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View Full Version : Prolouge for 'The Tales of the Horns' Fantasy, Steampunk(ish), YA Approx 4.7k words



R. Mountebank
April 7th, 2015, 02:06 AM
Hi guys. This is the prologue to the fantasy novel I have written. It is set in a contemporary Britain in a world parallel to our own. I’ve tried to be a little mysterious with the opening in order to hook readers early. I’m slightly concerned with the flow, characterisation and theme of the book as a whole. The first few chapters may be a little heavy. I think my style eased up somewhat over time. I would be grateful for any feedback.
Sorry about the formatting.


Prologue
Thick muck squelched beneath his boots as Stephen Horn strode down the alley briskly, his nose twitching and his mouth down turned all the while. In the back of his mind it registered that he wasn’t exactly dressed for the occasion, but then again, was he ever?
Oh why did I decide to wear white pants?
He risked a glance at his feet and the slop that now cascaded up both legs. He did not like what he saw.
Having freshly arrived in Olde London by way of his new automobile, Stephen was in a reasonably good mood for once. It was all due to his new toy which, in his opinion, was the greatest invention since the wheel. (No more dirty old horse for Horn!)
Stephen had adopted the fashion of the time, wearing plain cotton pants, coat and jacket, all in matching white. A wrinkled and worn cheese cutter hat sat on his head at a jaunty angle at odds with the rest of his attire. His trusted and almost unnecessary ebony cane was gripped firmly by its ornamental ivory carving of a gargoyles head.
A handsome man of indeterminate years, Stephen Horn had a warm fatherly face that could remind you of a favourite teacher or uncle and the dark weather beaten skin you’d expect to find on a seasoned sailor. His hair was fiery red today and had been oiled and combed flat.

Tired of picking his way past questionable lumps in the mud, he swatted at a glass bottle lying on a brick butte with his cane. It smashed to pieces with an enjoyable crash. Stephen swung the cane about like a sword for several more strokes, eager to vent his frustration on any other small breakable objects in his path. Unfortunately there was nothing at hand. Shipping crates and boxes lay in piles around him, strewn through with generous portions of garbage. They had been carelessly thrown from the landing and left to rot.
The Old Man’s been busy. Too busy to clean it would appear.
The boxes had markings from different companies and ports from around the globe. Stephen was tempted to peer inside them, if only to catch a glimpse of what might be there. Instead, he turned his attention back to the building at the end of the alley. It was a long squat warehouse firmly nestled between two factories. Made of red brick walls and capped with a dark tile roof, it could be mistaken for a mundane workhouse or storeroom like any of the other hundred similar buildings in the area. Its only discerning feature was a wooden sign that stretched the width of its enormous iron door. Painted in red on a field of pale yellow was a jumble of symbols. To the untrained eye it would appear to be gibberish or the writings of a mad child. To those in Stephen’s particular trade it would read ‘Here Be Dragons’.

His business lay there, along with all of the new marvels the Old Man had collected. With a firm grip on his cane he quickly tromped through the last of the infernal muck and up the low set of brick stairs. At the top he struck his cane against the iron door, a door big enough to accommodate four men packed side by side on horseback. It boomed loudly with each blow, fine rust falling where the cane struck. Stephen didn’t care if he woke the whole neighbourhood, so long as it included the guard. After his short melee he stepped back, neck craning up to the viewing portal. From inside he could hear the faint mutterings and heavy footsteps of the doorkeeper. With a rusted cry the portal slid open. Through a haze of tobacco smoke Stephen could see red eyes the size of grapefruits swivel around lazily. Finally they rested on him.
“You,” a gravelly voice rumbled from beyond the door.
“In the flesh,” replied Stephen, his cane resting at an angle and a hand on one hip.
“This time at least.”
The red orbs regarded him a while, their penetrating stare broken only by the excruciating slow movement of eyelids. Finally the doorkeeper spoke. “Yes. You do seem to be made of flesh. This time…”
Stephen sighed mentally. I shouldn’t have said that. He’s probably wondering if I have ever come in person before. I can see the little cogs spinning in that tiny brain of his…
Seeing the conversation was about to go nowhere fast, Stephen decided to take things in hand and master them.
“Yes. Here I am, as I said: in the flesh. Here at this very time. Which brings us to the matter at hand, the purpose of my business. Here. With you. At this very hour. May I come in?”
Bracing himself for what he assumed would be a long pause, he was invariably shocked with the prompt “No.”
“No? What do you mean, no?”
“We’re closed.”
“Closed for what? Spring cleaning? Let me in. I demand an audience!”
“He said no one was to bother him. He said that to me he did.”

Stephen stole a glance at the multitude of boxes and crates around him.
Of course. He’s busy itemising and cataloguing all of his new finds. All the more reason to get in.
“Well we won’t be letting no-one bother him, will we my old chum? No nobodies will cross this threshold. Not with your brilliant handiwork to prevent them. But I shall be admitted. Yes. Because as you can quite clearly see, I am most certainly a someone. Not a no-one. Now open the door, my good man. Chop-chop.”
It was always a chore gaining entrance to the shop, no matter which entrance you tried, at any particular hour. The Old Man didn’t hire the smartest of gatekeepers but they were diligent in their duty nonetheless.

The red eyes behind the portal glared back at Stephen suspiciously. Without another word the doorkeeper slammed shut the cover with a loud clang. Stephen nervously twisted the grip on his cane. All of his plans hinged on being admitted tonight. There was a steam ship leaving tomorrow for Ireland and he intended to be on it. It pained him to think it all rested on a creature with hair for brains. If he failed now, there was nowhere else in Britain that could possibly help him with the equipment he needed.
Beyond the door came the sound of heavy iron cogs turning, though whether the noise meant locking or unlocking, Stephen could not say. As he was about to turn and leave, the doors groaned open and the pungent scent of dirt, tobacco, herbs and burnt hair buffeted him. Then, through a miasma of smoke the portly visage of the doorkeeper appeared.

At eight feet tall and five wide, Dogsbody was a giant compared to Stephen, but a dwarf compared to his brothers. Dry, flaking clay clung to him like skin over the matted hair and herb mixture he was woven from. In a face that could only be described as lumpy sat those two red eyes, bulging uncomfortably close now at Stephen. They swivelled around, assessing Stephen up and down and looking along the passage behind him.

“You had better be alone. He won’t like it if you bring no-one with you.”
Stephen smiled and, doffing his hat, bent in an elegant bow. “Not at all my good man.”
Dogsbody’s jaw worked soundlessly as he chewed over the words in his head. With a lurch he turned from Stephen and pulled a large lever on the wall. The iron doors swung closed to the chorus of clanking cogs and machinations. “Foowowmuh,” Dogsbody mouthed over a giant cigar as he shambled down a dark corridor. Stephen assumed he was meant to follow.

The path Dogsbody took led down a light incline which spiralled deeper into to the ground. Gas lamps hung suspended from chains to lighten the way, Dogsbody expertly dodging them with sparse movements of his enormous head. Parallel steel tracks embedded in the floor, used to cart the Old Man’s wares up and down the spiral’s lengthy run, made for uneven footing. Before long, the ramp levelled off and became a long, arched corridor. Side corridors split off left and right at common intervals leading to specialised storage areas. The Old Man’s minions were busy at work down here, shifting boxes, crates, curios and oddities. Each worker was as different as the item they were in charge of. Curses, shouts, greetings and mindless gossip rang out from every nook and cranny whilst a hundred different odours vied for supremacy in Stephen’s nose. The bustle and noise was a friendly welcome after the stoic silence of his companion. Stephen smiled and waved at the handful of creatures he recognised from previous visits.

“Wuhhur,” said Dogsbody as he puffed on his ridiculous cigar. The corridor ended, opening up to a vast circular room that was bigger than most palaces. Jam-packed with the tools of the sorcerer’s trade and a ceiling which seemed to stretch up and up forever, Stephen forgot himself and gawked slack-jawed around him.
It’s bigger than before. Just look at all this stuff! I could get lost in here. Again.
It took Stephen a moment to realise that he was alone. With Dogsbody’s hulking frame disappearing behind a tower of books, Stephen quickened his pace to catch up, giving the marvels around him only a minor inspection in the process. They journeyed to the centre of the room passing avenues of armour, lanes of lexicons, streets of surprises and many and more in stacked and orderly rows of head high shelves. Ahead a circular wooden dais was raised up from the ground, rough stone blocks of different sizes and colour forming stairs to its top. An ornately crafted desk stood in its centre, behind which an ominously large wing-backed chair sat. As Stephen drew closer the chair’s occupant could be seen.

The Old Man wore a black suit with a silk shirt beneath, also black, unbuttoned to show a heavy gold amulet resting on milk white skin. Stephen was hoping to catch him in a congenial mood. The anger plainly written across his hard face caused Stephen to falter a step.
The man seated before Stephen did not look like the nickname that had been invented for him by his clientele. The Old Man’s true name had been forgotten but his deeds stretched back for as long as any could recall. To the casual observer he appeared to be a lean, attractive man in his thirties. His eyes though, were the telling feature. They were as old and weathered as the mountains, worn and tired by the centuries.
Dogsbody stopped at the foot of the stone steps and removing the cigar from his mouth, hid it behind his back like the good bugbear he was. Stephen stopped beside him, never assuming for a second to ascend the steps. The Old Man was a stickler for customs and formality at the best of times. Nobody was to approach him without consent, especially when on his dais. So he waited patiently while those cold grey eyes weighed him silently, his heart quickening with every moment’s pause.
Please don’t turn me back. Not now.

“Mister Horn. My, it has been a long time since our last meeting. Too long apparently, for you’ve forgotten all etiquette,” spoke the store owner, his eyes fixed on Stephens cap.
Stephen smiled apologetically and sweeping his hat from his head, bowed deeply.
“Yes sir. Business in the Orient has kept me from these shining shores for some time. Please forgive my interruption. I forgot myself in my haste.”
The Old Man waved a hand dismissively at Stephen’s apology.
“Yes. I’m sure. It was Ireland before that. Was it not? Quite the traveller you are.”
How on earth does he know that?
“Yes-sir. It runs in the family.”
A mirthless smile crept along the Old Man’s face.
“This is true.”
He glared at Stephen over interlocked fingers as he slouched back in to his chair, seemingly daring him to say more. Dogsbody shuffled nervously, ill at ease in his master’s presence. He turned from Stephen to the bugbear.
“You may leave. But mark my words creature. Nobody else is to disturb me again tonight or I’ll fill you with lice. Do you understand me?”
The giant nodded sheepishly in answer before giving Stephen an ugly look that promised retribution. He shuffled off with heavy footsteps, his heady aroma trailing after him. The Old Man sighed and looked to the heavens.
“I need to grow some better help. I’m surrounded by morons.”
Stephen coughed into his fist. The Old Man rounded back onto Stephen with a sly grin.
“Present company excluded of course.”
Stephen smiled back. “Of course.”
“So Mr Horn. What brings you to town? Business I assume?”
“Yes sir.”

The Old Man leapt from his chair and strode to edge of the dais. “Let us not waste another moment shall we?”
He hopped down the irregular stone steps with ease to stand before Stephen.
“We have many new acquisitions. Some that will benefit a man in your line of work most handsomely.”
The Old Man swept his arm in a wide arc to encompass his magnificent store.
“So what will it be? The usual order of potions and powders?”
He pointed to the northern side of the dome where row upon row sat bottles, jars and boxes filled with rare and exotic ingredients from around the globe.
“Or something slightly strange?”
The Old Man searched Stephen’s face for a hint of a clue before nodding to himself and wondering off towards the western side of the dome. Stephen trailed behind him.

“What do you make of this war going on?”
The Old Man spoke over his shoulder as he entered an aisle filled with toys and ancient figurines.
Stephen bit his lip.
What is he playing at? Does he really care about what goes on out there? Is he trying to distract me? Or is does he really want my opinion?
Seeing no harm in sharing his thoughts Stephen replied, “A dreadful thing made more barbaric by its lack of purpose and the shear brutality of the weapons they use.”
The Old Man stopped and ran a long sinewy finger over a dusty music box.
“Oh I wouldn’t say it lacked purpose. Originality maybe… Nobody starts a war like they did in our day…”
The Old Man quickly glanced at Stephen and sighed.
“Or rather I should say my day.”
Turning, he continued on, eyes searching everywhere along the cluttered shelves. Stephen followed one step behind, his mood beginning to darken.

“Nothing good will come of this feud,” The Old Man said in a hushed voice, “Its effects shall be felt for generations to come. This I have seen. It would be best to find a quiet corner of the world and let it pass you by.”
“I have a place in mind sir,” Stephen replied.
“Good,” said The Old man as he started to walk. They meandered together down several aisles, The Old Man turning left or right at various junctions, his eyes inspecting every item on every shelf. Stephen knew he was searching for something but for what and for whom?
The Old Man spoke as they walked.
“There is nothing on this earth more detestable than murdering one’s own kin. This war in the west is a doomed affair, and I swear the victor will reap foul rewards. I just pray that they don’t focus their intentions eastwards too soon.”
Stephen shook his head as he mulled over the Old Man’s strange words.
“The war is in the east sir. Germany, France, Russia. It’s already quite convoluted. Almost all of Europe is involved or soon will be. Hopefully Asia isn’t affected too much…”
“I’m talking about the real war you fool boy!” The Old Man snapped at him, an elegant finger jabbing at Stephen’s chest with every word.
“That pathetic pissing contest in Europe is nothing compared to the bloodshed sweeping through the western worlds. The descendants of vile Remus are locked in civil war, his two favourites vying for the Twisted Crown. But no matter who mounts the throne, I can tell you for certain, it will only be a matter of time till they march on Rome and all that lay in their way.”

Stephen stepped back from the onslaught, bumping into a shelf and causing several objects to wobble precariously. He felt the blood drain from his face and sweat began to bead on his forehead. The Old Man loomed over him, mouth down turned and cold eyes boring into his. “Remus is dead,” was all Stephen could stammer.
“And his wolves will march,” snarled The Old Man.
“Oh my… And you’re certain they will attack Rome?”
“It has always been their intention to seek revenge. Remus was far too feeble in his twilight years and didn’t have the strength of numbers in his youth. His sons have both the desire and ability.”
“And what will we do? What will you do?”
“We will wait and see, won’t we?”
“Wait and see?” Stephen was flabbergasted at The Old Man’s noncommittal answer.
“We’ve got to do something! Talk to them. Talk to Rome. Unite the worlds. Stand. Fight. Anything!”
“So you would stand and fight,” purred The Old Man as he stroked his chin.
“And who would you gather to fight in this army of yours? Do tell?”
Stephen raised a finger in the air. “For one, the heroes of the United Kingdom’s.”
“They can’t be in the same room together let alone a battlefield.”
Stephen raised a second finger. “Two. Their thralls and landed men.”
“All dead and forgotten. Thanks to those heroes of yours no less.”
Stephen raised a third finger. “The fair folk…”
“Wouldn’t leave their floating castles and woodlands unless the roof was on fire and they were out of wine. Which they won’t by the by. Love the stuff. Too fondly if you ask me. Those Dökkálfar though? They would fight for anyone if it meant killing some Ljósálfar along the way.”

Stephen raised a fourth finger, and after staring at it for some time, lowered his hand.
The Old Man continued for him.
“And the lords and ladies of France will run away and the German knights will remember they have some quest that requires urgent attention on the other side of the world and Rome will face the Western hordes by itself. It’s no secret.”
It dawned on Stephen that The Old Man was right. The forgotten worlds were full of marvels and half-forgotten treasures, people brimming with character and life from all walks and all shades with histories spanning millennia. With all of that history came a certain amount of baggage and ceremony. No two of the forgotten people could agree on the weather let alone deciding to fight in a war together. If the Western Hordes did march, it would undoubtedly divide the region as supporters rallied to each banner. Old blood feuds would be remembered and the promise and exciting prospect of revenge for wrongs long past would rouse many of the folk in different directions. County will fight county. Neighbour will fight neighbour. Brother will fight brother.
But who would fight for Rome?
And who would be there to offer help and support? To supply arms and logistics or magic beans and flying carpets or whatever an army of magical forgotten heroes could possibly need.
And all for the right price.

Stephen eyed the man before him, seeing him for all that he was.
“I suppose you will make quite the profit. Should this war happen of course.”
The Old man sneered back, “I will oblige any and all that come. I am after all a business man.”
Stephen inclined his head slightly in reply, a faint sneer beginning to show.
“Precisely. Let us turn our attentions back to the matter of my business. Do you have what I want?”
The Old Man spread his arms wide, gesturing to the dark dome above and the laden shelves around them.
“I have many things that you desire. All but one.” With a wolfish grin and a nasty gleam to his eye, The Old Man leaned in closer. “And you will never have her.”
Ice gripped at Stephen’s heart as The Old Man’s words sunk in and cut through his bravado. Hope vanished and fear took hold. Stephen could only blink in reply.
She is lost to me.
With numb hands he fretted feebly with his cane, turning and clasping at the ivory ornament. “How… How do you know?” Stephen replied hoarsely.
“I trade in more than just the material Mr Horn. To some, information is just as important.”
Stephen felt the stirrings of anger as he noticed the man in front of him smiling at his misfortune.
“But how? What do you know? Tell me!”
The Old Man casually picked up a wooden box and blew on the lid sending a shower of dust up. He inspected the lid before answering,
“No mortal can enter the realms of the Sidhe uninvited and you Stephen are most certainly unwelcome.”
Shaking his head Stephen began to pace in tight circles. The Old Man hadn’t told him anything he didn’t already know but hearing it aloud brought back bad memories and roused old feelings.

A cold friendless night lashed with rain. The hillside slick with mud and his own blood. Broken finger nails scrabbling through the rocky ground. Laughter ringing through the trees. Stephen licked his lips nervously as he tried to push the images out of his mind.
“But there must be a way in. There must. A back door or something…”
“Nothing short of hell freezing over and a sale on ice skates would convince the Sidhe to come outside their cosy little caves,” said the Old Man through a sneer.
Stephen stopped his pacing and peered over a shoulder at the Old Man’s reply. His hands grappled with his cane until finally there was a sharp click. A dim light glowed in the gap between the ivory handle and the ebony shaft of the cane. A low humming sound could be heard and the distinct smell of rain wafted around the room. Stephen stalked closer to The Old Man.
“Do you think this is funny? Does my pain amuse you Old Man?”
Cold unflinching eyes regarded Stephen.
“Put that away before you hurt yourself.”
Stephen paused, realising just what he was reaching for. He hastily sheathed his cane.
“What would you know of love anyway?” Stephen said in a rasped voice. “A love of money and dust?”
The Old Man took his eyes off Stephen and regarded the floor, jaw working as he ground his teeth. “I know more about love and heart break than you think Mr Horn.”
“I have lived a long life Stephen. I’ve seen it all and lived it all; Centuries of betrayal, scorn, tortured pride and unrequited desire. You mortals are just learning what I’m trying to forget.”
Stephen’s hands balls up into fists. He wanted to rage. He wanted blood and broken bone and singed flesh. He wanted to tear the vaulted ceiling down with his hands, right on top of the shallow creature in front of him.
But most of all he wanted her.
And he would gladly sup down The Old Man’s bitter words if it meant having her back. Swallowing his pride was never an easy task for one as blithely arrogant as Stephen (even if said arrogance was derived from so much success).
“So if you understand my predicament wholly, surely you must see that I will do anything to be reunited with her. Anything…”
A dangerous gleam flashed across The Old Man’s eyes too fast for Stephen to notice. “Anything you say?”
Stephen bit his lip. “I will do anything.”

The room went dark. Stephen felt a weight pressing at him from all sides, holding him in place. Desperately he tried to wiggle free. The weight increased steadily until he thought he would burst. He fell to his knees, the force of the blow magnified by the crushing pressure. Stephen cried out. A cold hand gripped his chin, jerking it upwards.
The Old Man smiled greedily down at him. His eyes shone dimly in the eerie darkness. “Three times you agreed to the exchange without stipulating payment. Three times you will be cursed if you should break the agreement. Do you deny this?”
Stephen shook his head slowly in reply, his rising horror choking at his wits.
“Good. In return for my services I set the following payment. After the birth of the third generation of your kin I will take my due. Know that it shall be very important to you. You will be greatly saddened by the loss. You must not hinder me in any way.”
Stephen sobbed loudly in a confusion of pain, regret and oddly, relief. The Old Man snarled and grabbing a fistful of hair, pulled Stephen painfully to his feet.
“Lastly, you are banned for life from my establishment. Set foot in here again and I will destroy you. Utterly. Do you understand me?”

Tears streamed down Stephens face. He looked blankly into the leering grin of The Old Man and made his decision. “I… I…” Stephen stammered, unsure of the course he was plotting. He coughed and beckoned The Old Man to come closer.

“Answer me man. Yes or no?”
“I agree to your terms.” Stephen whispered softly as the pale man craned his neck forward, teeth gleaming in the darkness. With a flourish of his hand, Stephen produced a small pen knife and plunged it into the right eye of The Old Man.
“And I seal it in blood.”
He had time to laugh as he watched his tormentor writhe on the floor, black blood leaking from the ruin of his pale face. Rough hands knocked Stephen to the floor and quickly got to work knocking the smile from his face.

Stephen woke periodically as he was dragged back to the main entrance. The two brutes manhandling him were bigger than Dogsbody in every dimension and nowhere near as civil. As he roused they would take turns pummelling him into unconsciousness. It was a very long trip, which thankfully, Stephen couldn’t recall.

Finally he was unceremoniously thrown headlong into the mud and filth covering the alley floor. Spinning and sliding in the slippery muck, he wound up crashing into an empty shipping crate. Spluttering and coughing up god-knows-what Stephen struggled to prop himself up against the box that had graciously stopped his most ungracious of falls.
Through swollen eyes thick with mud he peered back at the iron gates of The Old Man’s warehouse.
“Well? Where is it? Where are my pieces of silver? What have I paid so dearly for?”
Silence greeted him. The red gates shuddered and began to swing closed.
“Hey!” Stephen shouted. Something in his chest grated against something soft and tender. He winced.
“Where is it? What is it?”
Flying out of the closing darkness of the door came two cart wheeling shapes. Stephen covered his head with both arms as it became apparent they were targeted at him.

They fell short, hitting the ground with a hearty plop. His cane was easy to identify from its familiar shape. The other held Stephens attention.
It was all that he wanted.
And having paid such a steep price in pain and suffering he was most intrigued to see what it was. Fumbling his way forward on hands and knees, he approached the key to his heart’s desire. Picking it up gingerly he wiped the filth from it. Underneath was a wooden box, carved with flowing Ogham script. Stephen’s eyes bulged as he read. What was in the box was more than enough to get his lady love back. The possibilities seemed endless. Stephen stole a glance back at the brooding entrance of the store and wondered about The Old Man’s trade. The whole conversation had been a ploy to put Stephen off balance, one that had worked all too well.
But had he always intended to give such a powerful object away to Stephen? And what price would Stephen ultimately pay?
After the third generation of your kin.
Whatever The Old Man wanted, it would be some time before his motives became apparent.
Gathering his cane, Stephen hoisted himself up and began the slow walk back to his automobile. He had the seed of a plan to find his love but now he needed one to stop The Old Man.

NathanBrazil
April 7th, 2015, 03:46 AM
Excellent writing. Though 4.7k is too big of a chunk for me in one sitting. I've read about 1k. Looks like a very polished piece of work. It was quite engaging and the only reason I didn't continue, is because I really don't have the time.

I had a few nits.


He risked a glance at his feet and the slop that now cascaded up both legs. He did not like what he saw.
I think it should be cascading down or maybe another word other than cascade.


His trusted and almost unnecessary ebony cane was gripped firmly by its ornamental ivory carving of a gargoyles head.
I think it should be gargoyle's head.


A handsome man of indeterminate years, Stephen Horn had a warm fatherly face that could remind you of a favourite teacher or uncle and the dark weather beaten skin you’d expect to find on a seasoned sailor.

This didn't read well for me. I think it should be broken into 2 sentences.


The Old Man’s been busy. Too busy to clean it would appear.I think there needs to be a break between clean and it ( a comma or semi, maybe ). It's a minor nit, but it is pretty easy to misread that sentence.


After his short melee he stepped back, neck craning up to the viewing portal.
I don't think this is the correct word for beating on a door with a cane.


I think the dialogue between Stephen and the doorkeeper was my favorite - especially the, "Well we won't be letting no-one...", bit.

Very enjoyable. Thanks for sharing.

R. Mountebank
April 7th, 2015, 04:09 AM
Thanks for the feedback Nathan.

Cheers

NathanBrazil
April 8th, 2015, 07:10 AM
In the future I suggest you break these larger chunks into more manageable bites. Though the writing did pull me through this entire piece, it lost some energy as I neared the end. Your choice of words was off in quite a few spots and the writing was cluttered with too many adjectives and adverbs. I'd like to see this tightened up a bit.


They were as old and weathered as the mountains, worn and tired by the centuries.
I think I would pick which ever clause you like best and drop the other.


The Old Man casually picked up a wooden box and blew on the lid sending a shower of dust up.
I think a cloud of dust works better here.


Shaking his head Stephen began to pace in tight circles.
Pacing in tight circles is an odd action to imagine. Typically, one would pace to and fro or back and forth.


A cold friendless night lashed with rain. The hillside slick with mud and his own blood. Broken finger nails scrabbling through the rocky ground. Laughter ringing through the trees.
This made me long for action. After the first thousand words, the story is primarily being driven forward by the dialog between the Old Man and Stephen. I realize there are important elements of plot that are revealed here, but I'm wondering if a restructuring of the story might do a better job of grabbing the reader.


Stephen stopped his pacing and peered over a shoulder at the Old Man’s reply.
You wouldn't peer at a reply.


“What would you know of love anyway?” Stephen said in a rasped voice. “A love of money and dust?”
Probably my favorite line.


Stephen sobbed loudly in a confusion of pain, regret and oddly, relief.
I felt there were too many feelings mashed together in one sentence. I believe, at any one instance, a character will have one primary feeling.


I did enjoy the writing. You obviously have skill in weaving words together to build your world. But there was a let down after the first thousand words.

R. Mountebank
April 9th, 2015, 06:41 AM
Thanks again Nathan.

Its been pointed out to me by other sources that I'm overly fond of over describing things.

The chapter is quite long. Perhaps a little action would break things up...

Chur

Deafmute
April 11th, 2015, 08:38 AM
Prologue

Thick muck squelched beneath his boots as Stephen Horn strode down the alley briskly, his nose twitching and his mouth down turned all the while. In the back of his mind it registered that he wasn’t exactly dressed for the occasion, but then again, was he ever?
nice
Oh why did I decide to wear white pants?
He risked a glance at his feet and the slop that now cascaded up both legs. He did not like what he saw.Having freshly arrived in Olde London by way of his new automobile, Stephen was in a reasonably good mood for once. It was all due to his new toy which, in his opinion, was the greatest invention since the wheel. (No more dirty old horse for Horn!)
Stephen had adopted the fashion of the time, wearing plain cotton pants, coat and jacket, all in matching white. A wrinkled and worn cheese cutter hat sat on his head at a jaunty angle at odds with the rest of his attire. His trusted and almost unnecessary ebony cane was gripped firmly by its ornamental ivory carving of a gargoyles head.
good description don't bore us though
A handsome man of indeterminate years, Stephen Horn had a warm fatherly face that could remind you of a favourite teacher or uncle and the dark weather beaten skin you’d expect to find on a seasoned sailor. His hair was fiery red today and had been oiled and combed flat.
lol didn't we just get done describing this guy?

Tired of picking his way past questionable lumps in the mud, he swatted at a glass bottle lying on a brick butte with his cane. It smashed to pieces with an enjoyable crash. Stephen swung the cane about like a sword forseveral more strokes, eager to vent his frustration on any other small breakable objects in his path. Unfortunately there was nothing at hand. Shipping crates and boxes lay in piles around him, strewn through with generous portions of garbage. They had been carelessly thrown from the landing and left to rot.
this is good description useful not superfluousThe Old Man’s been busy. Too busy to clean it would appear.
The boxes had markings from different companies and ports from around the globe. Stephen was tempted to peer inside them, if only to catch a glimpse of what might be there.
lol why else would he be looking inside.Instead, he turned his attention back to the building at the end of the alley. It was a long squat warehouse firmly nestled between two factories. Made of red brick walls and capped with a dark tile roof, it could be mistaken for a mundane workhouse or storeroom like any of the other hundred similar buildings in the area. Its only discerning feature was a wooden sign that stretched the width of its enormous iron door. Painted in red on a field of pale yellow was a jumble of symbols. To the untrained eye it would appear to be gibberish or the writings of a mad child. To those in Stephen’s particular trade it would read ‘Here Be Dragons’.
alright now we are getting somewhereHis business lay there, along with all of the new marvels the Old Man had collected. With a firm grip on his cane he quickly tromped through the last of the infernal muck and up the low set of brick stairs. At the top he struck his cane against the iron door, a door big enough to accommodate four men packed side by side on horseback. It boomed loudly with each blow, fine rust falling where the cane struck. Stephen didn't care if he woke the whole neighborhood, so long as it included the guard. After his short melee he stepped back, neck craning up to the viewing portal. From inside he could hear the faint mutterings and heavy footsteps of the doorkeeper. With a rusted cry the portal slid open. Through a haze of tobacco smoke Stephen could see red eyes the size of grapefruits swivel around lazily. Finally they rested on him.
“You,” a gravelly voice rumbled from beyond the door.
“In the flesh,” replied Stephen, his cane resting at an angle and a hand on one hip.
“This time at least.”
The red orbs regarded him a while, their penetrating stare broken only by the excruciating slow movement of eyelids. Finally the doorkeeper spoke. “Yes. You do seem to be made of flesh. This time…”
Stephen sighed mentally. I shouldn't have said that. He’s probably wondering if I have ever come in person before. I can see the little cogs spinning in that tiny brain of his…
Seeing the conversation was about to go nowhere fast, Stephen decided to take things in hand and master them.
“Yes. Here I am, as I said: in the flesh. Here at this very time. Which brings us to the matter at hand, the purpose of my business. Here. With you. At this very hour. May I come in?”
Bracing himself for what he assumed would be a long pause, he was invariably shocked with the prompt “No.”
“No? What do you mean, no?”
“We’re closed.”
“Closed for what? Spring cleaning? Let me in. I demand an audience!”
“He said no one was to bother him. He said that to me he did.”

Stephen stole a glance at the multitude of boxes and crates around him.
Of course. He’s busy itemizing and cataloging all of his new finds. All the more reason to get in.
“Well we won’t be letting no-one bother him, will we my old chum? No nobodies will cross this threshold. Not with your brilliant handiwork to prevent them. But I shall be admitted. Yes. Because as you can quite clearly see, I am most certainly a someone. Not a no-one. Now open the door, my good man. Chop-chop.”
It was always a chore gaining entrance to the shop, no matter which entrance you tried, at any particular hour. The Old Man didn't hire the smartest of gatekeepers but they were diligent in their duty nonetheless.
at this point I am interested. The red eyes behind the portal glared back at Stephen suspiciously. Without another word the doorkeeper slammed shut the cover with a loud clang. Stephen nervously twisted the grip on his cane. All of his plans hinged on being admitted tonight. There was a steam ship leaving tomorrow for Ireland and he intended to be on it. It pained him to think it all rested on a creature with hair for brains. If he failed now, there was nowhere else in Britain that could possibly help him with the equipment he needed.

Beyond the door came the sound of heavy iron cogs turning, though whether the noise meant locking or unlocking, Stephen could not say. As he was about to turn and leave, the doors groaned open and the pungent scent of dirt, tobacco, herbs and burnt hair buffeted him. Then, through a miasma of smoke the portly visage of the doorkeeper appeared.

At eight feet tall and five wide, Dogsbody was a giant compared to Stephen, but a dwarf compared to his brothers. Dry, flaking clay clung to him like skin over the matted hair and herb mixture he was woven from. In a face that could only be described as lumpy sat those two red eyes, bulging uncomfortably close now at Stephen. They swiveled around, assessing Stephen up and down and looking along the passage behind him.

“You had better be alone. He won’t like it if you bring no-one with you.”
Stephen smiled and, doffing his hat, bent in an elegant bow. “Not at all my good man.”
Dogsbody’s jaw worked soundlessly as he chewed over the words in his head.
good description With a lurch he turned from Stephen and pulled a large lever on the wall. The iron doors swung closed to the chorus of clanking cogs and machinations. “Foowowmuh,” Dogsbody mouthed over a giant cigar as he shambled down a dark corridor. Stephen assumed he was meant to follow.

The path Dogsbody took led down a light incline which spiraled deeper into to the ground. Gas lamps hung suspended from chains to lighten the way, Dogsbody expertly dodging them with sparse movements of his enormous head. Parallel steel tracks embedded in the floor, used to cart the Old Man’s wares up and down the spiral’s lengthy run, made for uneven footing. Before long, the ramp levelled off and became a long, arched corridor. Side corridors split off left and right at common intervals leading to specialised storage areas. The Old Man’s minions were busy at work down here, shifting boxes, crates, curios and oddities. Each worker was as different as the item they were in charge of. Curses, shouts, greetings and mindless gossip rang out from every nook and cranny whilst a hundred different odours vied for supremacy in Stephen’s nose. The bustle and noise was a friendly welcome after the stoic silence of his companion. Stephen smiled and waved at the handful of creatures he recognised from previous visits.

“Wuhhur,”
these little pseudo words are a bit hard to follow, if we aren't suppose to know what he is saying just say something like "He grunted something Stephen assumed meant we're here" said Dogsbody as he puffed on his ridiculous cigar. The corridor ended, opening up to a vast circular room that was bigger than most palaces. Jam-packed with the tools of the sorcerer’s trade and a ceiling which seemed to stretch up and up forever, Stephen forgot himself and gawked slack-jawed around him.

It’s bigger than before. Just look at all this stuff! I could get lost in here. Again.

It took Stephen a moment to realize that he was alone. With Dogsbody’s hulking frame disappearing behind a tower of books, Stephen quickened his pace to catch up, giving the marvels around him only a minor inspection in the process. They journeyed to the center of the room passing avenues of armour, lanes of lexicons, streets of surprises and many and more in stacked and orderly rows of head high shelves.
that sentence was a bit much Ahead a circular wooden dais was raised up from the ground, rough stone blocks of different sizes and colour forming stairs to its top. An ornately crafted desk stood in its centre, behind which an ominously large wing-backed chair sat. As Stephen drew closer the chair’s occupant could be seen. The Old Man wore a black suit with a silk shirt beneath, also black, unbuttoned to show a heavy gold amulet resting on milk white skin.
sometimes less is more don't feel obligated to describe ever single possible detail, sometimes its's good to really lay on the details other times its good to give us a feeling and let our minds run with it. Stephen was hoping to catch him in a congenial mood. The anger plainly written across his hard face caused Stephen to falter a step.
The man seated before Stephen did not look like the nickname that had been invented for him by his clientele. The Old Man’s true name had been forgotten but his deeds stretched back for as long as any could recall. To the casual observer he appeared to be a lean, attractive man in his thirties. His eyes though, were the telling feature. They were as old and weathered as the mountains, worn and tired by the centuries.

Dogsbody stopped at the foot of the stone steps and removing the cigar from his mouth, hid it behind his back like the good bugbear he was. Stephen stopped beside him, never assuming for a second to ascend the steps. The Old Man was a stickler for customs and formality at the best of times. Nobody was to approach him without consent, especially when on his dais. So he waited patiently while those cold grey eyes weighed him silently, his heart quickening with every moment’s pause.
Please don’t turn me back. Not now.

“Mister Horn. My, it has been a long time since our last meeting. Too long apparently, for you’ve forgotten all etiquette,” spoke the store owner, his eyes fixed on Stephens cap.
Stephen smiled apologetically and sweeping his hat from his head, bowed deeply.
“Yes sir. Business in the Orient has kept me from these shining shores for some time. Please forgive my interruption. I forgot myself in my haste.”
The Old Man waved a hand dismissively at Stephen’s apology.
“Yes. I’m sure. It was Ireland before that. Was it not? Quite the traveller you are.”
How on earth does he know that?
“Yes-sir. It runs in the family.”
A mirthless smile crept along the Old Man’s face.
“This is true.”
He glared at Stephen over interlocked fingers as he slouched back in to his chair, seemingly daring him to say more. Dogsbody shuffled nervously, ill at ease in his master’s presence. He turned from Stephen to the bugbear.
“You may leave. But mark my words creature. Nobody else is to disturb me again tonight or I’ll fill you with lice. Do you understand me?”
The giant nodded sheepishly in answer before giving Stephen an ugly look that promised retribution. He shuffled off with heavy footsteps, his heady aroma trailing after him. The Old Man sighed and looked to the heavens.
“I need to grow some better help. I’m surrounded by morons.”
Stephen coughed into his fist. The Old Man rounded back onto Stephen with a sly grin.
“Present company excluded of course.”
Stephen smiled back. “Of course.”
“So Mr Horn. What brings you to town? Business I assume?”
“Yes sir.”

The Old Man leapt from his chair and strode to edge of the dais. “Let us not waste another moment shall we?”
He hopped down the irregular stone steps with ease to stand before Stephen.
“We have many new acquisitions. Some that will benefit a man in your line of work most handsomely.”
The Old Man swept his arm in a wide arc to encompass his magnificent store.
“So what will it be? The usual order of potions and powders?”
He pointed to the northern side of the dome where row upon row sat bottles, jars and boxes filled with rare and exotic ingredients from around the globe.
“Or something slightly strange?”
The Old Man searched Stephen’s face for a hint of a clue before nodding to himself and wondering off towards the western side of the dome. Stephen trailed behind him.

“What do you make of this war going on?”
The Old Man spoke over his shoulder as he entered an aisle filled with toys and ancient figurines.
Stephen bit his lip.
What is he playing at? Does he really care about what goes on out there? Is he trying to distract me? Or is does he really want my opinion?
Seeing no harm in sharing his thoughts Stephen replied, “A dreadful thing made more barbaric by its lack of purpose and the shear brutality of the weapons they use.”
The Old Man stopped and ran a long sinewy finger over a dusty music box.
“Oh I wouldn't say it lacked purpose. Originality maybe… Nobody starts a war like they did in our day…”
The Old Man quickly glanced at Stephen and sighed.
“Or rather I should say my day.”
Turning, he continued on, eyes searching everywhere along the cluttered shelves. Stephen followed one step behind, his mood beginning to darken.

“Nothing good will come of this feud,” The Old Man said in a hushed voice, “Its effects shall be felt for generations to come. This I have seen. It would be best to find a quiet corner of the world and let it pass you by.”
“I have a place in mind sir,” Stephen replied.
“Good,” said The Old man as he started to walk. They meandered together down several aisles, The Old Man turning left or right at various junctions, his eyes inspecting every item on every shelf. Stephen knew he was searching for something but for what and for whom?
The Old Man spoke as they walked.
“There is nothing on this earth more detestable than murdering one’s own kin. This war in the west is a doomed affair, and I swear the victor will reap foul rewards. I just pray that they don’t focus their intentions eastwards too soon.”
Stephen shook his head as he mulled over the Old Man’s strange words.
“The war is in the east sir. Germany, France, Russia. It’s already quite convoluted. Almost all of Europe is involved or soon will be. Hopefully Asia isn’t affected too much…”
“I’m talking about the real war you fool boy!” The Old Man snapped at him, an elegant finger jabbing at Stephen’s chest with every word.
“That pathetic pissing contest in Europe is nothing compared to the bloodshed sweeping through the western worlds. The descendants of vile Remus are locked in civil war, his two favourites vying for the Twisted Crown. But no matter who mounts the throne, I can tell you for certain, it will only be a matter of time till they march on Rome and all that lay in their way.”

i know i am not suppose to know what is going on right now but its not good to lose your audience for this long, there is a war but its not the war Stephen was thinking about? You did a great job early hooking me by immersing me in an interesting world, but I need something to keep me interested.
Stephen stepped back from the onslaught, bumping into a shelf and causing several objects to wobble precariously. He felt the blood drain from his face and sweat began to bead on his forehead. The Old Man loomed over him, mouth down turned and cold eyes boring into his. “Remus is dead,” was all Stephen could stammer.
“And his wolves will march,” snarled The Old Man.
“Oh my… And you’re certain they will attack Rome?”
“It has always been their intention to seek revenge. Remus was far too feeble in his twilight years and didn’t have the strength of numbers in his youth. His sons have both the desire and ability.”
“And what will we do? What will you do?”
“We will wait and see, won’t we?”
“Wait and see?” Stephen was flabbergasted at The Old Man’s noncommittal answer.
“We’ve got to do something! Talk to them. Talk to Rome. Unite the worlds. Stand. Fight. Anything!”
“So you would stand and fight,” purred The Old Man as he stroked his chin.
“And who would you gather to fight in this army of yours? Do tell?”
Stephen raised a finger in the air. “For one, the heroes of the United Kingdom’s.”
“They can’t be in the same room together let alone a battlefield.”
Stephen raised a second finger. “Two. Their thralls and landed men.”
“All dead and forgotten. Thanks to those heroes of yours no less.”
Stephen raised a third finger. “The fair folk…”
“Wouldn’t leave their floating castles and woodlands unless the roof was on fire and they were out of wine. Which they won’t by the by. Love the stuff. Too fondly if you ask me. Those Dökkálfar though? They would fight for anyone if it meant killing some Ljósálfar along the way.”

Stephen raised a fourth finger, and after staring at it for some time, lowered his hand.
The Old Man continued for him.
“And the lords and ladies of France will run away and the German knights will remember they have some quest that requires urgent attention on the other side of the world and Rome will face the Western hordes by itself. It’s no secret.”
It dawned on Stephen that The Old Man was right. The forgotten worlds were full of marvels and half-forgotten treasures, people brimming with character and life from all walks and all shades with histories spanning millennia. With all of that history came a certain amount of baggage and ceremony. No two of the forgotten people could agree on the weather let alone deciding to fight in a war together. If the Western Hordes did march, it would undoubtedly divide the region as supporters rallied to each banner. Old blood feuds would be remembered and the promise and exciting prospect of revenge for wrongs long past would rouse many of the folk in different directions. County will fight county. Neighbour will fight neighbour. Brother will fight brother.
But who would fight for Rome?
And who would be there to offer help and support? To supply arms and logistics or magic beans and flying carpets or whatever an army of magical forgotten heroes could possibly need.
And all for the right price.

Stephen eyed the man before him, seeing him for all that he was.
“I suppose you will make quite the profit. Should this war happen of course.”
The Old man sneered back, “I will oblige any and all that come. I am after all a business man.”
Stephen inclined his head slightly in reply, a faint sneer beginning to show.
“Precisely. Let us turn our attentions back to the matter of my business. Do you have what I want?”
The Old Man spread his arms wide, gesturing to the dark dome above and the laden shelves around them.
“I have many things that you desire. All but one.” With a wolfish grin and a nasty gleam to his eye, The Old Man leaned in closer. “And you will never have her.”
Ice gripped at Stephen’s heart as The Old Man’s words sunk in and cut through his bravado. Hope vanished and fear took hold. Stephen could only blink in reply.
She is lost to me.
With numb hands he fretted feebly with his cane, turning and clasping at the ivory ornament. “How… How do you know?” Stephen replied hoarsely.
“I trade in more than just the material Mr Horn. To some, information is just as important.”
Stephen felt the stirrings of anger as he noticed the man in front of him smiling at his misfortune.
“But how? What do you know? Tell me!”
The Old Man casually picked up a wooden box and blew on the lid sending a shower of dust up. He inspected the lid before answering,
“No mortal can enter the realms of the Sidhe uninvited and you Stephen are most certainly unwelcome.”
Shaking his head Stephen began to pace in tight circles. The Old Man hadn’t told him anything he didn’t already know but hearing it aloud brought back bad memories and roused old feelings.
here we go now we are getting somewhere

A cold friendless night lashed with rain. The hillside slick with mud and his own blood. Broken finger nails scrabbling through the rocky ground. Laughter ringing through the trees. Stephen licked his lips nervously as he tried to push the images out of his mind.
“But there must be a way in. There must. A back door or something…”
“Nothing short of hell freezing over and a sale on ice skates would convince the Sidhe to come outside their cosy little caves,” said the Old Man through a sneer.
Stephen stopped his pacing and peered over a shoulder at the Old Man’s reply. His hands grappled with his cane until finally there was a sharp click. A dim light glowed in the gap between the ivory handle and the ebony shaft of the cane. A low humming sound could be heard and the distinct smell of rain wafted around the room. Stephen stalked closer to The Old Man.
“Do you think this is funny? Does my pain amuse you Old Man?”
Cold unflinching eyes regarded Stephen.
“Put that away before you hurt yourself.”
Stephen paused, realising just what he was reaching for. He hastily sheathed his cane.
so did he mean to activate his cane or not?
“What would you know of love anyway?” Stephen said in a rasped voice. “A love of money and dust?”
The Old Man took his eyes off Stephen and regarded the floor, jaw working as he ground his teeth. “I know more about love and heart break than you think Mr Horn.”
“I have lived a long life Stephen. I’ve seen it all and lived it all; Centuries of betrayal, scorn, tortured pride and unrequited desire. You mortals are just learning what I’m trying to forget.”
Stephen’s hands balls up into fists. He wanted to rage. He wanted blood and broken bone and singed flesh. He wanted to tear the vaulted ceiling down with his hands, right on top of the shallow creature in front of him.
But most of all he wanted her.
And he would gladly sup down The Old Man’s bitter words if it meant having her back. Swallowing his pride was never an easy task for one as blithely arrogant as Stephen (even if said arrogance was derived from so much success).
“So if you understand my predicament wholly, surely you must see that I will do anything to be reunited with her. Anything…”
A dangerous gleam flashed across The Old Man’s eyes too fast for Stephen to notice. “Anything you say?”
Stephen bit his lip. “I will do anything.”

The room went dark. Stephen felt a weight pressing at him from all sides, holding him in place. Desperately he tried to wiggle free. The weight increased steadily until he thought he would burst. He fell to his knees, the force of the blow magnified by the crushing pressure. Stephen cried out. A cold hand gripped his chin, jerking it upwards.
The Old Man smiled greedily down at him. His eyes shone dimly in the eerie darkness. “Three times you agreed to the exchange without stipulating payment. Three times you will be cursed if you should break the agreement. Do you deny this?”
Stephen shook his head slowly in reply, his rising horror choking at his wits.
“Good. In return for my services I set the following payment. After the birth of the third generation of your kin I will take my due. Know that it shall be very important to you. You will be greatly saddened by the loss. You must not hinder me in any way.”
Stephen sobbed loudly in a confusion of pain, regret and oddly, relief. The Old Man snarled and grabbing a fistful of hair, pulled Stephen painfully to his feet.
“Lastly, you are banned for life from my establishment. Set foot in here again and I will destroy you. Utterly. Do you understand me?”
that was a good scene

Tears streamed down Stephens face. He looked blankly into the leering grin of The Old Man and made his decision. “I… I…” Stephen stammered, unsure of the course he was plotting. He coughed and beckoned The Old Man to come closer.

“Answer me man. Yes or no?”
“I agree to your terms.” Stephen whispered softly as the pale man craned his neck forward, teeth gleaming in the darkness. With a flourish of his hand, Stephen produced a small pen knife and plunged it into the right eye of The Old Man.
“And I seal it in blood.”
what why on earth would he do this?
He had time to laugh as he watched his tormentor writhe on the floor, black blood leaking from the ruin of his pale face. Rough hands knocked Stephen to the floor and quickly got to work knocking the smile from his face.

Stephen woke periodically as he was dragged back to the main entrance. The two brutes manhandling him were bigger than Dogsbody in every dimension and nowhere near as civil. As he roused they would take turns pummelling him into unconsciousness. It was a very long trip, which thankfully, Stephen couldn’t recall.

Finally he was unceremoniously thrown headlong into the mud and filth covering the alley floor. Spinning and sliding in the slippery muck, he wound up crashing into an empty shipping crate. Spluttering and coughing up god-knows-what Stephen struggled to prop himself up against the box that had graciously stopped his most ungracious of falls.
Through swollen eyes thick with mud he peered back at the iron gates of The Old Man’s warehouse.
“Well? Where is it? Where are my pieces of silver? What have I paid so dearly for?”
Silence greeted him. The red gates shuddered and began to swing closed.
“Hey!” Stephen shouted. Something in his chest grated against something soft and tender. He winced.
“Where is it? What is it?”
Flying out of the closing darkness of the door came two cart wheeling shapes. Stephen covered his head with both arms as it became apparent they were targeted at him.

They fell short, hitting the ground with a hearty plop. His cane was easy to identify from its familiar shape. The other held Stephens attention.
It was all that he wanted.
why on earth would the old man still give him anything after stephen stabbed him with a pen out of no where?
And having paid such a steep price in pain and suffering he was most intrigued to see what it was. Fumbling his way forward on hands and knees, he approached the key to his heart’s desire. Picking it up gingerly he wiped the filth from it. Underneath was a wooden box, carved with flowing Ogham script. Stephen’s eyes bulged as he read. What was in the box was more than enough to get his lady love back. The possibilities seemed endless. Stephen stole a glance back at the brooding entrance of the store and wondered about The Old Man’s trade. The whole conversation had been a ploy to put Stephen off balance, one that had worked all too well.
But had he always intended to give such a powerful object away to Stephen? And what price would Stephen ultimately pay?
After the third generation of your kin.
Whatever The Old Man wanted, it would be some time before his motives became apparent.
Gathering his cane, Stephen hoisted himself up and began the slow walk back to his automobile. He had the seed of a plan to find his love but now he needed one to stop The Old Man.

Ok so final thoughts this was a great introduction. I am intrigued and definitely want to know more. Grammar was impeccable i can't say that I found any significant issues as I read the piece which makes me think this is fairly polished. That said, I would agree with some of the others that you tend to spend to much time with description. Knowing every detail is nice but at times its to much and you can lose your audience if you are not careful.

My biggest complaint would be in the scene between Stephen and the old man. The discussion about the war seemed to be pointless in relation to Stephen's story, but Stephen got really heated bringing up stuff about hero's and fair people when he would have been wholly consumed with the thought of this girl he is trying to rescue. His thoughts should have distracted annoyed that the old man would even bring it up, unless that war somehow impacts his ability to find this girl.

Then Stephen attacks the old man stabbing him in the eye with a pen. Now unless that pen is some sort of magic artifact that binds the old man to his contract that seems incredibly stupid. Why would Stephen attack the man who he needs to give him some sort of magical item. and then even more confusing is why the old man gave it to him. All of that came of extremely counter-intuitive, in an otherwise masterfully thought out scene.

Keep up the story and message me with any more updates I really enjoyed this.

R. Mountebank
April 12th, 2015, 03:37 AM
Thanks Deafmute.

Great crit. I see that some points/motivations are weak when spelled out. The eye stabbing thing may be too over the top. I might tone it back a notch or change things entirely. Its annoying when things make total sense in your head but don't stack up in reality. As for the war, it will affect everyone, hence why Stephen is concerned. That whole exchange will need tweaking regardless.

Chur

Deafmute
April 12th, 2015, 10:38 PM
sounds like a plan to me. cn't wait to see where this goes really enjoyed it.

canary
April 13th, 2015, 07:10 AM
Really nice, I'd love to see where this goes.

You've already got some great comments. I just dropped in to add one thing: if you have YA intentions for this, or plan to appeal to the wider short-attention-span crowd, you might want to start with dialogue or higher-conflict action right from the beginning.

R. Mountebank
April 13th, 2015, 08:36 AM
Thanks Canary.

The pace of the book is slightly slow for the first four chapters. After that it ramps up.
It was something I fretted over for a long time. Not too sure how to change it now.
I hope I don't lose everyones attention before it gets interesting....

Cheers

canary
April 14th, 2015, 05:11 AM
Thanks Canary.

The pace of the book is slightly slow for the first four chapters. After that it ramps up.
It was something I fretted over for a long time. Not too sure how to change it now.
I hope I don't lose everyones attention before it gets interesting....

Cheers

Not at all--personally I'm hoping you'll post more, as I'd like to see what happens. I made some assumptions, which might absolutely be wrong-headed, about the audience you have in mind.

I do think you have quite a few opportunities here to crank up the reader's involvement from the start, without making any major plot changes. For instance, you might consider starting with the door-knocking and Stephen's desperate need to get past Dogsbody. It all depends on what kind of reader you're trying to hook. Or, during the war discussion with the Old Man, there might be some way to tie that conflict more personally to Stephen, so as to add tension (some readers might find it easier to care about consequences to a particular character they're getting to know, than to the unknown world at large), or shorten it and save some of that information for later. I'd also think about having Stephen recognize the box on the way in or during his discussion with the Old Man so that his drive is a little more specific. Just a few impressions, you might have any of a hundred reasons to take a different path.

But, what I should really have said first is that your dialogue is riveting, you have some great contrast between your characters, and I really enjoyed the way you dropped in little mysteries for us to wonder about without feeling the need to over-explain how your world works (e.g. "You do seem to be made of flesh. This time...")

R. Mountebank
April 15th, 2015, 10:15 AM
Thanks for all of the feedback guys. The MS is currently being reviewed by an editor/assessor. I will add more chapters after I've had a chance to make edits based on her notes.

StephLondon
April 27th, 2015, 05:27 PM
Wow, I love this! Sure, it needs some tweaking (nothing more than what everyone else has stated), but I'm definitely in. Whenever you post or if you need anyone to read something, I'd love to volunteer. Haha.
Personally, the main things that stuck out to me as a frequent YA reader included the prologue being a bit too long and detailed and confusing in the conversation and the pace being just a tad too slow. For a normal chapter, this would be a fine pace, but I just think a prologue should have something more for the reader to get interested in. I loved your ability to describe things in a manner that didn't feel boring to read.
Awesome job.