Monday, November 28, 2011

5 1st 5 Pages November Workshop - Clarke Rev 3

Gabriel M Clarke
YA parallel world historical fantasy

Chapter One

He came back to himself again, growling through the gag and flexing his wrists against the straps pinning him down. The men standing over him had argued, then forced something down his throat. There’d been pain and more shouting; then a blazing blue light and, at last, blackness. 

His wrists came free. He sat up, blinking and disoriented. He was alone in a different room and both hands and mouth were unrestrained.

He was in a four poster bed with a red and gold canopy, adrift in a vast room with crimson walls and a ceiling covered in complicated mouldings. Only the weight of the richly brocaded bedding had been holding down his hands. Heavy curtains hung the full length of one wall and a nightlight burned on a silver tray at the foot of the bed. The back of his head hurt. He reached behind it and found a bandage. His hair was shaved almost down to his skull. 

The nightlight blurred and doubled and he lay back down, waiting for the dizziness to pass. He dimly remembered a journey and someone important to him in danger. But who? A friend? Someone in his family? 

He put his hand to his head again. He must have been injured in some kind of accident or attack but it was worrying how he couldn’t quite bring it to mind. He tried to recall if his parents had been with him, then realised that he couldn’t remember their faces. 

Or even their names.

That wasn’t right, that couldn’t be right. He tried again, imagaining a face, any face, and telling himself that this was his friend, this was his mother but the faces dissolved and disappeared as if there were nothing to remember. He began to sense a hole in the centre of his head, a hole full of darkness trying to drag him in. He attempted to say his own name out loud but no words came. His stomach began to twist and knot and bile scorched his mouth. He turned over, pounding his fists slowly into the pillow, struggling to think of something, anything - a voice, a profile, a touch of a hand. Nothing. He felt a scream beginning to grow.

A key rattled in a lock and hinges squeaked. 

“Good morning, Master Jerald. Time to be up and at ‘em.”

He froze and the scream grudgingly receded. He forced himself to breathe slowly and deeply, aware that the panic was still there, ready to swallow him whole if he lost control for a even a moment. He needed to be calm. He needed to find out who he was, what had happened to him and who he could trust.

“Jerald?” he said out loud.

“That’s your name, young master. It’ll all come back to you, bit by bit, they tell me.”

So they knew something was wrong and he had just confirmed it. He had to be more careful. He heard the clink of a glass set down on the tray, then the sound of the man stamping around drawing curtains and pulling open drawers and cupboards. He took another deep breath and sat up, pushing the weight of the thickly layered bedding off his legs and swinging his feet towards the floor. The man was gathering an armful of clothes from a long wardrobe set into the far wall. He marched across the room, dumped them on the end of the bed and picked up the glass.

“Your drink, Master Jerald.”

“What is it? It stinks.”

“For your health and well-being, young sir. You’ve been through quite an illness and the quack - begging your pardon - the pharmacist says it’ll rebuild your strength.”

He drank it down, aware of the man watching him closely. It tasted of earth, with a trace of honey, and left grit on his tongue. He winced and the man chuckled.

“Time to get into some clothes,” he said.  He seemed old, at least in his forties, and wore a drab, grey uniform with a white sash threaded with red. A broad black belt held a hefty wooden and leather object. A holster. 

I can remember things but not people, he thought.

“You’ve got a gun. Why?”

“I’m here to protect you. You may be in danger from the same people who attacked you and your family. Can you stand up yet, sir? Easy now.”

Jerald - if that was really his name - stood up and swayed. The man took him by his elbow and Jerald resisted the temptation to shrug him off. So something had happened to his parents and he’d been injured - had his parents been hurt too? Or even killed?  

“Attacked us? Who attacked us?” 

“Rebels, we reckon. Ne’er-do-wells and Shapers. Scum from the Black Mountains or worse.”

Jerald began to fumble at the neck of his nightshirt and the man helped him draw it over my head. He handed Jerald stiff black clothes frogged with braid. Jerald’s legs wobbled and he almost lost his balance pulling on the black trousers. The man steadied him. 

“So are you a soldier?”

The man chuckled.

“I’m just a servant, sir, name of Sardis. There are quite a few of us - you’ll see us hanging about here when you need us. You’re quite an important young man. Now, the finishing touch.” Sardis handed him a red sash threaded with purple. Jerald tried to drape it over one shoulder and somehow got it tangled up. The man gently helped him sort it out.

“Thank you,” Jerald said. 

“We live to serve.”

Jeald looked at him but there was no trace of sarcasm on the weathered face. Was he someone Jerald knew? He tried to recall the faces of the men he had remembered tormenting him at the moment he had woken up but they were already fading. Sardis certainly acted like someone who knew him well, who treated him with some deference. 

“My sash is different from yours.”

“Because you’re the Regent’s son, sir. Like I said, an important young man.”

He touched the purple threads. The Regent’s son. He liked the idea of that.

“I’m feeling much better now. If my parents are here, I think I should see them,” Jerald said.

Sardis coughed and looked at the floor.

“I’m sorry, sir. That’s probably all the answers as is good for you, begging your pardon. Keep him calm, that’s what the pharmacist said. Maybe your tutor will explain more.”

Jerald wanted to argue but a wave of nausea left his head spinning and he had to sit back down on the edge of the bed. He tried to think of the attack and, again, a dark, blank space reached out for him. He opened his eyes and touched the bandage. That and the ache in his head was evidence that something had happened to him. For the moment, he needed to do what he was told until he knew who his enemies were, until the memories that seemed to be missing began to return. But what if they didn’t? He thrust the thought away and sat down to pull on the socks and boots Sardis had set out by the bed. The servant was over by the windows, opening one wide and breathing in theatrically.

“Lovely day, Master Jerald. You should see if you can get outside for a bit. Do you a world of good.”

Jerald walked carefully over to the main window and looked over Sardis’ shoulder. Beneath them, a wide lawn covered in snow and dotted with frosted shrubs sloped down towards a high stone wall. Beyond the wall, woodlands. Beyond the woodlands, white fields. Mist fringed the trees and the distant meadows, and a steam tractor clanked noisily towards a gate in a wall. The air was freezing and he shivered. His stomach rumbled.

“I’m hungry,” he said.

Sardis led him out of his room and along a wide, dusty corridor lined with sombre paintings and door after oak-paneled door. Opposite the doors, deep set windows letting in shafts of pale light alternated with dusty alcoves edged with dirty white paint. Draughts rattled the the old, loose window frames and he was soon grateful for the thick cloth of the uniform. They took a narrow, winding staircase down to a broad landing. It was hung with a huge tapestry of a city tumbling into an abyss as mountains crumbled in flames and waters thundered in. The population were no more than tiny motes of two or three stitches - all the weaver’s craft had gone into the flames and clouds of ashes. Jerald stopped in front of it. It seemed significant to him but he couldn’t place why. 

“Is this a story?” he asked. Sardis shook his head. 

“It’s the end of Old Galla,” he said. “You’ll remember, by and by. When the old Shapers tried to break the world apart and do for us. Some of our cities fell, Angle broke off from the mainland and the sky was black for a decade but the Society held things together. Well, the Society and the Empire. One and the same, really.”


  1. The opening's more gripping... I like that his head's shaved. And the fact that he had to break free of a gag and his bound hands definitely injects an element of urgency! But then that seemed to fade out. He didn't ask why he was bound; the servant doesn't mention it, and if he was bound so he wouldn't hurt himself or something, you'd think that would be important. Since that's a new element, I think it's a matter of adding a few more blending details. Also, you might shade in that Jerald isn't quite sure if he was bound for his own good, or someone else's -- I think it would be a better hook if he's not quite sure who to trust, seeing as he has amnesia and all. Right now, he still feels a little too trusting of the servant (even as the servant obviously has a clear purpose of filling in some of the world building.) Just my opinion... this sounds like it will be an interesting fantasy read. Good luck!

  2. Gabriel,

    I also like your new beginning! It definitely catches the interest straight from the start. And you're much deeper into Jerald's POV. But, yes, you could definitely weave the new beginning into the what happens immediately after a bit better.

    When Sardis first speaks, he's coming across as a disembodied voice. I wonder if you can show him entering the room and how he first looks to Jerald, how Jerald feels seeing him, with his beginning dialogue.

    This line -- "He needed to find out who he was, what had happened to him and who he could trust." -- I felt like it was a bit too much too soon. The rest of that paragraph was great, but I would cut this one and thread it in later in the scene, after Sardis had done something to arouse Jerald's suspicion. Then it would have more impact.

    Also, when you say, "He liked the idea of that," referring to being the regent's son, it would be nice if you could show this. What does Jerald do? Stand straighter? Square his shoulders?

    You might want to be careful, if you're going to use Jerald's deep POV, of words like deference. Unless this is a word Jerald would know and use.

    But mostly here I'm talking mild tweaks. Overall, you've got an intriguing beginning, good dialogue and action, and a setup that catches the reader's interest and curiosity. I think you've got a great beginning and I wish you the best of luck!


  3. Definitely liked this the best of the revisions so far. This time I had an image of Jerald in my head that was YA. He didn't sound like a young boy, but a teen. Much more sinister mystery about him this time which is a little reminiscent of 'The Adoration of Jenna Fox.'

    The only thing I'd watch out for is adding unneeded words, i.e. "He felt a scream beginning to grow." I thought you could have just said that he felt a scream growing in his throat (or something like that).

    Good job! : )

  4. First off, this revision is MUCH better than the previous ones. The opening grabs my attention immediately. Love the phrase 'growling through a gag'. Such vivid imagery.

    However, like the others have said, there's something missing from the rest. Yes, I know you've got a lot of info that needs to be given here, but I wouldn't mind a little more action on the part of your MC. What if he gets up and starts looking around before the old man shows up? Maybe when the old man enters, Jerald can actually attack him and demand answers? What if he tries to escape out the window before the man arrives? These are just suggestions, but they're ways to get us to know Jerald and his predicament before the man arrives and starts info-dumping.

    Also, just a small thing, four out of your five beginning paragraphs begin with 'He'. You might want to reorder some sentences to avoid this repetition.

    Finally, your MC is so much better in this revision. Before, all the crying would have made me put it down. Now I have a sense that I'd actually want to read about Jerald. For some reason the line about how he likes the idea of being the regent's son intrigues me. It shows that he's slightly ambitious and capable of being more than he is, which is what I want from a character.

    All in all, I think you have a bit more work to do on this, but it's improved a lot. I think I'd read this book if I picked it up in a bookstore. Good luck!

  5. Much better, love that you've managed to work in more of the story. I really wish I could find out how this ends. The one suggestion I have is that you should try to tighten it a little more. There are some occasional thought repetitions, and since the MC's goal at the moment is to get focused, this is distracting. The best of luck to you.


Tell us what you think. We'd love to hear from you! :)