Author Topic: Reposting properly: The Keep 1770 words  (Read 93 times)

Offline aliciakay

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Reposting properly: The Keep 1770 words
« on: September 01, 2019, 01:31:33 AM »
When I first posted this, I inadvertently posted before I could reformat and add the word count.  Here is the same thing, hopefully formatted properly to make it a bit easier to read.

The Keep

Adan had only been up for a day when his father summoned him, sending his brothers and a knife.

Still fever weak, he had not yet been permitted to return to the healers’ quarters and was sitting on a cot in the sick ward struggling to bandage his arm. Changing the dressing over the gash in his side had been easy enough, though the pain had made him slow, but the jagged, oozing gash on his right arm begged careful binding, and his left hand was not accustomed to the work.  He was so focused on his task that he didn’t notice the other men watching him from the doorway until one of them snorted dismissively and then spoke.

“Well, you’re certainly making a mess of that,” he said.

 Adan abruptly dropped the bandage he had been holding and looked up.  “Jarod?” he queried incredulously.
His brother did not immediately reply. He was standing in the doorway, hands on his hips and  lips pursed, surveying the room with the assured air of a man who is accustomed to giving commands but seldom needs to follow them.   Jarod was short but wide and muscular.  His body seemed designed both for absorbing blows without harm and giving them with impunity. There was a hardness about him drawn in the gray cast of his weathered skin magnified by the unevenness of his pitted, pox scarred face.  His dark, wavy hair was unruly and thick enough to appear windblown no matter how still the day or how nearby the brush, contributing to the lasting impression he left of a man whose strength comes from a certain wildness that while held tightly in check, is always simmering somewhere beneath the surface.   Normally clean shaven, his face was darkened by several day’s stubble and there was a hint of pallor around his eyes.

Jarod was trailed by Lucas, the head healer of the watch, who was wringing his hands and puffing.  A short, apple barrel shaped man, Lucas seemed to be even more agitated and out of breath than usual.  He crept gingerly past Jarod, but then emboldened by that success, moved purposefully toward Adan’s bed.

 “I’ll see to his arm immediately, “ Lucas said, in the clipped rhythm of a man trying to project efficiency, though his face was red and his brow quivered.  A visit from the lord’s son was not a common occurrence in the healing house.
 
Jarod took a step forward, “No!,” he said and though he did not raise his voice, there was a distinct edge to his words. Lucas froze. “I’ll do it,” Jarod said, brushing his hand through the air as if batting away a fly from the rim of a glass, “Leave us!”  Lucas turned and after muttering something that Adan couldn’t quite hear, retreated quickly.

Jarod sat down on the healer’s stool next to the bed, and picked up the bandage Adan had dropped.  “Give me your arm,” he said.  Adan did not move.  He just sat staring at his brother, transfixed, as if examining his brother’s continence could somehow help make sense of his presence. For a moment Adan wondered if the scene before him was a mirage, and he had unknowingly lapsed into yet another fever dream.

Adan hadn’t been in the same room as his brother for nearly seven years.  When he was little more than a baby, his hip had been broken in a fall and he would always walk with a pronounced limp.  When the time came for him to begin training in earnest with a sword, he had instead been banished from the keep and apprenticed in the healing house.  “You’ll never move quickly enough to fight well,” his father had said, his voice tinged with a mixture of contempt and pity, “At least there you might be of some real use.” 

“Idiot,” Jarod said slapping Adan on the thigh, “Give me your arm!” The slap shocked Adan out of his stupor, although neither it nor the insult had any real sting.    In fact, Jarod’s voice was affable enough. His manner was that of man at his ease with someone he valued, not that of a lord binding the wounds of a common man he hardly knew.  The familiarity felt awkward, like a boot that was laced tightly enough but on the wrong foot.  Adan had been left in the healing house for all those years without once being called back to the keep and had long ago stopped thinking of himself as a lord’s son or anyone’s brother.

Fighting men do not have a healer’s knowledge of herbs and fevers, but they learn to manage bandaging wounds well enough, and Jarod knew what he was doing. He worked silently and efficiently and though his rough, scarred skin gave his hands the appearance of wood dry enough to burn;
his touch was surprisingly gentle. Still the arm pained from the attention, and Adan drew in his breath trying not to wince.  He did not want Jarod to see him wince.

Jarod was nearly finished when another of Adan’s brothers, also wholly unexpected,  burst in the room.  He had a large bundle in one hand and Adan’s boots in the other. He did not even acknowledge the younger man but instead tossed the bundle unceremoniously down on the empty cot next to his brother’s, dropped the boots on the floor and stood over Jarod’s shoulders as if ready to inspect his work.  Adan had often heard it said that his father’s sons always favored their mothers. Though he was the only child of his father’s third wife and had so had never seen either of his brothers’ mothers, it seemed to him that the saying must hold true.  Certainly, Arameth did not look as if he came from the same stock as Jarod, in fact he did not resemble him in the least.  He was much taller, lighter skinned and thinner.  There was a sort of elegance about his bearing and he had thin, fine features. The bones in his fingers were so long and slender that his hands reminded Adan of bat’s wings. It was easier to imagine him playing a harp than wielding a sword, though the impression was misleading.  Arameth, Adan knew, was a renown swordsman.

“Well that took you long enough,” Jarod commented without turning around.
 
 “I’m not sure it was worth the effort of finding my way through this labyrinth,” Arameth replied, “He doesn’t have much of use.”  He walked over to the cot and undid the bundle, taking out Adan’s best tunic and readying it on the bed.  The only other contents were a comb and his healer’s pouch.  Adan was momentarily dismayed both by how few of his belongings Arameth judged to be “of use” and the fact that his brother had the temerity to make the judgement in the first place.  He was about to protest when Arameth drew a knife out of his own sash and laid it next to the tunic.

It was a fine blade, forged by a craftsman who evidently cared for his work.  There were three stones laid into the hilt, two green, one red and an intricate carving danced on the leather around them, though Adan could not see it clearly enough at a distance to tell exactly of what. The knife had been polished carefully and gleamed resplendent in the soft, late afternoon light. It was definitely not the knife of a common man.   Suddenly, Adan started to make some sense of it all.

“Something’s changed,” he said, looking up from the knife at Arameth.

But it was Jarod who replied. “Yes,” he said, drawing in a hard breath and then letting it out again slowly before continuing, “Kelvin was killed the same day you were wounded. Last week, the fever took Idris.  And just two days past, Rand lost his footing and fell to his death.”

“So you see, brother,” Arameth said addressing  Adan directly for the first time, “Our father has discovered that six sons aren’t the excess that he once thought and finds that perhaps he might have use for his youngest, after all.”  There was more than a touch of sarcasm in his voice.  Jarod turned around quickly toward Arameth and with a hard look and a slight shake of his head, silenced him.

“He returns in three days and wants you brought before him.  We are here to take you to the keep.  So, get dressed.  I’ll help if need be,” Jarod said picking up Adan’s boots and loosening the laces.

But except for the boots that Jarod ended up bending down to tie for him, Adan did not need any help.  He did move slowly though, in part to take pains with his wounds, but mainly because of the weight of what he had just been told.  He had hardly known Kelvin, his father’s heir.  It seemed somehow fitting enough that he died in battle though; Adan vaguely remembered him as being short tempered and always fighting someone.    Idris’ death also was not surprising.  The fever, a healer knew, touched the sons of lords in equal measure to those of chambermaids and this year he had seen the fever take many.   But Rand?  Of all of his brothers Rand was the closest in age to Adan.  Adan remembered following him everywhere devotedly  as if the elder boy had candy in his pocket.   Rand had a dancer’s slender but powerful body.  He was intelligent, careful and quick.  It was hard to imagine him tripping at all, let alone dying because of it.

Once Adan was dressed, he clumsily tied the knife into the sash around his waist.  It banged awkwardly against his hip.

“Do you think you can sit a horse?” Jarod asked frowning as he noted the hesitation in Adan’s first, careful strides.

“Yes,” Adan replied with a healer’s assurance although he added with just a little hesitation, glancing down at his tunic, “though the wound in my side may seep a little”.

“No matter,” Jarod said with another impatient movement of his hand, “You can’t’ wear that in our father’s court, anyhow.  We’ll have to find you something else before he returns.  Bleed if you must.”

“Just don’t faint,” Arameth interjected,” “I wouldn’t much relish carrying you.  Who would have every guessed that you’d end up being so tall?

And so it was in the summer of his nineteenth year that Adan, the sixth son of Kel lord of the keep, left the healing house forever with his two remaining brothers standing to either side so they might, if necessary, steady him.

Offline Contrapasso

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Re: Reposting properly: The Keep 1770 words
« Reply #1 on: September 07, 2019, 10:17:46 PM »
Quote
Adan had only been up for a day when his father summoned him, sending his brothers and a knife.
Personally, I wouldn't start an opening sentence with a present participle like 'had been', although it is grammatically correct, it throws back to a past yet introduced. I would suggest using a simple past tense. The sentence also reads like an incomplete clause; 'a knife...and what?' and there is a confusion between brothers and knife, as if the father had 'commanded' the brothers and the knife [as a sentient thing]. Consider breaking and rewriting this sentence.

Still fever weak, [I like this expression] he had not yet been permitted to return to the healers’ [ irregular plural -healer's]quarters and was sitting on a cot in the sick ward struggling to bandage his arm. Changing the dressing over the gash in his side had been easy enough, though the pain had made him slow, but the jagged, oozing gash on his right arm begged careful binding, and his left hand was not accustomed to the work. [Consider breaking the sentence up. "..had made him slow. But/The..."]  He was so focused on his task that he didn’t notice the other men watching him from the doorway until one of them snorted dismissively and then spoke. [commas needed]
“Well, you’re certainly making a mess of that,” he said.
 Adan abruptly dropped the bandage he had been holding and looked up.  [break] “Jarod?” he queried incredulously.
His brother did not immediately reply. He was standing in the doorway, hands on his hips and  lips pursed [a bit gay? consider the image.], surveying the room with the assured air of a man [active voice: man a with an assured air] who is accustomed to giving commands but seldom needs to follow them.   Jarod was short but wide and muscular.  His body seemed designed both for absorbing blows without harm and giving them with impunity. There was a hardness about him drawn in the gray cast of his weathered skin magnified by the unevenness of his pitted, pox scarred face. [commas]  His dark, wavy hair was unruly and thick enough to appear windblown no matter how still the day or how nearby the brush, [also rather gay. No bias, good, for gay fiction. But is this what you're going for? ] contributing to the lasting impression he left of a man whose strength comes from a certain wildness that while held tightly in check, is always simmering somewhere beneath the surface. [makes absolutely no sense, consider a rewrite] Normally clean shaven, his face was darkened by several day’s stubble and there was a hint of pallor around his eyes. [....]

I'll try to critique more tomorrow.
« Last Edit: September 08, 2019, 12:33:03 AM by Contrapasso »

Offline aliciakay

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Re: Reposting properly: The Keep 1770 words
« Reply #2 on: September 08, 2019, 01:46:44 AM »
Thanks for the detailed commentary!
I will think about your comments and look forward to your continued critique when you have the time.