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View Full Version : New version - The Call of Destiny, ch1



aesir22
December 9th, 2012, 02:17 PM
Hi everyone,

I made a very painful decision yesterday! After some careful consideration, I scrapped my novel, The Call of Destiny. The storyline will remain the same, but the whole thing needs rewriting to be more interesting and readable. I found the first few chapters entirely too dull - the protagonist, Xana, being raised in a remote village away from conflict - so I have thrown her into the midst of chaos and started out with a brief battle where she is on the sidelines. I hammered out the following late last night before heading to sleep, so it's very raw and needs a lot of work, but I am happier with how the story is going to progress now. I would appreciate hearing what people think, especially if you read my other posts with the story that was scrapped :)


The Call of Destiny

Chapter One

The air felt feverish despite the early autumnal chill. She shivered, though it had nothing to do with the cold, and forced herself to keep watching the horror just half a mile from their fortified encampment. The dead and drying leaves rustled as her feet shifted and she pulled her cloak tighter to her body.
The sun, starting its slow retreat as night approached, shed sickly light over the battlefield. Men and women, their armour once clean and shining, were now covered in blood and sweat and dirt. Their continued assault of charging and retreating was like a wave, bodies writhing in the claustrophobic space, weapons glinting as they caught the sun’s final rays. The din swallowed any individual voice and rose to a mixed crescendo of battles cries, striking weapons and the groan of the dead and dying.

She jumped at the twang of hundreds of bowstrings releasing their arrows and turned to where the archers were positioned. She watched the graceful arc of wooden shafts, squinted as the metal heads glistened in the light, and followed them down to their targets. The bolts struck true, puncturing dozens of huge, oily-black bodies. Dozens of the monsters fell, but more kept surging forward despite their wounds. The Daev’a were difficult to kill.

She heard the commander of the archers issue the order to fire again, and she turned her attention back to the human army. They were coming toward the end of the battle now. The Generals tactics had been brilliant, catching the Daev’an army unaware and in a state of disorganization. In another hour, she doubted there would be an enemy left standing. She tried not to think of how many lives would be lost winning such a battle.

She watched as a small group of soldiers split between the ranks and headed toward her, carrying litters with the wounded and helping their limping comrades. The retinue was one of several sent into the fray to find those who needed healing. As they approached, her eyes caught a flash of fire in the centre of the battle, followed by another. She heard the chilling death-groans of fallen Daev’a. The sky darkened and dozens of lightning bolts struck down, smashing into the Daev’an ranks, burning them to cinders and ripping up the Earth around them.

The retinue of wounded men and women reached her and she tore her eyes away from the horror. They carefully set the litters down and helped other wounded into sitting positions. There looked to be near thirty who needed her assistance. She felt close to exhaustion already, but her skills were needed. These men had put their lives in peril defending their world. Fatigue was a small problem by comparison.

“I will care for them,” she announced, kneeling next to one of the wounded men. “Find any others who might need healing.” She watched the soldiers nod in respect and withdraw, leaving the wounded in her care, though a few of them gave her dark looks. She ignored them, focussing on the man on the litter. She placed a hand on his chest, next to a deep stab wound that had punctured his lung.

“This one has already passed,” she said sadly, covering his face with the litter’s blanket. A man approached from behind and placed a hand on her shoulder. Her brother had assigned himself as her bodyguard and never left her side during a battle. She stood and brushed down her grey skirts as he knelt by the body.

“I will see to it,” he assured her. “Save who can be saved.” He scrubbed a hand through his sandy-blond hair and sighed as he removed a silver ring from the man’s right hand. His identity ring, to be returned to whatever family he had to announce his passing.

She knelt by the next litter, and was pleased when she saw him conscious and lucid. He clutched at his left leg, to a deep slash that ran from knee to hip. Several more wounds were evident – a shallow cut on his right arm, a purple bruise forming on his cheek, all mixed up with dozens of smaller grazes. She placed one hand on his chest, the other on his naval. Taking a deep breath, she reached out and Invoked the Energies. Life seemed to surge through her being, charging her with strength and power. She shivered at how wonderful it felt. For a moment she wanted to drown in the ocean of The Energies, to forget about battles and Daev’a, to bathe in the radiance.

Her mind snapped back to her task, and she hastily guided the required Energies into her patient. He gasped as they settled into his body, then cried out as his wounds began to close. She kept him pressed down as the flow continued, replacing his strength, revitalising him with the Earth’s resplendent energy. The skin on his leg knitted back together, leaving the barest scar that would fade over time, and the bruise dwindled. It took only a few moments but she staggered as she lifted her hands, catching herself before she fell backwards. Her vision spun for a moment before settling down, and she wasted no time moving to her next patient. The healed soldier was trying to stand, stammering out thanks in an awed voice.

Her next patient was easier to heal. She realigned the broken bone in the woman’s lower leg, ignoring the cry of pain as well as the blood drying stickily on her hands, and repeated the healing process. She anticipated the wave of dizziness this time and was more careful releasing the woman from the process.
She moved down the line, healing the most severely wounded first, pushing down her exhaustion and focussing only on healing. It felt good to help them, though a part of her, buried beneath a veil of fear, longed to join the battle and fight. The day was approaching when she would fight alongside her comrades, using her abilities to destroy instead of heal, and she was torn between anticipation and trepidation.


------


Her estimation proved correct, and in little over an hour the battle was finished. The field was a chaotic mass of torn bodies and blasted Earth. The smell of charred flesh and blood was thick in the air. The night hid the worst of the atrocities, but she didn’t have to think too hard to imagine it in detail.

The remainder of the army had retreated to the encampment as scouts were sent out into the surrounding area. Most of the men and women went straight to their blankets to sleep. Others set up cook fires and did their best to console those who had lost friends and relatives. The victory had been costly, with over a third of their number dead.

She had continued to heal the worst of the wounded, stopping only when fatigue made the Energies slip from her grasp. She dared not Invoke them again until rested. She’d retreated to her tent, intent on sleep, but her brother had hassled her into eating something first. She ate mechanically, stirring the thin stew around the bowl with little interest, staring at the large canvas walls that housed four of them in relative comfort. He watched her intently after wolfing down his own meal.

“You did well today,” he said quietly. “A lot of people here would be dead if not for you.”

“Hmm,” she grunted sourly, spooning in another mouthful of stew. Food had been short these last few weeks, and each stew seemed to be getting more watery.

“You should be proud,” he continued. “Think of the families that still have husbands and mothers and siblings.”

“A lot more would be alive if I was actually in the fight.”

“Don’t sulk, Xana,” a woman said as she entered the tent. Her aunt was a strikingly beautiful woman with a poised stature and motherly smile. In her white gown, embroidered with ivy on the sleeves and bodice, she looked like a queen. Her dark hair was caught at the side with an ivory comb, and she had an eyebrow raised with mock chiding.

“I’m not sulking, Trinitine. I’m reflecting,” she responded, and her aunt laughed.

“Aran, was she sulking?”

“Of course not,” her brother replied smoothly. “An Ancient never sulks.”

Trinitine rolled her eyes at him as a man entered behind her. He was a foot taller than her, with a lithely muscular frame. He placed an arm around her aunt’s shoulder and she leaned into his white shirt.

“You could have fooled me,” the man said. “Your dear aunt here is a master when it comes to sulking. Has it perfected to an art, I’d say.”

Trinitine elbowed him lightly in the stomach. It was hard to believe they’d both been in the midst of a battle only a few hours earlier, covered in blood, wielding fire and lightning against their foe. Their only sign of fatigue were the dark circles under their eyes. They would have helped with the healing, as much as their skills enabled them to, before bathing and fixing their appearance. The Sovereignity had an image to maintain. Terrifying and destructive in battle, elegant and self-possessed at other times.

“I’m not an Ancient yet,” Xana said pointedly, putting down the bowl. Half of the stew remained, but she couldn’t stomach anymore. “I’m just a lowly neophyte in training.”

“You’ll be ready soon enough,” her aunt said smoothly. “Come with us now, though. General Malane has something he wishes to discuss with us. Aran, will you set up the travel cots please. I want my bed as soon as this is over.”

Xana grabbed her cloak on the way out of the large tent and wrapped it close against the cold night. The smell of death still permeated the air, but it was mixed with cooking smells now. She kept her eyes forward to avoid looking at the weeping men and women, following her aunt and her Companion. They walked with a stately stride she hoped one day to emulate, fully expecting anyone in their path to move with alacrity. She caught glimpses of people bowing their heads respectively out of the corner of her vision.

General Malane’s tent was quite a bit larger than theirs out of necessity. It served as an area for tactical planning with his officers and meetings such as this one. They did not ring the bell outside of tent entrance, asking for permission to enter. They were Ancients, and had no need to ask. The Empress of the Northern territories would not even look amiss at them entering her private bedchamber.

The tent was warm inside, and as basic as their own. A large folding table, surrounded by ten officers sat on folding chairs, held pitchers of wine and water. A screened off area at the back served as his sleeping area and braziers glowed in the corners, emanating heat and thin smoke.

General Malane was a sturdy man, well into his middle years with a stress-lined face. He looked exhausted but held his shoulders high, his back straight. He had removed his armour and wore nondescript brown breeches and a white shirt. A silver lily, the sigil of the Empress, was sewn onto the right breast of the shirt.

“Ah, Trinitine, Luka. Thank you for coming so hastily.” He bowed formally, and his officers stood to offer the same respect. “Neophyte Xana,” the General continued, dipping his head, “you warm us with your presence.”

She nodded her head in thanks, resisting the urge to curtsy. Trinitine had been ruthless in her teaching of their ways. An Ancient curtsied for no one.
“I assume you have important news,” Luka said as he offered Trinitine a seat. She smiled warmly at her Companion as she sat, and he offered Xana the same courtesy. She picked up her glass when seated and sipped at the wine. It was as watery as the stew.

“I do, Ancient,” the General replied. “A messenger rode into camp not half an hour after the battle was done with a plea for help.” He took his own seat at the table and scratched at his grey stubble, frowning. “It seems there is a second Daev’an army several days to the east, much larger than this one. They are heading for Calanade. We stripped the city of most of its soldiers for this expedition. They have asked for our assistance.”

“A siege is inevitable,” one of the officers, a woman in her middle years, mused. “Calanade is not well fortified. I don’t think it could hold an army back for long.”

“We need only hold it for a short time. They have requested aid from Brineldnar. We just need to hold the city until help arrives.”

“One of our Brothers has a sizeable force in the vicinity,” Luka said. “Have they been approached?”

“I’m sorry, Ancient, but that army has fallen. The survivors, along with your Brother, are making for Calanade. The messenger was quite specific. Only a few score remain.”

Luka shook his head even as Trinitine's eyes narrowed. Losing such a force would be a blow to this territory. Xana silently whispered a prayer of thanks that the Ancient had survived.

“We will answer their call,” her aunt said smoothly. Her tone was compassionate and commanding at the same time, and left no room for objection. “It has been a long time since the Daev’a took a city in this territory, and I intend to see they don’t take one now.”

“My thinking exactly, Ancient,” the General agreed. “We face superior numbers but should be able to hold the city, especially with your aid and that of your Brother. I would set off at first light if I could, but the soldiers need rest, and the bodies of our comrades must be buried.”

“And those of the Daev’a burned,” Luka cut in, “before their vileness spreads.” Left dead on the field, they would rot the land around them even as they themselves rotted.

“Yes, Ancient.” He looked to his officers. “See to organising your troops. We leave mid-afternoon tomorrow. We’ll not get much ground covered before dark, but every league takes us closer to Calanade.”

Kevin
December 9th, 2012, 04:09 PM
"Not even the Empress of the..." :) The healing descriptions are really well done.

aesir22
December 9th, 2012, 04:21 PM
Thank you :) do you mean the empress of the.... Sounds wrong? Lol

vasyaivanov
December 12th, 2012, 07:18 AM
There was a historical anecdote about some famous writer coming to an editor with a novel. And anybody who read it said it was awful.
Then editor did something, and everyone started liking the novel.
"What did you do?" asked the writer.
"I put punctuation marks correctly." :)

Point is, you have a wall of text.
Instead if you may be make paragraphs shorter and dialogues each on its own line, that might be easier to read.
Just a subjective opinion.

Burlesk
December 12th, 2012, 11:29 AM
There was a historical anecdote about some famous writer coming to an editor with a novel. And anybody who read it said it was awful.
Then editor did something, and everyone started liking the novel.
"What did you do?" asked the writer.
"I put punctuation marks correctly." :)

Point is, you have a wall of text.
Instead if you may be make paragraphs shorter and dialogues each on its own line, that might be easier to read.
Just a subjective opinion.

Eh? I haven't read it yet: I've glanced through it, though, and the punctuation looks fine, as do the paragraph breaks. I'm not seeing a wall of text.

Anyway, reading it now...

Burlesk
December 12th, 2012, 11:45 AM
Well, I've read it. (Disclaimer: I haven't read any previous version, so I'm coming to it fresh.)

I'm impressed, especially if you hammered it out in haste. I found it engaged my interest right at the start, the battlefield scene is realised with palpable vividness, and Trinitine is an interesting character. And it feels like a big story is about to unfold. All good.

Most importantly, what this chapter shows is that you've mastered the vital skill of gradually exposing character, setting and background while keeping a dramatic narrative moving forward. A lot of aspiring fiction writers have a huge amount of trouble with that (many of them don't even seem to realise that it's a required skill).

I'll look out for the next instalment.

BWFoster78
December 12th, 2012, 04:00 PM
The air felt feverish despite the early autumnal chill.

Generally, it's considered a Bad Idea to start with the weather. Truthfully, I'd delete this sentence.


She shivered, though it had nothing to do with the cold, and forced herself to keep watching the horror just half a mile from their fortified encampment.


You stepped on a major pet peeve of mine here. Why do you introduce a character and not name her? Also, consider combining this with your original first line to make a new opening. Character Name shivered in the feverish air of... It's still not a great opening, though.

Hope that helps.

Brian

Burlesk
December 12th, 2012, 05:11 PM
Generally, it's considered a Bad Idea to start with the weather. Truthfully, I'd delete this sentence.

I sense that you're being slightly tongue-in-cheek here, but I dispute this anti-weather principle. It isn't generally considered a bad idea; nor is it objectively a bad idea. It's one of those nostrums handed down by people who like to present themselves as authorities on literary art. On closer examination, these doctrinal proscriptions usually turn out to be utter tripe.

The weather thing is a personal irritant to me. I was once told authoritatively by my agent, 'Don't begin chapters with weather.' I was working on a historical thriller at the time, and he had been attempting to get me to emulate the style of Robert Harris's Fatherland. He admired that novel (mainly for its commercial success, I think). Feeling rather miffed at his comment, I took the book down from the shelf, and discovered that Harris himself had a penchant for weather-themed chapter openings. My agent was not delighted when I drew this to his attention.

If it's good enough for Snoopy...

3711

BWFoster78
December 12th, 2012, 05:28 PM
I sense that you're being slightly tongue-in-cheek here, but I dispute this anti-weather principle. It isn't generally considered a bad idea; nor is it objectively a bad idea. It's one of those nostrums handed down by people who like to present themselves as authorities on literary art. On closer examination, these doctrinal proscriptions usually turn out to be utter tripe.



I was not being tongue in cheek, and I am certainly not trying to pretend to be an authority on the literary art. I just think there are much better ways to open a book.

Granted that styles differ, but I tend to feel that stories are about characters. The sooner you get to a character, the better. If you have to start with the weather, at least tell me how the weather impacts a character.

Burlesk
December 12th, 2012, 05:52 PM
I was not being tongue in cheek, and I am certainly not trying to pretend to be an authority on the literary art. I just think there are much better ways to open a book.

Sorry about that. I inferred from the way you capitalised 'Bad Idea' that you were being ironic. Evidently you weren't: you regard it as a bad idea with knobs on (or capital letters).


Granted that styles differ, but I tend to feel that stories are about characters. The sooner you get to a character, the better. If you have to start with the weather, at least tell me how the weather impacts a character.

I see. Well, aesir22 (our author here) gets to his principal character in the second sentence, having implied how the weather impacts on her ('The air felt feverish') in the first. So what's the problem?

In fact, now that I look at the text again, he isn't really 'starting with weather' at all. It's one short sentence. The author is just passively displacing the character's sensations. It's a device part of the gradualist style of exposition which I referred to in my first comment. The structure goes:

sensation >> character >> character's situation >> character's role >> character's identity

... and so on through the course of the chapter.

Burlesk
December 12th, 2012, 05:54 PM
By the way, aesir22 you know you're awesome when the critics start arguing with each other over your work.
:thumbr:

BWFoster78
December 12th, 2012, 11:39 PM
Burlesk,

Think about how many books are available in today's world at the click of a mouse. An author does not have much opportunity to capture attention.

Frankly, after this author's first two sentences, I would have clicked "close" on the sample and moved on. In fact, I felt absolutely no pull to read further here on the forum.

Perhaps your skill level is such that you can draw me in with a discussion of the weather. Maybe you set the scene so well and infuse it subtly with emotion in such a way that you'll hold my interest enough for me to make it through the sample and compel me to buy your book. The OP, no offense to him, has not done this.

My advice to him is not to try to set the scene but to get to a character and a compelling action literally from the start. It seems from your reaction to the writing that you are much more patient than I am; I will agree with you that I am an extreme example. However, I think a new author would do well to consider that they don't have a lot of opportunity to draw a reader in.

aesir22
December 12th, 2012, 11:59 PM
Thank you for your input! Nice to see I started a debate lol. I appreciate you both highlighting the good and bad! Like I said, it was hammered out late - pretty much just fell out of my brain like most of my first drafts lol. It will be getting a lot of editing, and the hook at the beginning would always be a major consideration for me, so it may change dramatically, or it may change just a little. I'm sorry your interest wasn't fired up, BWFoster. But each to their own! It'll be a fine line between writing what I love on a page and writing what I know readers will accept. Guess that makes the difference when it comes to publishing!

Thank you for the praise, Burlesk. I'm glad you felt engaged by the chapter! I'll be posting some more at some point. I'm 16,000 words through since Sunday, about another 80,000 to go!!

romeo12
December 14th, 2012, 01:41 PM
....Who cares if it starts with the weather or not? I understand both points and your both right...but as a reader I fully don't care lol....great story the begining is good the battle scene and those monsters it made me want to keep reading, that's the vital thing. oh and always introduce the charcters name got confused. All in all really good

aesir22
December 14th, 2012, 03:18 PM
Thanks, Romeo12. I'll amend the 'she' to 'Xana' lol. 18000 words down!!

heir_of_isildur0
December 21st, 2012, 11:56 PM
I liked the opening for the most part but got confused about the battle. Who is fighting who and why? I have no idea what Daev'a are after reading this, only that they are hard to kill. Great writing, but in my opinion some parts need more explanation, of which could easily come in future chapters

aesir22
December 23rd, 2012, 12:58 PM
Yeah you aren't meant to know everything from that battle. The story will unfold throughout the book, keeping the reader engaged (i hope). Don't wanna reveal everything in the first scene lol

heir_of_isildur0
December 24th, 2012, 07:41 PM
Ah got it, thanks! Anxious to see more :)