Thursday, April 01, 2010

New Beginning 742

It was said that to end a war quickly, one had only to lose. By that measure, at least the hell he was in wouldn't last much longer. Janto squinted, searching for a telltale shimmer in the air. There it was. Good. The invisibility shroud still covered his men.

"Volley!" cried one of the soldiers.

Incoming arrows soared up from the chasm, too far forward this time. They would miss. Still, no sense taking chances. His men took cover behind their shields, and he ducked behind his own, a pavise large enough to cover his entire body. Ahead of him on the mountain path, arrows smacked like hailstones against the cliff face and rebounded, spinning, into the chasm below.

A few strays clattered in late, and then there was silence. After a moment, Janto and his soldiers emerged from behind their shields and resumed marching on the narrow cliff ledge. With luck, they would cover some distance before the next volley. He was proud of them, his motley assortment of bel-caste and ur-caste men. Normally the castes did not mix, but the war and his people's dwindling numbers had necessitated change. Progress. He sniffed at the irony.

Irony. It was their nightly meal these days. Janto had been trying to lose the war so he could eat something other than irony, but the damn castes had turned it into a war of pride. Each caste was determined that they would not be the cause of losing, so his motley crew, which should have killed each other weeks ago, had become a well-oiled war machine and his biggest fear was about to be realized: Janto might win the war. It just wasn't fair.

Opening: Amy.....Continuation: Bibi


Evil Editor said...

The castes working together improves their chances of winning the war, but the first two sentences imply that defeat is inevitable. Are they hopeful of victory or just trying to get away?

Firing arrows out of a chasm, only to have them rebound back in seems like it could be dangerous.

I wouldn't use "marching" to describe movement on a narrow cliff ledge.

Invisibility seems like a huge advantage against an enemy, yet it's the ones who can't be seen who are on the run?

I don't see much similarity between arrows flying out of a chasm and hailstones. And it doesn't seem like the arrows could have enough horizontal momentum to smack the cliff face; they'd glance off.

Chicory said...

The invisibility sounds like science fiction, but why are they fighting with arrows instead of something more high tech? I'm a little confused about the setting.

Matt said...

It's strange that these guys would be on the run. They're a cohesive unit, they have the advantage of the terrain...and they're invisible!

Jeb said...

As a regular reader of alternate-universe fiction, I'm a sucker for a mix of medieval and high-tech. I'd probably read pages.

But I agree with the comments thus far about who's losing. If they're using their invisibility advantage to cover their retreat, fine. If they're part of a larger army just doing their job and hoping someone higher up the chain of command declares a truce - or surrenders - before they all die, make that clear.

Also - one of my personal nits - use Janto's name on first mention, not 'he', as doing it the other way around makes the reader stop and think by the third sentence instead of being sucked straight on by the unfolding action. "By that measure, at least the hell JANTO was in wouldn't last much longer." (I'd rewrite that sentence to more smoothly incorporate the proper name)

Amy said...

Sounds like my opening is kind of confusing. I'm considering opening with this scene instead. What do you guys think, does this work better?


Janto woke with a searing pain in his shoulder. Waves broke nearby, and rocks pricked his back. Where in the Soldier's Hell was he? He shifted, trying to move himself off something sharp, and the pain in his shoulder bloomed into pulsating, teeth-clenching agony. He forced his eyes open.

An arrow protruded from his shoulder, the white feathers of its fletching fluttering in the ocean breeze. He gaped at it. Three gods.

What had happened? He'd been hit. He'd fallen. Gingerly tilting his head back, he spotted the cliff he'd been on before the arrow struck him.

Sashi, he tried, hoping his soul-partner was not too far away.

Su-kali! the creature exulted in his mind. You're awake.

Sashi's presence, if only in his head, was a balm for his pain. Where are you? He looked around as best he could without moving his shoulder. A man was picking his way towards Janto along the rocks. He wore Soldier orange--an enemy then, not a friend. Janto tried to throw an invisibility shroud over himself, but his magic wasn't working. He and Sashi were too far apart.

Dave Fragments said...

I liked your original openings with the changes by EE.

The second opening has the disadvantage of a character waking up and finding something wrong. That's been used. I like the jeopardy and action involved in the arrows and the invisibility.

I would use the word "pavise" later in the chapter. I had to look it up but the first time I read the opening I made that word a shield. If I were you, I'd have a character use it in a sentence as in "my pavise was large enough to protect me from the arrows".

I like this shorter version of:
"He squinted, searching for the shimmer from his invisibility shield."

And as EE points out, the arrows that fly at them should be noted as being futile attempts to find the invisible men. It's like a destroyer dropping depth charges on a submarine without a sonar contact. They can't see them but the shield doesn't stop the arrows.

Jeb said...

Such great questions arising, and a clear sequence of actions firmly grounded in a setting. I would DEFINITELY read on from this second opening.

In fact, can I have your opening chapter if I give you my email address?

_*rachel*_ said...

I'd change the first sentence out of the passive, to, "It was said that the quickest way to end a war was to lose." I like that line, but the rest of the excerpt seems to negate it.

Would one of the soldiers call volley? They're invisible, so being quiet is a good idea--though the enemy should be able to see where they are after a volley or two.

If I were facing an invisible army, had a decent view of where the enemy is probably standing, and could coordinate my troops well enough, I'd have them shoot light, scattered volleys. Where the arrows bounce, hit, or disappear midair, that's where the invisible army is. Or I'd look for the shimmer.

Alternatively, I'd get my army out of that chasm, where I'm a sitting duck. The archer firing downhill has the advantage every time; that's one reason castles have walls.

And say I'm commanding the invisible army. Why am I marching my army to the edge of a cliff? If they're enough in arrow range that they're overshooting, I should be shooting them. They're trapped in a chasm, for goodness' sake.

Delete the sentences after "ur-caste men." We know what castes are, and we can pretty much guess at the significance. Don't have Janto sniffing at anything but a smell, either, unless you want to make him sound arrogant.

*Sigh.* I haven't had this much fun critiquing in ages. And for all that I ranted, I only had two nitpicks with your actual writing.

I prefer your original opening. It's more exciting, and it doesn't start with the MC waking up after the action is over.

Amy said...

Sure Jeb, I'd be happy to send you the opening chapter!

Anonymous said...

It was said that to end a war quickly...

There. That's passive voice, right there.

Funny how when there's a real example of passive, it goes un-noticed...