Friday, February 23, 2007

New Beginning 225

Dahanagh had just finished rounds when the gryphon appeared overhead, its wings beating in doubletime as it selected its landing place. Every torch flame flattened under the wafts of its downstrokes.

Lowd Company R had no air sentry, so Dahanagh fell out ten men to confront the rider once the gryphon landed. In loose order, they surrounded the gryphon as it stretched its talons towards the ground. Torchlight licked along crossbow shafts and picked out sword hilts.

Praed nudged Dahanagh with one bony elbow. "Meat we'd be if it chose."

"It's Vessy," Dahanagh said. "Live cargo, too."

"That's not being Vessy."

"It's his gryph."

The gryphon landed, and its eagle head turned quickly this way and that, assessing the threat. Arched over its back, its wings stayed ready for an emergency take-off.

Dahanagh peered at the rider, who had his head bent down, unbuckling the strap that secured him to the gryphon's back.

Hard to tell in flickering torchlight, and with the leather cap the rider wore, but maybe Praed had the right of it. That didn't look like Vessy.

Dahanagh broke from the group and warily approached. The gryphon shifted its feet and belched, a deep gutterance that echoed from the battlements. The stench settled around them and filled their lungs.

From the number tattooed on the creature’s rump, Dahanagh confirmed it was Vessy’s Gryph; but Vessy was a big, ugly lump of a man, and the one who stepped down from the Gryphon now was younger, slimmer and had better of the looks about him.

“This be Vessy’s gryph,” Dahanagh said, taking the charge. “Where’s Vessy being?”

“I really have no idea,” the pilot replied, by his words an obvious outlander. “I found this chap wandering alone at the edgelands.”

“What be you carrying?”

“Got me there again, I’m afraid. Vicious little buggers though.”

Dahanagh grunted as he continued his inspection. The gryphon lifted its tail. Dahanagh recognized the sign and stepped back just before the gryph let loose a steaming, stinking mound.

“Praed,” Dahanagh shouted, examining the excrement. “I . . . I think I’ve found Vessy!”

Praed rushed over and took a look. “That’s not being Vessy,” he said. “That’s being a steaming pile of gryphon shit.”

Dahanagh scratched his head. “So you’re right,” he said, and paused for the thinking. “Send a man for the barrow and carry this to town -- his wife won’t be knowing the difference of it.”

Opening: Anonymous.....Continuation: ril


Brenda said...

ril, you are so bent. Love it.

Dave Fragments said...

A steaming heap. What a brave way to start a novel.

I'm guessing baby wipes and a cross coutry diaper haven't been invented yet.
Didn't Betty Davis say - WHAT, A DUMP,
And later - Liz Taylor as Martha in Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolfe.
And Dana Andrews in Fallen Angel.
And by Margaret Mitchell on the Atlanta apartment where she wrote GWTW.

I'd like the opening better if the first line was: Every torch flame flattened in the downwind of the gryphon. Dahanagh mustered ten men from Lowd Co R to confront the rider. Torchlight glinted off sword hilts and crossbow shafts as they loosely surrounded the gryphon.

It's more active this way, there's action to attract the reader. The more active opening would even support a line or two about the relationship between Dahanagh and Praed.

And when you say "Meat we'd be if it chose." I get the raging giggles replete with eyeball rolls. Please go read "Eats Shoots and Leaves."
I'm not fond of inverted Yoda speek.

I read Meat as a character name.
It could read "Meat, we'd be done if it clawed us." Instead of meaning - we're too close to that thing. It could rip us into bloody bits and snack on our broken bones.
With a name like Praed, you could use a character named Meat. IMHO ;)

Dave Fragments said...

OH WAIT, One more thing about NAMES.

a Vessy is a pig's bladder that is filled with some gourmet food, inflated and then set in boiling water. It concnetrates flavors and cooks like a pressure cooker.

So a Vessy riding a gryphon...

soda alert, soda alert (with pigs snouts and truffles)

Anonymous said...

That’s being a steaming pile of gryphon shit.

Oh, ril. You da man. But I wouldn't have gone quite that far in my assessment of this opening.

Seriously, author: I had a very difficult time parsing this, right from the main character's name. Maybe I know too many people named Donohue. Anyway, I kept tripping over the name.

A lot of the construction seems stilted. For me, it didn't add to the tone as much as detract from the readability. "That's not being Vessy"? I spent far too long trying to figure out if Vessy was some odd adjective you'd created.

"fell out ten men" is also an odd way to describe what's happening, I think. This occurred in silence? Dahanagh didn't say anything? I also found it confusing that Lowd Company R had no air sentry and Dahanagh took the precaution of sending out ten men... but then a few sentences later he's declaring that he's recognized the gryphon.

On the good side, you've clearly demonstrated a general timeframe and that there's tension in the arrival of an unknown threat--by that I mean that unknown threats are expected by the main character.

Bernita said...

I donno. Though it needs some tightening, I liked it because of the vivid picture and the choice of details.
Certainly would not slyly describe it as " a steaming pile of griffon shit."
Inversion is a legitimate, if archaic, speech pattern. Yet it seems anytime anyone uses it they get yelled at for Yoda speak.
Of course I'm fond of torches and sword hilts and stuff.

Anonymous said...

I really loved teh first two paragraphs. The imagery was gorgeous. You gave us a lot of information without telling us a thing, and that was great.

Unlike others who have commented, "That's not being Vessy" didn't bother me too much. I did have to read it again, but if you don't use it too too much it might be okay. I would definitely look at the old-style construction and decide if it really helps your book or hinders it; but you might be able to get away with it here and there.

The name Vessy doesn't seem to go with Praed or Dahanagh. Other than that, I am not bothered by it.

I would definitely have kept reading to see if this was a hostile rider or not and to see what happened.

shaded-lily said...

ril -- fabulous continuation! :D

Author -- I didn't have a problem with the inversion; it's archaic (as bernita points out) or poetic, and it is greatly Yoda's senior.

On the other hand, I really didn't care for "That's not being Vessy." But I'm not a dialect expert and anyway, this is fantasy and you're entitled to create your own dialect if you want, so what the hey.

And yes, when I saw "Vessy" I immediately thought of the French word for "bladder," but since then I've turned to Google to educate myself about how common a name it is. And it's reasonable for a guy who has to fly in on a gryphon to be of different ancestry than the people meeting him on the ground.

Anonymous said...

I like this opening for the most part. Phrases such as "fell out ten men" and "It's his gryph" work for me. But I read/write fantasy, so what works for the genre-phile may not work for those who aren't.

However, "Meat we'd be if it chose" doesn't work for me at all. Not because of the inverted phrasing (that's OK used sparingly), but because gryphs are apparently not a rare sight here, even it they aren't common. Why would Praed make that comment? Just to let the reader know gryphons are not placid beasts?

This is a pet peeve of mine. On a well-built world, characters flip a light switch and a light comes on. The characters neither express surprise at this nor does the writer blueprint out the electrical conduits or explain the rationale of how the light bulb lights. It simply does. Just as gryphons simply are. Soldiers may exclaim over the spirit of a particular horse, the cool paint job on a P-51, or the caliber of an oversized gun on a tank, but not on the normal characteristics of horses, planes or tanks. Or gryphons.

The paragraph below could also use some tightening. The long sentences don't really convey the gryphon's anxiety. I know you are trying to work description into the action (highly commendable), but it seemed a bit out of place right here, slowing the story down. The anxiousness of the gryphon conveys more about what's happening right now than any description of it could.

The gryphon landed, and its eagle head turned quickly this way and that, assessing the threat. Arched over its back, its wings stayed ready for an emergency take-off.

All in all, if description didn't get in the way of the action too much, I'd read on!

Robin S. said...

I thought this was well written; I would keep reading. Your first two paragraphs put me in a place where I can be in the scene, which I think is saying something when the scene is fantasy. Especially liked this sentence:
"Every torch flame flattened under the wafts of its downstrokes."

I was stopped a little by the dialogue, but I don't read fantasy, so I'll bow out of this debate.

ril, same as usual, amazing stuff.

Dave Fragments said...

As for the accents...
Obviously the author wants to establish the ethnicity of the characters. So we have names, castles, and archaic inversions.
That OK with me (and maybe calling it Yoda speek {sic} was just silly and overdone).
But perhaps it's laying it on too thick. We're going to spend the next 80K to 100K words with these characters. That's plenty of time to create their ethnicity.

Anonymous said...

I really liked this beginning. It puts us right into the world and gives us some tension to get us interested. I would definitely read on.

I also thought the writing itself was tight and interesting, and I liked the odd language that the soldiers use. I chalk that up to putting us right into the world.

Nicely done, author! I think you have a lot of talent. :-)

Anonymous said...

Great continuation :D

I liked the opening. It could stand to be tighter, but I liked the order of events, the mood, and the tone. Even the inversions didn't bother me, as long as you just planned to use it to suggest a dialect instead of writing everything that way.

Anonymous said...

Comment thanks!
Evil thanks!
Continuation LOVE!

Anonymous said...

ril - fabulous continuation, I love Biggles getting down from the gryphon!

Anonymous said...

oh, and author - NICE way to take the comments! I do agree with most people about the inversions in the speech. Your first paras should pull us in so smoothly that we don't realise we're hooked till we turn the page eagerly. And the inversions are heavy going. Everything else reads very nicely.