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My First Chapter

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My First Chapter

Postby Scriven » Thu Mar 01, 2007 7:06 pm

Dread welled in Aeron as he waited for sixteen men strung out in front of his father to die. Each man faced the balcony’s ledge, inches away from the 400 length drop on the western edge of Broken Rock.

Two years ago Aeron slid on his stomach out to the edge of the Casting Balcony and peered over the side. For the first time in his life nothing stood between him and falling from the heights of his castle. He remembered slinking on his belly all the way back to the castle wall before finally clawing his way up against the wall.

Aeron asked his teacher, Magister Xian, why this slab of granite protruding from Frelmore Castle was named the Casting Balcony and never received an answer. The answer, now blatantly obvious, punched him just below his stomach. Sixteen men stood about to die, and he must “Stand strong, like a proper Hale,” to watch.

“Revolutionaries, firebrands, hotspurs all,” Aeron’s father projected a strong, stable voice. A tall, thin man with a shaven head he looked bigger somehow as the wind clawed at his robes. “You preach hate, sin, in the streets of The Narrows. That I and my family should be replaced, killed, for some sort of senate, some gathering of lords, as if many fools could prove more capable than one strong man.

“Has my father been a good king? Has he provided safety, even peace? Our lands rarely see a more bountiful time and yet you and those like you, aspire to murder my family in the name of your own political aspirations.”

Edward Hale stepped back as a herald stepped forward who slowly, confidently, read each man’s name and
town.

“Each man stands before the court having been found guilty of treason against the royal family. Testimony from Goodwife Williams, Ploughman Dale, Sir Halistar McTavish and Sir Talon Alywn tell each man met in the Public House of Three Arrows three times during the last moon where this plot hatched.

“The guilty plotted to to storm Frelmore Castle and through violent force capture Lord Edward Hale and his household, rightful Duke of The Narrows and second son of King Edward of Arundell.

“Having heard the words of the accused have duly been judged guilty of treason against persons of the royal family. The punishment for such is death and shall be executed this day.”

Aeron felt Talon’s heavy hand fall on his shoulder and give him a quick squeeze. It would happen quickly now. One by one his father’s gentle push would send them over the edge.

Every day of Aeron’s life had been spent inside the walls of Frelmore Castle, jutting out from the top of a granite rock that appeared thrown from the sky in the center of a long valley. Since birth men told him that he was the king’s grandson, sixth in line to rule everything his eyes could see. Those words never seemed to make sense until this moment. Being a lord meant killing people.

“The king is good, so is his justice. Vast is his wisdom,” Aeron’s father cried. “Vast is his mercy as well. In the name of my father I commute your sentences. I give you full pardons.”

Sixteen fully armed knights stepped from the wings, untied each man’s hands, turned him around and led him in from the edge. Their eyes burned with emotion, several burned through him like beams of light through a window.

“This changes little,” one of the men said. “Joseph’s justice might be vast, perhaps even the great Duke of the Narrow’s as well, but by what right does he rule? Blood? Tradition? By the force of that eternal witch from which your family descends?”

Edward exploded into movement and suddenly stood so close to the man their chests almost touched. Aeron’s ears strained to hear what followed.

“I have given you your life, I would pray you do not waste it by speaking ill of the Great Queen,” his father growled. “My mercy has limits, do not find them.”

“Your mercy is the arbitrary callousness of a man born to power he does not deserve,” the man turned to leave but Edward grabbed him by the shoulder.

Not a physically imposing man, Aeron’s father possessed a wiry strength. One hand clasped around the man’s shoulder and the palm of the other crashed into the man’s breastbone. Forcing him backward Edward pushed the man backwards toward the edge of the Casting Balcony.

Aeron wanted to scream, he wanted to shout, this seemed wrong, but his jaw seemed locked in place. The man’s arms flailed about, hands desperately clawing at the air as Aeron’s father steadily pushed closer to the edge.

His right foot missed the edge of the balcony and in an instant he disappeared from Aeron’s view. His father just killed a man.

Edward brushed his hands together as he turned around. Everyone on the balcony, the men, knights, and Aeron’s mother, stood motionless as if the breath had been drawn from their chests.

“He is no martyr to your cause,” Edward said, his voice loud and calm. “That man insulted my honor, the honor of the royal family, and justly dispatched. Tell others I executed him for his beliefs and you share his fate, I promise you that.”

The clinking of plate armor bounced off the castle’s stones as the knights escorted the men from the balcony. In a few moments all that remained were Aeron, his father, mother, who had stood silently in corner throughout the affair, his father’s War Master Halistar and Talon.

“I believe dinner will be set within the hour,” his father said. “I will see you there.”

Aeron turned to follow Talon. Sir Talon Alwyn formed Aeron’s first memory. The boy and the knight assigned to teach and protect him rarely separated. More than anything Aeron wanted to run away to his quarters and talk with Talon. He had to know what happened. Why did his father pardon those men? Who were they and how did Talon know them?

“Aeron,” his father tapped his shoulder. “If you would escort me to my solar I wish a word alone with you.”

Frelmore stood like a beached ship on top of a colorless crag of gray-black granite in the middle of a rolling valley between two mountain ranges. The green sliver crossed with roads was known as The Narrows. Sitting on top of the rock Frelmore controlled the only reasonable trade route between the eastern and western portions of Arundell.

The solar stretched like a “C” around the western side of the castle, affording a panoramic view of both ranges and far into the west. Bookcases, tables and chairs crowded the study. Aeron rarely entered this room that smelled of wood burning and mountain air.

“I am quiet disappointed in your performance today,” Edward sat down in a worn chair and picked up a stallion of ale.

Cut to the core Aeron could say nothing. What had he done wrong? Had he not been told to stand silently?

“You flinched, noticeably, at least three times,” his father drew a long drink from his stallion. “Totally unbecoming, you looked like some frightened stray rather than my heir. Completely unacceptable I must have a word with that knight of yours, that magister as well.”

What was he supposed to say? To apologize might only anger his father further as another unbecoming act of cowardly behavior.

“Father,” Aeron thought his voice sounded timid, weak. “Why did you pardon those men?”

His father took a long drink before setting the stallion back on its table. He motioned for Aeron to sit in a nearby chair. Aeron could see sweat beading on his bald scalp.

“A fair question,” he said. “I pardoned them because I could make no other move.”

Aeron marveled at how different the two were. Where his father stood tall, gaunt with shaven head Aeron had always been short for his age and his mother’s flaxen hair and pale skin made him look younger than his twelve years. The one unmistaken trait tying the two together was their eyes. They shared pale gray eyes, Queen’s Eyes, they were called and denoted their royal heritage.

“But, but won’t they return to their homes and continue plotting against us,” Aeron asked.

“Perhaps, that is the most likely outcome,” his father answered.

“Then why release them? You heard them father, they want Grandfather not to rule, for him not to be king,” Aeron said. “Why release our enemies?”

“In truth my brothers would have run them through. Baldwin would have made a public show about it no doubt.” Aeorn felt the weight of his father’s stare fall upon him. “What we are fighting is not a man, but an idea, and an idea does not die with the body containing it.”

“I cannot go through every home in the Narrows rooting out people who disagree with us and hanging them. If I do so I am sure to turn myself into the tyrant they wish me to be. You can only fight an idea by showing them that you are not that which they believe you to be.

“Do you understand?”

Aeron had to think for a moment. A lot of what his father said made sense. They couldn’t kill everyone who disagreed with them, but still. “They plotted to kill us father, Talon said so.”

“And so they did, but I ask you this, would you kill a man who just granted you your life?”

“No.”

“And so it is,” his father said. “My father is a good king, and in my way I try to be just with my people. If some believe a collection of petty lords would serve them better than men born and bred for leadership then that is their own shortcoming, but not a fault we should kill them for.”

Aeron could not think of anything to say. Several moments passed between them.

“Now, next spring will mark your 13th year upon this planet, and I will be requiring more of you,” Edward said. “I cannot have you running and hiding behind your mother’s skirts whenever my banner lords pay us a visit.”

Aeron felt his cheeks flush. He knew he showed his emotion readily, his pale skin often betraying any passion or fear that ran through his small body.

“Baldwin will be celebrating the coming of age of the twins with a feast in Crown’s Keep,” his father said. “Now you have never known me to be fond of the trappings of court, and that has not changed. I have decided, in spite of your performance this afternoon, to send you to court in my stead.”

“What?”

“You will represent us, our family, at court,” his father said back in his chair with a smug look on his face. “You might take that knight and magister you’re so fond of and several of our best knights to show the pride of The Narrows.”

“Yes father,” Aeron cautiously said.

“It is quite an honor, I am sure you will want to celebrate,” Edward said. “Go find that knight and tell him the news. Go along, go.”

Aeron didn’t need to be told twice as he hurried out of his father’s study. It was as if a fog had clouded his mind, was his father using him?
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Postby Bmat » Thu Mar 01, 2007 8:23 pm

am quiet disappointed

You heard them father,- comma after them, maybe father capitalized.

“Yes father,” Aeron cautiously said. This is awkward.

was his father using him? Where did this come from? We have no previous knowledge of his thinking this. I think it is premature for it to appear here. It should come after he has some time to think and go over what happened.

This is effectively written. You delicately placed description in among the action. I don't know if a bit more about what they are wearing could be added. I hesistate to suggest any changes, since what you have is pleasant to read. Your descriptions work just as they should. It caught my attention right away, and I was interested enough to read the whole excerpt.

Very nice!
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Postby The Blind Guardian » Sun Mar 04, 2007 11:43 pm

Hello Scriven,

Okay, first the good:

I think you have a lot of really good political dialog. It The dialog sets the scene well for what is, so far, a political- sounding tale. The discription you do have in here was likewise nice. It all seemed very gray and cold, much like the situation at hand.

I like the fact that you open with Aeron as a young boy in such a serius situation. I'm not sure if you plan on keeping him so young throughout the story or not, but regardless, you could do a lot to play on his age. For example, I didn't know he was so young until you came out and told us. I would like to see a bit more subtle reference to him being a bit younger. He is just a kid in this situation. Either he has been conditioned from birth to be objective and cold, like his father already seems, or these things would effect him more. He flinches, which is good, and he wonders if what his father is doing is wrong, but I feel you could do a bit more to make him seem more like a child, or, if not, give us some background as to why he does not.

I think this is a good opening chapter overall.

When you speak to a person and call them "father" the f IS capitalized. If you are just using the word and not addressing someone it does not need capitalization.

I have commented on a number of things I found throughout the chapter. I do hope it helps you. You ahve a good start here as I said.

-- "as he waited for sixteen men" = "...as he waited for the sixteen men..."
-- "four hundred length?" First, I recommend writing it as "four hundred", since in most writing I believe numbers of this sort are written out as words (I suppose it MIGHT not matter.) As for "400 length" 400 what? Feet? inches? skeliton lengths?

-- "Two years ago ..." This scene transition from present to past seems somewhat awquard to me, because it jarred me a little. I had to go back and read it again before I realized the scene had shifted. It is also hard to tell when the scene changes due to the formatting you lose when posting on a forum. usually a blank line between paragraphs where the scene shifts can give the reader a sence that the scene is shifting to some degree. I am not sure if you had this in your story because the formatting was lost.
-- As for the opening of this flashback, why not try a transitional sentense prefix? For example. "Aeron found his mind wandering to a time, two years ago, when ..." Or something to this degree.
-- "...castle wall before finally clawing his way up against the wall." You use "wall" twice in one sentense. You can get away with that, but it would be a perfect place to replace "wall" with a feeling. For example: "...clawing his way up its gritty facade." (I use gritty, but any other discriptive word works; I don't know what kind of castle this is yet.)

-- The answer, now blatently obvious ..." I'm probably just nitpicking here. I think most people would say this line is okay. You have a good verb discribing how it makes Aeron feel, which is good. THough you don't always need to tell us how your character feels. Sometimes it's necessary, other times it's a nice touch. I know I do it too much myself. You could easily get away here with saying "the answer was blatently obvious."

-- "A tall, thin man with a shaven head he..."= "Tall and thin, with a shaved head, he somehow seemed larger as the wind clawed at his robes."
-- "...preech hate, sin..." I'm not posative, but I am trying to picture him saying this. it sounds good, but I think it should be written like "...preach hate -- sin..." it almost sounds lik ehe's correcting his words. You're not running them together here, of course, but this kind of dash signifies a pause, not unlike that of a comma.
-- "...prove more capable than one strong man." This is the end of your paragraph, and there is no closing quote.

-- You open the next paragraph with what I am guessing is more dialog from Aeron's father. If this is so, then you don't need to start a new paragraph here. You can just let it continue from the one before.
-- "...those like you, aspire..." No comma needed.
-- You use "aspiration" and a varient twice in quick succession. I am not really complaining here, because it IS dialog.
-- Where is Aeron's father standing while delivering this speech? I got the sense he is standing on the ledge with Aeron and the sixteen men, but it sounds like he is condemning them?

-- "“The guilty plotted to to storm ..." repeated word.
Who is Edward Hale? Is tis Aeron's father? If so, maybe try giving his name earlier. WHen he is standing and you mention him as Aeron's father, that would be a good time?

-- Okay, so his father IS on the ledge... You don't need to go overboard explaining each person's position, but a bit of a sense of where people are standing would help quite a bit.
-- "...walls of Frelmore Castle, jutting out from the ..." It makes it sound like Aeron is jutting out of the mountain here.how about: valley. "Aeron had spent his entire life inside the walls of Frelmore Castle." Now here, continue with " "Since birth men told him ..." I like your discription of how the mountain looked, and how the castle jutted out of the rock, though I don't know if I understand the valley refrance here. Either way, though the image is good, I don't know if this is a good place for it. You could easily give tis discription earlier when talking about the ledge he stood on, especially since these men are on the edge of it. it would give the reader a good sence of how high up they really are. Or, you could use it a bit later instead.

-- "His father just killed a man." Yes, we know. There is no need to say it for the reader. If you are saying it for Aeron, as I think you are, then show us, don't tell us. What was Aeron's reaction? Did he gasp? Did he just stand there is silence? Some discription of thought might work.

-- "and justly dispatched..." = "and was justly dispatched." unless this is really how he talks.

-- Frelmore stood like a beached ship..." a great place to use that image of how it juts. In fact, you vary nearly give that image right here.

-- "...quiet disappointed..." he doesn't sound quiet, I'm guessing that is a type O.

-- "Cut to the core" You need a comma after "core". Again, you are telling us things. "cut to the core" is telling. If you can, try to show. Telling IS okay sometimes in other cases however.

-- "...unacceptable I must have..." Period after unnacceptable.

-- You often divide a character's monolog into paragraphs, but you don't often need to do that.

][/u]
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Postby Scriven » Sat Mar 10, 2007 3:52 pm

Thanks guys for the specific feedback. I've really struggled with writing a first chapter that gets the readers attention and introduces the main theme of my story with a bang.

I do plan on having Aeron age throughout the trilliogy from 12 to 14, and I'm trying to play with his age without him seeming immature or braty, which were some of the criticisms of my earlier drafts.

Gaurdian, thanks so much for the on-point specific details.

--Matt
Last edited by Scriven on Sat Mar 10, 2007 5:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Bread Butterbeard » Sat Mar 10, 2007 4:32 pm

If it was your intent to write an effective first chapter, then I say you have accomplished this and in doing so "hooked" this reader to yearning for more.

I can guess you'd like an example thus ill give one, What hooked me was the description of the boy and how he had once asked why the "Casting Balcony" was named as it was and hadn't been told.

This by itself while not overly grandiose enticed me to wonder, Why indeed? and upon putting two and two together I had my answer, and better yet my answer was confirmed shortly after.

I believe you have a great sense of pacing here, a good amount of description followed by action, You do well in keeping your story moving forward and I look forward to reading more.
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Postby clknaps » Thu Mar 15, 2007 3:53 am

Hi Scriven!

Wow, this is a great story. I only noticed one little minor grammar detail aside from what has already been said:


“He is no martyr to your cause,” Edward said, his voice loud and calm. “That man insulted my honor, the honor of the royal family, and was justly dispatched.

Tell others I executed him for his beliefs and you share his fate, I promise you that.”
While not wrong per say, I stumbled over this sentence and had to read it a few times to grasp it. Maybe rework to: "If you say that I executed him..."
Or maybe make it clear to whom the King is speaking at this point might clear it up as well.


I agree with Bmat that the "is father using me" comment at the end came out of left field. Is this boy bright enough to realize that at this point? From what I know so far I don't think so.
GREAT job, I want to read more. Thanks for sharing!
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