Countess Velois fled as the Death neared Champagne. She sailed on the Count's fastest ship to London and hurried inland on horseback, eager to hide herself and her daughter, Elinore, in remote country. They lodged at Warwyck castle, as guests of the Earl and his wife. The Countess felt safe there. Surely no plague would find them in such a distant and splendid place. She busied herself with solemn pleasantries such as reading and prayers and making embroideries with the other ladies.
Pretty Elinore was too boisterous and spoiled to sew embroidery. She also failed at lessons and prayers. She was flighty as a sparrow. Her mother allowed her to flit about, but warned her to avoid milkmaids, travelers, kitchenmen, and most of all: the enchanted Arden. Of course the girl quickly grew desperate to wander the Arden, thanks to the Earl's cousin's wife, who told her of unicorns dwelling in that wild wood.
Evil looked up from his desk, irritated. 'Hey,' he called to Mrs. Varmighan, 'switch the goddamn hoover off. I got one with unicorns.'
'I thought you didn't go in for fantasy,' Mrs. V replied, pulling the plug.
'You kidding?' Evil waved the top page of the script. 'Two paragraphs in and we've had a Countess, some foreshadowing about vampire milkmaids — and it's set in Warwyck. That's England.'
Mrs. Varmighan folded her arms. 'I know where it is, stupid.'
'Anyway,' said EE, kicking back, 'I like it. Take the afternoon off.'
Mrs. Varmighan glowered at him, slighted as an aging football player left out of the Super Bowl. 'Let me see that,' she snapped, snatching the script from Evil's hand. 'Huh. "Flighty as a sparrow"? What the hell kind of imagery is that?'
'You trying to do my job?'
'Hell, no,' retorted Mrs Varmighan, her hairdo quivering with rage. 'But if that's all the thanks I get for trying to help, I quit.'
Evil watched her stomp past the weredingoes clustered by the door. Adjusting his pince-nez, he feigned resumed contentment and scanned down to paragraph three.
"Legend had it that Warwyck Woode was a tangled embroidery weaved long ago by giants—"
The sound of drooping muttonchops filled the office.
'Fetch me a squirrel and my Magnum revolver!' he barked into the intercom.
But she was gone.
Opening: Anon......Continuation: Whirlochre
Prince Arden was working out by lifting weights, swinging swords, boxing, listing items, and drinking magical potions to develop his enchanted muscles. But he was always glad to make time for girls like Elinore.
So Elinore would get up at the crack of dawn, long before her mother, and sneak out into the wild wood, looking for unicorns. But no matter how hard she looked, she never found any. Was it true what some said, she wondered, that the unicorn was nothing more than a legend? Or was it true what others said, that her long weekend spent with the boys of the Champagne et Valois Jousting Team had permanently disqualified her from unicorn hunting?
For many a long day in that peaceful, sun-dappled summer Elinore wandered the forest, in search of a gleaming white unicorn with a sweeping mane and pearl-dusted horn that would bow at her approach and lay its proud head in her lap. But helas, no unicorn, not even a small or somewhat beige one, ever appeared to her.
So Elinore took herself once again to the Earl's cousin's wife, who listened as the girl poured forth her tale of woe.
"No unicorn?" she said. "Well, of course not, child. Didn't your mother tell you to keep away from travelers and kitchenmen? But you didn't listen, did you? No unicorns for you, my poppet."
One sultry summer night, when the Moon’s radiance spread over Warwyck’s walls, Elinore slipped on a dark dress and crept across the grass toward the woods. Arden. She could see the twisting trees and hear the call of the nightingale. And then she saw a flash of white. A unicorn flicked its tail, lowered its horn, and stepped out of the trees toward her.
“Hey, babe, got a quarter?” it said.
Here's my beef: They flee on a ship to London, they read and pray and make embroideries, fail at lessons and prayers, get bored and want to wander the grounds, all in two paragraphs?
The pacing is killing me.
Guess it's a good thing I left off the third paragraph, where they come to America, take a wagon train to California and meet Sir Francis Drake.
Fleeing a place called Champagne just breaks my heart.
If the story is set in Warwyck castle, I'm okay with the brevity of the account of the circumstances that led to them being there. Especially if it gets us to the scene where the kitchenman is impaled by the unicorn a little faster.
Cut either, The Countess felt safe there. or, Surely no plague would find them in such a distant and splendid place. You may not need either of them.
Skip, She was flighty as a sparrow. You also may be able to cut, She also failed at lessons and prayers.
The narrative style of this works for me; you do a lot of telling, not showing, but the way you do it shows more. It has a definite storytelling voice to it--it even reminds me a bit of C.S. Lewis, in the way it sounds like he's a grandfather telling a story to his grandchildren. (Do NOT mention this in your query, on pain of... dismemberment, death, and Hillary Clinton Kiss Torture.)
Anyway, I would definitely read on.
There is a nice flow to this. Not sure I would read on though. It sounds more like character sketches than the beginning of a story. Maybe with some judicious cutting and then getting into the story really, really soon.
It reads like the opening to a traditional fairy tale. Fairy tales are usually very short, so the mile-a-minute pacing is OK, but if this is novel-length I need less telling and more showing in order to continue reading.
I was distracted by the careless use of some words - you need to verify that words actually mean what you think they do. Pleasantry is not a synonym for diversion, and a solemn pleasantry is a contradiction. Plus, "sewing embroidery" is like "cooking baking". You either cook or bake, and you either sew or embroider.
I see lots of possibilities for the story, though, and I like the setup.
I like the tone. I would read more.
Thank you for the great continuation and all the comments. The story is meant to be a fairy tale about the soon-to-be-orphaned Elinore's quest to murder a unicorn.
Seems a little depressing for something that starts out like a fairy tale. Then again, it sounded like Narnia in style, and that had a witch trying to kill some kids.
I'm kind of disappointed there weren't more men represented in the panel. I think a universal opinion would have been more helpful to the writer.
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