Author Topic: Prologue - The Escape 1418 Words  (Read 588 times)

Offline Thee1bookworm

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Prologue - The Escape 1418 Words
« on: April 04, 2017, 12:21:59 AM »
Rough, rough draft of an idea I've had spinning around in my head for a while now. Usually I forget, but this one just keeps building and getting better. Let me know what you think!

Prologue – The Escape

The sky had long since grown dark, stars twinkling through the opened windows of her chambers. A slight breeze weaved its way through the room, carrying the with it the words and sounds from the crowds that still walked the streets below the castle.

“Long live the King! Long live the King!” The irony in the words caused Aderyn’s heart to twist painfully. King Marcellus, Ruler of Toscya and Aderyn’s father, had been killed in battle a fortnight ago. Murdered, within his own castle, by the Betrayer, an evil man who had managed to escape.
Today marked the final day of the week long funeral festivities, having laid her father in his final resting place that very afternoon. The celebration was meant to commemorate the King’s life, death, and rebirth. The grand tomb meant to protect his body while his soul was reborn. It was supposed to be a happy time, despite the obvious loss.

Aderyn could not find any joy in her heart today. Instead, she gazed upon the burning fireplace in her sitting room, eyes unfocused, lost in the horrors of her past and the uncertainty of her future. A goblet of wine perched, untouched, in her hand. A sudden, sharp rapping noise on her door caused her to jump, sloshing the contents of her goblet over the sides. Crinkling her nose, she quickly placed the goblet on the table and wiped her hand on her gown.

“Yes?” She called out, once her hand was somewhat dried.

“The Queen Mother, Your Highness.” Her guard called through the large, oak door. Aderyn let out a soft sigh, standing from her seat before the fire, while subconsciously smoothing the wrinkles from her gown.

“Let her in.” She responded as she turned to face the door. The large doors opened, propelled by two guards, as Queen Theda swept into the room. Quickly making her way over to her daughter, she took Aderyn into her arms. Her mother’s loving embrace did nothing to soothe the battle within her soul. Once she was released, both women sat down, the Queen still firmly grasping Aderyn’s right hand, thumb absently tracing a small, star shaped mark on the back of her thumb.

“How are you, my daughter?” The Queen asked, worried eyes searching Aderyn’s face. The Queen’s own youthful appearance had been replaced, filled instead with shadows and wrinkles. Aderyn was certain they hadn’t been there before her father’s death. Pale grey eyes, much like her own, stared at her with worry, and she silently wondered if her own eyes held the same haunted look.

“As well as can be expected, I suppose.” She responded instead, turning her gaze back to the fireplace. The Queen appeared contemplative for a moment before responding.

“As a mother, I had hoped you would be much, much older before this kind of tragedy entered your life. Yet, here you are, having just faced unimaginable horrors. Fatherless, before you are even old enough to take his place.” The Queen paused, her voice wavering. A single tear rolled down her cheek as she drew the strength to continue. “But, by some miracle, you survived. You made it out, and I know it doesn’t feel like it today, but one day you will look back and realize you were made stronger because of it.”

Queen Theda firmly grasped Aderyn’s chin, forcing eye contact. A soft, sad smile graced her lips. “I am very proud of you, daughter, as I’m sure your father would’ve been as well.”

Aderyn winced, twisting her chin out of her mother’s grasp. “If you say so.”

The Queen sighed, gently squeezing Aderyn’s hand before letting go and standing up, leaning over to place a kiss on Aderyn’s cheek. “Grieve tonight, my daughter. For tomorrow, there is much to do. I will send in Reya to help you prepare for bed.”

Aderyn nodded slightly in acknowledgement as her mother left for her own rooms. Soon after, a plain light-haired girl entered the room, nightgown in one hand and brush in the other. Aderyn stood up and Reya made her way over, quickly and efficiently removing the elegant gown Aderyn had worn all day. Once the nightgown was on, Aderyn sat before the vanity while her lifelong friend released the pins from her hair, causing her long, black curls to tumble down her back. As Reya grabbed the brush, Aderyn looked herself over in the mirror.

Dead eyes stared back at her, framed by long, thick bangs. Dark circles under her eyes contrasted with her creamy white skin, the full pout of her lips turned into a slight frown. Quickly, she looked away before she could recognize the emotions on her face. Grief. Anger. Regret. Plucking at the sleeve of her nightgown, Aderyn tried to clear her mind while Reya finished her task.

At long last, Reya pulled her hair into a braid, same as she had done every night for the past 10 years. Gathering the brush and the discarded gown, she turned to Aderyn.

 “Is there anything else you require, Milady?” She asked, her voice soft. Aderyn shook her head.

“No, Reya, thank you. You may retire.” Aderyn stated. With a small bow, Reya began to make her way to the door.

“Wait!” Aderyn cried at the last second, just as Reya grabbed the handle. Getting up, Aderyn strode across the room, throwing her arms around the startled girl. “Thank you, Reya. I appreciate everything you’ve ever done for me.”

The petite blonde hesitantly returned the embrace, careful of the belongings in her arms as she responded, “Of course, Your Highness. It is my honor.”

Another small bow, and Aderyn was left alone in her rooms. Waiting a few moments, she listened closely to the sounds in the hallway before twirling around and walking quickly to her bed. Once there, she kneeled, and with trembling hands she retrieved the items she had hidden there days prior. Shirt and breeches quickly replaced her nightgown, with a binding underneath to hide her breasts. A leather sack she opened to verify its contents; enough food and water to last a few days, as well as some coins and jewels to barter with. Once she was sure it was all there, she tied the sack to her belt and reached under her bed once more, this time pulling out a long wooden staff, wrapped in a dark cloak with matching gloves.

Placing the staff on her bed, she hurriedly pulled the gloves on her hands before grabbing the cloak, which she had half on when the staff began its quick descent to the floor. In her haste, she had accidentally pulled the staff off the bed, resulting in a loud, resounding thwack. She immediately flinched and froze, listening carefully to the sounds outside her door. Moments later, a loud rapping noise was heard as the guard stationed outside her door attempted to investigate the noise.

“You’re Highness? Is all well?” He called through the door. Every curse she knew ran through her mind.

“Y-yes! Everything is fine. I just dropped… something.” She trailed off, unable to come up with a valid item in such short time and hoping he wouldn’t notice. She gave a sigh of relief when he responded, wishing her a good night and returning to his station. Still mentally cursing her clumsiness, she put her other arm into the cloak before grabbing the staff and silently making her way over to one of the tapestries that adorned her bedroom walls. Pulling it from the wall, she glanced into the dark opening that lay hidden behind it. Turning back to her room, she took in every little detail, committing it to memory. Doubt and fear began to worm its way in her heart and she uneasily began to question the path she was about to take.

You must go, my child. A soft, female voice floated through her mind, reassuring and calm. Steeling her resolve, she cast one last glance about the room before silently heading down the dark, narrow passage way.

A while later, Aderyn found herself in a shop cellar, just outside the castle walls. The shop was closed, it’s owners no doubt honoring their late King. Once she was sure no one outside was paying attention, she drew the hood of her cloak over her head and exited the store, standing beside the still busy street. With one, final look towards the castle she had called home, Princess Aderyn slipped into the crowd and disappeared.



hillwalker3000

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Re: Prologue - The Escape 1418 Words
« Reply #1 on: April 04, 2017, 11:18:56 AM »
Many on here despise Prologues. They have a bad press. Would it not work just as well if you retitled it Chapter 1 - The Escape?

Anyway, I'll comment as I read through, if I may:

Openings are important. As well as grabbing the reader's full attention (hopefully), they give the reader some indication of the author's style of writing. Kicking off with the weather is never a good idea because it's a cliché. Similarly, over-describing is a bad habit. Aren't all breezes 'slight'? And 'words and sounds' from the crowd - I'd suggest you don't need both.

The writing's clean and well presented. But the pace is painfully slow. I'm not sure I'm ready yet for an explanation of how the king died, who killed him, and why they're celebrating his death. These details can be drip-fed into the story as it unravels. I'm more interested in Aderyn and what's going to happen to her next.

You can probably lose the next scene as well.
A goblet of wine perched, untouched, in her hand. A sudden, sharp rapping noise on her door caused her to jump, sloshing the contents of her goblet over the sides. Crinkling her nose, she quickly placed the goblet on the table and wiped her hand on her gown.
It's rather trivial. Someone knocks the door. The reader instantly wishes to know who's there.

“Yes?” She called out, once her hand was somewhat dried.
'somewhat'?? Why this pussyfooting about?
“The Queen Mother, Your Highness.” Her guard called through the large irrelevant, oak door. Aderyn let out a soft sigh, standing from her seat before the fire, while subconsciously smoothing the wrinkles from her gown More choreography. When there's so much, it loses any effectiveness in portraying her mood..
Aren't all sighs 'soft' btw?

I'll admit, I skim read the rest because the mother-daughter conversation is a test of anyone's patience. The best I can say is, it's inconsequential. There's no conflict, no sense of drama. It's rather too predictable and formulaic. In my opinion the story doesn't even start until we see her removing her clothing from underneath her bed. Finally, something is about to happen. Admittedly, there's a great deal more choreography to endure before Aderyn escapes into the street. Your chapter heading could be construed as misleading since the actual escape scene can be condensed into a single paragraph.

The problem is, most readers won't have got as far as this important scene. They'll skim read the first paragraph, maybe even the first page, then they'll put the book back on the shelf because it's failed to ignite their interest. Your job as a writer is to tell Aderyn's story, but also to make your audience desperate to continue reading. So far, this is put-downable.

Just one opinion, use or lose.

H3K

Offline C P Adrian

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Re: Prologue - The Escape 1418 Words
« Reply #2 on: April 04, 2017, 09:12:45 PM »
It looks to me as though you've got quite a lot of the story, background and characters sorted out in your mind, which is a really good thing in lots of ways, but I think it's working against you in this opening section. I'm guessing that Aderyn's story will be an exciting one. There's plenty of scope for conflict and struggle in the future. The problem for me is that I think you are giving us too much background information before you get us hooked with the story. I agree with what H3K has written about the story really getting going with the clothes under the bed.

Something that I've come to understand is that, when we want to make something exciting and pacy, short sentences are better than long ones. I think you could split some of your longer sentences in the preparation for the escape and also lose some of the redundant words. For example "Placing the staff on her bed, she hurriedly pulled the gloves on her hands before grabbing the cloak, which she had half on when the staff began its quick descent to the floor. In her haste, she had accidentally pulled the staff off the bed, resulting in a loud, resounding thwack. She immediately flinched and froze, listening carefully to the sounds outside her door." could become something like Placing the staff on her bed, she hurriedly pulled on her gloves. (gloves only go on hands so no need for mention of them) As she grabbed the cloak there was a resounding crack as the staff fell to the floor. You can do a better job of editing that than I have, but I hope it conveys what I mean.

Lastly, after too much detailed description in the early part, I would have liked to know more about how she got from the dark passageway to the closed shop. I'm sure there were plenty of obstacles and scares as she made her way down a dark passageway in fear of being discovered.

I think you've probably got a good story to tell here, but getting us hooked and keeping the pace up will make me want to read it more.

Thanks for posting.

CPA

Offline AssetMB

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Re: Prologue - The Escape 1418 Words
« Reply #3 on: April 07, 2017, 12:15:13 PM »
Okay, these are just my opinion/thoughts:

The opening doesn't grab me. Weather is boring and I've always heard the best way to start a story is to jump in as far as you can. I agree with hillwalker3000, Prologues have a bad reputation - but this really does sound like a prologue. By which I mean, fairly unnecessary. Everything contained within are things that could be inserted smoothly into the story later on, but has been placed here as nothing more than backstory. It seems your intent is to tell the reader about the King's death and to show Aderyn's sadness; couldn't you do that after she's escaped, when she's apparently incognito in the streets? It would give a much more intimate view of the festivities you mention and she could have more of a reaction than sitting sadly in a chair. There's a lot more opportunity there.

Personally, the descriptions of her sadness also get to me, but not in a good way. They sound overdramatic, and what's more, does not make me feel bad for her. Her sadness is relegated to sighing, sitting lost in thought, and descriptions telling me she's sad. You do a lot of telling, in fact.

When she spills her wine and then wipes it on her gown, I just want to be clear - most wines stain. Is this a sign she doesn't care for her appearance or her things? Or was that unintentional?

I like that the mother seems caring. I can't tell if Aderyn's avoidance of her is because of the cliche'd relationship fantasy heroines tend to have with their mother's, or supposed to be a sign of her sadness. Their conversation is also a little boring, and very stereotypical. I've heard its variation a hundred different times. The mother also makes it sound like Aderyn was personally there during the attack, which makes me instantly curious to know more about it, but that's the only time it's mentioned or hinted at.

I'm not fond of a protagonist's appearance being given by them looking at themselves, but I do like that you kept it short and didn't use descriptions that made me want to roll my eyes.

At the end, when she hears the feminine voice, I also can't tell if that's just a thought, remembering something someone said, or something more.

Overall, I don't get much of a feel for Aderyn's personality, and what I do get is pretty standard. This sounds like the usual fantasy story, with a heroine who (might not) care for dresses, doesn't have a close relationship with her parents, and sneaks out while hiding her identity. I'm assuming the story has to do with her father's death and perhaps the plot behind it, but I don't know. I'm afraid that, for me, I probably would have skipped through pretty quickly and, if I didn't become captured a little further in, would have put this down.
I recommend skipping straight to where this chapter ends - you really don't need this prologue. I think it could potentially be much more interesting if you did that.