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Author Topic: My latest writing exercise - Comments are welcome  (Read 5471 times)
Senior Newbie
Last Login:February 10, 2010, 08:20:05 am
United States United States

Religion: Brighideach Greenwitch
Posts: 14

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« Topic Start: February 01, 2010, 05:12:43 am »

This is my latest writing exercise.  Mind you that's it's the first draft of the first chapter of a novel that I probably won't finish.  I always have a habit of going well beyond subtext, so much so that i haven't had a credited non-collaborative piece of fiction published in the last 3 years.  Anyway, I have been trying to stay below the invisible subtext line that my former publishers (and most major publishers in general) insist on, but it's impossible with this story, so I highly doubt that I'll finish it, unless someone knows of a paying (non-token) publisher that publishes similar fiction?

Like I wrote above, this is a first draft, so there will undoubtedly be errors, redundancies, and run-ons, etc. 

But I thought that I would post it and see what others think.


The following text, in its entirety, is copyrighted 2010 by the author, who is registered on with the username "manwitch." No authorization to redistribute the text in any format is given under any circumstance. 


   It was a lovely spring morning, the type of morning that had the promise of becoming a beautiful and wonderful day.  Dawn had brought with it a deep blue sky that was accented with faint brushstrokes of white.  The moon was almost set, a dim silver crescent near the south-western horizon, framed by a sparkling green web of tall evergreens in the distance.  Towards the east, the brilliance of the sun shone orange through the multi-coloured forest below, and the wind had turned warm, a delight after a such a long and cold night.  Leaves had begun to unfurl everywhere, filling the forest with a delightful combination of reds, yellows and greens. 
   A hawk flew across the small clearing and took notice that tall trees surrounded the field on all sides.  Had he flown a mile to the south, he would have seen the many houses and barns of a small town nestled against the forest, with wisps of smoke spiraling up and blowing in the morning breeze. 
   Although multiple buildings were a common sight in clearings such as this, there was only one solitary house below.  They had built a house close to the edge of the clearing, on the north side, in the shadow of large evergreen trees; puffs of smoke were coming out of the chimney, which was sticking up from the center of the thatched roof.  He could see two humans below. 
   One was bending down and pulling up plants from the ground beside the house.  The other human was on the south side of the clearing, walking out from a path that was mostly hidden below the tree tops.
   The hawk circled around to see if there were any others that he may not have seen at first.  One of the humans looked up at him, the one that had just come from under the trees.  No others could the hawk see, nor any of the beasts that the humans often lived with.       
   Helena Marelsdotter stopped and stared up at the hawk as it alighted high on a branch in a large oak tree on the east side of her field.  She opened the front of her long, multi-coloured, fur coat as she started to walk the rest of the way towards the house.  Helen was surprised by the changing temperature of the wind; happily surprised, but surprised nonetheless. 
   Momentarilly she forgot how cold last night had been, forgot how tired she was, and even forgot how sore her feet were after walking around the wet bogs all night.
   The beautiful songs of birds could be heard in every direction, along with the sounds of small forest creatures frollicking in the trees or on the ground below.  The wind had brought down most of the tree blossoms to the ground, carpeting the world with crimson and gold over a sea of green and brown.  Helen loved this time of year, when the world was waking up fresh and invigorated after a long and restful sleep.
   In the distance, she could see her partner, Danni, bent over at the waist, weeding the horseradish garden, which already had leaves well over a foot tall.  Helen couldn't keep herself from letting a little smile escape.  Danni was concentrating so hard on pulling the weeds and throwing them into a pile behind her, that she didn't see Helen walking up.
   Although Helen had been a tracker by trade, she would often times take the occasional job as a guard.  It was on one of those occasions, when Helen had been helping to guard a merchant's caravan, that she had met the acolyte journeywoman.

* * *

   Helen had been scouting ahead of the caravan to spot any dangers or road obsticles, when she heard a commotion in a clearing a couple hundred feet off to the side of the road.  She scraped a large ‘X’ into the dirt to tell the caravan leader where she had left the road, should he come to the spot before she got back.  At the end of one of the lines, she scraped an arrow head to indicate the direction that she had gone.
   When she got close to the clearing, she stopped to survey the situation.  There were two men, bandits by the look of them.  They were throwing rocks and sticks at a young woman in a tree, trying to knock her down to the ground. Her clothes were badly torn and she was trying to climb higher and higher. 
   Two against one, and the one had a somewhat slow sword arm.  Helen didn’t see any other choice.  If she was going to die in this life, she may as well die a hero’s death.  She ran into the clearing screaming, with her sword raised high into the air.  She ran at the men as fast as she could, who, after looking stunned for a second, turned tail and ran the other way into the woods.  Helen chased them for a few hundred feet before returning to the clearing.   
   She helped the woman down to the ground, who was surprised to find out that Helen was also a woman.  Apparently, she had looked like a man from high in the tree, with her leather jerkin and chaps over her dark pants, and her hair tied in back.  Helen introduced herself, and the woman returned the favor by introducing herself as Dannika Ambersdotter. 
   Danni had been traveling around, seeing the country and performing her healing magic, when three bandits had stolen her horse and bags.  One ran off with the horse, while two had remained, thinking that they would have some fun, but instead ended up chasing Danni up a tree.  Helen offered to let Danni walk with the caravan, which she gratefully accepted.  Of course, the extra food that the wagonsmaster supplied came directly out of Helen's pay, but that was quite acceptable to her.  For the first time in many years, Helen had met a friend she could be herself with, and they had traveled together and lived together for nearly six years.

* * *

   When she closed the distance to about ten paces, Helen leaned against the side of the house and looked at her partner.  Danni had a pretty face, make that a beautiful face, if she were to be honest, with long flowing ash blonde hair and hazel eyes that sparkled in the reflection of the morning sun.  Danni was closer to thirty summers than twenty, but her looks hadn’t diminished one bit in the time that Helen had known her.  She was average in height, but she was curvaceous in all the right places with a slightly wider than average frame and a slim midsection.  It would not have been any stretch of the imagination to think that the beautiful Dannika would have fit perfectly into the role of a pampered wife in a large, exquisitly decorated manse.  Unfortunately, that large home was something that they couldn’t afford, but if Helen could have, she would have given it to her partner in a heartbeat.  Helen had had only a modest amount of savings while Danni had virtually none, since Danni never charged for most of her services except when using the amulet, and usualy only took donations from people who could afford it.  But they were both good with their hands, and last year, they had built this small, two-story, thatched-roof, log home tgether.
   Now Helen, on the other hand, half a head taller than Danni, with her severely burn-scarred face, unruly auburn hair, and barely rounded chest and hips, one would hardly expect to be seen with the likes of a woman such as Danni, much less a partner, companion, and friend.  As a bodyguard or servant, possibly, in which case it should have been Helen pulling the weeds and getting herself dirty.
   Even though Helen was the one who had mentioned the previous year, that she had wanted to settle down and probably do something different with her life other than tracking dangerous criminals, among other things, it had been Danni who had thrown herself into the project, excited and taking to the idea as if she were the one who had thought of it, which in all fairness, she probably had.  Danni was usually too kind, a kindness that sometimes got her in trouble, and she would often not assert her opinions on people if she thought that they might not want to hear them.  She _would_ drop subtle hints here and there, though, that you wouldn’t even realize existed until you looked back months later, sometimes not even then.  On the other hand, if she saw someone doing something utterly foolish or incompetent, she wouldn’t hesitate to show her displeasure.
   If Helen had had the foresight to know how much happier she would have been, settling down to a permanent home, not living on the road or in various inns, always traveling from town to town, city to city, and never staying long, she probably would have settled down long ago.  But then again, she might not have been on that caravan to save and meet her best friend and reason for living.
   Danni looked up at Helen and slightly jerked her head to beckon her closer.  After welcoming her home, Danni said, "There’s still some porridge in the pot beside the stove.  It _should_ still be warm, I think.  It was hot about a half hour ago.”
   Helen nodded and Danni continued.
    “And Hel, go to bed.  You look terrible.  Don’t stay up all day like you did yesterday.  Please?  You do need _some_ sleep -- occasionally, at least.  And if you’re going to be out all night catching those -- frogs, you’re going to need to sleep during the day.  Okay?”
   “Yup,” Helen said, followed by a sigh. 
   “If you need a draught, let me know and I’ll make you one, okay?  You look so exhausted you’re gonna have a hard time even making it to bed.”
   Helen nodded.
   “Oh. And don’t you worry about the sleepyheads; I'll get them.  I’ll be right out here for a little while, and then I’m going upstairs to study, so I’ll _be_ around. Just give me a hollar if you need something."
   Helen nodded.  She turned around and started walking to the front door.  She could feel Danni’s caring eyes watching her as she walked away.  Danni was right, of course.  She _was_ exhausted.  She had only gotten a few hours of sleep in the past week.  After she had found out how much certain frogs were worth at the market, she started hunting them at night and sold them wholesale in the mornings.  Unfortunately, she often times had a hard time sleeping during the day.
   The sleepyheads that Danni had referred to were the two ponies, Lazy and Slowpoke, both mares, and both very late sleepers.  It was usually Helen's responsibility to take care of them and to clean the stalls in the stable that was built into the side of the house.
   Lazy and Slowpoke had been aptly named by Danni, but Helen would have preferred that they had had somewhat less embarassing names.  It wasn’t much fun showing off your horse to other riders, who always would chuckle when they heard that your horse’s name was Slowpoke.   
   Slowpoke was brown and grey in color, and while she wasn’t slow, per se, she just wasn’t easily motivated.  She could take an hour crossing a small field, pausing after every step to look around and maybe take a bite of forage.  But then again, if there was a stallion, or even a gelding, on the other side of the field, she would be there in seconds.     
   Lazy was Slowpoke’s sister, who lived up to her name.  She preferred laying down most of the time that she wasn’t eating.
   When she climbed up the steps to the door, Helen sat down on the landing and took off her boots for them to dry in the sunshine.  If she had tracked soggy boots onto Danni’s (almost) new, polished, red oak floor, then there would definitly be trouble.  From experience, Helen knew that you really shouldn’t get a practicioner of magic angry at you, especially if said mage knew all of your extreme dislikes.
   She stood back up, turned around and pushed the door open.  Inside, there was a large room with a red brick stove and chimney off to one side.  Directly in front of her, sat a medium-sized kitchen table and three chairs.  Beyond that, lay a tiled counter top beside the wall, with a large ceramic sink set into it. 
   The log walls were oiled, which brought out the beauty of the wood.  Inset into each wall, were glass windows and ceder shutters.  Danni has insisted on glass instead of the other less expensive materials, which, of course, had increased the cost of building the house dramatically.  But it was worth it to see Danni happily gazing out the windows, watching the birds and other creatures of nature.  What made her Danni happy, made her happy.
   Towards the right, was a door that would open up to reveal the decent-sized bed chamber, a necessity to ensure privacy in case of visitors or customers, although Helen had preferred to sleep beside the stove on the long, cold nights of this past winter.
   Towards the left, were a set of steps that went up to the second floor, and behind the steps, a doorway that led into the small stable that was attached to the house, where in addition to keeping the horses, it was also an excellent place to dry and store firewood.
   If Helen had gone upstairs, she would have seen one large room where Danni was slowly filling one side of with books, parchments, and her healing supplies.  There were also weapons, camping supplies, and other outdoor gear pushed into an opposite corner, and dried, smoked venison hung from the rafters above. 
   Helen hung up her fur coat beside the door, and washed her hands and face in the washbucket on the counter.  There was a large kettle of water keeping warm on the brick base beside the stove and she poured some of it into a large wooden bucket, which she set down on the floor in front of her stuffed armchair.  She then got herself a bowl of porridge from the smaller pot before sitting down and soaking her feet while she ate.  It wasn’t long before she decided that it would be best if she went to bed, and so she did.

* * *

   After weeding the small garden, Danni opened the stable door and let the mares out.  No need to fence them in, they wouldn’t go far and would come each to her own respective whistle.  There was plenty of forage to eat in the field, which the mares dutifully and directly started on. 
   She cleaned the stalls and brought down clean straw from the loft above, before going into the house proper, to do chores before going upstairs to study for a couple hours.
   It was about an hour before noon, when Danni came down to check on Helen.  Sometimes she had trouble sleeping during the day, preferring to toss and turn instead of asking for a sleeping draught. But when Danni walked into the bedchamber, she could see that Helen was sleeping, though her face looked tortured.  _Goddess knows what she’s dreaming._  She reached her hand over, said a prayer, and traced a blessed sigil onto Helen’s forehead with her index finger.  Almost immediately her face became peaceful, and she sighed deeply in her sleep.
   Looking at Helen, she saw a very handsome woman of twenty-nine summers.  If not for the large burn scar on one side of her face and much of her body, Danni would have called her beautiful.  If Danni looked at her partner just right, she could imagine what Helen must have looked like before. 
   Danni backed out of the room and quietly closed the door behind her.  She wondered what Helen was dreaming.  Actually, Danni probably knew exactly what Helen was dreaming of, since she had cried the story out multiple times on Danni’s shoulder.  Helen had had more than her share of death and pain in her life.

* * *

   Helen had become a loner by the time she had reached thirteen summers, in a large part due to the death of her mother the previous winter.  It was that year that a new family with a daughter her age had moved into the village, and it wasn't long before Morganna and Helen had become very close friends.  She was truly happy, probably for the first time in her life.  They spent most of their waking time together, and villagers started to refer to them as sisters.  Two years after meeting her, Helen’s father died, and Morgana never left her side once during her time of grief.  Four years after meeting her, Helen thought that life was good, even though Morganna was her only family left and the only friend that she had.  She had thought that nothing could have spoiled what had finally turned out to be a decent existence.  Then a unit of mauraders came from the north, and her future was torn to shreds.
   Helen had been spared only because she had been out all night tracking a stag when her village was destroyed.  In less than a day, her world had come undone, and the one thing that Helen had cared about the most was gone.  After finding the body of Morganna, Helen felt she should have died with her; the most important part of her did. 
   But she had lived, if one can call a meaningless and empty existence life.  When she buried Morganna, she had seriously considered going beyond with her; she had honed her sword to a feathered edge to make it quick, and had even engraved her own name onto the memory stone beside her loved one’s.
   But one thing, just one thing, had kept her connected to this side.  One thing had kept her from the promise of the sweet release of death: vengeance, the need to cause as much damage as possible to the men who had done this.
   And so, she had gone to East Lake, the next village over across the hills, to get help, and together they ambushed the murauders.  Most of East Lake’s men died that day, but a few survived, in addition to Helen.  She hadn’t expected to survive, she truly did not want to survive in her state of grief.  She had nothing left to keep her from willingly leaving this side.
   They were throwing flaming oil bottles at the enemy, when one exploded as it left her hand.  She had had been severely burned, and had been pulled back to safety.
   Helen had been taken back at East Lake, to heal from her burns, and the priest came to visit her each day, often multiple times per day.  At first, Helen didn’t want him to pray over her.  She begged him to kill her.  She refused to eat or drink.  She refused to take any of the medicines.  She didn’t want to get better; she had nothing to live for.  She wanted to go beyond.  She wanted to be with her loved ones.  If she could have gotten up from bed, she would have found a way to make that happen.  But the priest continued to visit and he continued to pray, even over her loud cursing objections, and eventually, Helen’s burns started to heal along with her soul.

* * *

   Danni knew that Helen would never let go of the memory of finding her loved one.  It wasn’t unusual for the image of Morganna’s body, severely beaten and raped, to haunt her partner.  Just about anything could bring forth the memory, but since they had moved here, Helen hadn’t spent the night crying into Danni’s shoulder even once.
   The last of her family dead before Helen turned eighteen summers old, and Danni knew that she blamed herself.  She could never accept the fact that there was nothing that she could have done.  If she had been at her village when it was massacred, she would have been dead too, but Danni knew that that was precisely what Helen wished had happened.
   She felt sorry for Helen, though she knew that everyone had their own demons to struggle with.  She was sorry, not because of her loss -- everyone has losses -- but because she couldn’t forgive herself.  _Unless one can forgive oneself, the scars on the soul can never truly heal._
   Danni also had lost her family when she was young, but she would try her dam’dest to make sure that things would turn out okay with her and Helen.  She wasn’t about to let her new family be taken away from her without a fight to the death, and as she had vowed to Helen years prior one night, while Helen was crying on her shoulder, she would never let her go, not while she still had breath in her lungs and blood flowed through her veins.
   She backed out of the room, closing the door on the way, and figured that this was as good a time as any to reinforce the wards on the house.  The wards wouldn’t help Helen keep her memories from haunting her, but they might help her be able to cope with them better, by keeping any stray evil thoughts and presences out. 
   She retrieved her censor from upstairs, lit it, and went outside.  She circled the house three times, stopping at each side and each corner to say a prayer to the Goddess, while tracing blessed sigils onto the building and the ground.  She also stopped at each door and window on the bottom floor to ward them as well.  She would do the second-floor windows later from the inside.
   When she was almost done, she noticed that a man had ridden up, but she did not pause or stop to think about him.  The ritual required her undivided attention and concentration to achieve the best results. 
   When she was done, she placed the censor onto one of the steps near Helen’s boots and turned to the man.  The tall, young man was dressed in red and white livery, the queen’s own colours, and he was standing patiently beside his grey gelding, who was also wearing a blanket and saddle with matching colours.  She was surprised that the tacking wasn’t dyed, as well.
   She started walking over to her visitor, who had a somewhat dumbstruck expression on his face.  He didn’t move and it was obvious that he had never seen a ward being laid before.
   “Yes? Can I help you?” Danni asked as she came up to him.
   “Uhm...” he said as he was trying to find his words.
   Danni cocked her head slightly to the side and looked up into his eyes, smiled and lifted an eyebrow, trying to put him at ease.
   “Uhm -- Yeah.  I was told at the village, that Miss Helena Marelsdotter lived here,” he said at last.
   Danni nodded and said, “That’s right.”
   “Uhm, well, I have a letter for her,” he said.  “Is that you?”
   “May I see it, please?” Danni asked, as she held her hand out.
   “Are you Helena?” he asked.
   Danni sighed.  “No.  I’m Danni.  But Helen’s inside taking a nap, sleeping probably for the first time in days, and I’m not going to wake her up unless it’s important, okay?  So I really do need to see the letter to see if it’s important enough to wake her up for. Okay?”  Danni was very protective of Helen when it came to her health and happiness, and she wasn’t going to let this guy, even if he were a royal messenger of the queen, bother her sleeping loved one un-necessarily. 
   “I can’t let you see it. I just can’t.  I’m sorry. It’s sealed, and I swore that I would give it only to Miss Helena Marelsdotter.  I swore that I would put it in her hand unopened.”
   Danni sighed. “Well, can you at least tell me what it’s about then?”
   He shook his head.  “Sorry, I can’t.  I don’t even know what it’s about, and they ususaly tell us something about it, in case something happens to the letter.”
   Danni frowned and looked down at the ground.  She didn’t like this, not one bit.  Secret letters from royal messengers, she didn’t have a good feeling about this.  She sighed.  Her day had started out so nice, too -- warm spring day, birds singing, beauty in every direction.  Just a few minutes ago, her heart had been filled with the love and joy of the Goddess, as she had been praying.  Now it was filled with fear and doubt, and she had to go inside from the cold.
   She looked up at him. “Well, then I guess you’re just going to have to wait.”  He was still holding the reins of his horse.  “Take care of your horse and then come in for something to eat,” she said.   _He’s come this far, It’s not like waiting a little while longer’s going to hurt him._  The trough was filled with fresh water, and there was plenty of forage around.  The mares were giving the gelding a lot of attention, which he appeared to be enjoying very much.  She highly doubted that the horse would be running off anytime soon.
   She turned around and went inside, picking up her censor on the way.  She put it on the counter beside the sink and washed her hands before bringing a skin of wine, some cheese, and half a loaf of bread over to the table. She went back to get a knife and two ceramic cups.
   She had started to cut the cheese into slices when the messenger came up to the door.  She got up and walked over to him. “Come on in, but please be quiet,” she said with a slight frown.  If he were intimidated by her, then it would be easiest to keep him here and quiet until Helen woke up.
   He came in, took off his coat, and draped it over his arm. 
   “Here.  Let me take it.”  Danni held out her hand.  “I’ll hang it up for you.”
   After hanging the coat near the door, Danni came back over to the table.  “Have a seat,” she said, pulling out the chair nearest the door.  It was more of a polite order than a request.
   The messenger sat down, and then she sat down on the opposite side of the table with her back toward the sink and counter.
   “So tell me who you are,” she said.  “You haven’t introduced yourself yet.”
   “Oh, Uh, I’m Hallar Annson from Ber’menin.”  He still seemed quite nervous.
   “And I’m Dannika Ambersdotter,” she said as she started to pour wine into one of the cups.  She noticed that he had named himself the son of his mother, not his father, thus, unfortunately, breaking the lineage of his forefathers.  It probably had shamed him terribly when he was a child.  Considering his station and the fact that he lived in the queen’s city, she figured that he was probably a royal bastard who grew up around the palace. 
   “Nice day we’re having today,” she said, trying to break the ice.
   “Uhm, yeah,” he said as Danni handed him a cup of wine before pouring one for herself.
   “Can you tell me who sent you, or is that a secret, too?” she asked.
   He shook his head quickly and said, “I swore that I wouldn’t tell anyone.” He took a sip of his wine.
   He looked so discomfitted with that question that she wouldn’t have been surprised if he had been threatened with death if he would have told.  Her unease went up another notch.  She sliced two pieces of bread, into which she placed slices of cheese and handed it to him, before making herself the same.
   After she had taken a bite of her sandwich and washed it down with wine, she asked him, “Was that the first time you saw a ward being laid?”
   “Is that what that was?” he asked.
   Danni nodded.
   “Uhm, yeah.  That was the first time I ever saw one being done,” he paused.  “But I’ve heard about them.”  He started to have a mild excitement in his voice.  “So, are you a mage or something?”
   Danni nodded.  “I’m a Journeywoman Acolyte of the White, or I guess I should say ‘I _was_ a Journeywoman Acolyte of the White.’  My journey’s over.  It’s now officially ended to live and practice here.”  _I hope_, she added mentally, as she smiled and lifted her hands palm up, and gestured to include all of her surroundings. 
   “So, uh, what does a -- Uhm -- Journeywoman Acolyte of the -- Uh -- White do, exactly?”
   “We go around places to places, village to village, teaching the ways of the Spirit and Her love, to people who don’t live close enough to a temple.  Not everybody can travel to see a Priest or Priestess.”
   “But you’re not traveling anymore, are you?  You said that your journey’s over, didn’t you?”
   “I’m not a journeywoman anymore.  I’m settled down here, now,” she said.  “You might have noticed, when you were in town, that there wasn’t a temple there.  These people don’t have anyone they can regularly turn to if they have any questions about the Divine.”
   “So why aren’t you living in town, instead of a mile in the woods?”
   “I’m not a Priestess.  I’m an acolyte mage.  There’s a difference.  I’m only here if people need my help.  They might just need some guidance.  Or maybe they might need someone to pray with.  Or maybe they just need someone to talk to.  But I also study _both_ types of white magic, not just prayer, which is what the Priests and Priestesses usually only do.  I also study the healing arts and how magic can be used with healing.”
   He seemed geniunely interested.  “So you -- you’re like a doctor or something?  Or a midwife?” he asked.
   “Well, sort of.  Yes and no.  I mean, I don’t perform surgery, though I do have a healing amulet that can heal better than surgery -- some times -- but because it can sometimes be quite dangerous to use, I only usually use it when I absolutely have to.”  She paused.  “I can make ointments and medicines for minor problems, and some major problems, too, but what I specialize in is helping the patient’s body heal itself.  Sometimes the body gets confused when it’s hurt, and I’m basically just there to remind it what it needs to do to make itself better.”
   He thought about it.  “But what about the ward you put up?  That’s not healing, is it?”
   “No.  But just because I specialize in one area of study, doesn’t mean that I can’t learn the others, too.  And besides, a ward is THE most basic step of the White.”
   “So, White means what exactly?”
   “White means that I do white magic, as opposed to dark magic.”  Danni could see from his expression that he was confused.  “There are two basic types of white magic.  There’s prayer, which is also called upper magic.  That’s when you ask the Spirit for something and hopefully she gives it to you, but you need to know _how_ to pray, first.  It’s like if you were asking the queen for a favor, but you whispered into her foot.  Would she be able to fully understand you, and would you get what you asked for?  The Spirit, the Divine Mother, she wants to help you, but you need to speak in a way she can understand you.  And that is something that priests and acolytes are trained in.  Okay?”
   He nodded.  He was hanging onto every word.  In a city with more than one temple, she was surprised that he didn’t even know his basics.    
   “Good.”  She continued her lesson.  “Lower Magic is when you make new spiritual connections, or if you alter pre-existing ones, like what happens when you stare into the eyes of your beloved.” She paused and smiled and closed her eyes for a few seconds before continuing.
   “You do this without going through the Spirit first through prayer, even though you’re already connect through the Spirit.  It’s like touching your finger to your toe, but the two are already connected through your body.  Okay -- Uh -- Lower Magic is like paring your toenails with your hand because they grow longer, while Upper Magic is like if you asked your body to stop your toenails from growing, which isn’t going to happen, because they need to grow constantly to renew themselves.   
   “You have to be very careful with Lower Magic.  One mistake and you might not be able to regret it.  Sometimes it’s like if you were paring your toenails with a sword, and it slipped and you cut all your toes off.  Unless you’re protected by a ward, you’ll be in danger when you use Lower Magic.  So, if you do use it, you have to ask the Spirit to protect you first.  That protection is a called a Ward. 
   “That’s what you saw me doing outside.  I was praying to the Spirit, and asking Her to protect everything inside the ward, which is this house and all who enter, and also to prevent any evil from coming in.
   “Now, Lower Magic can be both white and dark.  It’s White _if_, and _only_ if, it is used for nonselfish purposes.  Anything else and it becomes a form of dark magic, which feeds on hate and greed, and cultivates evil in its users.  And once evil has its teeth sunk into your soul, it’s hard to make it let go.  So, does that make sense?”
   He nodded, and it was obvious that he was thinking hard, while staring at the table top.
   She said, “Now I know there are Priests and Priestesses in Ber’menin.  Is there one in your neighbourhood?”
   “Uhm, I think so.  I mean, there’s a temple close by.”
   “It might not be such a bad idea if you go there to learn how to pray.”
   They sat there for a moment, not speaking, when Danni noticed Helen trying to quietly go behind her towards the stable door behind the steps. 
   Danni turned around and asked, “Hey. How long have you been up?”
   “A few minutes.  I didn’t really want to disturb your lesson, but it looks like it’s over, so I...” and she nodded her head twice sideways toward the stable door.
   The messenger piped up.  “I have a letter for Miss Helena Marelsdotter.”
   “That’s me,” she grimaced.
   He reached into the bag that was hanging about his neck and shoulder and extracted a letter sealed with red wax.  He handed it to Helen, and then looked at Danni.  “Well, I got to go. Thanks for the lesson, and the food.”
   “Good luck,” Danni said as he grabbed his coat.
   After he had gone out the door, Helen handed the still-sealed letter over to Danni and rushed through the stable door.
   Danni opened the letter.  The message was short, and not very sweet.
   :_Miss Helena Marelsdotter, please come to Ber’menin as soon as possible.  If you are as good as your reputation, then I need your help.  Signed: Miss Anbell Margetsdotter_: 
   “Dammit.  Dammit.  Dammit.  Dammit.  Dammit.  Dammit.  Dammit.”  She wanted to scream, but she didn’t want Helen to come rushing out.  She really wanted to get rid of the letter before Helen came back, but she just couldn’t get herself to do it.  She sighed deeply and folded the letter back up and placed it in the center of the table.   
   Anbell Margetsdotter was Queen Marget’s third daughter and fourth born of five children.  It was surprising that the princess’s parents hadn’t married her off yet, since the royal family had a several generations long history of marrying off their daughters at around sixteen summers old.  If Danni’s calculations were correct, Anbell was somewhere around twenty-one or twenty-two. 
   Remembering as she stood up, that what she was going to make for supper that night required that someone go down into the root cellar, and since the door to the root cellar was in the stable, she went to the door behind the stairs.  She opened it a crack and shouted so she could be heard through the privy door, “Helen, when your done in there, can you bring in a few red roots?”
   “And remember to wash your hands first.”
   Danni grabbed the censor from near the sink and went upstairs to finish the ward. 
   Afterwards, she tried to do some studying in one of her newer volumes, but she just couldn’t concentrate.  Her mind kept returning to the letter and what it meant if it was anything like the other letters that Helen used to receive.
   It meant going back on the road.  It meant long days, sore feet, sore backs, and little to no sleep. 
   It meant being chased and almost killed by the men that her partner tracked.  It meant her healing her partner’s physical wounds, without being able to touch the scars on her soul.
   It meant spending sleepless nights, holding her beloved, who would shake with grief.  It meant trying to soothe painful memories that would just not go away.
   It would be as if the past eight months had never existed at all. 
* * *


The above text, in its entirety, is copyrighted 2010 by the author, who is registered on with the username "manwitch." No authorization to redistribute the text in any format is given under any circumstance. 


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« Reply #1: February 01, 2010, 05:15:23 am »

The following text, in its entirety, is copyrighted 2010 by the author, who is registered on with the username "manwitch." No authorization to redistribute the text in any format is given under any circumstances. 


   Later that evening, Danni and Helen were sitting at the table eating dinner, a hearty stew of red roots, venison, and onions, with horseradish greens on the side, along with hot biscuits, and butter that had been made the day before at a farm two miles away.
   “I wonder what the princess would want with a tracker,” Danni said.
   “No idea.”
   “Maybe she lost an earring,” Danni said.  She tried not to think of the much worse possibilities.
   “I have a feeling that’s not it,” Helen replied as she was staring into her bowl of stew.
   “Maybe her dog ran away,” said Danni.
   “I somehow doubt if that’s it, either,” Helen said as she dipped a biscuit in her stew.
   “Maybe she lost her mind and can’t remember where to look,” Danni said.
   Helen chuckled.
   “Maybe she’s pregnant and the father left town, and she wants you to find him,” Danni said.
   “Ooh. What a scandal that would be.”
   “Maybe someone’s impersonating the queen and the guards can’t be trusted,” Danni said.
   “I guess it’s possible,” said Helen.  “But I wouldn’t put any money on it.”
   “Maybe she met someone and forgot to get his address,” Danni said.
   “I doubt it,” Helen said, but this nonsense of Danni’s was starting to give her the inkling of real possibilities. Helen doubted if the princess was in any danger, otherwise why send a messenger to take a message to someone four days away, when there would probably be a guard stationed at the end of the hall.
   “Maybe she wants to be a tracker like you,” Danni said as she gestured toward Helen.  “Learn from the best.”
   Helen chuckled.  “I doubt if her mother would let her.”  That was another possibility.  Someone wouldn’t let her do something?  And she wanted outside help?
   They sat in silence for a few minutes, until Danni said, “In all seriousness, Hel -- Just so you know, I was tempted to burn that letter while you were in the back,” and she nodded toward the stable door.   
   “I don’t doubt it,” said Helen. “If I were you, I might have been tempted to do the same thing.”
   “But then it would be a matter of trust, wouldn’t it?” asked Danni.  “You wouldn’t trust me anymore, would you?”
   Helen said nothing, but didn’t deny it.
   “I really don’t think I could handle that right now,”  Danni said.
   Helen looked at Danni and smiled, but said nothing.   
   “Maybe I could have lost it by scrunching it into a ball and throwing it outside somewhere,” Danni said, failing at being humourous.
   Helen still said nothing.
   “I don’t want you to go,” said Danni.
   “I don’t really want to go, either, said Helen.  “I mean, I’ve still got a lot of things to do around here.  Like that shed we were talking about the other day.”
   “No. I mean, truly, with all my heart, I don’t want you to go.” Danni’s voice was getting higher in pitch, which it always did when she was getting upset.
   “I know,” said Helen.
   “There are other trackers.  Lots of other trackers. Let one of them take the job.”
   “She asked for me,” said Helen.  “What do you want me to do?  Tell her ‘No.’?”
   “I want you not to go.  You’re retired.  Write her back and tell her you’re retired.”  Danni’s voice was getting louder.
   Helen said nothing.
   Danni pushed her chair back and stood up. “Dammit, Hel.  What’s the problem with that?  What?  Because she’s your princess?  Is that what the problem is, huh?  Because she’s your _princess_?  She’s not your princess!  You weren’t even born in this country!”
   “Dammit!  Don’t ‘Danni’ me!  Dammit, Hel.  Dammit.”  Danni’s voice was starting to crack.  “I don’t want you to go.  Please don’t go.”
   Helen sighed and stood up.
   “Don’t you remember what it was like?  Huh?  Don’t you remember almost dying -- how many times?  Don’t you remember all the nightmares?”  Tears were starting to form in Danni’s eyes.  “How can you throw way the past eight months?  How can you...”
   Helen reached her hand over to touch Danni’s arm which was immediately slapped away.
   “Don’t.  Don’t.  Just.  Don’t.”  Danni hugged her arms to herself and backed up to the sink staring at Helen, trembling and trying to will herself not to cry.
   “Danni.  I...”
   Danni turned around to face the shuttered window over the sink.  A moment later, she heard Helen close the door behind her.

* * *
   Two hours later, Danni was sitting at the table with the glow of the oil lamp relfecting off her swollen eyes, staring at the front door, when Helen came in. She hung her coat up and walked to the table opposite Danni.
   After a long silence, Danni asked in a choked voice, “So, are you going?”  She already knew the answer, but she still needed to ask it anyway.  Danni had already packed most of her supplies an hour prior.
   “I suppose I have to, don’t I?”
   “So it would seem, at least to _you_,” Danni said. 
   Helen was silent.
   “So, how long will you be gone?” Danni asked.
   Helen sighed.  She knew that she was hurting Danni, probably more than she had ever hurt her before.  She couldn’t blame her if she wasn’t here when she got back, _if_ she got back, that was.  Helen knew that Danni worried about her, that Danni had thought most of her worrying days were behind her.  She knew that Danni had no problem with her tracking down a long lost family member or similar, but Danni hated it when she would be commissioned to track down murderers or other criminals.  Although this request seemed more the former than the latter, she couldn’t know either way until she actually got there.
   “I really have no idea,” said Helen.  “I could be back in less than two weeks, or it could be significantly longer.  You know how it is.”
   Indeed, Danni did know how these things were, but she said nothing, only nodded.
   Helen said, “I’ll probably leave in the morning.”  Something which Danni also knew, and again she nodded.
   After a long pause, Helen said hopefully, “I know I don’t deserve it, but if you come with me, I won’t accept the job unless it’s okay with you.”
   Danni said nothing.
   Helen realized that that wasn’t enough.  She had spent the past two hours trying to figure out what would appease Danni, and the runner up hadn’t worked.  “Whenever you’re with me,” Helen said, “I’ll never accept another tracking job ever again unless it’s okay with you.”
   Danni still said nothing, but Helen could now see in her eyes that she was waiting for something else.
   Helen knelt on the floor beside Danni.  “I’m sorry.  Please, will you come with me?”
   Helen took her partners hands in her own and looked up into her eyes.  “Heart and soul.”


The above text, in its entirety, is copyrighted 2010 by the author, who is registered on with the username "manwitch." No authorization to redistribute the text in any format is given under any circumstance. 


Life is magic, magic is life, and the Divine is love.
Goddess bless.
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« Reply #2: February 01, 2010, 07:33:31 am »

Honestly, the beginning drags SO MUCH it's really hard to care about the characters.  We spend how much time on a hawk that's not even involved in the story?

I gave up halfway through the first chunk - I'm sorry, it just couldn't hold my attention AT ALL.  There's just nothing going on.  The biggest *conflict* is that the one woman spends too much time awake at night frog hunting.

Also, I think the main characters' relationship needs to be explicit - are they good friends, or are they romantic partners?  It feels like you're trying to hint at romance without saying it - and seriously, if I don't even know the relationship between the two main characters who are clearly LIVING TOGETHER .....

I don't know what's going on, and there's nothing drawing me in enough to care.  I really think you started at the wrong point.  Completely.

I really wish I had some positive things to say here, but it really just didn't hold my interest.  I'm sorry.

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« Reply #3: February 01, 2010, 06:22:30 pm »

What Shad said.  I did read all of it, so I know you eventually get more conflict than the frog-collecting, but... well, that took a while, and I was kind of bored.  Too much description, of things the reader doesn't need to see in detail; far too much backstory - if the story you're telling really requires all that backstory to support it, you can still spread it out over later chapters; if it's really all needed immediately, that's what prologues are for.

As an editor friend tells me editors often say:  Doesn't grab.

It was a lovely spring morning....  The moon was almost set, a dim silver crescent near the south-western horizon
A detail, but the sort of thing that can put readers off badly:  I'm sure it would be very pretty to see a setting crescent moon at sunrise, but it's physically impossible.


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« Reply #4: February 02, 2010, 05:22:58 am »

Well, I didn't mind the starting bit - sure it took a bit of time, but I assume this is meant to be novel length?  In which case, you're allowed to devote a bit more time to waffle.  Not too much, but a bit.  More than a short story, anyway.

The problem I had with it was that you've missed one of the main tenets of writing: "Show, don't tell."  You've spent too much time describing things, and telling us exactly what the characters are doing.  We're smart enough to figure it out on our own, so tell us what they do instead.

I think the characters are well-thought-out, and they're believable, which is better.  They are human and they have flaws.  Just perhaps a bit more vigour in describing them may be in order - again, show, don't tell - show me what Helen is like, don't have Danni describe her.  If it's a long story, there's plenty of time for us to get to know people.

From what has happened of the plot so far, I think it's got a good premise, too.  It's looking like it'll be exciting.

One final comment - the sentences are a little clumsy.  I don't know how to describe it, but some of the expression is a bit...forced or jarring somehow.  I don't know how to fix that, though, I'm sorry.  I find the way I write hard to explain, so I find it hard to teach other people how, as well.  One piece of advice I've been given is to read it out loud, and if it sounds strange, try other ways of wording it.

Hope that helps, and good luck with the rest of it Smiley

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