Monday, February 08, 2021

New Beginning 1092

Hooves thundered down the hillside, as Samantha and Snowflake galloped after the fleeing soldiers. The men had a head start but that was no matter. They were heavy and their horses were not bred for speed. Snowflake was.

Samantha allowed the front runners to escape. Let them tell the tale. A straggler though; he would serve a different purpose.

She pulled an arrow from its quiver and nocked it against the bowstring. Drew. Relaxed into the rhythm of the horse beneath her. Aimed. Felt the wind. Gauged the distance. Adjusted. Loosed.

The arrow whizzed beside the ear of the soldier's horse, a mosquito’s buzz without the bite. The spooked horse whirled, throwing the rider.

Snowflake slowed and Samantha leapt down, landing in a crouch. She dropped her bow to the ground and gripped the hilt of Justiciana.

The soldier groaned. On seeing her striding toward him, he hauled himself to his feet. She smiled to see it, lips curling back from her teeth.

Samantha unsheathed her rapier, relishing the whisper of steel on leather. She flourished her blade at him as he fumbled for his own.

No need to bloody Justiciana on this bumbling oaf, she thought, tossing the sword aside. Feeling the wind again, she gauged the distance. Aimed. Adjusted. Loosed. With a loud rumbling the stench traveled to the soldier's nostrils and filled his lungs.

Samantha's foe dropped dead to the ground without a drop of blood shed. She thanked her spirit guardian for the offal stew she ate last night then turned for the long and tiring ride home.

But to her horror she found her adjustment had been poorly judged: such was the power of Fartistica's magic, Snowflake had melted clean away.

Opening: Amanda Barrett..... Continuation: ril


Evil Editor said...

Possibly this is the opening of a chapter that appears after this question was answered, but: I assume there's a good explanation for why these soldiers are fleeing when they could turn around and loose their own arrows at Samantha, or attack with their own swords? She "allowed" the frontrunners to escape? Could she have stopped all of them?

Anonymous said...

I had a similar question. Why does a (seasoned?) soldier "fumble" for his weapon while Samantha "flourishes" hers? Yes, he's just gotten to his feet after being thrown from his horse, but I bet Samantha would never be thrown, even if an arrow whizzed by Snowflake's ear -- and even if she was, she'd leap to her feet with Justiciana already unsheathed and ready to slice.

I suspect the answer is that Samantha is a superior warrior to every male except the one with whom she'll eventually fall in love?

Mandakinz said...

EE: You are correct in that the previous chapter has the context for why they're fleeing. There was a skirmish between 4 soldiers and a group of civilians (including Samantha). The soldiers were outnumbered. Their leader is the one who provoked the initial attack and was killed in the skirmish. In context, they're really more fleeing the situation, but Samantha gave chase.

She could have stopped all three if she chose to, especially on horseback and using the bow. Does that seem implausible? Did the passage conjure up a large group of soldiers? Numbering them would be an easy fix.

Anon: you're right about the reason for the fumbling, but your other assumptions are not.

Ril: I'm flattered that my opening got a continuation from you! I was hoping you would continue one of mine because you do such a good job of capturing the style of the original.

When the continuation was posted, I was too nervous to read it. I was excited to see ril was the author, but had a huge "OHHH NOOO!" moment when I realized where the joke was going! I sent the link out to my friends and my phone blew up with emoji responses shortly afterwards. Also "FARTISTICA!" is the current greeting among us for the time being. Oh my goodness, 'felt the wind' never ever crossed my mind in that context. I laughed so hard -- thank you!

Anonymous said...

Good thing my assumptions are wrong, because I was grabbing a few handy cliches.

The only false note for me is "lips curling back from her teeth." We already know it's not a sweet smile. I'm not sure what's not working for me -- the phrase or the image.

Anonymous said...

There's a lot that doesn't work for me in this scene, so I'm not going to cover all of it. Being a chapter opening, some of it may be cleared up in the previous chapter(s). Also, basing my comments a bit off yours about what happened.

Minor nitpiks: The name Snowflake detracts more than adds to an action scene, and do you really want me thinking about breeding horses at the moment?

Why is it necessary to say the soldiers have a head start? If she's chasing them then it's obvious they're ahead of her. It would be more in the moment to say she was gaining on them or indicate how quickly she was doing so, or something like that.

Why would she want surviving soldiers to bear the tale that their commander was killed by civilians? Chances they will tell the truth about him being an idiot are probably low. Sounds like a good way to have them come back with a lot more soldiers for revenge.

Stating he'll serve a different purpose seems pointless. It's not strong enough foreshadowing to keep me turning pages and gives no information that I'm unlikely to see in the next few paragraphs.

How much room is there between the front runners and the straggler? With only three people why are they so spread out that the first two don't notice what happens to the third?

Horse archery is rare, so pretty cool.
That being said, the description of firing the arrow is choppy and doesn't work for me. How strong is the wind that she can feel it while galloping? I'd think you would aim after taking into account the wind and the distance. Holding an arrow at draw takes effort. Yes it's all pretty simultaneous but it sounds like she has bad habits that will wear her out more quickly than they need to.

Whirled as in turned in a circle? That sounds like a much more controlled motion than shying at an arrow going by the ear. And why is a soldier riding a horse that is so easily spooked? How did they manage to stay on during the skirmish if they're so easily thrown?

Dropping her bow--it's a pet peeve of mine to see supposed professionals abusing their equipment. Apparently she's not rushed, so why drop it? That could damage the bow which is probably expensive, and it's now a tripping hazard. The rest of her behavior also seems amateurish.

Hauled sounds slow and would he have continued lying there if he hadn't seen her? How far away from the soldier does she dismount? I'd like to see some description of his expressions that indicate his state of mind when he sees his opponent or maybe a glance behind her or him to see if either has backup coming.

All in all the characters' behavior doesn't make a lot of sense and there seem to be a number of missed opportunity for bits of description that would enhance the scene. Hope this helps.

Mandakinz said...

Thanks to both Anons for the feedback, especially Anon 4:04.
I appreciate the time and effort it took to articulately break it down.

I made an effort pare down my usual style so it's interesting that you found more fat that could be cut, that I didn't think of (like the horse's name, or the 'different purpose' phrase). I'm going to test your suggestions and see if it gives the action a better flow and immediacy. Cutting the unnecessary fat will also leave room to find just the right details too.

Thanks for the archery feedback too. Luckily most of your points are easy fixes (like dropping the bow).

Everyone who's given me feedback on this passage (including real life) has disliked the word 'hauled' so I guess I'll have to take it seriously now and come up with another word/phrase on that one.

Thanks to all for pointing out possible logic flaws /implausibility with soldiers' reactions. I polished up this pasage to submit to the blog, but fortunately that whole section is just a first draft in the novel so it doesn't hurt *too* much to know its not working as is.

Anonymous said...

This exercise has been useful for me. I just ran across an agent who says to pick any stretch, not necessarily the opening of the book, and I looked at a couple of chapters that I thought would be enticing.

I've discovered they're not as good as I thought when I start with them.