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Chapter 66 (partial)

Chapter 66 (partial)

In a world torn apart by warfare brought on by the Wolf Riders nineteen-year-old Marrida is destined to become a Keeper of Truth. A stone thrown during an incursion changes her fate and that of a man she meets by chance called Alagur.

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Fantasy / Sci-fi


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Nathalie M.L. Römer (Sweden)


Alagur gently pulled the blanket over the woman, before readying himself for bed. As he began undressing, he pulled the curtain in front of the window aside, and glanced outside.

It is still night, but he could see a hint of the approaching daytime in the sky above him already. The celebration was still ongoing, which was evident from orange glow, which is visible in the distance at the other end of the city. Alagur let the curtain drop, and turned to look at Marrida on the bed. She lay there watching him with eyes, which now didn't appear to be tired at all. He wondered, what went through the woman's mind.

She appeared to be happy with the gift she received from Jerabor, but perhaps two hours later after appearing somewhat withdrawn, she tugged his sleeve, and told him she wanted to go home, because she is tired.

Now, she lay on the bed, with wide-open eyes, just staring at an undetermined place on the wall, and seemed to be thinking about something. Alagur realised, that during their whole walk home from the moment, they left the festivities, she did not say a word. Alagur knelt next to the bed and looked at the woman closer. He ran his hand through her hair, and caressed her cheek.
"What's wrong, Marrida?" he quizzed, "Are you unhappy you're leaving? Or worried about the journey...?"
She shook her head.
"What then...?" Alagur implored, "Is it the gift...? Because Jerabor did say to me privately, that you can return it to him, if you're uncomfortable about having it..."
Again Marrida shook her head.
Alagur looked at the woman closer. He saw she bit her lip as if making an effort not to cry. She seemed subdued, and it seemed strange after all the laughter and the fun of the dancing from earlier in the evening.
"Marrida... Is it me? Did you not like it, that I told them about us...?" Alagur said, now feeling worried she is reconsidering the decision of being his life partner. When she shook her head once more, Alagur could feel a genuine feeling of relief.

"I want to go on the journey later today..." Marrida said.
"Why?" Alagur wanted to know as he frowned at the woman.
"Because of what Emelyse and Jarryca were saying..." the woman answered.
"What were they saying?" Alagur queried, "I could hear them talking, but couldn't understand any of it..."
"They were talking in the dialect of Achellon..." Marrida explained.
"How do you know?" Alagur asked.
"I know five of the six dialects learnt at the Temple very well, but the sixth one always eluded me..." Marrida continued, "I started lessons learning a new dialect last year, but Sharriba always explained it as... How did she put it again?
"Some dialect from the east" She never told me the name of the dialect and I recognised the dialect they were talking in... Especially when they said the name Roha'dea..."
"Isn't it the other name for Masharea...?" Alagur enquired.
"It is..." came the reply in a whisper.
She stopped talking, when they could hear the front door open. Two pairs of footsteps made their way through the house making as little noise as possible. The man and woman heard two doors open, and shut it in a soft manner. After several minutes of a faint sound of people readying themselves for bed, the house went quiet again. Marrida continued in a whisper.

"She spoke the dialect with the fluidity of someone, who is brought up speaking it... Jarryca could also speak it, but she has the inflection of it being a learnt dialect" Marrida whispered.
She paused again, and after a moment continued.
"They were talking about the city Emelyse is from. I couldn't make out the name of the city, but it does start with a 'D' and an 'A'... The rest of the name got said too fast" Marrida said, "There seems to be something going on there, which neither of them told me about. And they seemed worried about the fact we're going there. And after this Jarryca told Emelyse about a vision she did, and all I could understand of what she said was "There is a cloud of smoke I see on the horizon, and the sound of a wolf growling", and it is making me worried, Alagur..."
Marrida stopped for a moment, and took a breath.

"I think we need to go sooner, if we're going to avoid whatever Jarryca saw... That's why I want to go today. And I would go now, if it was possible even..." she said softly.
Alagur frowned, and looked down at the shirt he is holding in his hand. He got up, and looked at the woman on the bed for a moment. He thought for a few moments, before he put the shirt back on.
"I got a plan, but you stay here in bed please..." he said.
Marrida watched as Alagur quietly left the room. She watched as he started packing away all the collected possessions, which still was in the front room and the kitchen, and proceeded to pack away everything, except their travel clothes.
"I will be back soon..." he promised, before he opened to door of the sleeping room, then she thought she heard the front door open, and close. She listened for footsteps outside, but realised the man was too good at travelling without being noticed, to get overheard by her or anyone else.
Marrida lay motionless in the bed, listening for anything, which told her Alagur returned. After perhaps forty minutes, she heard the quiet sound of a person re-entering the house, and a moment later Alagur is back in the room. Marrida sat up on the bed, and looked at the man questioningly.

"If you want to leave now, we can... Yalla is ready for the journey, and waiting for us in the copse near here..." the man whispered, "We will need to hurry, if we want to be gone before first light..."
"I will leave a short note here for Emelyse and Bergas, for them to find when they wake, so they know we're sorry about leaving without telling them..." Marrida said. Alagur nodded, but the woman saw, he was urging her to hurry with the task.

Marrida wrote the short note, saying she would send word later on to let them know, that she and Alagur are alright. She placed the note on the small table next to the door, and placed the darkened, unlit ember on top of it. She sat down on the bed, and wanted put her shoes on when the man stopped her.
"I am not wearing my shoes" he said, "Bring them, and once we're some distance from here, we can put them on..."
She nodded, and tied the bindings together in a knot, and put the shoes around her neck. She took hold of the man's hand, and they silently walked from the house, stopping periodically to listen for possible sounds coming from either of the sleeping rooms of their hosts. They reached the end of the porch, when they froze in place, when a voice spoke up from one of the windows.

"I guess they spooked you enough with their conversation, for you wanting to leave sooner..."

Alagur and Marrida glanced to their right, to see Bergas leaning out of the window leaning on his arms. He continued explaining.
"They don't realise how much I actually understand, when they talk in that dialect... Is it Mam's real dialect...?" he asked.
Marrida nodded.
"I won't tell her; I saw you leave. Won't tell any of them..." Bergas said.
Marrida tiptoed to the boy, and gave him a hug. She noticed his cheeks are wet with tears. Alagur gave the boy a hug too.
"Look after your mother, little brother..." he said to the boy.
"And you look after her..." Bergas said, nodding towards Marrida, "I am going to miss both of you a lot..."
Bergas closed the window of his sleeping room making no sound, and after a few moments of just standing in one place Alagur and Marrida took hold of each other's hand, and the man led the woman towards the northern side of the copse.

Here they are greeted by the gentle snort from Yalla, who pushed her head against the man as he approached her. The familiar greeting felt good to the man. Marrida greeted the wolf by scratching over the beast's nose bridge. It caused a second snort from the animal. Alagur lifted Marrida up so she could get on top of the wolf, then the man hoisted himself up behind her. Marrida glanced back and upwards towards the man, and smiled at him. He smiled back, and gave her a kiss on her lips.
"Are you ready?" he murmured.
"Yes..." Marrida replied.
Alagur signalled the wolf, and she started in a fast pace up the side of a slope.


Competition: The Pen Factor 2016, Round 1

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Read Reviews

Review 1:


Compelling hook?

Fresh?

Strong characters?

Entertaining?

Narration and dialogue: Authentic voice
  • Your characters’ voices were convincing and authentic.
Atmosphere and description
  • Your story was a feast for the senses. The atmosphere wrapped itself around me and transported me onto the page alongside your characters.
Authentic and vivid setting
  • The setting was realistic and vivid. The characters’ mood and emotions were conveyed successfully through the believable setting.
Opening line and hook
  • Your strong opening and compelling hook was a promise of wonderful things to come!
General comments from your fellow writer 1:
Seems like a compelling novel

Review 2:


Compelling hook?

Fresh?

Strong characters?

Entertaining?

Attention to mechanics
  • The grammar, typography, sentence structure and punctuation would benefit from a further round of editing to avoid distracting from the quality of the story.
Plot and pace
  • Maintaining the right pace and sustaining the reader’s interest is a challenging balancing act. The story had a clear and coherent progression with a structured plot.
Technique and tight writing
  • When writing is tight, economical and each word has purpose, it enables the plot to unravel clearly. Try and make each individual word count.
Authentic and vivid setting
  • The setting was realistic and vivid. The characters’ mood and emotions were conveyed successfully through the believable setting.
General comments from your fellow writer 2:
You certainly seem to have invented a rich imaginary world, but you must pay more attention to the underlying mechanics of writing. Your chapter contains too many grammatical errors that detract from the enjoyment of the story.

Review 3:


Compelling hook?

Fresh?

Strong characters?

Entertaining?

Attention to mechanics
  • The grammar, typography, sentence structure and punctuation would benefit from a further round of editing to avoid distracting from the quality of the story.
Narration and dialogue: Authentic voice
  • The protagonist didn’t always respond believably against the backdrop of the story. Ask yourself if people would really answer to a situation in that way. Think about whether the characters’ voices could be more convincing for their age, background, gender, time period, genre, gender and ethnicity. Dialogue should be natural and consistent throughout the story.
Characterization
  • Make sure your characters are multidimensional. Do they have strengths and weaknesses? Mere mortals make the most interesting stories because they are like you and me and we are able to empathize with their journey. That’s how the connection with a character is formed.
Main character
  • Connect us to your main protagonist with a deeper characterization. Could your protagonist have a few more distinguishing character traits?
Character conflict
  • The reader’s experience of the story is heightened when the characters’ goals, conflicts and purpose are clear. Perhaps giving this aspect of the story further attention could be worthwhile.
Plot and pace
  • Maintaining the right pace and sustaining the reader’s interest is a difficult balancing act. Are you sure all the material is relevant to the plot, setting and atmosphere? Make sure each sentence makes sense to the reader, and each paragraph moves their experience forward.
Suspense and conflict
  • The joy of reading often lies in the element of suspense prompted by internal or external conflicts. The first page should introduce some intrigue, something that causes the reader to turn the page. Think about the conflict and tension in your story. How effectively has it been introduced?
Point of view
  • Point of view helps the reader identify whose perspective we are engaging with, i.e. who is narrating the story. It can sometimes be helpful to double check that the point of view in the story is successfully handled. Ensure you consistently use the same point of view and tense throughout.
Atmosphere and description
  • A writer’s ability to create mood and atmosphere through evocative description is vital to the reader’s experience. It’s a real skill to craft out how the characters react to the setting and atmosphere and perhaps your story could go further in its description. The reader wants to experience the same sensory and poignant journey as the characters.
Authentic and vivid setting
  • The scene needs to be vivid and realistic in order to hold the reader’s attention. Being concise and plausible at the same time is tricky. Giving this further attention could perhaps be worthwhile.
Opening line and hook
  • Great books, nowadays, start with a powerful opening and compelling hook in order to keep the reader engaged. Have you baited the reader enough?
General comments from your fellow writer 3:
Hi, I enjoyed reading your story, but felt it could benefit from some re-writing to improve it. Just my opinion! Firstly this flitted frequently from past to present tenses - was/is. Also the point of view changed frequently, it was in Alagur's then Marrida's so it was difficult to get into it. I don't have any idea where or when this is set. I did notice this was Chap 66, which maybe accounts for some of my problems with that. There are a great many names, and I don't know who any of them are. I did get that Yalla was a wolf, but he snorted twice; do wolves snort? Made me think of a horse, don't wolves bark and growl like dogs? I thought quizzed and implored were really clunky, distracting from what was actually being said. You talked of the gift a lot, but didn't tell us what it was. I hope that helps you, and good luck with it.