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  1. #1
    S Stull
    Guest

    Tell me what you think.

    After reading my novel's beginning, I decided it wasn't going anywhere. Briefly, I contemplated trashing it and starting over. Then I realised I could combine chapters one and two with a bit of number three, and fashion a more interesting beginning for BY THE DRAGON'S SCALE. (Now 160.000 words) I uttered a few choice words and began anew...

    Sorry to post an excerpt again, but I've had it critiqued by one person (a teacher) and thought perhaps a little more feedback would be helpful. I hope I've done better this time.

    Thank you! --Lyra

    Ps, on this site, how do you get italics and bold font? Just curious...

    Chapter One:
    In a dark, empty throne room, a sudden tower of flame rose from floor to vaulted ceiling, singing the rafters, casting thick, suffocating tendrils of smoke around the chamber. The inferno built, its fury revealing a man at the head of the room, ensconced in a throne of gold. The lord did not respond except to glance lazily at the inferno raging upward.

    From the licking flame stepped a creature garbed in swathes of inky black cloth. In place of a face, the creature possessed a pit of writhing darkness which had never been flesh. This petrifying apparition strode from the portal directly to its master. The Ver’haden gave a shallow bow. It was ominously tall, and bowing put the top of its helm even with its master’s eyes. Its limbs were long and slender; its would-be face unspeakable.

    “King Kshiâd?” inquired its low, hissing voice. “You called for me, Milord?”

    “Yes.” Deep, with cruel undertones, the king’s voice lacked melody. “I want the girl.”

    “The girl, sire?” the monster asked slowly.

    “The daughter of the one who spurned my LOVE!” snarled the lord. His face contorted in wrath. “That is why I have called you here, fool. You must fetch her to me immediately! I will have her blood!” Dark gaze wandering to the pillar of fire that continued to lick the ceiling, the lord quickly returned to the servant.

    “The one you have spoken of before?” the monster said.

    “YES,” the king spat, losing patience. They’d been over this.

    The wraith raised its palms upward in a gesture of defeat. Its voice was low and thick, and Kshiâd was certain that Common was not its native tongue. “Sire, it will be nearly impossible to find her unless—”

    “She will Impress, soon, and then you will be able to track her,” Kshiâd prompted icily. “It has been foreseen.” He waved vaguely at the grand double doors opposite his throne. “Now go. Begin your preparations. I want her found and brought to me the moment she’s Impressed. Dead or alive.” Kshiâd hesitated.

    “I will not be made to wait,” he added at last, voice menacing.

    The hideous creature gave another slight bow, a well-rehearsed movement that betrayed its familiarity with Kshiâd’s brutal temper. “It shall be done, my master,” the creature whispered. “My brother is near. Together, we shall seek this girl.”

    Kshiâd nodded, somewhat mollified.

    “I take my leave, Sire.” Turning, the wraith raised its faceless helm to the ceiling and gave a mighty shriek. Instantly, the air seemed to freeze. The guards posted at the entrance crumpled to their knees. Outside, servants writhed in auditory agony. Only Kshiâd remained as he was, sitting erect in his throne; the wraith’s uttered spells never affected him.

    An awful answering cry shook the ceiling and made the doors tremble in their frames. Outside the throne room, a brother Ver’haden landed its winged griffin in the main courtyard and uttered a third resounding call. Its twin in the throne room turned and sped from the chamber, leaving the pillar of fire to wind down to ashes on its own.

    “Go,” Kshiâd hissed, rising to retire to his scrying chambers. He had business to see to. His scrying bowl awaited his attentions.

    Garbed in a striking ivory gown, a pale young girl walked to her place in the Hatchery of Kravenblair, the muted thrum of the elder Dragons vibrating in her skull. She paused before her crimson egg, knowing inside herself that she would not magically bind her soul and mind to this creature. There was no connection as the elders described it, no burst of understanding, no longing. She was herself, and would remain so... this time. Perhaps later, a Dragon’s “kit” would beckon her.

    The thrum of the Dragons, a welcoming call for the infant eggs, grew more intense with each passing second. The bowl of the Hatchery vibrated with its sheer power; black sand cascaded down the sides of the little knolls upon which the eggs rested. From a separate corner of the Hatchery, two mother Dragons, one green and one gold, watched as their infants responded to the hums. They roared, their cries protective more than welcoming.

    Knotting her hands together, the girl tried to concentrate on the present, on the powerful vibrations of the humming, of the egg quaking and splitting before her. She let her gaze wander around the Hatchery, up the layered stands to the screaming crowds, over to the steely-faced Elders — Riders who had Impressed Dragons of their own.

    Her gaze dropped to her slippered feet. Chosen from a hundred others at an orphanage near the Dragonkeep, the girl was told she’d had “promise.” The elders had assured her that if she worked hard in her classes to prepare for her bond, she’d have a good chance of Impressing this crimson egg’s Dragonette. The child had visited the egg on her own, weeks in advance, her aim to spark feelings of passion, of mutual understanding with the kit inside the egg. And she’d worked hard, harder even than she’d worked at the orphanage.

    But nothing.

    Promise or no, she did not feel the draw of an infant Dragonette. Around her, the seven other future Riders clustered nearer to the egg, as if proximity would bind them to the little one within. The girl remained, a pace behind her peers. Her skin prickled as the crowd roared; someone had just Impressed. Briefly, she wondered what it felt like to bond, to share a mind and a soul. She wondered if she would ever know. At thirteen years of age, she was considered too old to Impress, and she’d the rumours about her. She knew the elders called her a nettle in a bed of roses; she could be clipped and pruned, but she’d never be a rose, like her fellows. Even if she did get a Dragon, she’d be considered the “loner,” the “outsider.”

    Retreating behind her curtain of glossy black hair, she waited.

    Egg upon egg exploded, kits emerged, and children gave cries of joy as they bonded. She herself felt only disappointment. Perhaps she would find work as a farmer. She was good with animals. Maybe—

    This way, a voice murmured in her head. It was not speech as she heard issuing from the crowds, but something akin to her own mental voice, the voice of her thoughts.
    It seemed, strangely, to emanate from her left, where the most precious egg of all lay in wait.

    The Queen of Queen’s egg, the most prized Dragonette in a clutch. The kit was descended from a long line of Queen Dragons, rulers of a “coven” — the mothers, the protectors of other Dragons. This Dragoness was respected by both humans and Dragons; she was extremely valuable to a Dragonkeep.

    The girl did not dare approach the circle of nobility surrounding the egg.

    But the inner voice persisted, Come to me. Walk. It’s only a few steps.

    So she did, the first steps unnoticed, the next few bringing silence upon her. The crowds fell silent with the Dragons, leaving the arena eerily still.

    The world held its breath.

    She paused in the centre of the arena, her skin prickling with the feel of a thousand gazes. Hurry, the voice said, its melodious sound ringing in her mind.

    She did, crossing the remaining gap between her and the egg, stopping between a pair of young women both older than she. Saying nothing, she let her long tresses swing before her face. The crowd acknowledged her sacrilegious movements with a long roar of confusion.

    She did not dare look to her elders, or the furious Dragons reluctantly resuming their thrum in the corner. She saw them, all wings and chest and tail. Their cat-slit eyes were pinned to her back, daring her to move. In the corner, not joining the throaty calls of her kindred, the mother Dragonesses snarled.

    The girl winced, letting her sight fall upon the egg that had called her. It was unlike its siblings: tall and golden, it seemed to have been dipped in liquid metal. It quivered, but its movement was a taunt: the Queen-of-Queens never hatched ’til last, her appearance being the climax of any Hatching.

    Nerves building, she waited as the final eggs hatched and selected partners. She was aware of the odds stacked against her. The Queen was entitled to noble blood, and she was by no means special in her heritage.

    At last, only the Queen-of-Queens remained, shuddering forcefully upon her knoll of black sand. The lights dimmed, the crowd hushed. Among themselves, the elders whispered.

    In a single explosive arch, the pieces of the egg flew free, releasing the little one within. The tiny form struggled free, rising to stand on her hind legs. Eyes, wide and afraid, flicked from person to person.

    At last, she began to move.

    The girl’s breath caught in her throat. The Dragonette, small and golden, was strikingly graceful. Tiny though she was, she bore the promise of power. The kit passed before the girl, shaking her angled head, snapping her crocodilian jaws. Moving on, she seemed determined to examine every candidate before making her choice.

    When the infant had passed through the circle once, she went round again, her steps becoming slower, her halts growing longer. At last, she stopped before a young man, dark and exotic, like most Riders. The man stared, knelt — and the circle of potentials drooped, knowing it was over.
    The crowd gave a wild roar.

    In a distant land, the Lord Kshiâd snarled, casting a delicate scrying bowl away from himself. It struck the wall with a resounding crash. The bowl shattered against the wall, spewing scrying water and shards of glass everywhere. Kshiâd snarled again. Fury had glazed the world crimson in his eyes.

    He had lost his only chance!

    Only because he’d cast his scrying bowl away did he miss the kit pulling away from the one she’d been drawn to first. Her large yellow eyes, placed evenly on either side of her skull, caught sight of the pale girl, the girl of Kshiâd’s interest.

    Narrow slit pupils focussed on the child who’d dared violate ancient customs.

    Quietly, the Dragonette chirped and approached. The man she’d taunted slumped, distraught. Kshiâd saw none of this; he stormed about his chamber, desperately trying to conjure a plan to reach this girl. Thoughts of bloodshed and death raged through his mind, heedless of the events unfolding within the Hatchery — the crowd’s silence, the girl’s amazement.

    Her wonderful Impression was to be a terrible blow from fate.

    The hapless victim knelt, slowly, hope in her eyes as she put out her hand. Slowly, the kit reached forward and touched the girl's outstretched fingers with her own tiny paw.

    It was then that Impression began. The crowd’s silence was asphyxiating.

    Deep in the Hatchery, the Dragonette screeched in certainty. “Her name is Skysong!” whispered the girl. A moment later, the girl stiffened, holding her head in her delicate hands. The Dragonette, too, went rigid.

    Kshiâd paused in his rampage. Though he’d not witnessed the actual bonding, he’d felt a warm wash of magic, soft and gentle against his skin. The magic had been cursedly familiar, a tormenting stroke upon his skin. So like Sarissa’s — so wonderful after so long, like her kiss, before she’d turned from him for better things—

    Could it be?

    Could the child hidden from him be revealed at last?
    He reached for the shards of his scrying bowl and used a spell to bind them back together. Filling the bowl with water from a nearby tap, he glanced into the depths and waited. A scene of rowdy celebration met his gaze: The crowd, after a long, uncertain pause, had taken up its usual cheers.

    Alone in the arena stood the girl, her face shining with joy. Wrapped around her arms was a perfect miniature of an adult Dragon — beautiful, someday impressive. The elder Dragons threw back their mighty heads and roared a welcome. An elder Rider came to the youngling, presented her with a gleaming ring, and stepped away.
    The girl’s face radiated happiness as she embraced the golden Queen.

    “So like her mother… Such a beautiful smile…” For a moment, Kshiâd’s face was filled with grief and longing. Then the expression fell away, replaced with a terrible, burning fury. He’d been spurned, and he needed blood.

    “I shall extinguish that joy as her mother extinguished mine,” the dæmon lord roared, spinning from the room. He had felt in his chest where the girl was — Kekeneth, motherland of DragonRiders. It was time to inform the Ver’haden.

    They would bring him his prize.

    ***



  2. #2
    Rogue Mutt
    Guest

    Re: Tell me what you think.

    If you want bold or italics you have to do < b > or < i > before what you want to bold/italic and then /b or /i after the part you want bold/italic. Take out the extra spaces between the brackets for it to work.

  3. #3
    Rogue Mutt
    Guest

    Re: Tell me what you think.

    BTW, the dialog there seems kind of overwrought.

  4. #4
    S Stull
    Guest

    Re: Tell me what you think.

    Lessee... [i]overwrought/i

    Hopefully that turned out...

  5. #5
    S Stull
    Guest

    Re: Tell me what you think.

    Well.... almost.... Haha. Thanks Rogue Mutt, I actually take overwrought as a compliment since that's what I was really working for. Is that bad that the writing comes across that way?

  6. #6
    Matt Austin
    Guest

    Re: Tell me what you think.

    Heavy stuff, but I liked it!

  7. #7
    John Getreu
    Guest

    Re: Tell me what you think.

    The dark empty throne room with a man in it kind of confused me. Apparently the room wasn't quite so empty after all. Perhaps dark and silent would be better?

    Also I would give the girl's name to your readers before the impressment scene. This makes it easier for readers to form an emotional bond with your character.

  8. #8
    S Stull
    Guest

    Re: Tell me what you think.

    Danke, all! I forgot to put a name down in the first chapter, but that was easy enough to fix. >.> lol.

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