Author Topic: Corrections to "Baron's Law." Is this improved?  (Read 1720 times)

MrsButler

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Corrections to "Baron's Law." Is this improved?
« on: October 23, 2010, 12:38:40 PM »
       
Chapter 1

The boy held the bow and arrow with awkward hands. A tall man looked on with impatience, itching to take the bow from him to demonstrate how it was to be held, but how would he learn then?

    “Stand with your eyes to the arrow shaft,” the man grabbed him with both hands, maneuvering him to a straight position. “Now step your front foot back a wee bit. This is your shooting stance, remember it.”

   “Alright, alright,” the boy moaned. “Now let me shoot.”

   “Nae. You’ve still to learn. Nock an arrow in the centre of your bowstring and let the shaft of the arrow rest on the bow. No, not like that.”

The boy whined and cursed, a look of determination etched into his young face. “I’m doing it like you showed me…now leave me be,” he pushed his father away and held the bowstring with his first three fingers, using his thumb to stabilise the arrow.
 
   “In a V, keep your arm locked straight. Christ, Robert you’re useless.” He complained. “Lift your head and face the target - now raise your bow arm, keeping it locked draw the string back until your thumb is against your jaw line. That’s it. Excellent. Are you aiming for that one there?”

“Aye, is that alright?”

“Yes. He’s moving slowly but don’t be fooled…he could bolt any moment.”

 Young Robert used his shoulders and back muscles to pull the string. The bow made a creaking noise like a tree being cut down.

   “Now visualise a line from you to the target. This is your shooting line. Take a breath… hold it until you release the arrow. Aim and hold your shooting position until you hear the arrow hit its target.”

The boy shifted his position widening the space between his legs. Slowing his breath and concentrating on his prey he closed one eye and inhaled before lining up his aim. The arrow hissed through the air, father and son’s eyes trained on its progress across the fragrant meadow. It reached its target.
   “I got him, I got him,” cried Robert jumping up and down on the damp earth, his eyes sparkling with pride as his father bent down to shake his hand. Not a flinch as he slapped him hard on the back, just like he did to his henchmen when they pleased him in some way.

   “Great shot, son. I should try to aim for the heart next time though. You got him in the stomach and it’ll longer for him to die. That’s cruel and we’re not savages are we?
  
 Robert’s eyes gleamed and then narrowed “Sorry, father.”  Did he have a family?”

   “Nae. He’s an old cottar up yonder, no use to anyone. Had an accident with an ox not long ago. Gave him a gammy leg.” Baron Bothwell shook his bare head; he detested wigs and refused to wear them.
 
They walked for a while towards Castle Furca, their ancestral home. The baron with his hand around Robert’s shoulders, his son struggling to keep up with his long stride.

   “What’s for dinner?” Robert asked.

   “Peasant stew,” laughed the baron, amused at his own joke.

***

After the reformation, Castle Furca was given to the Bothwell family in recognition of their loyalty to the King, rebuilt following the Acts of Union, 1707, it was a magnificent six storey baronial style sandstone structure topped by a riot of turrets, crow-stepped gables and conical roofs.
The ground upon which the Castle stood sloped gently down to the river’s brink, its silver sheen over shadowed by overhanging boughs of birch and ash and nodding birch.

Due north, the peasant cottages littered the horizon, their dwellings so weak in structure they could be torn down by a child. A bucolic image of run-rigs and miserable tenants performing back-breaking work, come rain or shine.
  
They entered through a screen’s passage into a great hall bustling with activity, nervous serf’s scattering in all directions as the baron strolled in followed by young Robert. Crossing the dais, they settled near the top table, the smell of sweet rushes in the air and sweat and…fear.  
 
   “Come here, boy,” the baron summoned a page boy. “Take these off and clean them. And do it properly or I’ll hammer your ears to the whipping post.”

   The baron’s wife, Matilda approached the huge oak dining table, taking off her coat. “Where have you been? I’ve been looking for you all morning.”

   “Teaching our boy how to hunt.” He kicked the page boy away, grinning as the boy cried out in pain.

   “Excellent, excellent, husband. Was it a clean kill?”

`   The baron turned to Robert amused by his son’s awkward stance. “Well, Robert. Tell your mother all about your first kill.”

   “I got him right in the stomach…he was bleeding all over the ground.”

   The baron looked from mother to son, a sardonic smile etched into his face. “Are you proud of your son, wife?”

   “Yes. Of course,” she answered. “We’ll have it for supper…I love rabbit stew.”

   “But, but, mother…” Robert interjected.

   “Shush, Robert. I’m sure cook will find a cooking pot big enough.” The baron winked at his son.  

A young maidservant hovered nearby, cheeks smudged with soot and dirt. The baron saw her from the corner of his eye, hackles rising on the back of his neck at the sight of her.

   “Janet?” He struggled for breath. “She looks just like my… my Janet.” His face paled.

The baroness Matilda sighed. “Give me strength.”

***

Without needing to look at him she could feel the weight of his stare.A fear filled Sarah’s heart, lowering her filthy face she got on with her work, scurrying off before the beast gazed upon her once more.

At dusk she trudged home, her feet and back sore from fifteen hours of hard labour… fetching water, cooking, cleaning, mending clothes, washing linen and making fires. The list went on and on.

Through a field of golden crops she traipsed, the sound of rustling grass roaring in her ears, the breeze feeling like the breath of thousand people upon her tired body. Feet bare, toes curling into prickling sward damp with dew, she entered a pasture, a snapping noise piercing the air. “Please don’t let him get me,” she begged inside, imagining the laird behind her, bile prickling the back of her throat.

   “Sarah. It’s me. I didn’t mean to startle you.”
  
For just a moment the clouds uncovered a half moon and she was able to make out his silhouette, it was Magnus, a bunch of wild flowers held in his coarse hands. Sarah ran to meet his embrace.

   “How I’ve missed you,” Magnus buried his face into hair, wrapping his arms around her in a fierce embrace, his stubble scratching her soft skin. “Have you decided?”

She nodded, eyes wild with a mixture of fear and embarrassment. “Yes. Do it now,” she murmured before giggling like a giddy milkmaid.
With a gentle shove he pushed her to the ground, wild flowers scattering beneath them to form a bed of fragrant bluebells and weeds. No moonlight, no sweet words of love or promises, just inky black darkness… and Magnus and Sarah.
 
Closing her eyes she shifted her position beneath him, stones scratching the base of her spine. The smell of heather filling her nostrils as he placed one knee between her thighs pushing them apart, and then a feeling of panic…can I change my mind, she thought?  Suddenly she wanted nothing more but to be home with mamma, preparing the night oats and filling her father’s pipe. Even the detested spinning wheel would be preferable to this… sprawled on her back, fingers pinching her soft thighs as her face squashed against Magnus’s broad chest, muffling her whimpers of pain. Virgin blood seeped into damp loam as he took her maidenhead, the eerie cry of a fox echoing in the night air as Magnus rolled off her.

   “It’s done. You belong to me now,” his bass voice tickled her ear.

“Does that mean I am I safe?” She pulled down her skirts and wondered why he hesitated before answering. “Am I safe, Magnus?”

   “Of course you are safe. I’ll protect you.”

“But I thought the baron hated you?”

“He does.”

   “Why?” She asked.   

   “I don’t know.”

She was sure it was a lie. “So he’ll claim his right…what did you call it?”

“Jus primae noctis.”

Magnus held her to him; she endured his embrace hoping he did not want to take her again.

“What do you think, Sarah? Have you not a brain in that pretty head? Has Bothwell not claimed the right to deflower the young bride of any of his vassal’s so far?”

    “Is that what it means?” Her eyes widened with terror.

 “The law of first night, Sarah. Where have you been? Didn’t your mother tell you anything?”

It was her thirteenth summer and her mother had not yet given her the talk she had promised. “Perhaps he’ll not want to bed me.”

Magnus groaned. “Ah, Sarah. If only that were true, but there is not a man in Scotland that would not want you.”
          
« Last Edit: October 25, 2010, 09:45:56 AM by Mrs_Butler »

Tempered

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Re: More of "Baron's Law." Critiques welcome!
« Reply #1 on: October 23, 2010, 01:15:14 PM »
Hello, Alison - and thank you for considering to post a piece from your work. Thanks also for the information about the times which helped establish a setting.

I'm trying to modify the way I critique (lol you are the first to have to put up with my attempts :P )

As always, these are just opinion and can be tossed, like stones, away if you disagree.

***

In the first para/intro, I like the dialogue between them, the art of showing how it is done. what I think could be added is emotional tags to show both the father and the son's exasperation to each other. I see it in dialogue, but felt that in some instances some it could be used to improve that sense.

for example:

“In a V, keep your arm locked straight. Christ, Robert you’re useless.” He complained.

right after 'locked straight.' I felt 'he complained' (though 'complained' felt off because it would have both complaining where one is teaching, so maybe another term to show that frustration?

“...and bash his brains out.” Robert’s eyes gleamed and then narrowed “Sorry, father.”  Did he have a family?”

for some reason this felt odd. I know it hints at their savagery or how they brush it away, but the first part felt odd. I liked the 'did he have family' because it can be taken as both concern or maybe more prey to practice on. I really liked the bonding here, that he took the smack to the back as a moment of pride given by his father (nicely done)

The ground upon which the Castle stood sloped gently down to the river’s brink, its silver sheen over shadowed by overhanging boughs of birch and ash and nodding birch.

to me, I was lost as to what held the silver sheen. I considered the river, but its wording can have it also attached to the castle because it is the main topic of that para. This is fine, but normally I associate 'sheen' with a river rather than a castle unless it was pure white or metals.

since you used 'peasant stew'  you can just use 'cottages' without peasant attachment, it can be assumed they are of lower birth than those two viewing.


“For a walk, is that a crime?” With a flick of her wrist she threw her riding gloves to the ground and gestured to the fleeing boy to pick them up.  
  


it felt like an odd thing to do, throw her gloves to the ground and then order the running servant (whom she just defended for civility) to pick them up, so it felt like she said one thing but did another. Maybe this was your intention but i figured, why have her mention his name if she didn't consider him human enough to hand directly to?

with the introduction of Sarah, I think you should use her name vice 'she' ie

...without the need to look up, Sarah could feel.... this tells me right away who is being stared at.

I wondered a bit about 'hobbled' when used to her walking. I understand how it can be used, but because she is a servant under another's control, hobble also takes on another meaning which I guess can work but am unsure if you wished that duel attachment.

I wasn't sure about 'the talk' it seemed a bit forced into that direction, but that could be me.


****

I enjoyed this, very nicely written and well thought of and researched(also important)

thank you for posting :)

Tempered

« Last Edit: October 23, 2010, 01:16:59 PM by Tempered »

Offline Skip Slocum

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Re: More of "Baron's Law." Critiques welcome!
« Reply #2 on: October 23, 2010, 01:34:10 PM »
Hey Mrs. B, this piece feels as if I've read it before. Is this a rebuilt version of an earlier post?

Your opening line:

The boy held the bow and arrow with awkward hands.

Q: Since "The boy" comes to have the name Robert in just a few paragraphs, what would you think about naming him "Robert" or "Young Robert" right from the start. After all, chapter one is for introductions.

Skip

MrsButler

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Re: More of "Baron's Law." Critiques welcome!
« Reply #3 on: October 24, 2010, 06:31:29 AM »
Thanks , Tempered & Skip,

I'll fix those problems today!

Alison    :)

Tempered

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Re: More of "Baron's Law." Critiques welcome!
« Reply #4 on: October 24, 2010, 07:01:43 AM »
Opinions are the only things I gave, Alison, not problems to be fixed. :) 

But don't be in a rush to change something I saw, I'm just learning to write so often don't see things as they should be seen.

Offline ma100

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Re: More of "Baron's Law." Critiques welcome!
« Reply #5 on: October 24, 2010, 07:55:21 AM »
I haven't time for a more detailed crit, Alison, but this is good.

One thing threw me out of the story because it felt as if I was reading a story and suddenly given a history book to read.

After the reformation Castle Furca was given to the Bothwell family in recognition of their loyalty to the King, rebuilt following the Acts of Union, 1707, it was a magnificent six storey baronial style sandstone structure topped by a riot of turrets, crow-stepped gables and conical roofs.
The ground upon which the Castle stood sloped gently down to the river’s brink, its silver sheen over shadowed by overhanging boughs of birch and ash and nodding birch.


I also felt a flashback to Braveheart with the conversation between Marcus and Sarah here and I'm not sure if it is a good or bad thing. :-\

She was sure it was a lie. “So he’ll claim his right…what did you call it?”

“Jus primae noctis.”

Magnus held her to him; she endured his embrace hoping he did not want to take her again.

“What do you think, Sarah? Has Bothwell not claimed the right to deflower the young bride of any of his vassal’s so far?”

    “Is that what it means?” Her eyes widened with terror.

 “The law of first night, Sarah. Where have you been? Didn’t your mother tell you anything?”


Well done

Ma :)