Sunday, February 11, 2007

New Beginning 213

August 25th, 1485

Catherine didn't think the man lying on the dusty ground outside the kitchen was dead, but he did not look healthy, either. Outside the dented breastplate of his armor, bloodstained tatters of clothing barely covered his huddled form and his hair was so matted with filth she could not discern its color. His right leg bent at an odd angle. She could not imagine how painful it must have been for him to drag himself here with a broken leg.

He looked like a man who had just been through a war, which of course he must have. Several soldiers had passed by Redbourne Manor on their ways home, or perhaps to the docks and attempted escape from the country. Yes, the man lying on the dirt at her feet must be another survivor of the recently fought battle. The only question was, for whom had he fought?

She gathered up her skirts and squatted beside him. "Gentle knight, you are hurt."

The man groaned and muttered something that sounded like the word "water."

Catherine raised her voice. "Mab, bring water for this poor soldier."

Fat Mab waddled out of the kitchen, her three chins hidden behind a none-too-clean wimple. She carried a jug of water, recently drawn from the well. The knight's eyes lit up, and he struggled to sit.

Catherine helped him. "There you go, good sir." She accepted the jug from Mab. "I must know," she said. "What news? For whom did you fight?"

"For Richard," the knight gasped through cracked lips. "For the rightful Plantagenet king."

"Ah," Catherine said, withholding the jug and letting him tumble back into the dust. "Wrong answer. My husband is Duke Henry's man."

She handed the jug back to the servant and turned toward the door. "Mab," she said, "isn't it time milord's hunting dogs had their exercise? Let them into the yard, won't you?"

Opening: December Quinn.....Continuation: Marissa Doyle


Bernita said...

Would like to see the verb "sprawled" rather than "lying."
Competent beginning.

none said...

Catherine's thought processes seem very slow. Also, soldiers leaving a battlefield don't "pass by". They loot.

Rashenbo said...

oooo... there go those hunting dogs :) A nice little bit of closure there.

Anonymous said...


Not necessarily, depends on lot's of factors. Many of them would be too tired/injured/in a hurry to be somewhere else/scared/panicking/ to loot.

Just because it's a manor doesn't mean it's not defended and unless there was a large number of "looters" that is not going to be a major issue.

Seems like nitpicking to me.

I liked the beginning, enjoyed the continuation but wonder why people bother if that's the standard of response they get.

Brenda said...

I liked this beginning. It gave a clear picture and the phrasing fit the time.

The only thing I didn't like was, "He looked like a man who had just been through a war, which of course he must have."

We could see he'd been in war with the condition of his body and the mention of the breastplate of his armor. I'd either cut that, or rephrase it.

I'd keep reading on.

Anonymous said...

I found the beginning awfully slow.

We really don't need, for example, "He looked like a man who had just been through a war, which of course he must have." Nor do we need, "but he did not look healthy, either." We pretty much get that from the description. (I.e., you've shown us with the tattered cloth and filth-matted hair.)

Also, the intrusion of the exposition ("Several soldiers had passed....") interrupted the flow for me. I understand your desire to let us know about the battle and that Catherine has some understanding of what's going on, but I think you can do a better job of showing that through her thoughts and feelings.

And that's another thing: The only things we get of Catherine is her curiosity (she wants to know for whom he fought) and that she's impressed with the man's pain tolerance level. But is she disgusted, frightened, excited, ???

I guess what I'm saying is I want to get more of her feelings and more details of the man right away. I can learn about the war and the other passing soldiers later in the first chapter.

A nit: Is he "lying" or "huddled"? Huddled would seem to imply crouched rather than lying.

shaded-lily said...

That's an interesting fix you've got Catherine in -- wanting to help the man but afraid he's from the "wrong" side. I expect it will become clear at 150+ words whether she hates the other side or is only afraid of getting in trouble for helping the wrong person.

It's definitely intriguing. My problem with this opening that I don't get a sense of urgency. That may be what buffysquirrel was saying, too, about Catherine's thought processes. To me Catherine seems surprisingly calm. Most of the description in the first paragraph is of the man, not much directly about how Catherine feels. Also, I have no sense of how recent the battle was. The phrase "been through a war" conveys a sense of distance.

In sum, good starting point but I don't think the description quite does it justice.

none said...

If the manor were defended, then the man wouldn't have got as far as the kitchens, and Catherine wouldn't have been the first person to encounter him. Can't have it both ways.

Looting was commonplace in the Wars of the Roses. It was how the footsoldiers got paid. And fed.

When there were armies about, people routinely took themselves (and their animals) off to the nearest fortification for protection. If you want to read about fantasy wars, read Fantasy novels.

Anonymous said...

The opening seems competent, but it didn't grab me for some reason. I am not one who demands a dead body on the first page, so it's not just looking for excitement. There's plenty of intrigue suggested in the situation, but Catherine doesn't seem to have much emotional reaction to or concern about the situation. If she doesn't care, why should I?

Wonderwood said...

I liked the first paragraph, for the most part, but as irjpdx pointed out, the second paragraph grinds a bit slowly. I think more urgency should be evident to keep the flow going. I'm with tattieheid on the looting, I don't think one can make such a flat out statement that the soldiers would be looting, they might be passing through friendly territory. There isn't enough information to make such an assessement. Overall, I like the voice in the first paragraph, but the opening could use some tightening.

McKoala said...

It's a good place to start - you drop us right in at a great moment, but it seems to take Catherine an awfully long time to deduce that the injured man in armour has been in a war. I would have thought that the clues of injury and armour might have helped her put two and two a bit faster.

Neat continuation! Who let the dogs out?

Trivia time: I used to live near a village called Redbourne.

Xenith said...

Friendly territory doesn't mean much when one has looting in mine. Even as recently as the American Civil War I seem to recall soldiers would loot nearby towns.

It might seem nitpicking to some, but it's that sort of detail that adds flavour to a historical or psuedo-historical setting, and convinces the readers that the writer knows what they are on about :)

Anonymous said...

Well, author, there you have it. The authority on looting has spoken, and if you want your readers to be convinced, you'd better put your soldiers on alert to loot, or else. It's amazing how someone can draw such concrete conclusions on two paragraphs. I'm awed by such an insightful presence among the minions. I bow to you, sir.

amy said...

I really liked the first sentence. Other people have objected to the heroine being so emotionally distant, but I thought it told us a lot about her character, and I found it intriguing.

Stacia said...

Thank you everyone!

Lol at the continuation--especially because the soldier did indeed fight for the rightful King, Richard. Catherin was a double agent--spying for Richard while making Henry Tudor believe she was spying for him--which is why what side he fought on is uppermost in her mind. She has some high-ranking folk from the new King's council on their way to her house, and if she's caught helping a traitor it could be very bad for her. This is in essence a first draft, so thanks a lot for the comments, I will be sure to put more emotion here (we actually do get more into her fear and urgency immediately after this, in the next pp).

As for looting--sure, it very well might have happened--to the villagers. Women who are tight with the new King don't tend to be looted.

Anonymous said...

I have to comment on the "looting". While I think you can say that a majority of people might do a particular thing at a particular point in time, you cannot say that they ALL would - you have to make allowances for variations in character, morals, upbringing, etc. Therefore, you could certainly have a soldier, "passing by" or whatever.