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Stealth
April 8th, 2013, 11:11 PM
This is the first chapter of my novel-in-progress (or trilogy). I've done a little bit of quick revising, but it's still far from finished. Feedback on anything, especially flow, would be greatly appreciated. Don't hold back!

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Taloc ran his hand over the tracks yet again. It was too dark to tell for sure but he guessed the convoy had passed not an hour before. He was gaining on them, and would catch them before dawn. Of that he was sure.
A light breeze blew through the low hanging branches, causing him to pull his cloak tight around him. He turned his brown eyes up at the stars, bright balls of light on a black velvet sky. The scarred tissue on his left eyelid made it impossible to hold the upward glance for long. With no clouds to cover the almost full moon, the forest was bathed in light, making tracking that late possible.
Taloc was a young man, eighteen year of age. As he stood a branch six feet off the ground tickled his head. His muscular arms were barely visible underneath the black cloak he wore over his leather armor and brown cloth tunic. A short sword hung at his side and a longbow was slung over his shoulder. When he moved back toward his horse, Stormshadow, the sword banged uncomfortably against his leg.
The jump onto the short horse was an easy one for Taloc, for he was almost as tall as the small creature. He situated himself so the bow on his back hung off the side of the horse and didn’t poke the animal. A flick of the reins got Stormshadow started off at a slow trot. He urged the dark gray horse into a gallop.
The wind stung his face as he sped down the trail. The cold air stopped his breath in his throat. Despite his discomfort Taloc only pushed Stormshadow faster, for he knew that once the sun rose the convoy would be at the gates of the capitol. And once the convoy was at the capitol it would be almost impossible to reach the king. The king he was out to kill.
Taloc was part of a league of assassins known as The Red Hand. The Red Hand primarily worked as hired assassins. They kill whoever they are paid to. But this mission was personal, no money was being paid to kill this king. The king’s men had recently abolished the Hand, leaving it all but destroyed. This was a job of vengeance. Taloc didn’t even know the king’s name; he just knew the man was responsible for the death of so many of his friends and acquaintances. And his last remaining relative.
Taloc wiped his eyes and was surprised to feel that they were wet with tears. He closed his eyes and slipped into the past.

The look on young Julie’s face was priceless when she opened Taloc’s present. It wasn’t much, but the little locket seemed like a treasure compared to everything else they had. It was her twelfth birthday, a year and five months to the day since their parents had died in a house fire. That was when Taloc joined The Red Hand to get them shelter and food. That was where they were, in The Hand’s village. The wooden walls of the little hut that the two of them shared with three other assassins surrounded them. All three of them were men Taloc’s age, and they were all good friends, as they needed to be to survive living so close.
Right now there were seven of them crammed shoulder to shoulder in the hut. Including the five of them there were two girls from the hut next door, Dana and Muline. Dana was fourteen, and good friends with Julie; Muline was her older sister, a year older than Taloc. Along with the seven of them there were four bunks and a fire pit in the center of the room. There was paper scattered across the small room from the gifts they had brought Julie. She looked happier than she had since their parents died.
Julie hugged Taloc tight, then sat back down to open her last present, a hair brush. Taloc watched her for a moment more then stood up as much as he could in the hut and walked through the door. He welcomed the fresh air and space. He shielded his eyes against the sun and looked around the village. Huts lined up in concentric circles, ending in a large but plain building.
Muline stepped out of the hut behind him, “Are you alright?”
Taloc looked at her, “Just needed some space.”
He looked back out at the village, then up at the hills surrounding them. He never understood why The Red Hand chose to build here, in the bowl surrounded by peaks. An enemy could come up over the horizon and bear down on them before they could react. He shook his head.
A faint sound reached his ears and he strained to make it out. “Do you hear that?”
After a few moments Muline replied, “Yeah.”
The sound grew louder until Taloc could make the distinct sound of cavalry on soft ground. The first horseman appeared on top of the hill opposite them and was soon followed by countless others.
“Attack! We’re under attack!” Taloc screamed and Muline ducked back into the hut to grab her sister. Taloc followed her, “Julie, grab your stuff and go with Muline and Dana.”
“What are you going to do?” Julie squeaked.
“Just go with them.” Taloc grabbed his bow and began fitting on his armor, the sound of the cavalry getting ever closer. It seemed so real, despite being a memory.

Taloc snapped open his eyes. He could hear cavalry. The Convoy! They must be around the next bend! He reined Stormshadow to a stop. The horse whinnied in protest at the sudden command. “Sorry boy.”
He jumped off of Stormshadow and sprinted into the trees. His silent footfalls left no tracks on the damp ground. All his training sprang forth, almost in synch with the adrenaline. His ears took over his senses as he tracked the convoy without seeing them. 50 feet… 40...20...10. There! Through the trees the procession was easily visible.
Long torches lit the bright red fabric that made up most of the royal clothes and sheets with a lion‘s head crest embroidered on it. There were thirty horsemen all carrying spears pointed with lethal spikes. Halfway through the column was a man that wore gold armor with a bright red cloak draped over it, also embroidered with the crest. Taloc recognized the sword that hung at his side, he had seen it the day of the attack, in his hut. The sword belonged to Muline.
He clenched his teeth as he grabbed his bow and nocked an arrow. He pulled back on the string and took aim. Six months of hunting, now it was time for his vengeance. He let the string slip from his fingers and the arrow was thrust forward.

StevenW
April 9th, 2013, 01:22 AM
Hard to describe. Too descriptive and coming too fast. It would be fine for a short story. I would make the first chapter more enigmatic. Don't say his name, his occupation, his organization yet. You're giving out too much information. He's supposed to be an assassin, a master of the sneak - leak it out. Get me to want to discover more.

Stealth
April 17th, 2013, 06:46 PM
Thank you for your reply. I'm going to keep it fast paced, I've gotten tips not to make the first chapter slow and boring, but I really like your idea of leaking out his information.

Belderan
April 18th, 2013, 08:48 AM
I also thought it was a bit too fast paced. As your using "flashback(s)" I would have mentioned the Red Hand but not what they were, build the tension a bit more and you'll draw your reader in. I didn't mind knowing his name but I would have liked the reasons for his being there/following to be a bit more drawn out - perhaps after the flashback part - so I would want to know more rather than having all the information at once which, for me, kind of gets the story over before you start.

Jeko
April 18th, 2013, 02:00 PM
Hi Stealth,

I find your management of action well, but there is a lot of info dumping in the opening that takes away from a tone that isn't exciting enough at the moment anyway; not for an opening, at least.

Nits (inc. info dumping):


Taloc ran his hand over the tracks yet again.

The yet, I feel, is unnecessary It needs support from the rest of the sentence but doesn't add anything of its own, not in the way you could put it across to draw the reader in more effectively.It generally feels uneasy to read.


A light breeze blew through the low hanging branches, causing him to pull his cloak tight around him. He turned his brown eyes up at the stars, bright balls of light on a black velvet sky. The scarred tissue on his left eyelid made it impossible to hold the upward glance for long. With no clouds to cover the almost full moon, the forest was bathed in light, making tracking that late possible.
The appearance-dumping doesn't sit right. There are too many conflicting ideas - it doesn't come together. Nice imagery individually, but the whole picture is lacking in the kind of holistic vision that's needed.


As he stood a branch six feet off the ground tickled his head
Grammar's a bit dodgy, and tickled is not the right word. I feel you're trying to tell me his height. There are easier ways to do this, and ways which benefit the narrative rather than taking away from it. I have no care for this branch. It is brown and boring.


His muscular arms were barely visible underneath the black cloak he wore over his leather armor and brown cloth tunic
The apparel is unoriginal, and lacks any kind of original flair to make it memorable


He urged the dark gray horse into a gallop.
I thought he was brown. If you're going to denote very important aesthetics, do it sooner rather than later.


Taloc was part of a league of assassins known as The Red Hand. The Red Hand primarily worked as hired assassins. They kill whoever they are paid to. But this mission was personal, no money was being paid to kill this king. The king’s men had recently abolished the Hand, leaving it all but destroyed. This was a job of vengeance. Taloc didn’t even know the king’s name; he just knew the man was responsible for the death of so many of his friends and acquaintances. And his last remaining relative.
Info-dump. It simply shouldn't be there.


He closed his eyes and slipped into the past.
Correct me if i'm wrong, but isn't closing your eyes while riding a horse dangerous?



All in all, the first chapter reads as being too fast-paced and not exciting enough. Addressing both these things once you have finished writing the entire novel should help the story start with more of a bang. I would strongly advise against rewriting the opening now.

Thanks for the read,

Cadence

Stealth
April 20th, 2013, 04:11 AM
Alright, 3v1 I'll try and slow it down in the future when I revise.

Belderan: I'll leak it out more and try not to give as much away at once.

Cadence: I can see where the yet doesn't fit.
I guess you're right, the description of the appearance is a bit choppy and could use revising.
I'll try to find a better way of telling his height.
The apparel is supposed to be unoriginal, he's trying to blend in and be unnoticed. He doesn't want anything to make him stick out.
I thought it was soon enough, but I might be able to fit it in sooner.
I'll try to stretch out the info-dump throught the chapter or two and not give it all straight, just as the previous posters said.
Probably normally, but Taloc doesn't really care much about himself and his horse is very smart and well trained.

patskywriter
April 20th, 2013, 06:51 AM
… Taloc was part of a league of assassins known as The Red Hand. The Red Hand primarily worked as hired assassins. They kill whoever they are paid to. … You have three awkward sentences here; try to rework them and create one good one.

sknox
April 23rd, 2013, 04:00 PM
Just one small suggestion (I liked it generally, though I thought the flashback was too much disruption): the final sentence, the final clause, you slip into the passive voice. Instead of "the arrow was thrust forward" make it more active. "the arrow leaped forward" or some such.

Jeko
April 24th, 2013, 08:26 AM
The apparel is supposed to be unoriginal, he's trying to blend in and be unnoticed. He doesn't want anything to make him stick out.

If your main character doesn't stick out to the reader, then neither will the story.

You could give the garments their own little story. They don't have to look different - there are many different dimensions that a piece of clothing can have, other than looks.