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View Full Version : Chapter One, 2500 words, fantasy**language warning



Savalric
September 23rd, 2015, 01:06 AM
It’s time to walk. It was always time to walk. For a Walker knows no other life but to walk the Earth until they come of age. It does not matter where a Walker goes once he’s given his hooded cloak. Only that he returns when he is called. As the lone Walker turns his back on the icy fortress sinking over the horizon, the sky darkened, plunging the frozen desert, and the Walker, into a long-lasting darkness. Unfortunately for the Walker, that darkness was the beginning of a long winter. As he turned to look back at the fortress frozen in time, he felt doubt: Doubt that he’d ever return.

But he didn’t have time to think of doubt. The winter was a much more pressing concern. With winds strong enough to throw a man across a field and a chill cold enough to freeze an ocean, survival in this harsh wasteland was no small feat. An ordinary man would be dead in minutes; a child even quicker. The Walker was no ordinary child though.

He pulled his cloak tightly around him and trudged through the waist deep snow. He looked up into the night sky and noticed it was a full moon. He was thankful, for without it, he’d be walking through this snow in complete darkness. But that’s where his luck ended. He noticed dark storm clouds on the horizon before he departed, and storm clouds here only brought more ice; and more darkness. It seemed to be a pattern in these lands.
Underneath his cloak, he was absolutely freezing. Frost covered his skin from head to toe, and in a matter of hours, he was shivering. He didn’t know much about the cold, but he knew that the only thing worse than shivering, was not. He had to make it to the coast before then. He picked up his pace, the clear sky turning a dark gray as the winds began to pick up. Another hour passed, and the white desert had turned black. His chances of reaching the coast looked slimmer, but he stomped on, confident, his head held high. The walk to the ocean was the easy part.

Without warning, he dropped to his knees, his breathing ragged as the snow came up to his chest. He was only four feet tall, and nature was making sure he knew it. As tired as he was, and cold as he was, he was certainly starting to feel as though nature didn’t want him to live. He looked around quickly and stood back up, his once thin, black cloak now mostly white with snow. A mistake that would cost him, he was sure, but a brief reprieve that he relished in the short term. He kept moving.

Hours turned into days as a seemingly eternal darkness devoured his world. But that darkness brought reassurance. He didn’t fear the night, or the dark, but embraced it. He could lose himself in the darkness, and forget the harsh reality he was in.

The snow thinned out, now only coming up to his ankles, but a strong wind and flying snowflakes were beating his back, pushing him forward. He was grateful in a way; he had been taught to clear his mind entirely in order to deal with the biting cold, and the wind was the only thing guiding him to the coast.

Days passed before the thinning snow gave way to ice covered rocks. He took a deep breath and sighed, the harsh cold stinging his nostrils as he took in the smell of the ocean. He gazed around lazily; if not for the sound of water hitting rock and ice, and the invigorating smell of saltwater, he’d never know in this light that he was at the ocean. He’d heard tales of numbed Walkers striding straight into the ocean, unaware that they had even arrived until they dropped off the sea-shelf, into eternal darkness. Although, he couldn’t remember where he heard that from.

He glanced behind him, only his piercing blue eyes visible underneath his hooded cloak. They shone brightly in the shadows of his hood, as if some candle flickered, hidden inside his eyes. The blizzard was closing in on him, and the winds were becoming too strong to remain here for much longer.

He noticed that it seemed to be getting colder, but that was only because he was running out of magic. The feel of the wind told him as much, as he shouldn’t feel anything. That’s when the shivering grew worse. Much worse. He’d heard what happens when people start dying of the cold, but this was nothing like what he’d heard. He could barely believe this was considered shivering, his whole body shaking rather uncontrollably. He needed time to restore his reserves, and that meant finding something to eat.

He quickly swung around, looking for something, anything, but there was nothing but snow and water for miles. The smell of the ocean was overwhelming, there’d be no way for him to track an animal by scent. And he lacked the energy to chase down his prey, so he would need to track a predator. There was only one predator that would chase down a human in these lands. And without a powerful scent to attract one, his odds were long at best.

He started forward and stumbled, and then took off in a dead sprint. Rocks flew behind him as he flitted down the coast, the wind whipping around him violently as he covered miles in a matter of minutes. He stumbled again, the shaking making it difficult to continue. But he pushed on. A mile later, he tripped on some loose stones and flew to the ground, tumbling around for over a hundred feet before he came to a stop, face down and nearly unconscious, but alive nonetheless. He sat back on his rear, and sighed, hoping that this wasn’t where his Walk ended.

Making it to the coast was supposed to be the easy part. Despite the Citadel being miles upon miles inland, his training had taught him to ignore the passage of time, and to shield his body from the elements while doing so. But he lacked the power to make the trip back. He wouldn’t survive the return, so his only choice was to keep moving.

He tried to stand up but couldn’t; his body wouldn’t budge. He tried again, but still, he couldn’t move. It felt like there was a massive weight on his back, preventing him from moving. He knew he was tired but there was no way he was already at the point of muscle exhaustion. He sat back down, resigned to his fate, and stared up at the fur-covered sky above him. Wait… fur? His heart nearly stopped as he realized where he was: under a Frostback Bear.

The beast was easily ten feet tall, and fifteen feet long. Covered in thick, white fur with random black streaks going from his head to his short, stubby tail. Her legs were like tree trunks, massive and thick. She was feared for her insatiable appetite, and her razor sharp claws, each one thicker than a boy’s arm. She was also nearly blind and practically deaf, senses that aren’t that important when blending in with the snow, howling winds, and blinding blizzards are the norm. But once she senses warmth, blood, or food, she'll never stop her rampage.

He also knew that most weapons were highly ineffective against these beasts; with over two inches of fur, thick, tough skin like nails, and even more layers of fat underneath that, she was highly feared, even amongst the powerful warriors on Anico. It often took parties of ten or more to beat one to death, as cutting one in the open air was suicide. More would flock to the smell of blood and work up a frenzy in minutes.

The Walker scrambled backwards, and then stood up facing the monster of a bear. Her hot breath washed over The Walker like a tidal wave of warm water, refreshing him and stopping his shakes almost immediately. The two stared into each other’s eyes, neither moving from their position. The Walker tilted his head, staring curiously into the beast’s eyes. Something was there, something that studied him. It slowly dawned on him; it was aware. Of what was a mystery, but this wasn’t the ferocious beast the tales made her out to be.

The bear stood up on her massive hind legs, then flopped down on her rear with a hard thud. Unsure of what to do, he mimicked the bear, sitting cross-legged in his spot. The two continued this stare for quite some time, as the bear’s breath warmed the Walker gradually, despite the frigid winds assaulting the two. Then, she reached back, and pushed a bloody carcass towards the Walker. She watched him again, as if studying his reaction. This was no mindless beast.

Not one to refuse a gift, he tore a large piece of fat and meat off the carcass and started to eat it raw, unsure exactly of what it was he was eating. His only assurance was that it wasn’t human, and that was enough for now.
The bear reached down with her massive jaw and scooped up the remains in one bite, the sound of bones crunching filling the air. In seconds, there was nothing left but the two of them. She stood up, staring into the Walker’s eyes once more, before heading inland at a decent speed, soon disappearing into the darkness.

His mind was blank as he stared where the bear had just sat and graciously shared its meal with him. It didn’t make any sense, but he knew he couldn’t sit there forever thinking about it. The tide rose in the winter months, and he didn’t have long before it would force him inland again, back into the snow. He needed to get a bearing on where he was, and soon: the food had only brought him another day at most.

He started running again, this time he was more careful, lest he run out of luck and the next bear he falls under eats him. Hours passed, and he had covered well over a hundred miles of coast before he slowed to a jog, and then stopped altogether. He could barely make it out, but that looked to be a tree in front of him, about a hundred yards away.

His blood turned cold at the sight, and in an instant, he knew where he was: Iclyst Forest. The dangers that lurked in those woods were beyond nightmares, and he knew that he had gone the wrong way. He didn’t have a choice now, and he reluctantly turned his back on the ocean and curved inland, keeping the forest to his distant right as he jogged across the snowy plain that separated the forest and the wasteland.


For once, he was grateful; so long as he kept Iclyst to his right and stayed in the Frozen Plains, he should reach Dragon’s Rim in hours, and that meant relative safety and warmth. But he didn’t have very long to cherish this thought, because his Walk was over. Without warning, he collapsed into the snow, breathing harder than ever. His mind was willing, but his body had failed him. He hadn’t noticed just how weak he was, until he had exhausted his power and realized he had nothing in reserve.

He rolled over onto his back and stared up into the dark clouds. Most would call him blessed, after all, the storm had never dropped its load the entire time he had been trying to escape it. He’d survived an encounter with the deadliest beast on Anico, although that left far more questions than he would have liked. He had avoided trekking into the deadly Iclyst Forest, a mistake that would’ve cost him his very soul. Over a week had passed since his departure, and yet it felt like minutes to him. There was still so much he wanted to know, to understand, but he was resigned to his fate. He had failed his Walk, and crying about it would change nothing. He closed his eyes, and let the darkness reclaim him.



His eyes shot open and an incredible light seared his pupils. He quickly rolled over, clutching his skull in agony as he slammed shut his eyes. Damn… heaven’s bright… he thought, chuckling. He slowly sat up, allowing his eyes to adjust to the brightness. The first thing he saw were white clouds, covering the ground as far as he could see. Just above the dense fog, he could see mountains in the distance, bursting upwards into the heavens. He followed the peaks and looked up into the sky, his body relaxing as he bathed in the sun’s warmth.

But something wasn’t right. Or rather, nothing seemed different. He looked to his left; he could barely make out the walls of his home over the top of the rolling hills of snow. To his right: Iclyst Forest. Which meant the mountains straight ahead were Dragon’s Rim.

Why aren’t I dead? If the sun’s out, that means the winter has ended… his breathing quickened as he realized he had slept for nearly five months!

How is this possible!?

I died! Didn’t I?

He jumped to his feet, his whole body twitching with anticipation.

This doesn't make sense.

None of this makes sense.

He started running again, but collapsed before he made two steps, his muscles creaking with inactivity.

No, no, no, why am I alive?!


He was screaming in his head, his eyes straining as they darted around in his skull. He was searching for answers in a barren landscape, and finding nothing but more questions.

He didn’t just need answers, he craved them. Thirsted for them. The more he panicked, the more he strained to remember something in his training, anything to explain what was going on.

His training… had he been trained? How did he know that Frostbacks were vicious beasts if he couldn’t remember reading about them?

He quickly realized that he couldn’t recall actually leaving the Citadel’s gates.

How did he know which way to go once he left the Citadel, or that the forest was dangerous? He couldn’t even recall what was so dangerous about it.

His pulse pounded in his ears as he began to hyperventilate. His arm began to hurt, and he could feel half his body growing weaker. He swirled around, the world a white blur as he tried to comprehend what was going on.

Then, he stopped. He stood there, his heart slowly down gradually, his muscles relaxing. It slowly occurred to that he couldn’t remember the trip to the coast either. He couldn’t remember anything before collapsing in the darkness, and that brought a strange calmness over him. And a conflicting rage.

He inhaled deeply, clenching his fist as he threw his head back towards the sky, and tried to yell. Rather, he started coughing hard, his vocal cords going unused for so long. He couldn't remember the last time he spoke either, or if he even knew how.




------

Took a long break from writing anything, so, after rewriting the intro to my novel, I'm just looking for feedback. Last time I posted, you guys gave great advice so here's hoping for some more. A few things to note: At this point, the character doesn't have a name, and has/will be referred to by/as the Walker. I'm not exactly certain what my style is yet, so if you notice it changing, or even you notice that I do have one, please, point it out. Generally, I'm just looking to improve what can be, but also to know how invested you feel in the story. Did you feel what the character was feeling? Did it feel as though he might not make it to the coast? And when he "died" did you feel anything? The problem I'm having and trying to solve is pacing; what to leave out, what to put in, how to move it ahead. The this intro takes place over a week, and then five months after the timeskip. Was it jarring? Anything else you can provide is very much appreciated.

EDIT: One thing I forgot to ask; does my writing seem plain? I'm just overly used to writing research papers, and making the switch to narratives is harder than I thought.

Harper J. Cole
September 24th, 2015, 07:54 PM
Thanks for posting, Savalric. I found this to be a clearly written piece, though there were a few small instances of awkward phrasing which I can run through if you like.


Did you feel what the character was feeling? Did it feel as though he might not make it to the coast? And when he "died" did you feel anything?

In answer to these questions, I think you did a good job of showing the effects of the cold on the Walker. I didn't really believe that he wouldn't reach the coast or that he would die, but I'm not sure that there's any way to avoid that. A character who is introduced at the start of the story will hardly ever die in chapter one; I'm struggling to think of any books I've read where that's happened. As such, your audience will expect the character to survive, no matter how bleak things look for him.

It was an interesting opening, though. I don't remember encountering the idea of jumping through time in a fantasy novel before.

HC

Savalric
September 24th, 2015, 10:45 PM
Thanks for the advice :). I sort of figured as much (about the dying and such), but with being only chapter one, I just wanted to know how much of an impact was made so far. I'm new to writing so I just want to see how everything is holding up or not.

I'd appreciate it if you showed me where the awkward phrasing is though. I wrote this piece months ago, and then altered it and the ending in several places for a different outcome (he doesn't "die" in the original piece.)

One thing I've read is that when nothing important is happening, skipping around is usually the norm, but i've never done it before so I just wanted to make sure it wasn't hard to follow. He's literally just walking in a straight line for about a week, but for him the effects of the cold are far slower and gradual (until he runs out of power, then it's like hitting a brick wall in a desert that wasn't there before).

Harper J. Cole
September 26th, 2015, 04:33 PM
Savalric,

These are the problems I spotted; I think most of them are just typos, to be honest.


He looked up into the night sky noticed it was a full moon.

There needs to be an 'and' or a comma between 'sky' and 'noticed'.


And without a powerful scent to attract one, his odds were slim were difficult at best.

Here 'were difficult' needs removing. Also, I think that odds are more likely to be described as 'long' rather than 'slim'.


A mile later, he tripped on some loose stones and flew to the ground, tumbling around over a hundred feet before he came to a stop, face down and nearly unconscious, but alive nonetheless.

Either 'around' or 'over' need deleting.


They were also nearly blind and mostly deaf, senses that aren’t that important when you blend in with the snow and howling winds and blinding blizzards are the norm. But once it senses warmth, blood, or food, it’ll never stop its rampage.

Here you switch from calling the bears 'they' in the first sentence to 'it' in the second one, while also switching from past to present tense.


Then, the bear reached behind it, pushing a bloody carcass towards the Walker. She watched him again, as if studying his reaction.

The bear switches between being 'it' and 'she' here and in a few other places.


His mind was blank as he stared where the bear had once sat and graciously shared its meal with him.

I think 'had just sat' rather than 'had once sat', as the latter implies something that happened a fairly long time ago.


He started running again, this time he was more careful, less he run out of luck and the next bear he falls under eats him.

Here 'less' should be 'lest' and the tense again switches from past to present.


He quickly rolled over, clutching his skull in agony as slammed shut his eyes.

Missing 'he' between 'as' and 'slammed'.


Nothing that has happened made sense.

Another tense switch.


He inhaled deeply, clenching his fist as he threw his head back towards the sky, and roared, “WHAT THE FUCK!?”

This is quite contemporary language for a fantasy story, though I think it can still work if applied consistently.

HC

Savalric
September 27th, 2015, 02:43 AM
Thanks for all the help. I knew I was going to have a problem with the grammar as I went back to the piece MONTHS later and changed several parts. In fact, nearly every line was mentioned was altered, with the ending being new entirely. I should probably start reading my pieces from the end to beginning to solve these problems as my re-reads didn't catch these (trust me, there were a lot more). Of course, I know what I meant, which is usually the reason why they go unnoticed.

You also mentioned tense a lot, but I'm not quite sure which tense I should operate in, and how to handle thoughts and tenses.

Which brings me to the "What the fuck" moment. I knew it sounded strange for a fantasy novel, but I really don't know what a good alternative would be. Honestly, I haven't read anything in quite some time, and your comment made me realize that I can't go on until I have a better grasp on what and how I should be writing fantasy. I actually thought I could write it like I do my papers in school, but it's a helluva lot different.

EDIT: I've made changes to the mistakes you pointed out (thanks again, it's hard finding people to help me out). I think once I get this chapter golden, I'll have something to compare my writing to and to know how it should be. I also removed the scream, as it occurred to me that someone who hasn't spoke in months shouldn't be able to talk right away.

Harper J. Cole
September 27th, 2015, 03:00 PM
Yes, I think a read-through will usually catch errors like that; especially if you read it aloud (maybe not possible if you're living with other people).

Using WTF might work if you were going for a lighter tone, but this looks like a serious piece so a more traditional voice is probably appropriate.

Reading books by successful fantasy authors is a good way to learn how to write in the genre. Of course, you'll want to put your own stamp on it. Even quite successful authors have been guilty of trying too hard to sound like Tolkien. :o