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View Full Version : The Shadow Twins: The Legend of Chai-Roh (Chapter One, +- 3100 words)



DjamFantasy
April 7th, 2014, 01:30 PM
Hey everyone, this is the first chapter of the fantasy novel I'm writing. Would love some advice!

Eram held his breath as he kept the tension on his bow arm tight, his sapphire blue eyes and arrow pointed at the deer. Between the shrubs and the bushes, he always felt most at ease. He was able to oversee everything, but no one could see him. He was like a shadow.
The sweat on his skin caused the necklace with the sapphire to stick to his chest. It felt cold, but it wasn't an unpleasant kind of cold. He was used to it, of course, since he had been wearing the necklace for as long as he could remember. The word "Eram" was carved in the back of the gemstone. That was how he got his name. Just like his sister Azinsei, who had a ruby on her necklace. He often imagined that the necklaces were gifts from their parents. He never talked to her about it, but he knew that his sister hoped the same. It gave him a good feeling to think that someone had loved them enough to give them names. He blinked a few times and moved his hand through his dark brown hair. Asking questions about the past would not bring food on the table. Shooting this deer would. He let go of his arrow and the animal fell to the ground. He wiped the sweat off his brow, and his thumb stroked the crenelated white scar that started above his left eyebrow and ended right under the left corner of his mouth. The scar was clearly visible against his sun-tanned skin. He closed his eyes for a moment, pushing away the memories of the day he got that scar. He never told his sister. She was curious, though, he knew that, but she never asked.

After he had put his arrow back in the quiver and had hung his bow on his belt, he lifted the deer onto his shoulders and started the journey back to the house they had found by accident the night before. For once, he and his sister had been lucky. A smile slowly broke through as he sank away in thoughts.

The twins slowly stalked through the bushes and kept an eye on the wooden cottage. It was hidden deep in the forest, far away from the city of Ascarim. The moonlight shining through the treetops was too scarce for the twins to see everything clearly, but by the neighing they could tell that horses were present and awake. The cottage was made entirely out of wood, except for the windows. Behind those windows Eram and Azinsei could distinguish a slowly moving silhouette. Azinsei whispered to her brother: “No luck tonight. Someone’s home. I think we should wait. This man is innocent, it would be useless to kill him. What do you think?”
“Hmm. I don’t like the idea of killing him either, but we might not have a choice. You know as well as I do that the city guard of Ascarim is hunting us. This cottage would be the perfect hideout.” Eram replied.
“Of course I know they’re hunting us. I could barely escape when I broke into that rich merchant’s house on the Grey Square yesterday. A war with Rytheron is approaching and still king Ghevalian keeps spending his money on that damned city guard. Apparently he even appointed his son Adantis as the new captain of the guard to try and find out who’s committing these thefts. I do admit, I think it’s quite an honour that the king thinks we are a bigger problem than the war.” said Azinsei with a smirk that was almost invisible in the dark. Eram smirked as well.
“I couldn’t agree with you more, sister. Still, I think we should finish this old man. He doesn’t have much longer to live, anyway. We’re only doing him a favour. Let’s go.” Eram slowly crawled forward and didn’t even hear his sister’s objections anymore. The bushes caressed his body while he advanced with slow and cautious steps. He did not feel the adrenaline he usually felt before a kill. This wouldn’t be a fight. Lost in thoughts and yet completely focused he crept nearer to the house, until he accidentally stepped on a branch, which caused a horrific creaking sound to ring through the forest.

Azinsei poked her brother in the ribs and hissed: “Idiot!” but it was too late. The silhouette in the house turned in the direction of the sound and tried to find out where it came from. Eram trusted the darkness to conceal him and his sister, but the silhouette kept still. He had an awful feeling that the old man knew exactly where they were. The twins waited breathlessly and after what seemed like an hour the silhouette moved away from the window. Eram and Azinsei released their breaths slowly. All of a sudden a light started to shine inside the house. In the weak light of the candle that the silhouette had lit stood an old man. His grey beard was close to the flames and his eyes wandered over the bushes where the twins were hiding. “He can’t see us, can he?” whispered Eram to his sister.
“He shouldn’t be able to, it’s dark and we’re quite far away.” The man looked up abruptly, at a point high above the heads of the twins. His eyes were wide open, just like his mouth. Confused, Eram looked up as well and saw a shooting star cut through the night sky. The old man apparently made a decision, blew out the candle and disappeared from view. “Let’s wait a little while longer to see what he’s going to do. “ Azinsei decided. About a minute passed and the twins heard the creaking sound of a door opening and closing. They did not see the man, but they could hear the horses neighing again. There had to be another door on the other side of the cottage. They looked at eachother and Eram softly asked: “Shall we go and take a look?”
“Yes.” His sister agreed. Watching out carefully for branches on the ground, they cautiously walked in the direction of the house and the neighing. They waited at the corner and Azinsei tried to peek around it as subtle as she could. Eram couldn’t see anything, but he could hear the sound of hooves trampling the ground and realised the old man was fleeing. Still, he had a strange feeling. He could have sworn he heard two horses running… “He’s gone. Probably off to the city guard.” his sister said, no longer whispering.
“With a little bit of luck, he’s only seen one of us, or none of us,” Eram objected weakly, “or he was too scared to explain what he saw.”
“We can’t rely on that. Tomorrow, we’ll go to the Silver Ox to hear if Gileon has heard about what happened here. If he doesn’t know, then nobody in the city knows.” Azinsei decided. “And until then, we should stay here. It’s quite a journey to Ascarim, we’re safe here for now. Those two remaining horses could be of use. They look strong and healthy. I wonder how that old man took care of them all on his own.”
“Maybe he had a son who came to help him, who knows. Doesn’t matter. Come on, let’s go take a look inside.” Eram proposed. He walked towards the open door. The candle was still smoldering on the table in what looked like the living room. Azinsei lit it again by rubbing two twigs from the forest together until a spark appeared. The house was old, but fairly well maintained. No dust could bes een. Eram inspected the old man’s bedroom, which was simple but practical just like the rest of the house. There was nothing more in the room than a bed that was big enough for two people. Good. “I’ll take the first watch,” Azinsei said while she looked at her brother, “you can go to sleep. I’ll wake you up if anything interesting happens."

The twins investigated the rest of the house at dawn. There appeared to be a bag full of hay for the horses in a small box next to the bedroom door. A wooden table with two chairs stood in the corner of the living room. Azinsei brought the horses some hay while Eram took a closer look at the old man’s food supply. All he found was some old bread, a hunk of cheese and a small pile of rotten meat. The stench was unbearable. Time to hunt, he thought. He walked to the stable to let his sister know. “Not a bad idea. You can take that rotten meat with you and dump it somewhere.” she said. “I’ll stay here. I wouldn’t want anyone stealing our newest acquisition.” Erams scar wrinkled as he grinned.
“What a world. All those thieves.” His sister’s sapphire eyes shone bright and she smiled.
“You should go. Don’t waste too many arrows.” Eram rolled his eyes and entered the forest.

Eram hadn’t realised he had wandered that far away from the house until he noticed that the shadows had become much longer since he left. The weight of the deer seemed to become heavier and heavier and his feet started to hurt, but he kept walking. He looked for the landmarks he saw earlier. For a split second he thought he’d lost his way, but then he spotted the big rock in the shape of a spearhead. A soft breath of relief left his mouth, he was almost home.
After about half an hour the wooden cottage appeared in the distance. Sweat dripped down Erams face and his shoulders trembled under the weight of the deer. About fifty metres from the house, he held still. The hair on his arms stood up straight and the blood pounded in his ears. A scream sounded through the woods. Not just a scream. Azinsei’s scream.

Eram threw the deer onto the ground and ran to the house as fast as his feet could carry him. He ran around the corner and saw his sister standing there fighting two men, both wearing simple chain mail. Their swords glistened in the sunlight. He had never seen their faces before, but he could tell by the cape and the badge they were wearing that they were members of the city guard of Ascarim. Furious, he grabbed an arrow from his quiver and aimed, while his sister planted her dagger in the middle of the face of the smallest of the two men. The guard let out an ear-piercing shriek and collapsed, while the blood from the wound spat on Azinsei’s simple woolen dress. She was about to attack the second intruder, but Eram beat her to it. His arrow pierced the heart of the second guard, who looked incredulously at his own chest and then fell onto the ground. Azinsei was surprised and looked over her shoulder and was relieved to see her brother. Eram wanted to ask what was going on, but Azinsei hissed: “Quiet! There are more of them!” As if her words had been a sign, three more guards emerged from the bushes. They looked less confident than their predecessors, who were both lying on the dry forest ground with their face down. Eram reached for another arrow, but his sister decided to apply a more diplomatic strategy. “What business do you have here?” she asked the guards.
“A reliable source told us that you two have scared off the owner of this house to steal it!” the guard on the left growled, clearly the boldest one of the three. Eram sniffed.
“Reliable source? Sure. You don’t have any proof!” Azinsei warned him with her eyes. The message was clear, he had to leave this to her. She was probably right. Eram would rather have smashed their heads in that very moment, but perhaps it was better to wait some more before attacking.
“You’ve got a big mouth for such a young boy!” the same guard snarled at him. Eram made a disapproving sound. The guard was bluffing. He was only sixteen years old, but his muscles were well developed and he was almost as tall as the guard himself. Anger burned in his sapphire eyes as he took a deep breath.

“Don’t mind my brother, he’s a bit hot-headed.” Azinsei said in an attempt to break the silence. “Does our side of the story have no value? Do you really trust that so-called reliable source? By the way, what if your collegues here had killed us? I don’t think you’ll receive a reward for two dead suspects!” Eram greatly admired his sister, especially in situations like this. She always said the right things. The guards remained silent for a few moments. Eventually the biggest one of the three, who didn’t look very smart, said: “Doesn’t matter. You’re coming with us.” De twins looked at eachother for a split second and attacked simultaneously. Azinsei lashed out at the guard with the big mouth, but he jumped aside to evade her attack. Eram took his hunting knife from his belt and jumped towards the biggest guard. He was a little surprised by the sudden reversal of the situation, but held his sword up to block Eram’s attack just in time. The guard was bigger, but the bigger the enemy is, the slower he is. Eram was fast as lightning and drove his knife deep into his opponent’s chest. The man made a deep, rattling sound and fell to the ground, next to his comrades. From the scream nearby, he could tell that his sister had overpowered the other guard as well. The third guard, who had not spoken a word, was trembling. Eram pulled his knife from the chest of the dead guard and was about to walk up to the last guard, but Azinsei laid her hand on his chest to stop him from doing so.
“Wait, brother. I have an idea. Make sure he doesn’t run away.” The guard was breathing fast, but seemed slightly more at ease now that Azinsei had stopped her brother from killing him immediately. Eram had a hard time trying not to grin. She had come up with a great plan again, he knew it. The guard was far from safe. Azinsei walked towards the door and entered the house.

The guard begged him for mercy with his eyes. “You heard her.” Eram said coldly. He held his knife to the man’s throat and took a good look at him. He wasn’t wearing a helmet and his short black hair was dripping with sweat. Eram estimated that he was about twenty-five years old. The man’s lips were trembling uncontrollably.
“What are you planning to do with me?” he asked, in an attempt to sound brave.
“No idea.” Eram answered in complete honesty. “My sister’s the one who makes the plans. I just execute them.” The guard looked at his feet, clearly not consoled by this answer. Eram heard the door creak and saw his sister returning from the house with a role of parchment and some rope. He gave her an uncomprehending look, but she looked like she knew exactly what she was doing.
“Stand still.” she commanded the guard. He did what she asked, but looked as if he could burst into tears any second. The trembling grew stronger as Azinsei tied the parchment around his neck with the rope.

Eram slowly began to understand what she was doing. She was a genius. He gave her an admiring look and smiled. She smiled back. Outsmarting people was her favourite activity. She looked the guard straight in the eyes and said: “You will go back to your commander, Adantis Ghevalian, and you will deliver our message.” She tapped the parchment. “Will you be able to do that?” The man nodded in a panicking way. “Good. I’m sure you’ll understand that we have to make sure that you only tell him what we want you to tell him?” The panic in the eyes of the last guard grew. Azinsei quickly punched him in the stomach, causing him to moan and fall to the ground while gasping for breath. The twins held him down while he wrestled. A dreadful scream rang through the forest, but apart from the twins and the horses, there was no one who could hear.

jacyee34
April 7th, 2014, 03:28 PM
Hello, DjamFantasy. I only read the part before the italic section and skimmed the rest, so this critique is really about your intro. I didn't find it very gripping. And the reason I didn't find it gripping is because it is mostly backstory/exposition. You start with him about to shoot a deer, a nice bit of action, but then you interrupt this action with a long description of a necklace, Eram's sister, Eram's sister's necklace, and you tell us that Eram and his sister are also orphans. All of this is told to us in the very first paragraph of your story. We haven't had any time to get to know your character, and so all that info just sort of washes over the reader. Then you go back to Eram shooting the deer, and it was kind of awkward because you digressed for so long with your backstory. Then the paragraph after that is all backstory.

If you re-write your intro consider this: In the very beginning of my story, what does the reader truly need to know? Does he/she need to know that Eram wears a sapphire necklace with his name on it, that he has a sister with a similar necklace, that he is an orphan? In the first paragraph? You can tell them this stuff later. Or, even better, you can show them some of this stuff later.

Your story has potential, it's just being swallowed in backstory.http://www.writingforums.com/images/icons/icon7.png

DjamFantasy
April 7th, 2014, 09:34 PM
Hello, DjamFantasy. I only read the part before the italic section and skimmed the rest, so this critique is really about your intro. I didn't find it very gripping. And the reason I didn't find it gripping is because it is mostly backstory/exposition. You start with him about to shoot a deer, a nice bit of action, but then you interrupt this action with a long description of a necklace, Eram's sister, Eram's sister's necklace, and you tell us that Eram and his sister are also orphans. All of this is told to us in the very first paragraph of your story. We haven't had any time to get to know your character, and so all that info just sort of washes over the reader. Then you go back to Eram shooting the deer, and it was kind of awkward because you digressed for so long with your backstory. Then the paragraph after that is all backstory.

If you re-write your intro consider this: In the very beginning of my story, what does the reader truly need to know? Does he/she need to know that Eram wears a sapphire necklace with his name on it, that he has a sister with a similar necklace, that he is an orphan? In the first paragraph? You can tell them this stuff later. Or, even better, you can show them some of this stuff later.

Your story has potential, it's just being swallowed in backstory.http://www.writingforums.com/images/icons/icon7.png

Hello, jaycee34. Thank you for taking the time to read and critique my intro, I really appreciate it! I cut out quite a bit of the backstory and focused on the main action. About the necklaces and his sister, that information is of importance because it lets the reader know that Eram and Azinsei are the children from the prologue(http://www.writingforums.com/threads/144755-The-Shadow-Twins-Prologue). I completely understand why you mentioned it, though.

Lytharicus
April 14th, 2014, 02:32 AM
I'd like to start by saying that I like the story, but I think there are a few things that might make it a little easier to read. I noticed while reading that you have a tendency to jam your dialogue together into one paragraph. It is much easier to read if you start a new paragraph with each speaker. For example:

Azinsei whispered to her brother: “No luck tonight. Someone’s home. I think we should wait. This man is innocent, it would be useless to kill him. What do you think?”
“Hmm. I don’t like the idea of killing him either, but we might not have a choice. You know as well as I do that the city guard of Ascarim is hunting us. This cottage would be the perfect hideout.” Eram replied.
“Of course I know they’re hunting us. I could barely escape when I broke into that rich merchant’s house on the Grey Square yesterday. A war with Rytheron is approaching and still king Ghevalian keeps spending his money on that damned city guard. Apparently he even appointed his son Adantis as the new captain of the guard to try and find out who’s committing these thefts. I do admit, I think it’s quite an honour that the king thinks we are a bigger problem than the war.” said Azinsei with a smirk that was almost invisible in the dark.

That way it is immediately obvious that the speaker has changed and you don't have the reader confused about who is talking until halfway through the sentence. It may also help the continuity to simply start with the event that he is remembering instead of starting with him hunting and then thinking about what happened just before. As far as I can tell there is no reason to use his thoughts to have a flashback of the events that happened just before his hunt. Just a few thoughts.