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"The Aebyx" | Chapter 1 *Warning: Graphic violence and Gore* (1 Viewer)

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Apex Predator

Senior Member
Rating: R

Genre: Dark Fantasy

Word Count: ~4,000

Feedback: General critique; but mostly of continuity and pacing.

Author's Comments: This is the first chapter of what I hope will become my first published novel. I've revised and proofread it multiple times (I've even sent it to a fellow bookworm) but now I'm asking for your guy's opinion and general critique. Hope you enjoy.

.....

Gabrielle just wanted to be back home.

Nevertheless, here she was, lost and suffering amongst many others onboard a slave ship heading southward. Chained to her left was Tabitha, a golden-haired seamstress of twenty-one years. She was seven and a half months pregnant. Chained to her right was Rochelle; an auburn maid of twenty-four, she was eight months pregnant. Sitting chained across her and sobbing was Beatrice; a petite newlywed of nineteen, she too was eight months with child.

"Do you think they'll send help for us?" cried her friend Tabitha.

"Of course not!" snapped Rochelle, "We are on board a Muharob vessel, we might was well be dead right now!"

"Quiet, both of you! I'm trying to pray!" shrieked Beatrice.

Gabrielle and the three other women sat shackled in dim room. The floor boards warped and reeking of a putrid odor. Their once nice dresses slowly rotting from days of sitting in their own waste, the never-ending wails of other tortured souls echoed from across the ships. It was only through at crudely fashioned porthole within the wall were they ever able to tell the time of day with the gentle sound of the ocean waves being their only comfort.

"The sun’s gone down", Tabitha mumbled, "That would make this six days total since we were taken away. There's still a chance that we might be reduced..."

"No helps coming for us!" Rochelle interrupted, "Don't you remember? Muharob troops never leave a problem behind! There was no one left alive to call for aid!"

"Be quiet!" Gabrielle rebuked, "With life there is always hope!"

"I'm trying to pray!" shouted Beatrice - her eyes swollen red and her nails bitten you the bone from fright.

Gabrielle tried in vain to comfort her: "Beatrice please stop crying! We must be strong and have faith right now." She had always been a morally strong woman. The oldest of the women at twenty-five years, she was the wife of a well-respected courier on an island colony in the northern half of the southern sea. She was turned both widow and slave overnight when a fleet of Muharob ships assaulted and raped her quiet little village. She was nearing the end of her pregnancy. However, now, even within her darkest hour, she still managed to find the strength within to try to hold together her fellow women.

"I hear something!" said Tabitha.

All the women silenced themselves to prepare for the oncoming monstrosity. From behind the heavy wooden door they could hear footsteps approaching, suddenly the ominous sound of the steel locked being open cracked throughout the room.

"Get your heads down! Don't look them in the eyes," Gabrielle ordered to the other women. All but Beatrice fully obeyed - her sniffling breaking the forced silence.

The wooden door creeped open and the usual monstrosity stepped forth: a Muharob sailor clad in his traditional green uniform with heavy leather boots and scarlet cap. What made him an abomination to witness was his gruesome face! Gabrielle glimpsed up to notice that his skin was waxy pale and covered with blackened ulcers, whilst the skin on his hands was gaunt and oozing with rashes. His eyes were sunken inwards and had the appearance of a milky haze across the pupils. He was carrying a silver platter with a most unusual delicacy: a quartered loaf of bread, a bowl of limes, and a small slab of salt pork, a few wedges of a cheese wheel and a pitcher of unknown liquid.

"Eat!” glurped the sailor. His voice was rough and a slopping sound came from the back of his throat. "Commander... says... you must... eat", he then sat the platter on the floor in front of them, his face completely devoid of any emotion - his eyes never even seemed to blink. Gabrielle glimpsed closer at his hands to notice his cracked and elongated fingernails.

"Commander... wants you... and your babes... ripe... and healthy". He then left and locked the heavy door behind him.

"Hurry let's eat!" squealed Tabitha while seizing the salt pork.

She and Rochelle attacked the food without a second thought to Gabrielle or Beatrice. Gabrielle was disgusted to see how they had turned into animals. Beatrice however remained to herself huddled, frantically trying to remember half-forgotten hymns. Gabrielle, out of curiosity, took the pitcher of liquid and tasted it.

"Grog... they're giving us grog for our sup"

"Don't drink it all you cow, give it here!" Rochelle seized the pitcher from her hands and began to quaff down its contents. Tabitha seemingly could not be distracted from gnawing on the limes.

"This makes no sense," spoke Gabrielle; clutching her abdomen thinking about her unborn child.

"What do you mean?" questioned Tabitha - the lime juice oozing from her lips.

"This morning they fed us a breakfast of potatoes and rye... and now this?"

"Who are we to complain?" snapped Rochelle, "Would you rather suffer and slowly starve?"

"That's not what I mean," Gabrielle rebuked, "Why do feed us so heartily if we are meant to be slaves?"

"Perhaps they want us as healthy beast of burden?" said Tabitha.

"But every day they say the same thing... that we ought to take care of ourselves and our babies?" spoke Gabrielle
.
Tabitha began to ponder, "Perhaps they have servitude plans for our infants as well?"

"I was thinking that; but..."

"But what?" snapped Rochelle - her mouth stuffed full of a cheese wedge.

Gabrielle explained, "There were twelve other women who were with child in our village, and yet, it was just us four who were chosen?”

"What is that supposed to mean?" Rochelle asked.

Gabrielle was becoming irate, "I doubt that our fellow women are being fed as heartily."

"Well why should we care? I'm happy that at least I'm not starving whilst in hell!"

"Rochelle! Just think! These Muharob men must have darker plans about! Out of all the women, we were the ones who were closest to birthing our children!"

The women then pondered and stared around.

"But, but why would that matter?" questioned Tabitha, "Whether we are late with child or early with child, they are sure to work us to death anyway."

"Be quiet!" interrupted Beatrice, "I can't concentrate when the three of you are talking!"

"Oh be quiet you stupid cow!" Rochelle shouted - bits of foods flying out of her mouth, "Isn't obvious that no one’s' coming to our aid? Stop wasting your breath and eat!"

"Leave her alone! Can't you see she's just scared out of her mind?" rebuked Tabitha. She and Rochelle began to rant and rave towards one another whilst Beatrice broke down even further into a quivering mess. Gabrielle tried in vain to amend the ire within the group when suddenly they heard another noise coming from the door. "They're coming back again! Heads down, Heads down!" Gabrielle shrieked. The door opening and out stepped two more sailors, one of them appeared to be a white man while the other seemed colored, though she could not tell since both their faces were swollen and partly disfigured. The "lighter" colored one was holding a ring of keys and a pair of handheld shackles, whilst the "darker-colored" one was staring unnervingly at Gabrielle.

"This... One" he gasped, pointing his slender finger towards Gabrielle, "Commander... wants... this one!"

"Stand Up!” ordered the other sailor.

Gabrielle trembled but mustered every ounce of strength she could to obey. Her legs quivered and back were sore but she stood up as straight as her floored shackles would allow. The sailor then shackled her wrist together with the handheld set, Gabrielle winced when the skin of his hand touched hers - his flesh was squishy and deathly cold. He then continued unlocking her from the floor shackles and tied a rope around her neck.

"Must... go," murmured the darkened sailor. They then escorted her away into the blackness...

#
Through the shadowed hallway, Gabrielle pondered and pondered what this unseen commander wanted: Did he desire a belly-warmer for the night? Does he want something to torture before bedtime? Gabrielle wondered ceaselessly. These thoughts became trivial upon entering the cargo hold: there she saw row upon row a menagerie of cages all filled with her fellow villagers. In cages hardly even large enough for a fat hog, there was crammed four to six adults. The cages with children were even more cramped with eight to nine little ones being forced inside. The smell of sweat and bile was unbearable. The sweltering heat and stagnant air itself would have been enough to cause Gabrielle to faint.

Amidst the wails of her friends and kin, Gabrielle could not help but notice more of the “monstrosities” commanding the ship. They were alike: grotesquely disfigured faces whose flesh was discolored with either rashes or ulcers. Some of them seemed to have bodies that were purple and bloated whilst others just seemed pale and without pigment. Gabrielle wondered were these sailors’ outcasts from a pox island or a leper colony. Some of them were scrubbing the floor clean from vomit and feces; others seemed to be “feeding” the captives by pouring a spade of grey paste through the cage bars. During their routines, they never seemed to show remorse or pity, or any kind of emotion entirely. The same stoic deadpan expression filled their faces whilst they carelessly worked this ship of horrors.

"Keep... walking!" slurred the sailor -jerking the rope around her neck, "Commander... wants... this one!"

They approached a stairway and ascended upwards. Gabrielle felt the ocean breeze on her face and could finally take a breath of fresh air for the first time in a week. Through a break in the clouds the moon shown and gave a gentle illumination to the jagged ship and gentle seas. She looked around and noticed even more monstrosities working, but these on deck seemed even more disturbing! Some had shriveled faces like a raisin whilst others seemed to have the lues disease - entire chunks of flesh from their faces and limbs were missing to reveal the veins and sinews underneath.

"Keep... Walking," slurred the sailor.

Walking across the deck Gabrielle noticed many of them grouped around an open flame. Moving closer, she discovered it was a red brick fire pit with what appeared to be a several large roasts cooking on top a grill. The emotionless crew now seemed strangely ecstatic. Gabrielle assumed that maybe they were just eager for their evening sup.

Finally, they reached the cabin that lay towards the stern of the ship. They paused there for a moment while one of the sailors fished for his key and began to unlock the door. Gabrielle stood patiently and beheld the enormous size of the ship. It had to have been five decks tall and had four towering mast whose sails gleamed "Muharob Green" in the moonlight.

"Commander... needs to... see you!" slurred the sailor. After opening four locks, he began opening the heavy steel door. Gabrielle glanced back at the fire pit and noticed something she had not seen before. One of the larger roasts upon the grill had an arm attached to it! While another "roast" had teeth and a pair of blue eyes while another had a little five toed foot! Gabrielle's soul sunk in horror - the crew of this slave ship was cannibalizing her fellow citizens!

"Inside... Now" spoke the sailor. Gabrielle could not move she was so horrified. After being jerked into the shadow-enthralled cabin, she wondered: "What sort of sick perversions does this Commander want from me?"

#
The sailors led her inside. Panicked, she glared around what seemed only to be room reserved for black magic. The windows shrouded in darken drapes while tapestries of death and dismemberment decorated portions of the walls. The illumination within the cabin was that of four steel lanterns swinging from the ceiling.

"Move... Forward" murmured the other sailor. Gabrielle felt an otherworldly chill crawl up her spine. It has seemed that even her unborn child could sense something sinister; the smell of something more foul than death burned her nostrils. Moving deeper into the cabin, she began to notice things that are more mundane: a wooden cot with no matting, bamboo chairs along with several tables - some a mess with maps and navigation tools. Scanning the remaining room, she noticed the warped shelves, most of which seemed stocked with jars of strange liquids, spices, and taboo relics. It was, however, towards the back center that her eyes caught a glimpse of a mysterious figure. Clad in a flowing cloak, scarlet-colored and topped with a high color - Gabrielle knew that she was soon to meet "The Commander".

The two sailors stood at attention.

"Captain", they both spoke in unison, "We've... brought... the wench".

The figure began to move: "My sincerest gratitude towards the both of you", spoke a crisp voice, "Would you kindly place her there for me?" As he spoke, a harrowing-looking hand unfurled and pointed to a nearby table-slab. Even Gabrielle's babe seemed wince from the hideous sight! Its digits were long and slender and its knuckles bulged like that of bamboo joints. Throbbing vines wreathed around its puckered flesh and the tips of each finger sharpened to a talon.

"Yes Commander", the sailors chanted. Together they hauled Gabrielle to the table-slab. On it, she noticed the unmistakable stains of dried blood and grooves of a heavily used cutting board - Gabrielle knew then what her fate was!

"NO! NO!" Gabrielle shrieked at the top of her lungs. Like a feral beast, she began fighting and kicking the two sailors with every speck of strength she could muster. It seemed no matter how violent she made herself, the two sailors continued to show no signs of caution or worry. Summoning the very last ounce of primal motherly courage, she clenched both her hands into a club and smashed them into the sailors’ temple - snapping three of her own fingers from the force! This time he jolted violently backwards into the wall; but to her utter horror, he remained calm and unworried. Gabrielle, now maddening with fear caught glimpse of an oily ooze on her hand. As the sailor regained his footing, she saw that she ripped off his jaw - and that it was dangling from his head by a few tendons of flesh. From the gaping hole in his face a black substance oozed forth - it was his rotten blood!

She now knew that these crewmembers were no outcast of lepers or sufferers of a pox. They were not truly men at all; they were the accursed souls that storytellers warned. The reanimated workers of black magic; they were the Living-Dead!

The other sailor finally thrust her down on the slab-table and began to buckle her arms within the straps - Gabrielle had no strength anymore to resist. The other sailor walked over and buckled her legs in - a maggot crawling along his face. Although she was too terrified to speak, within her mind she began to pray frantically for her baby's life.

"That... was most impolite what you have done there", spoke the Commander, "Surely your mother would have taught you that it is most impolite to mistreat a captain’s property".

The Commander turned around, and Gabrielle finally looked upon the demon to which that hand belonged. Gabrielle wished she had been blinded! She beheld a creature whose misshaped head warped and patterned like a pumpkin. His eyes were a milky white whilst warts covered his grayish skin that seemed to “drip” with slime. He had no nose, no ears, nor hair; but he did have a smile that all the demons of damnation would cringe upon; his crooked fangs did little to hide his snake-like tongue. The parts of his body that were not hidden beneath his cloak seemed to be a twisted torso whose gnarled bones connected at deformed joints. He had no neck either; his head seemed to mend into his shoulders.

Gabrielle was in hell!

The Commander stepped forth, "Can you understand me?" he politely articulated.

Gabrielle was dumbfounded.

"Excuse me madam! I believe I asked you a question... Do you understand me?"

Gabrielle nodded in agreement.

"Fantastic! May I ask what your name is?"

"Gabrielle," she panted, "My name is, Gabrielle!"

"That's a very beautiful name, Gabrielle. Surely, your family must be of Wristold heritage correct?"

"Um, uh," Gabrielle stuttered, "My mother was from Britha. I never knew my father."

The Commander nodded his head then grinned. "Oh dear, that is a most unfortunate shame." (Meanwhile he pulled out a small toolbox from the beneath the table-slab and continued talking while searching through it. It was unnatural how courteously he spoke.) "I believe that the Taureseans have a saying: 'A girl without a father is just a whore within the making'. I, personally, have never cared most for anything pertaining to Taured. Tell me Gabrielle, have you ever met any Taureseans?"

"N-no!” she stuttered, "I-I don't believe I ever have."

The Commander looked up from his toolbox and chuckled: "Ha-ha, oh how lucky you are my dear woman. Nothing good ever comes from Southern Vonderoth! A bunch of narrow-minded troglodytes they are if you are to ask me."

The Commander then removed two objects from his toolbox: a brass Ear Trumpet and a pair of scissors.

"Now, let’s listen to that fetus of yours." Using the scissors, he cut open her dress down the middle and gently placed the ear trumpet on her belly. The feel of his clammy hands made Gabrielle cringe. He then gently lowered what appeared to be his “ear” onto the earpiece. Closing his eyes, he seemed aroused whilst listening to her babies movements.

"Yes," he muttered, "this baby is ripe and healthy! I see that my daily investment in rations for both you and your fellow broads has paid off quite well indeed." He then proceeded to put away his ear trumpet and search for another item.

"Oh dear!" he harked, "I don't believe I properly introduced myself. My name is Giirsigag, welcome to my personal vessel."

"What do you want from me?" questioned Gabrielle.

"Ah, asking direct questions during a time of stress," he grinned once more (his rotten fangs wreaking a rancid smell), "Generally a sign of great personal courage, well Gabrielle, if you truly must know… I was merely preparing to-"

Before he could finish speaking, a bright green light suddenly exploded across the room. Gabrielle's already stressed heart skipped a few beats! Giirsigag slyly turn around. The two sailors suddenly become overly ecstatic and huge smiles sweets across their faces. They seemed to tremble with excitement.

"SHE summons thee!" they both chanted, "SHE summons thee! SHE summons thee Commander!

Gabrielle tilted her head as far as the table-slab would allow; in the cabin corner she noticed a tall podium with a broad basin mounted on top - the eerie green light was radiating from within. Giirsigag appeared to sigh with annoyance.

"Yes... I know SHE summons me!"

Giirsigag slammed his toolbox down and hustled over to the basin. There he poked his finger into the light source and chanted strange words that Gabrielle had never heard before. After he removed his finger, a voice erupted from within.

"MERGAAB!" shrieked a woman’s voice, "Mergaab! Answer me!"

Giirsigag became stressed. "You’re Highness; to what do I owe this visitation?"

"Perhaps you could inform us as to why you've put a halt to the search?"

Giirsigag seemed distraught, "Your Highness, I can assure you that I am not permanently halting the search. I merely gave the order to settle down safely for the night."

"Settle... Down... Safely?" spoke the voice. (It seemed so young and sultry but with a hint of huskiness). "Safe from what you idiot? You're nearly one hundred leagues from the nearest Mercenary outpost?"

Giirsigag sighed. Then looked into the basin and continued talking, "Storms! Do not care when or where we are when they befall us!"

"A storm? How do you know that there's a storm coming?"

"My tarot cards warned me ma'am. In about three hours, time there will be waves two stories tall crashing down upon us, and unless you want another Mergaab sorcerer interred beneath the Southern Seas - I highly suggest that you comply!"

The women's voice remained silenced for long a period but then continued: "Very well then... However, at the first crack of dawn, I expect you to continue where you left off! As of now, I am putting a halt to all slave operations and am diverting all available ships to assist in the search!"

Giirsigag became irate. "Good Madame!" he shrilled, "Your forgiveness I explore... But it is just ONE man... and ONE meager piece of oilskin! Have you not stopped to consider that maybe...? Just maybe he might have died at some point betwixt here and Apotheosis Island? Or that maybe the Queen of the Muharob has BETTER ventures to invest in than the likes of a single runway slave?"

The woman's voice remained quiet for and even longer amount of time, then abruptly barked, "You... have... no idea what's at stake!" the voice roared!
The once sultry voice now seemed to have become oddly more animalistic.

"You have ONE job in my cabinet! You have just ONE reason to exist! Yet you can't even seem to do that correctly! Need I remind you whom it was who saved you from that wretched filth you lived in?"

Giirsigag grimaced.

"No... Your Highness... you need not remind me again."

"Exactly as I thought," snapped the voice, "When the dawn comes, I will expect nothing less than your fullest efforts in tracking down this traitor!" (The voice was becoming disturbingly more demonic). "I don't care what it takes... you use all the tea leaves, tarots, and dowsers at your disposal. You will find that traitor; you will bring me that oilskin!"

"But your Highness," he interrupted, "What should you have so then with our human cargo? If I change course now, they'll just die in the cargo hold."

The now dreadful sounding voice replied, "If they die, feed them to the crew. If they eat their fill, feed them to the sharks! I don't care what you do with them. I... Want... That... OILSKIN!" (In the woman’s final word, her voice seemed to growl).

Despite his grotesque face, Giirsigag seemed distraught. "Aye-yay your Highness; I will obey that order."

He then placed his finger back into the basin, chanted more mysterious words, then the green light from the basin magically smothered itself. Giirsigag seemed both saddened yet angry about his conversation. Gabrielle was so terrified and confused. Giirsigag then returned to the table-slab and began to once again search through his toolbox.

"Gabrielle dear," he spoke, "I am at times envious of the fact that your kind can only live a few decades, Oh! Here they are."

He then withdrew two objects: a whetstone and sickle-shaped blade. He then began to whet the knife earnestly.

"Please! Please!" Gabrielle begged, "I'll do whatever you want, but please don't harm me!"

Giirsigag chuckled. His concentration completely fixed on sharpening his sickle-blade. "Do not worry dear Gabrielle; I personally have no genuine interest in harming you. However, there is no other way that I know of acquiring a fresh, plump... Juicy little baby."

His eyes widened with excitement and his mouth began to slobber, he then continued speaking: "A healthy... warm... Chewy... little baby!"

#
Gabrielle was too weak to fight back. In a manner most harrowing, Giirsigag took his blade and with a single swipe, cleaved her abdomen strait down the middle. Ordering the two sailors to hold open her flesh, he then proceeded to insert his hands into her gaping wound, scrapping his talons along the inside of her torso, he pulled aside her entrails and peeled open her uterus. He then continued to remove her unborn son from her womb. Using his blade to sever the umbilical cord, he held the bloodied infant up toward the light as to inspect its every limb and roll of fat.

“Congratulations Gabrielle, it’s a boy… and a nice healthy one!” Giirsigag’s mouth began to slobber whilst her baby son began shrieking in both pain and fear. With the excruciating pain from her stomach and with the fountain-like flow of blood from her body, Gabrielle’s final prayer came true. As life at last drained out of her body, thus finally ending her heinous ordeal, she tilted her head leftward, and the last image that her eyes would ever see before being freed by Death was that of the Mergaab demon-captain sinking his fangs into the tiny head of her only son.
 

Ptolemy

Senior Member
I’ll critique this as I go. There is a lot I like here, but I will mostly be focusing on the negatives/problems with the story. So I’m sorry if I sound a bit standoffish, it’s because I’m focusing on the negative.

The first thing I noticed was a bit of redundancy. You mention: “Gabrielle and three other woman sat shackled in dim room.” For one, “in dim room” is grammatically incorrect. It should be “in [a] dim room” (This is also a running problem throughout the story, you missing/using the wrong words, that I’ll touch on later.) However, that’s not my main gripe; you say “shackled” before this. What is the point of saying shackled again? You’ve already established that they are in the room, and they are chained up. It has no use and doesn’t advance the story any further.
[P.S Also, the sentence right after this: “The floor boards warped and reeking of a putrid odor.” is also incorrect. It should be “The floor boards [were] warped…” Mistakes, while not serious in perspective, still slow pacing and confuse readers.]

Why is “problem” in paragraph 8 italicized? The effect is lost because there is no effect needed. An italization is used when either you’re using a foreign language, thoughts or when the word is to be emphasized. It is usually reserved for small words to give them a more impactful punch. “Problem” doesn’t really require emphasis. Does it? Read it aloud. It doesn’t sound right at all.

Again, there is another problem here. “Her eyes swollen red and her nails bitten you the bone from fright.” Two things: ‘to’ not ‘you’ that’s pretty obvious. The other thing is that we, the readers know that you only really chew your nails when you are either nervous or afraid. So why tell us she is frightened? It’s redundant telling when you do a fine job showing us she's nervous.

I’m also not a real fan of the info dump about what happened to Gabrielle. It’s as exposition as exposition can get. She’s morally strong, oldest at 25 (which is pretty damn young even for pirate times.) wife of a courier, widowed, enslaved, raped when pregnant. But somehow, even though her husband has been killed (presumably in front of her), and after going through one of the most traumatic experiences anyone can go through. She is still strong enough to unite the woman because she is the main character. It’s a check-list of character traits and plot points

This is actually where I’ll get into the characters. They all are pretty subpar. There is no personality between any of them, and I realize that they are in the bowels of a slave ship but still: You got the false hope girl who believes there will be help, the pessimist who finds the naive girl annoying. You got the crybaby and then we have the main character who is of course the wholehearted, righteous uniter between these completely incompatible traits because of course she is. These are not characters, these are templates. Their dialogue has no effect, no character outside of giving them base traits.

The dialogue, while I’m on it, is just very stilted and gives me nothing. The Muharob sailor speaks in ellipses for some reason. (It’s so you can create tension and make him sound scary which it doesn’t accomplish anything. Ellipses are dramatic pauses, overwrought and drawn out. So the dude is literally stopping between each word. Commander. Says. you must. Eat. It’s very drawn out and boring, and adds nothing. We know they are scary, you told us. They literally invaded a village, killed the men, raped the women, then took them as slaves. They are bad, no need to expound on that by making their dialogue extremely dramatic.

Also, let’s talk about the Muharob. They want them and their babies ripe and healthy and they give them raw salted meat, a soft cheese, and (presumed) unwashed fruit. Can you say: Listeria and toxoplasmosis poisoning? I mean I know. It is early 1700s, and not many people knew about the proper pregnancy diet, but still us as modern regular people might see this and question it. Also, they are giving them a damn feast! I mean dang, fruit, meat, waterish stuff, AND bread? Usually most slaves (even the pregnant ones) got the bare minimum in terms of food because slavers really only care about themselves. Literally, during the african the slave trade, if a boat became over capacity because the slavers accidentally overfilled the boat, they would toss the pregnant woman first, along with anyone who was minutely sick. So, I don’t really see the point in them favoring the pregnant woman. Of course, I am reading this as I go, so this is all presumptions.

Holy hell. They are giving them grog. Wow. Okay. So that means we can date this around the mid to late seventeen hundreds. I mean I believe the general understanding that drinking alcohol (even though people were hella booze hounds back them) usually caused fetal alcohol syndrome. (Actually, not what I check, they’ve had a general understanding of it since ancient greek times. (Hell, it’s in the bible.) In the early 1720s there was actually petitions for more action in understanding of drinking while pregnant.) So… I don’t know how I feel about this. The normal person will have no idea what “grog” is anyways, but also there are some who are going to question all of this collectively. Why are they favoring them, but if they are favoring them why are they feeding them food and drink that could potentially kill them and the baby?


How in the name of the holy lord did these 18th century pirates know that these four women were the closest to birthing their children. You know a lot of women express pregnancy differently? Some get large bellies, some have small. It all depends on diet and the size of the baby. So it’s entirely possible that a person who is 6 months in could look like someone who is 8 months in. Also, miscarriages were very prominent in those times. I believe around the time of this story, a British Queen (Queen Anne to be specific) was pregnant I believe 17 times and miscarried almost every time (two stillbirths). Why wouldn’t the Muharob take every pregnant woman in the village? They’ve clearly done this before, so why not plan for miscarriage? But nope, due to the narrative, we are given these four for no real given reason.

Rochelle is just such a stereotypical ass that it’s getting old at this point. Yes, hopelessness should be the most prominent emotion here but still she is so unnecessarily jerkish that it becomes redundant and annoying. It adds nothing to the story outside that I kind of want her to die. And I don’t know if that is the best thing for a reader to be thinking.

Never italicize in the narrative. Especially in third person past tense narrative. Because the narrator is supposed to be basically an outsider looking in. If this was in first person, I could potentially look past it. But the narrator (unless this it omniscient, when you have never guided us to) has no idea that the “commander” should be emphasized.
We get it! We understand that the Muharob look terrible and this adds to their character, but there is no need to go into detail every time one of them is seen. Everytime they are shown as scruvy ridden kooks who’d give Freddy Krueger nightmares. Literally. That is their character: They are disgusting pigs, who probably eat children. So far, outside of their sparse, dramatic dialogue, we are given no inclination that these guys are nothing but hell on earth. Which is alright, but we don’t know “Why? Why do this” and this “why”? Is your entire plot at this point. What are the Muharob going to do with these women? Are they going to kill them? Or? Well, It’s pretty obvious they are either going to kill her, or make them induce birth early then eat the kid. I wonder how this prediction will play out.

What’s with your narrator giving some existential commentary? “Gabrielle was in hell!” [Yea, obviously she is.] or “Even Gabrielle’s babe [baby] seemed to wince from the hideous sight!” Literally, everything with an exclamation point is just useless dialogue from the narrator that has no purpose. The dude is hideous we get it, have Gabrielle explain this. The baby wouldn’t just kick because the dude is hideous, it makes no sense.

“Its”? Why use “Its” for the commander when it’s obvious “it’s” is dude. I know this because you tell us it is a man. You use “he” after the second piece of dialogue from the commander, you can’t just change pronouns out of the bleu.

Again with the commentary. Have Gabrielle think this. Is she incapable of thought? Why say “Gabrielle knew then what her fate was!” You have no guide that this is an omniscient narrator, even if it is, this doesn’t fit at all. Have her think: “Oh, no it can’t be.” or “Oh god why?”

But of course, you have her shriek no, and wash over it.

More commentary? “Snapping three of her own fingers from the force!” Did she break them? This woman is weaker than my brother playing sports. She can’t fight against the men but she can punch them hard enough to break three of her own fingers? Makeup your mind. Is she weak enough where she can barely stand? Or is she strong enough to break her fingers? I’ll tell you a story, I broke my pointer finger with a punch I landed on a kid, and that kid hit the deck harder than an elephant at terminal velocity. If you are able to put enough newton's into a punch where the residual force is enough to break your finger (Newton’s laws) the person you are punching is hitting the dang deck around 95% of the time. So make up your mind here. “Motherly courage” isn’t an excuse for having enough force to send a punch that breaks not only one, not even two, but three fingers.

What the fuck. She ripped off his damn jaw? I know I’m focusing on negatives, but that’s wicked.

So, overall, I like the twist. “Oh noes, their dead!” it’s pretty logical and it makes sense. Still, why were we not told this earlier. I know. It’s the plot, but still, I assumed these kooks were just suffering from extreme case of lepers and scurvy. A plot twist only works if you logically and subtly set it up. This is why you need to focus less on the descriptions of the Muharob and more on the description of external factors, that would clue us into them being zombies. Honestly, you’ve done a good job at setting a scene. Slave ship, smells like shit and piss. Typical. Focus less on what the characters look like, definitely tip on them, make it seem like they have lepers or scurvy so you can completely get the readers, whilst all the factors are there. The jars, plumping of the pregnant women, it all makes sense if you expound on these points. Over describing the sailors kind of kills it due to the readers focusing too much on them and not on other points that could push the plot twist.

More commentary here. Cut it, or include it into a thought.

I don’t get the whole “Do you understand me?” exchange. Of course she understands him. She had to have understand his order for the men to put her on the cutting table for her to even freak out. So why is he even asking this question? It’s not like the conversation at all develops character or pushes the plot. It’s just useless fodder.

Oh sweet jesus! Not parentheses! You’ve transcended the bounds of etheric mid story narration and are currently on a collision course with plant Exposition. Have Gabrielle see this. DO NOT use parenthesis to tell us this. It’s so cringeworthy to me, and most readers.

“N-no!” should be “N-no.” Shuttering =/= Yelling.

More damn parentheses. And how do fangs “wreaking” a rancid smell? How can you wreak a smell anyways?

The whole conversation between the woman and Giirsigag is just boring. Get to the point sooner tbh. This is what you spend maybe 700 words explaining: Giirsigag messed up. Queen is mad. Storm. No more slaves, because runaway slave. Oh no Giirsigag pissed her off. Oh wait, it’s fine because no conflict can go unresolved. Oilskin. You need to cut this down. The main point of this is that the woman is after oilskin. You’ve built around that for somereason, and spent so long on that point. My question is why? The only plot related points there is: Oilskin and no more slaves. One because it is the future of the plot, and the other because it has a direct effect on the plot.

You know you’d pass out due to shock if you got your stomach cleaved open. Let’s be generous and say ya boy Giirsi was in her torso was only 30 seconds (even though the typical modern c-section takes around 15 minutes, with 45 more minutes for placenta and sutures. Emergencies can take up to two minutes) without any form of anesthetic or sort of maintence. I’m decently sure she would die to not only shock, but mass bloodloss almost instantly. I mean damn, I would have a flipping heart attack if someone cleaved my torso open.

And she dies. And my prediction was right, both of them actually. See, that’s a problem. If I can reasonably infer your ending, then you may want to change it up a bit to keep me off the trail. I believe this is due to your use of “The Muharob leave no problems behind.” This dinged me that “Hey these people are dead. No doubt. Doesn’t matter where this goes, one or all of them is dead. Oh they’re pregnant too? Damn, their kid is dead too.”

IN THE END

So, overall, I actually liked it. I know it doesn’t seem like I did, because I was focusing on the negatives, but still, I thought the plot twist was nice, even though it could be refined. I also liked “ya boy Giirsi, the way you presented him (monster, who was still eloquent) went over well with me. The stark contradictions in their perceived character is a nice counter balance that actually drives his character

It still has some technical problems, like over explaining, a few comma splits, and some damn annoying narrator interrupting the story. I focused on the negatives for a reason, because many writers focus more on the positives (and where to improve the unimprovable) rather than the negatives.

This also took like an hour to write, so… I took some time on it.

Best of luck with this, and all your writing endeavours.

~P
 

bdcharles

Wɾ¡ʇ¡∩9
Staff member
Media Manager
Hi

I enjoyed this. The title is pretty intriguing. I like your world you've created and the actors in it. In terms of exact critique, Ptolemy has covered in more detail than I ever could so I'll just stick to questions of continuity and pacing:

Continuity I had no issue with. I was able to follow what was happening, nothing physics defying seemed to happen, and you stuck pretty well to Gabrielle's POV, which is key to helping us "be" her, are for her and therefore be more engaged in the events of your story. The one thing that caught me off guard was the sea witch (borrowing from "The Little Mermaid" here - hope that's OK!) calling the commander "Mergaab!" That name is not mentioned before and I thought at first it was some other name of the commanders. As such, my initial reaction was "oh, God, another epic slog through a million unpronounceable names". Turns out it's his race or tribe or something, but why not mention it before? Contextualise the Mergaab so we know better where we are and who is who and what, in general, is going on.

Pace was a little slow for me. The argument in the ship's hold before Gabrielle gets hauled before the sea captain seemed to drag on, and while it was true to life in that I desired to escape the - forgive me - slightly caustic sounds of a roomful of people getting on each other's nerves, it didn't massively endear me to your characters. Have one character be like that by all means (and pay your readers off later by having that character die a gruesome death teehee!) but offset the others, particularly the main, against that; make them easier to like and don't belabour the points. I understand you are looking to make these characters compelling and realistic but it is a fine line between that and having them become highly irritating. Not a judgment on you or your writing, but I would say somethng worth bearing in mind. Use body language rather than exclusively setting the scene through dialogue. What do I mean? This:

"I'm trying to pray!" shouted Beatrice - her eyes swollen red and her nails bitten you the bone from fright.

could be this:

"Be silent!" shouted Beatrice, her eyes swollen red and her hands, nails bitten to the bone from fright, clasped together in depserate prayer.

It's just a different way to present the same info.

Your dialogue tags also need a bit of tightening. Gabrielle does alot of "rebuking". It's fine - she can rebuke - but why not have the rebukal (is that a word? Rebuction?) in the content of what she says and how she behaves. So:

"Be quiet!" Gabrielle rebuked, "With life there is always hope!"

could be:

"Be quiet!" Gabrielle snapped, flapping a dismissive hand at her. "With life there is always hope!" She looked around her. "Isn't there?"

Elsewhere your characters squeal, question, somebody harks, a sailor slurs twice, and it's all a bit OTT and while sensory, also quite "loud" and with so many dialogue tags things risk verging on the camp (which is fine if that's your intention). Pick a few ones - a slur and a hark and good ones like that - and use them but once. Meanwhile "said" and "shouted" and simple ones like that are good enough because, mixed in with the occasional humdinger and also action tags, they become invisible. Don't blow all your cards so soon out of the gate. Also just progress events quicker. As I say, things seemed to get bogged down in repeated minutiae. Skip along a little faster to the good stuff.

The descriptions of the characters - watch out for cliche. Women getting described by their hair colour. I do it in my WIP too - guilty! - but I try and have other things described too - tattoos, some unique feature that characterises who they are and what they are about. Give that a try maybe.

One last thing - but it is potentially quite major. You invest your readers in Gabrielle quite well - and then you kill her. Why? I feel like I'd got to know her and now I have to start again, as if the minutes I spent reading are now wasted. I would urge you to consider whether she needs to die or whether someone else can because this is the sort of thing publishers and agents may well reject your manuscript for (if publication is of interest to you).

Hope this all helps. It's a pretty compelling premise, all told. :)
 

NeenaDiHope

Senior Member
I liked the story line, it draws you in quickly which is great. Having said that I feel like I missed part of the story and went from the middle of the story to the end fast with the death of the MC. You have your meat, you just need to add the potatoes and gravy to it. Overall I like it and you did a great job of giving an impression of fear and yuck. :lol:
Keep it up and you will have a really intriguing story. :unconscious:
 

Jay Greenstein

Senior Member
The first thing that hit me was that you're working hard to avoid using "she said." So people shriek, they shout, they snap, they question, they... But "she said," is seen like punctuation by the reader, noted for clarification and ignored. But...each of the alternatives you use will be noticed, like a small splinter of annoyance.

Next, and of more importance, the only one on stage is the narrator, explaining the story to the reader in a voice that the reader cannot hear. And here's the problem with that: you can tell us a character shrieks or whispers. You can make us know the emotion in the character's voice. But...you cannot tell the reader how you speak a given line. So for the reader, the story is told in a monotone, modified only by the emotion inherent to a given word, and the punctuation. Have your computer read it aloud and you'll hear how different what the reader gets is from what you intend, and from what you hear as you read.

In short: you cannot use the techniques of verbal storytelling for fiction on the page because the medium does not reproduce your performance. But in trying to use it, you visualize what you see happening in the film version and talk about what matters to you. But fair is fair. It's her story, not yours. And she doesn't live in overview, or explanation. She lives in real-time, in the moment she calls now, as do you and I. So presenting her as the subject of the narrator's dissertation can only inform the reader, who comes to you for one reason: to be entertained. Worse yet, by presenting the story in the view of a dispassionate external observer, the end, which you see as a horror filled climax to the story, becomes a dispassionate listing of events.

Bottom line: The tricks of writing we learned in our school days do not work for fiction. Those skills are meant to inform, and be useful to our employers. Fiction has its own set of professional knowledge. and reading fiction helps not at all, because we see only the finished, and polished, product. Creating that product requires us to know the process.

So that's what you need to do, dig into the tricks of the trade and learn the process, the things the pros take for granted. Writing talent, like any other, is no more than potential, until it's trained. So dig into the skills not mentioned in our schooldays, like the three questions the reader wants addressed quickly on entering a scene, so as to provide context. Learn the differences between a scene on screen and on page, and all the things our medium requires and imposes. A good spot to begin is the library's fiction-writing section.

Not good news, I know. But in the end, if you want a reader to see your work as written as well as the pros do it, you need to know what the pro knows.

Hang in there, and keep on writing.
 

Penless

Senior Member
Pretty good writing style. Out of the 10 stories I've read so far on this site, this is in the top 3.

As a reader, I found the 3 pregnant characters at the start hard to differentiate between; there was nothing to really make them stand out, or rather the way it was written was too boring for me to retain it. And as soon as you start listing numerical facts like '8months pregnant, 9 months pregnant' my brain switches to skim-read mode which has a negative impact on my experience for the rest of the story.

I did enjoy the story, but I felt it was a bit too drawn out with a lot of superfluous exposition. I think you could put more of the explanation into the world, rather than in narration. That's how I like to discover things about the author's world; through actually seeing and feeling it with the characters, not being told how they feel or what kind of a character they are.

Especially with the women, you very much described their characters, when you had already shown us their personalities to an extent in the dialog and their actions. Do more of that. Less narration, more internal thought, action, and dialog.
 

wkiraly

Senior Member
I have to agree with the other critiques, especially Ptolemy who talks about your characters being types rather than characters. But what bdcharles says about showing how your characters are talking rather than trying to "say" it (e.g. rebuking) may go a long way to fixing that.

I want to put another bug in your ear. If you REALLY want to add some more emotional input to her demise, give her some hope first. Maybe the demon tells her he wants to save her because she is special or the boss demon tells him to stop munching babies and get back to work, enough so she thinks she's going to live after all. Then, when the knife splits her, it will be that much worse. And as she's fading to death, she looks over at her beautiful, squalling little boy who looks so much like her beloved departed husband, she smile then sees the demon licking the baby's fingers.

Good Luck
-wkiraly
 
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