgotten marionette. Ricket watched the procedure with his arms crossed.
“See no evil -- hear no evil -- speak no evil,” he muttered singsong. “Shouldn’t be no trouble for you, little Miss...”
Their task finished, they looked at each other, smiled, and sighed contentedly.
“What’s for dinner?” said Shingle stupidly.
“Leftovers,” said Ricket.
“Leftovers? I love leftovers!”
Ricket giggled. “The longer left out, the better,” he said.
They started towards the door. Ricket was singing a sort of tuneless song under his breath.
“Some think broccoli’s a treat to munch on at a feast, but I myself prefer the meat of persons long deceased...”
He turned at the threshold to behold the young woman’s body. It was strangely beautiful, being as it was naked, scarred, hairless, eyeless, and broken. It was like a castle that was crumbling under the pressure of time and damp rot.
“Good night, my love,” he said. “Sleep well.”

Olly Buckle
September 24th, 2010, 10:02 AM
That is a clean bit of writing, a pleasure to read. I liked the music playing but it felt as though you had missed a trick in the description of the room, a blind person can tell a lot about a place by sound quality, smells and the fell of the floor for example, there was only the hard chair and that could have been expanded on.

Bruno Spatola
September 24th, 2010, 10:05 PM
Just a few nits, nothing more. It's a very polished bit of writing, doesn't appear rough at all.

I felt all of the sudden -- I think that's all of a sudden, I've never heard all of the sudden before.

Cold water trickled over my lips, my tongue lapping up the sweet relief without my direction. -- Don't know why, I loved that line.

I squirmed against Eusebius’s hold on my body. Surprised, he dropped me, and I fell forward on my hands and knees. -- I pictured this very vividly, your descriptions are effective.

They carried me for eternity, an eternity that was gone before I could draw one full breath. -- This is very poetic, but eternity suggests time with no end. It stuck out at me once I finished the line because it was so short. . .it felt a little bit lazy to be honest. Did everything seem to slow down? What made you think you were being carried for eternity, what gave that impression? As a reader I'm confused, maybe beef it up because as it is, it's a tad vague.

“It’s not allowed, but I’m going to give you some fairy ointment,” -- I must admit, fairy ointment made me laugh. I don't think it sounds that believable, even in a fantasy setting.

“Are you ready?” said Tallow. -- I love that name, Tallow.

The tree that I knew again from a long-forgotten memory stood like a brown-clothed giant with arms outstretched. -- Great line, made me smile.

She pointed to the tree, I started towards the tree. -- You say tree three times in quite close proximity, it brings me out of the story when I see certain words repeated. This is always a complaint in my reviews, so it's probably just me, sorry :P

The men-not-men were far more royally adorned than Her Majesty. -- This isn't a problem, I'm just inquiring, what are men-not-men?

The shorter one, whose name was Ricket, had a round, feminine face with the pallor of someone who rarely goes out in the sun. -- You describe things effortlessly well, I don't even have to read through it more than once, the image just forms in my head smoothly. And Ricket is another great name, names are really important to me in stories, and you have very believable ones.

Shingle. -- Another good name, in my opinion.

His face was emblazoned with numerous exotic tattoos. -- Again, maybe a little vague but, if they aren't a regular character this isn't really a problem.

“Brainless! Oh, it’s too much! Your High and Mightiness has such a fine sense of humor!” lol, I like him.

“Oh, thank you, Queen, thank you! Gracious me, what a treat...” -- I love this little guy.

The air was a haze of flies and stink, but the two macabre servants did not seem to mind a bit. -- Very vivid images, I could actually smell it almost.

Shingle affixed the body to a particularly long hook, and it hung there limp as a forgotten marionette. -- Nice line, I think I'd put a comma after limp though. You don't have to but, it flowed a bit better in my head that way. On second thought, I've been criticized for using too many commas, don't listen to me.

“The longer left out, the better,” he said. -- Lol, I can't help but laugh at these two, they're great characters.

“Some think broccoli’s a treat to munch on at a feast, but I myself prefer the meat of persons long deceased...” -- :P

So, was the characters name taken from her? That sounds like Spirited Away to me, the witch takes her name and she can't speak it until it's given back to her. That's not a criticism, I'm just saying it reminded me of that.

I knew you would be a very good writer, simply from the way you type on the site generally. It's very clean, perfect balance of both long and short description (in my opinion), I love your characters. To be honest, I don't feel much of a bond with the main character but, obviously I will at the start of the book.

Not trying to be a suck up or anything, but I think this is the best fantasy piece I've read on writing forums so far, really well done, it's a very absorbing bit of writing. I wont talk about the plot, because I don't know what the plot is yet and that'd be unfair of me to point out.

Honestly can't wait to read more, good luck!

madalyn
September 24th, 2010, 11:16 PM
“It’s not allowed, but I’m going to give you some fairy ointment,” -- I must admit, fairy ointment made me laugh. I don't think it sounds that believable, even in a fantasy setting.

Lol, blame folk-lore then 'cause that's what it's from! It's an ointment to allow you to see fairies. The other part I made up. A lot of my stuff sounds, well, fruity, but maybe it's better in context.


The men-not-men were far more royally adorned than Her Majesty. -- This isn't a problem, I'm just inquiring, what are men-not-men?Eunuchs. Gender ambiguity and gender variance in general is going to be a theme in this book.[/QUOTE]


So, was the characters name taken from her? That sounds like Spirited Away to me, the witch takes her name and she can't speak it until it's given back to her. That's not a criticism, I'm just saying it reminded me of that.Oh no! I hope the theft isn't too obvious. XD What has happened prior to this scene is that she travels through seven gates (of hell) and has to surrender one possession at each gate. This is also why she has no eyeballs.

Thanks so much! And thanks, Oily. I'll think of how I can incorporate that.

Bruno Spatola
September 24th, 2010, 11:25 PM
Well it isn't theft, I think that it's a common thing in Japanese mythology. . .I'm sure I read somewhere about witches who steal names. I like that bit though, either way.

It doesn't sound fruity per se, just amusing. If this is a serious novel, I don't know if you want that to be the consensus. Then again, if it's about friendship and growing up as well, a la Lord of the Rings, a little amusement is fine. Stuck out is all.

Oh what an idiot, I thought eunuchs were just slaves :(

Just a heads up, I would personally be incredibly careful doing a story set in hell (If the majority of it is in hell). I think you're capable of avoiding cliches, but the whole "Hell" thing has been done many times.

madalyn
September 25th, 2010, 04:26 AM
Oh what an idiot, I thought eunuchs were just slaves :(

Haha no worries that's pretty close. It usually means a slave who was been castrated or else one of those "funny boys" that you can trust around women ;). It's nice to have a guard at the door who's not going to inseminate your wife, right? The characters here are all eunuchs because the Queen hates both men and women... but maybe I should just post more instead of explaining everything, lol.


Just a heads up, I would personally be incredibly careful doing a story set in hell (If the majority of it is in hell). I think you're capable of avoiding cliches, but the whole "Hell" thing has been done many times.

No, just a part is in "hell," and that is my best way of describing the setting without derailing my own thread XD.

Bruno Spatola
September 27th, 2010, 10:15 AM
It usually means a slave who was been castrated or else one of those "funny boys" that you can trust around women ;). It's nice to have a guard at the door who's not going to inseminate your wife, right?

Haha, I suppose so. I couldn't rest without knowing my guards were "funny boys", don't know about you :P


The characters here are all eunuchs because the Queen hates both men and women...

That's totally changed how I perceive the Queen. . .isn't she pregnant? You're making me want to read more, stop it(!)