Tuesday, May 12, 2009

New Beginning 637

"Inhabitants of the Kingdom are being slaughtered! What are you doing about it?"

Those were the words which greeted me as I came before Eschae, the Kingdom Mare. I had been summoned in the wee hours of the night without being told what the emergency was. Now I knew. Unfortunately, I still didn't know what in the hell she was talking about.

"I'm sorry, Miss Mare. I don't know anything about a slaughter."

She stomped her foot and swished her tail angrily. "I thought not!" She paced, blowing heavily. I had not seen her this angry before. "Just what in the hell do I have a Special Agent Task Force for if not to prevent this type of thing from happening? You are my top agent. We are currently faced with the worst disaster the Kingdom has ever faced and you're telling me you don't know anything about it! Just what do you know?"

If you've ever been called on the carpet before your boss for something which wasn't your fault, you probably understand how I felt. For one thing, while I was officially listed as the Agency's top agent, I was not the chief inspector. That was Mairden.

As though reading my thoughts, she snorted and declared, "Mairden is a fool, but I expected better from you."

I took a step back as she reared up, sending a powerful ripple through her lean, muscled flanks. But for all her anger, still I had no ideas. It seemed that ever since the Court hired that new, French chef . . . Hey, wait a minute . . .

Opening: Bevie.....Continuation: Anon.


BuffySquirrel said...

I do not think the narrator would confess to knowing nothing. That's tantamount to suicide (career or literal).

Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuations:

So I got mad. "Look here, Miss Mare, I sold Cooking with Seabiscuit, renogotiated the film rights for The Bucephalas Code, and even cut that deal for residuals for The Complete Works of Black Beauty, public domain or no. I've just chewed through a stack of slush and believe me, there was nothing about slaughter. I know how to fix a bad contract, sweettalk Evil Editor, and I also know about that patch of clover in the back 40 that Epona thinks is still a secret, but I sell, not slaughter. I'm an Agent."

Eschae blinked, and backed awkwardly against the side of her bejewelled loosebox. I swished my own tail. But she recovered fast. Queens have almost as much crust as we agents.

"Who summoned the wrong agent?! Who..."

Four shots rang out.

I'll sign the first horse who gets me a manuscript. Gotta strike while the iron is hot.


I bleated apologies as she galloped down the hallway. This was going better than I'd hoped. Incompetent Mairden out of my fleece first, next the Kingdom Mare, and all because I'd convinced the Hogsbottom slaughterhouse to broaden its product range. Promotion and profit, could there be a better combination?


And Mairden would never share information with a donkey, even if that donkey was the top agent of the Special Agent Task Force. No use squealing on him, though. Eschae would never believe her heroic stallion of a nephew was actually a species-ist jerk who claimed his underlings' accomplishments as his own. So I took her abuse in stony silence, filled with mulish determination to prove that this donkey was a kick-ass agent.

It was ridiculously easy. The horrific trail of blood and feathers leading away from the hen-house told me all I needed to know. I was looking for a fox, and not just any fox. The scale of the devastation clearly indicated that I was dealing with that wily devil himself, the Kingdom Fox. I found him in his lair. He tried to wriggle his way out of an arrest. Oh, he was clever. He could talk the hind legs off a donkey if I let him, but I knew better. I picked him up by the scruff of his scrawny neck and trotted him off to court. You bet your ass I was going to get the credit this time.

--Amy K.

And what was I supposed to do about the French and their disgusting culinary habits? Could I help it that Sea Biscuit was a winner in hachis parmentier? Whose idea was it to build the Kingdom next to Auguste Escoffier's restaurant, anyway?


"Miss Mare, I know that here in the Kingdom of Eggadon, all the Kingdom Horses and all the Kingdom Men can't prevent the average Egg from falling off a wall and killing himself. We've tried spikes, razor wire, heated frying pans and the Evil Editor Laser Vision System(TM). Nothing works. And, once the Eggs have broken, we can't put them back together. Not even with glue."

--Faceless Minion

"I know this much," I said, taking the knife out from under my coat. "If there's slaughtering going on, I'm getting a cut of the horsemeat market."


No, my job was more...humble.

Sighing, I manouvered the wheelbarrow closer to the fresh, steaming pile of manure and began shoveling.


Evil Editor said...

It might be good to indicate early on whether the narrator is, like Eschae, a horse.

Adam Heine said...

Probably just me, but the opening dialogue followed by "those were the word which greeted me" felt like an artificial way to start with action. Something about it is hitting me wrong. It might be better (read: I personally might like it better) if you just started with "I had been summoned..." and show the narrator being greeted with these words.

When I read "Kingdom Mare", I actually didn't think it was a horse (I assumed Mare was some kind of title). So the telling details at the beginning of P.4 worked really well on me.

I was pretty into the scene until the last paragraph. "Called on the carpet" was too cliche for me. The reference to a boss felt too modern. The rest was just confusion which, no doubt, would be answered in following paragraphs: What's the difference between an agent and inspector? Why does it matter what she's "officially listed" as? That sort of thing.

I would totally read on a page or two, and if those last confusions were cleared up pretty quick, I'd read even farther.

Sarah Laurenson said...

Very nice. I'd read on. I also missed the Mare part meaning she was a horse. But the tail swishing? Awesome.

I'm not fond of second person and breaking the fourth wall unless it's consistently done throughout the book. And, of course, done well.

Nice voice. Good pacing. I'm holding out judgment on the appropriateness of admitting ignorance in case it makes sense in context.

Dave F. said...

These are horses? I missed that, too.

writtenwyrdd said...

I liked the opening line as it gives me a sense of immediacy and it is pulling me into the action with the question of What's going on. So that's good. You might consider streamlining the line a little, such as, "People are being slaughtered (insert name of pov character). What are you doing about it?" (Or, "...What's beiong done about it?)

I immediately got that at least one of these characters is a horse, but given the opening leaves room for doubt you could have her swish her tail and stomp after she asks what the pov character is doing about the problem. That would clue everyone in immediately.

I thought this opening did the job, but the opening isn't really grabbing me by the throat and insisting I read on yet. I think it needs a bit more tightenign and organization still.

The use of Kingdom Mare/Miss Mare as a title and a name was a teensy bit too repetitive and also reminiscent of Piers Anthony's Night Mare(and it's a personal thing, so don't take it as general reaction from the minions.) I mean, is this her last name and title?

I'd have read on just to see what is going on here and how you constructed this fantasy world.

This has the feel and flavor of YA to me.

For tightening this up, you might do something like this:

"People are being slaughtered (insert name of pov character). What are you doing about it?" Eschae, the Kingdom Mare, stomped her foot and swished her tail angrily.

(explain in dialog what your narrative of the 2nd para gives us) "I'm sorry, Miss Mare, I don't know what you're talking about. I was summoned from my bed without being told the nature of the emergency."

(At this point I expect the KM to turn on the idiots who failed to brief the head of a task force, thereby showing us the start of a secondary plot vis conflict within the bureaucracy that will affect later developments.)

Hope that's helpful. I'm writing it rather quickly so I hope it comes across showing that I liked it.

fairyhedgehog said...

It's a forceful starting sentence and I agree with Adam that the second paragraph could lose the first sentence. I wonder if you could get a swishing tail into the second paragraph to let us know Miss Mare is a horse before we see her as a person? Or maybe that wasn't an issue for everyone.

I'll be interested to find out what agents and inspectors do.

_*Rachel*_ said...

Um, I didn't get the continuation. All I can think of is the french peas and cake scene in the Veggie Tales Esther.

What's Eschae doing about the slaughter? She's pretty dull if all she can do in a crisis is yell at people... um, subordinates. If she's got any sense, she'd brief him/her/it.

I do like the weaving in of the not-humanity of the beings. Yay for swishing tails.

Khazar-khum said...

It sounds like a Houinnynyms & Yahoos situation. I assumed the horses were in charge, and that the agent is a simple human.

Bevie said...

Thanks, everyone. This was all excellent feedback.

Yes, the Kingdom Mare is a horse. Sparks, the narrator, is a German Shepherd dog. Mairden is a musk ox.

A hog has been killed. Apparently by a panther.

Agents are field officers. Inspectors are management.

You're right. The pigeons who summoned Sparks would have told him why he was being summoned, so his knowing nothing does not make sense.

I'll adjust the human cliches so that they better fit animal perspectives.

Writing in narrative like this is not something I do often, but crime stories seem to call for it.

Don't know that I can do anything about the Piers Anthony thing. Having the kingdom leader be a Mare/Mayor fits so well with the story's light-hearted nature.

Liked the continuations, although I confess to confusion about the references to French cooking. Is there a famous French chef named Eschae?

Bevie said...

More comments came after I posted.

"The Animal Kingdom" is a place where animals (domestic and wild) from our world escape to a place where they believed themselves safe from human influence, domination, pollution, and crime. No humans allowed.

"She's pretty dull if all she can do in a crisis is yell at people... um, subordinates."

She's in politics. When have you ever seen a politician do anything else? [smiles]

Seriously, though. That is what politicians do: act all concerned and upset while ordering someone else to actually do something.

Evil Editor said...

Horse meat is known as a staple of French cuisine; thus the slaughter of horses explains the chef continuations, including the chosen one. Of course if it never occurred to you that the characters were horses, it's understandable that the continuations seemed odd.

chelsea said...

If they believe themselves safe from human influence, domination, pollution, and crime, why do they sound and act like humans? Or is that the irony?

I think changing "foot" to "hoof" would help with some of the "there are horses?!" confusion.

This sounds like a story of interesting characters.

talpianna said...

If the Kingdom Mare is the ruler of the realm, she probably would not be addressed as "Miss Mare"--especially since a maiden mare is actually called a filly. Some sort of royal or official title is needed. If you're working the mare/mayor pun, how about "Your Honor"?

Bevie said...

Didn't know that about French cuisine. Guess I lack class.

Makes the continuations better.

Phoenix said...

Hi Bevie: Should be interesting to see how this plays out what with carnivores rubbing shoulders with herbivores. Or are the dogs and leopards ova-lacto-vegetarians? ;o)

If you've ever been called on the carpet before your boss for something ... - I could totally see this, assuming you're intent on keeping the second person, as:

If your pack leader has ever hauled you up by the scruff hairs for something ...But yeah, the not knowing anything felt like an opening for the Mare's infodump rather than a top operative's reaction. Unless he's supposed to be the whipped pup, tail-between-his-legs type of suck-up agent.

_*Rachel*_ said...

To be a little more blunt about species, you could do something like, "Typical for a musk ox."

Is this for kids? The last books I read with all-animal characters were the Redwall books.

wendy said...

The first sentence had me hooked and I'm pretty sure I would read on (at least for awaile I'm not much for fantasy).

I am a bit confused about your audience. Using the word "hell" makes me think adult but the subject and tone looks YA to me.

I also had trouble discerning who was what species.

You seem to have a good start here. Goodluck!

BuffySquirrel said...

Yeah, the British condemn the French for eating horsemeat, all the while feeding horseflesh to their pets.

Bevie said...

The story is intended to be light-hearted. At the same time it is kind of a personal statement on my beliefs about politics and power. It doesn't matter who you are. Eventually you fall into the same game as everyone else.

The idea is that in The Animal Kingdom, carnivores must be vegetarian. Should they feel the need, they are are to return to the "Outside World" (our world) to hunt - and take their chances with humans.

I like the "pack leader" change, Phoenix. Fits much better.

To be honest, I had not thought about who my audience is. It's one of my "me" stories, written simply for my own enjoyment. My plan has always been to get it ready and then figure out where it would fit.

Thanks, all, for the great feedback.