Wednesday, July 04, 2007

New Beginning 309


"They've come!"

The strangled cry jarred Trenus' attention from his studies. He looked up to see Father Julius clinging to the library door, gasping for breath.

"We must flee! Hurry!"

Students around the room craned their necks to discover the commotion. "Come? Who's come? Father, speak sense."

"The praetorian guard!" With a whimper, the priest swept his hand toward the fragile scrolls that lined the high walls.

"Sweet Jesu, no! The edict!"

One quick-minded student sprinted for the shelves, shoving manuscripts beneath his cloak. Two other students followed his lead. Others forsook the books to race out, empty-handed, past the priest at the door.

Trajan, Ulpia, Tier . . . A litany of basilicas torched by Diocletian in the last few months flashed across Trenus' thoughts. Why had he believed St. Justin might be spared? He spread his arms over the books strewn across the table. Were these the ones to save? A student's texts? Or should he try to reach the rarer manuscripts before fleeing with the others?

"Trenus! We need you, boy!" Bishop Eusebius gestured frantically from the doorway, nearly hitting the priest beside him.

"But the books--"

"Screw the fucking books! Get your ass in gear, boy! We have to save the sacramental wine before those drunkards have at it--unless you want to face the wrath of Bishop Claridge for losing his vintage 289!"

Opening: phoenix.....Continuation: writtenwyrdd

12 comments:

takoda said...

I liked this. But the initial reaction of Trenus was passive. He sees a priest gasping and clinging to a door, but merely looks up as if it's a curiosity. The rest of the passage was quite good.

How about beginning a couple of sentences in:

Father Julius clung to the library door, gasping for breath. "We must flee! Hurry!"

Students around the room craned their necks to discover the commotion. "Come? Who's come? Father, speak sense."

Great continuation!

Bernita said...

I liked this.
One small potential nit: Trenus can be excused for thinking St. Justin "might be spared", since he is merely a student or a novitiate, but I hope all the monks will not be stereotyped as innocent, other-worldly gormless idiots, oblivious to the realities of a dangerous world and a genuine threat?
I do hope they have an evacuation plan and not some as hoc solution.
Other small nits: the students craned to discover the cause of the commotion, not the commotion; and the "student sprinted for the shelves, shoving manuscripts beneath his cloak" sentence seems to make both actions concurrent rather than subsequent.
Sometimes, one can tighten prose too much.

Anonymous said...

Maybe I'm all wrong and/or it's totally irrelevant anyway, but I had the distinct impression that at this time the Christians in Western Europe had very few, if any, books. The only way you could get a book copied was by hand, remember? Very expensive. And Christians wanted to destroy works of "Pagan" art so they would have been more inclined to burn anything like Ovid, etc. than to study it. The idea of early Christian students running around with piles of "textbooks" seems way off. They wouldn't have even owned personal Bibles. So my first impession is that you have no idea how much those times were not like these and need to do a lot more research.

Dave said...

I don't want to mess with the words or style of the writing. this style is more florid than I am used to writing.
But I will say look at the order of things. I think the order is messed up.
Julius says "they've come" and "we must flee" before the students say "Come? Who's come? Father speak sense." the thoughts and the action are jumbled. The reader has to work out the flow and get the meaning of the opening.

Consider what follows as an exercise in trying to make the words flow as quickly as the action does. This opening depends on the movement of the characters. Put as much description in as you like and whatever style you like but make the action flow. It's like a piece of music, the action has a base rhythm that drives it forward. All the embellishments just add color. You actually wrote the dialog in trochees (poetic meter) just to set it apart.

"They've come!"
The strangled cry jarred Trenus' attention from his studies. He looked up to see Father Julius clinging to the library door, gasping for breath. Students around the room craned their necks to discover the commotion.
"Come? Who's come? Father, speak sense."
"The praetorian guard!" With a whimper, the priest swept his hand toward the fragile scrolls that lined the high walls.
"We must flee! Hurry!"
One quick-minded student sprinted for the shelves, shoving manuscripts beneath his cloak. Two other students followed his lead. Others forsook the books to race out, empty-handed, past the priest at the door.
"Sweet Jesu, no! The edict!"
Trajan, Ulpia, Tier . . . A litany of basilicas torched by Diocletian in the last few months flashed across Trenus' thoughts. Why had he believed St. Justin might be spared? He spread his arms over the books strewn across the table. Were these the ones to save? A student's texts? Or should he try to reach the rarer manuscripts before fleeing with the others?

foggidawn said...

I'd have to differ with Anon. 10:53's comment -- my first impression of this opening is that it is, in fact, well researched. I'm not sure exactly what Trenus's position in the hierarchy is, but I'm imagining that comes clear later. I'd read more.

Bonnie said...

anonymous -- we're in the time of Diocletian, not the later anti-classics time (which was not so anti-classic as stereotypes would have us believe, by the way). Some monasteries, basilicas, and other religious houses had extensive libraries of both religious and classical works.

writer -- I liked the opening, though I thought that, considering the political situation, the people running the place ought to have had some plan in place that everybody knew about, so they weren't scurrying around like ants in a disturbed nest. You know, an evacuation plan? Even if there wasn't anything as formal, the priests, students, and others must have been talking about this possibility among themselves. I'd expect more of a tone of "it's finally come down to us" than the present "OMG WTF's happening?"

But I'd probably keep reading. You seem to have a feel for the time and events and a good eye for detail.

Dave said...

The loss of knowledge as the Roman empire fell, happened not so much out of wanton, willing destruction of material, but from neglect.

When the library at Alexandria burnt, the caretakeers reconstructed it with replacement material. HOWEVER, the "powers-that-be" no longer cared about learning and scholarship (one of the declines of empire) and suddenly, years later, the library wasn't there because no one else cared.

Even the five books of the New Testament and the Epistles suffered from this neglect. Only a few people (already documented in books) cared to keep and preserve knowledge.

AmyB said...

I liked this. But I agree with the Dave that the dialogue feels a little out of order. The lines don't quite follow each another.

Also, I have recently been convinced that opening with a line of unattributed dialogue is not ideal. Might the reader get into the story more easily if we started with the action of Father Julius skidding to a stop at the library door, and then had his line of dialogue?

I liked this opening overall though. It's certainly hooky enough.

writtenwyrdd said...

I liked this as well. The language seems to mesh well with the setting and the action and dialog work well.

One nitpick, though is that we don't know who's saying "Come? Who's come? Father, speak sense," or "Sweet Jesu, the edict!" Not sure we have to know, but maybe consider fixing this so only one anonymous shout is in the opening?

I'm definitely curious where you are going with this. I particularly wondered why Trenus in particular was called upon by the Bishop.

I found myself speculating what reason caused Trenus to be selected. Is he a skilled fighter (like the second son of a lord or something?) Or does he look particularly fine in a gown,thus a good distractant?

phoenix said...

Thanks everyone for the comments and suggestions!

Writtenwyrd, a special thanks to you for the kick in the butt about where their priorities should be via your continuation. :o)

This is the opening to FaceLift 396 (http://evileditor.blogspot.com/2007/06/face-lift-396.html) about the FireMage during the time of the Christian persecutions in Rome who falls for another guy, goes to Mt. Vesuvius, etc. (See, I listen. I changed the MCs names!)

Where this opening is going: Bishop Eusebius (who, historically, becomes pope down the road) knows Trenus is a mage, but no one else in St. Justin's does. Trenus uses his craft to stop the imperial guards from burning the library (yes, lots of libraries and lots of scrolls/books at this time in Rome) and possibly killing the Church Elders. But because he has to out himself as a mage to everyone to stop the guards, he wisely fears retribution from the Church. So he flees with the intent to eventually make things right. Much fraught-ness, romance and action/adventure ensue.

Alas, WW, while Trenus is quite the boy toy in a toga, that's not the reason the bishop parades him in front of the guards. But, hmmm, for the sequel...

writtenwyrdd said...

I really liked the name change to Trenus, but did you notice what it rhymes with? Don't know if that will be a detriment or not; thought I'd mention it though, as we often don't notice such things and because they might actually matter...

Beth said...

Too much disembodied dialogue. Assign the lines to speakers, please. And what Dave said about flow. Beyond that, it's got immediate action and tension, and I'd keep reading.