Friday, September 28, 2007

New Beginning 374 (short story)

There is a saying in Ithulien: 'As cursed as dragon gold'. You may well look puzzled. Gold is very beautiful, after all, and I'm sure all of you would like to have a few gold coins to spend, wouldn't you now? Your mothers and fathers pledged gold rings when they married, and so did their mothers and fathers before them. So did people on Ithulien before the dragons came.

Ithulien is a small island, far far away in the West, and if it was ever famous for anything, even its own people don't now remember what it was. In the time of the dragons, though, Ithulien had all its gold stolen the same as everywhere else. Of course, there's no-one living now who's ever seen a dragon. Yet my mother's grandmother's father saw one, once, and it was great and terrible, or so my grandfather told me many years ago.

There is a saying in Draconia: 'As useless as a gold toilet seat'. No, it's not an enigma. Gold in Draconia is plentiful and goes into the building of everything mundane. I'm sure you wouldn't crave something that's as plentiful as droppings? Only fools pledge by gold in Draconia. We are green, with gold eyes and scintillating scales.

Draconia is a huge mountainous island, near the atolls of the east, and is teeming with golden arches brought here by McFafnir and McFassolt, our draconic gods. Once, my cousin's uncle's aunt's niece, third removed by coupling, saw porcelain-like humans on their porcelain pots, and it was a horrible and appalling sight. Or so my hatchling grand-père babbled when he was drunk one night.

Opening: BuffySquirrel.....Continuation: Dave F.


Bernita said...

Nice, traditional raconteur beginning.

Dave F. said...

This does set up a fantasy world of dragons and some sort of dragon/gold relationship. A mystery for the reader.
I think that the author has to read it aloud (or have someone else read it aloud to a third person) and see how it sounds to a listener's ears.

I'm not fond of "You may well look puzzled" because the narrator is addressing that to the audience and I don't like to do that in a story. But that's a personal preference and it doesn't stop me from reading on.

Evil Editor said...

"Gold is very beautiful" sounds like the narrator is talking to children. If that's not the case, I'd cut that part of that sentence.

The word "though" in p.2, s.2 would seem to indicate a connection between the first two sentences. I expect "though" to be followed by . . . something to do with fame, which would probably contradict the first sentence. In other words, it should either be, Ithulien isn't famous for anything today; in the time of the dragons, though, it was famous for its . . . dragons; or just eliminate "though." Possibly make p.2 s.1 a paragraph by itself.

It would be simpler to say, My grandfather's grandfather saw one once, and it was great and terrible, or so . . .

Admittedly there are four possible people who can be identified as your grandfather's grandfather, but the original verson also doesn't specify whether it's the maternal or paternal grandfather, so there's some haziness either way. I'm guessing it doesn't matter.

BuffySquirrel said...

hehehehe that continuation is hilarious!


The story is being told as if to children, yes.

Robin S. said...

Hi buffy,

I like it - and I like the nod to the audience. I have a few of these myself- as I find this method very engaging (depending, of course, on the story being told).

Your story READS like a purposeful story-telling - kinda neat - the stories told to children about their common past.

AmyB said...

From what I've read in the blogs of slush pile readers, the typical SFF slush pile reader will reject a short story that does not hook her within a few paragraphs. So I'd be wary of attempting an opening like this, which is all world description and no hook. It's nicely written, but it feels like backstory and gives me no sense of what the story itself is going to be about.

Phoenix said...

The story is being told as if to children, yes.

Sooo, is this for adults or children?

If this is kind of like a history lesson being told to a group of kids by a teacher or loremaster, perhaps a quick acknowledgement of that between paragraphs 1 and 2 might help ground the reader. Something along the lines of "Ah yes, dragons. The time has come for you to learn something of your heritage." (Not liking that second sentence, but you know the theme of your story and can better make it fit.)

A nit: Would that not be "dragon's gold" rather than "dragon gold"?

Uh-oh, EE, your patriarchal heritage is showing. *blush* If this is a matriarchal society, lineage would be in reference to the mother, so referring to "my mother's grandmother's father" may be world building at its best. If that's the case, there would be no doubt which great great grandparent it was. :o)

Evil Editor said...

If I may continue showing my ignorance of matriarchal society, you're saying a person has only one grandmother?

BuffySquirrel said...

Sooo, is this for adults or children?

It's probably aimed at a market like F&SF or Talebones.

Phoenix said...

a person has only one grandmother?

Unless indicated otherwise by the person referencing their ancestors, the assumption would always be that it's a relative on the maternal side, as lineage would be traced through the women. So your grandmother would always be your mother's mother when talking about ancestry unless you specifically pointed out it was your father's mother. Your great grandmother would by default be your mother's mother's mother. The great great grandfather on your branching maternal side would be your great grandmother's father (or as here, your mother's grandmother's father).

Please don't make me go any futher back, though. It hurts my head. But there are lots of matriachies in fantasy. Women, especially, enjoy writing them. Sense of empowerment, and all that. Still, that may not be what Buffy was after with that line at all. Help us out, Buffy?

Phoenix said...

Oh, Dave - McFafnir: hehe. My iguana's name is Fafnir. I get a lot of blank stares from people when I introduce him to them. It's a respectable Draconian name. Don't people study world literature any more? Pity.

Evil Editor said...

So my mother's grandmother's father could more easily be called my great great grandfather.

Dave F. said...

Fafnir and Fasolt are the two giants who build Valhalla and then covet the ring (the gold from the Rhine). Wotan gives up the ring (and the Rheingold) he stole from Alberich (the leader of the Nibelung and governor of Nibelheim) to Fafnir and Fasolt for Freia and immortality gained from her golden apples. (not those apples, apples from the trees. Freia is Wotan's daughter)...
About 30 seconds after the deal is finalized, Fafnir kills his brother Fasolt and takes the gold to a cave in the enchanted forest where he converts himself into a dragon (using the Tarnhelm) and guards the gold until "one who as no fear" can kill him.

puff, puff, puff, I'm out of breath.
Fafnir is always the dragon who guards the gold.

McKoala said...

I think this reads well and I like the touches of humour and legend; works for me.

Anonymous said...

I like the first paragraph. I'd like to see some sort of action follow that and work the backstory in as you go. Even storytellers need to catch and hold their audience's attention - especially if they're telling it to kids.

I'd keep reading.


BuffySquirrel said...


I wrote this so many years ago that I don't remember, but it may have been intended to denote the passage of time. As I remember the story, the storytelling role was hereditary.