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Searching for Salt (on the Island of Juntos) (1 Viewer)

ejrosetta

Senior Member
Hi All! I'd love some feedback on my fantasy novel, even if only a mark out of ten! Harsh criticism welcomed.

CHAPTER ONE – THE LAND OF LILLIMOOR - LENA


You know those mornings when you wake up, and for a blissful moment you forget what the day has in store for you? Well that's me this morning, all curled up with the sheets over my head, turning warmly over before jerking upright when I realise what the time is. I'm late! Then comes that fear, right in the pit of my stomach. I jump up and run, all dazed and confused, barely managing to pull my sandals on and lace them up properly before rushing out the door.


I meet Hudson, who's waiting for me on the corner, already wearing his Traders cloak and tapping his fingers against the post, impatiently.


I'm Sorry!” I gasp but he only lifts two bushy eyebrows and gives me that look that says “You're an idiot, but I forgive you”.


I pull my cloak clumsily over my shoulders, tying it loosely at the neck as quickly as I can. It droops around my shoulders, the frayed hem dragging against the floor.


Your neck will burn, Helena.” Hudson warns me, in a voice that only a brother can.


Before I can argue back at him I realise he's right, annoyingly. I have milky skin with waves of freckles, so I pull the collar of my Trading Cloak up so that it casts a protective shadow over my neck.


Happy now?” I ask, and Hudson nods, a little smile coming out of his eyes. “And don't call me Helena. You know I hate that.”


Of course he knows I hate my full name. That's why he called me by it. He peers sideways at me again with a glint of mischief in his eyes and before he can stop me, I shove him playfully in the arm. Hard, and suddenly, so that he actually stumbles sideways, almost falling into the hedgerows that line the street of identical flint cottages. He's sturdy, my brother, at least 6ft 8 with broad bones, heavy features and chestnut hair. Unlike me. I'm angular and awkward, and could be called willowy if someone were being kind. The only way you'd know we were twins is because we have the same green eyes and this milky skin that burns even in pale sunlight.


All right, Lena.” he teases, emphasising my name with a smart tone. “Now come on, we're already late.”


He turns quickens his pace down the street, not having to tell me to keep up with him, or else. I'm starving and want to eat something, or at least have some water, and I ask Hudson, optimistically, if he has anything that he can spare?


Breakfast is only for people who can get themselves out of bed in the morning!” He taunts me, sharply, before softening slightly when he looks at how bleary and nervous I am about today.


For now, have these...” He grumbles, pulling a stalk of red berries from a bush at the side of the road and thrusting them, disapprovingly, into my hands.


But then he smiles sideways at me, even though I can see he's trying not to, before ruffling my hair playfully. I knew he couldn't stay mad at me for long! I shove the berries in my mouth, leaves and all, but they only make me thirstier. I need to find some water, soon.


For now though, we head down along the road towards the centre of town. Although it's warm, there's a breeze blowing and sand swishes through the air, making me blink as it gristles into my eyes. Ahead, Hudson walks just a little faster than me and hums absent mindedly, a tune which I recognise but can't quite place.


Will you knock that off?!” I snap at him. I've not quite woken up yet and am grumpy when tired.


I realise I'm being unreasonable, but instead of arguing Hudson just shrugs and stops humming out loud. I can see out of the corner of my eye, though, that his lips are pressed together and his eyes are slightly downwards flicking back and forth, head bobbing, making out the notes soundlessly. The tune is still in his head.


The town centre is a large, flat square with an imposing stone water fountain in the centre, which I run towards, thirstily. Four buildings loom either side of the square – the Boarding House, the Dining Block, the Saloon and the Town Hall, which is where we're heading. Not before I've had something to drink, though. Usually there are children scattered around playing nearby. But today is a Trading day and there's that tense sense of danger in the air, so they're all huddled in the Boarding House until it's over. The rest of the town is also inside, one way or another, waiting it out.


I sit myself on the cold stone lip of the fountain for a moment and dip both hands in to the pool, dragging them urgently out and slurping up the cool water so fast I almost forget to keep breathing. As the fountain spurts a stream of water above our heads, it trickles heavily down onto the surface causing ripples and specks of fresh water that splash temptingly onto my face. I want to close my eyes and enjoy it, but I'm on guard, so I resist for now. Taking the leather strap from around my wrist, I gather my heavy, wheat blonde hair and twist it three times so that it all sits in a messy bun on top of my head, and secure it there by knotting the leather around it.


Come on Lena, we don't have time for that.” Hudson says, squinting through the mid morning sun towards the steps of the Town Hall. “So do you want to stay here or come with me?”


He knows the answer to that. Of course I'm coming. He only asks because our laws don't yet recognise me as a Trader, so he's being polite. Which I have to thank him for, but actually it makes me feel so inferior I want to growl at someone. Didn't I get this role off my own back? I may be the first girl to become a Trader in the land of LilliMoor, but here I am, and I earned it, so I wish everyone would just get used to it.


Although saying that, as we head off I do let him lead the way. Because I wouldn't want to upset anyone who isn't yet happy with it. Give the more traditional Elders some time to get used to the idea, right? I'll get my day. Wait it out.


We step onto the sandy ground and across the square into the Town Hall; a large stone building with high walls and only small slits for windows right at the very top. This makes the light very dim, even though it's almost mid morning, and the dust in the air can be seen creeping and swirling around us as we swing open the heavy wooden doors and step inside. We make our way through the room purposefully, all eyes turning on us as we do. Every adult member of the Pact of LilliMoor sits in the Town Hall, split into three groups, each gathered around a long wooden table with low benches and mismatched chairs cluttered round.


They've been waiting for us. Voices drop to a murmur and cups are heard being placed onto the tables. Chair legs scrape over the stone floor so that their occupants can get a better look at us. Almost a hundred faces turn towards me, each a different shape and colour, and watch us eagerly as we make our way down the length of the hall and up to the main table. All that can be heard after a minute, when everyone has gotten themselves into position, are Hudson's heavy boots stomping down the walkway, followed by my scuttling footsteps behind.


Hudson's cloak (which is thicker than mine... figures) billows behind him and gets completely in my way. I'm finding it hard to juggle holding my head up and shoulders back and keeping up with my brother as it is, without trying not to trip over the draping leather folds. Last thing I need right now is to fall flat on my face in front of the entire Leaders Assembly. Which has happened to me before – I'm “adorably” clumsy.


At the head of the room, on top of a raised platform sits the shortest wooden table, but it's by far the grandest. It's intricately carved and perfectly waxed, and even though I'm squinting I can't see a single mark out of place on it. Five thrones sit behind it, the largest in the middle for our leader, Reina Livier, and the other four for her carefully selected Advisors.


I don't look at the chair on the far left, although I can feel the girl sitting there staring at me. Her glinting grey eyes and long, almost black hair are turned towards me, smirking slightly, daring me to look in her direction. Her name is RiChelle, and before I became a Trader and she became an Advisor, we were what you would call friends. Although that seems so impossible to imagine now, I wonder whether any of it were actually true?


In the middle of forcing myself not to look at her (she's not worth it), Reina Livier stands up and her long white robe and matching silver hair falls evenly around her shoulders, all the way to the ground.


Welcome, Trader Hudson, and Trader Lena.” She calls to us in an authoritative voice


She blinks her sapphire eyes and nods a greeting at Hudson, who bows slightly, and then flicks her stare over to do the same to me. But just as she's pulling her head up from her nod, and I'm beginning my bow, my heart sinks as I notice that look in her eyes. Just a small flicker, so slight I'm sure she doesn't even know she did it. That raise of the eyebrows and pressing of the lips.


That flash in her eyes that says... “You shouldn't be here.”


But I am. And I'm staying. So let's just get on with the Trade, shall we?




CHAPTER TWO – THE THREE COVENS – LENA


Now that the greeting is over, or what passes as a greeting, Hudson and I step to one side and sit on the stools next to the Leaders Platform. Now, the three Covens of LilliMoor, one on each table, will come forward bringing their products and present them to be collected. Yes, Collected. Not Traded. Not here.


Because we're not trading amongst ourselves... Oh no. That would be far too easy. We are the Pact of LilliMoor, a society that lives by rules and regulations. Everyone here in our tribe has a specific role and in my whole 14 years living here since birth, I have never known there to be any civil wars or unsolvable disputes. We live as a group. A hive. A perfectly functioning unit. We perform our duties. There would be no need for us to trade amongst ourselves, as we share everything equally. We have collective resources. We pull together. It works.


Now, we would be floating along in blissful peace, aside from the fact that the LilliMites are not the only tribe that live here on the Island of Juntos. Which is incredibly inconvenient as far as wars and attacks are concerned, but useful when it comes to Trading Day. See, we have some resources that the other two tribes (or Pacts as we call ourselves) desperately need. And they have things that we absolutely have to get to survive, too.


Meat, for example. The Pact nearest to us hunts and slays cattle, something that a LilliMite wouldn't know how to do if our life depended on it. We're smart, a lot smarter than the other two Pacts, but not so hot on hunting and gathering. We're good Crafters too... I'd like to see the others carve a table like our leaders one... and we know a lot about building and sanitary systems and effective food preservation. You know, the boring yet essential stuff that makes us the most progressive and intelligent of the three Pacts. We'd definitely survive the longest in a disaster. We have bunkers.


But hunting we don't do. Oh no. So we depend on the Pact of Inom, our neighbours to the North, to trade with us the flesh of the GrinLan beasts that roam the PlaneLands in the NorthWest of Juntos, right next to their territory. The women of the Pact of Inom season it for us too, so it's well worth the trade. In fact its delicious. I could have used some for breakfast. My mouth is salivating just thinking about it.


However, the Land of Inom is rocky, mountainous, and although they have caves to live in (we build houses) and can get firewood from the WasteLands between our territories, they can't purify water. Well, they could if we told them how to do it. But then what would they need from us, eh? So we drag massive vats of purified (boiled) water all the way to our border and swing open the gates to swap it for GrinLan meat. And that keeps everyone happy, for now.


There are other things too, of course. They can't craft tools, because like I said... they're not so smart. They used to use clubs or chuck stones, but that's not the quickest way to catch a GrinLan, and they'd maybe get one or two a week at that rate. And then we'd all starve. So we give them arrows chipped from flint, and dipped in Cralk Sap which oozes from the trees within our territory. This shining orange sap is dangerous, potent, and if an arrow covered in it hits the flesh and pierces the skin, the Cralk Sap will ooze into the blood. The victim is immediately immobilised; groggy and slumping, so its obvious why they want it. We don't give them too much though. Just enough to hunt. And of course there's that unspoken threat... that we have it. And if we were ever forced to, we would damn well use it to protect ourselves.


Which is a joke really because not a single one of us LilliMites could ever aim a slingshot or lift a club even if we wanted to. We just aren't built that way. They'd probably have us overpowered and have nicked our weapons quicker than you can say “selective evolution”. But the threat is enough to keep the Warriors of Inom from attacking. For now. Until they figure out there are more of them than us, anyway, which would require some degree of intellectual intelligence. So no worries there then.


With a shuffling, the head of one of the three Covens stands up, representing the Flint Coven. He shuffles over, bringing a bag full of the perfectly crafted flint arrows, and places them on the Leaders Platform in front of Reina Livier.


The Flint Coven, with your permission, would like to trade twenty arrows for two hind legs of a GrinLan, please.” He states, simply.


The Flint Leader waits for any of the Advisors to challenge his trade, if they think it's unfair. They don't, so he sits, relieved, back at his table, leaving the arrows behind.


Hudson and I make note – two hind legs of a GrinLan for the Flint Coven. Which is a pretty good choice actually. The GrinLan beasts are vast, snarling, hairy creatures with thick bodies and bulky necks. Their heads, draped in long manes, sport huge horns and wet, glistening snouts with sharp teeth poking out of the bottom. When they fight, the beasts rise up on their hind legs and go at each other with their horns, so their back legs are probably the best cut of the animal to choose from. Good call, Flint Coven. Good call.


The Flint Coven are made up of the more practical, skilled roles. The Builders, the Plumbers, the Nutritionists, the Crafters. They choose the meat because they will be responsible for cooking it. Nice and direct, very practical, and just like them. I have no idea how we would function without them.


Of course I don't know anything, really, about the GrinLan for sure, I've just heard it. I've never stepped outside the gates, which are the only gap in the vast, stretching wall that envelopes our Land of LilliMoor. In fact today, my first day as a Trader, will be my first time.


The Wall is as much to keep us in as it is to keep the others out. Our Crafters built it 20 years ago, when the Pact of Inom foolishly tried to storm our boarders. They were cocky though, didn't bring enough of them, so we subdued them and then tossed them back into the WasteLands, unconscious from Cralk Sap. By the time they'd all come to and their wounds had healed, we'd began construction. And a LilliMite has never stepped outside of our land since.


Next, Willow, the aged, stooping leader of the Bark Coven steps up, and pulls forward her offering for the trade. As expected, she places a jar of orange, gooey liquid on the surface – the Cralk Sap. Obviously the arrows are not much good without the venomous sap, so it's sort of up to the Bark Coven Leader to name her price. They bring the same thing pretty much every time. Easy.


The Bark Coven are what I call the “secondary” roles. Just as important to the Pact, don't get me wrong, but less practical. The Healers, the Minders and The Tellers, who teach and look after the children. They're all gentle and dreamy and incredibly sensitive. They remind me of softly flowing water.


With your permission, Reina Livier...” Willow addresses our leader, who's silken skin and sapphire eyes rest easy on her face. “The Bark Coven trade a jar of Cralk Sap, for a small handful of mixed Glinta Stones.”


Oooohhhh, interesting choice. There's a murmuring around the room and next to me Hudson shuffles in his chair. We have to keep straight faces as we're supposed to be impartial, but already I can feel my eyebrows raising in disbelief.


Because why on earth do they bother with Glinta? They are these useless stones, all shiny and sparkling, that crystalise on the top of the mountains in the Land of Inom. OK, so they're pretty, but they aren't of much worth to anyone. Yes, you can make them into jewellery but we are far more practical than that. Thankfully, the Advisor to the immediate left of Livier rises and shakes his head, pushing a tuft of sandy blonde hair out of his eyes and shouting over to her.


I do not accept that as a reasonable trade, Willow.” he growls at the leader of the Bark Coven. “Explain your need for them. How will they benefit our Pact?”


Willow looks nervous but manages to straighten herself up. She turns her slight, aged frame sideways and slouches somewhat as she tries to address both the panel and the room as a whole, her glassy eyes welling in desperation.


They're for the children, sir.” She whimpers as the Bark Coven nod their heads in agreement. “For their learning. The colours... the shapes. We use them to enhance their young minds and stimulate their senses. It makes them more receptive to intellectual growth.”


Rubbish. I have to stop myself from scoffing. Trust the Bark Coven to come up with that sort of nonsense. Livier raises a bony hand to stop the murmuring and rolls her eyes slightly.


Fine, whatever Willow.” Livier sighs, exasperated, and clearly in no mood to argue with the feeble old woman. “Glinta stones it is.... Next?”


Over the indignant shouts from the Flint Coven (they're made up of practical members, as opposed to the more sensitive Bark's) the third and final Coven leader, head of the Earth Coven, draws herself up to stand. And then there's the silence, as usual.


Aimee, head of the Earth Coven, raises herself to her feet and floats over to the head of the table. There's no need for this really, because they always trade the purified water, but nonetheless there she is with her perfect oval face and flowing, waist length, chestnut hair, her matching brown eyes fluttering charmingly around the room. Every man in the crowd is silent. Most of them have their mouths open. In the back someone spills their drink standing to crane their neck over the top of everyone's heads to get a good look.


Next to me, Hudson is predictably similar. He's liked Aimee for years, and if he had his way they'd be paired up and go through the Linking Ceremony quicker than you can say “monogamous union”. Fine by me, she's nice enough. Although a little wispy, she's smart, intuitive and sincere. The perfect example of an Earth Coven member. I'm an Earthie too. So is Hudson.


Aimee waves an elegant hand to where two burly looking men drag the vats of water a little way forward for her, enough to show for the sake of tradition that they're being offered to trade by the Earth Coven. Livier nods and Aimee almost floats forward as all the heads turn with her, and her lyrical, softened voice flows out of her as she states the trade.


With your permission, Reina Livier, I and the Earth Coven trade two vats of purified water, in return for three bowls of mixed ChineNuts, and five PreyDo bird eggs.”


Hudson and I knew this already, as we'd discussed it at the Earth Coven gathering the night before. The PreyDo bird eggs will get “donated” to the Flint Coven, who will send them to the Dining Block for the Nutritionists to cook for us. The Earthies didn't really need anything this time. We're all sorted. But we like to keep the Nutritionists on side, in case we ever do need anything. See, the most important part of being a LilliMite is equality. Everyone and everything is equal, no man or woman is higher than the other (aside from the leader, which switches) and we all work together. So once we've given the Flint Coven those PreyDo eggs, they owe us. Convenient, right?


The ChineNuts aren't for us either, they go to the Bark Coven. ChineNuts are little fungal growths that grow in damp soil, all different colours and all different uses. Some heal pain, others aid sleep, and some cure infection. We plan to pass them on to the Healers in the Bark Coven. They will know which colours do what. So when we need healing, we'll be at the top of the list, because we were so kind and sacrificed our trade to get the Healers their ChineNuts. How very sweet of us.


I told you us Earthies were clever, huh? Its wheels within wheels when it comes to the trading systems not only within LilliMoor, but on the island of Juntos as a whole. The Barks, the Stones and the Flints all have different skill sets, each contributing to the overall running of the Pact of LilliMoor. We support each other. If one Coven didn't exist, the whole thing would fall apart.


And the scary thing is, we're just getting started.

 
Last edited:

BobtailCon

Senior Member
I suggest that you fix the lack of spaces, I couldn't finish the story because I had to keep stopping. I know you said that it was an error from Word, but you should really go back and edit those.
 

OurJud

Senior Member
This has the makings of something I would like to read, ejrosetta, but like Bob before me, I can't possibly continue until you've fixed those spacing errors. Sorry.
 

ejrosetta

Senior Member
Thanks for the heads up! Sorry, I hadn't realised quite how many were in there. All fixed now I hope, thanks so much for taking your time.
 

OurJud

Senior Member
There's still a few in there, but at least it's readable now :)

I don't read fantasy (thought it was sci-fi at first glance yesterday, which is why I said I'd like to read it) but putting that aside this has some good solid writing. I'm afraid I didn't feel quite as engaged as I like to when starting a new story, but this could have been because I'd realised it was fantasy and my mind was kind of rejecting it.

There were some clumsy sentences that I had to read a couple of times, due to poor construction and/or punctuation. This, for instance

I meet Hudson, who's waiting for me on the corner with a massive “I'm Sorry!” but he only lifts two bushy eyebrows and gives me that look that says “You're an idiot, but I forgive you”.

Makes it sound, to me, like Hudson is waiting onthe corner with a massive "I'm sorry!" expression. It was only when it didn't make sense and I read it a couple more times, that I realised it was Helena/Lena who was expressing this emotion.

A better way to have constructed this sentence, in my opinion anyway, would have been something like

I meet Hudson, who's waiting for me on the corner. I flash him a massive "I'm sorry!" but he only lifts two bushy eyebrows....

Thanks for posting.
 
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