Author Topic: Please critique my first chapter of Blood Moon- word count: 1340  (Read 225 times)

Offline Skald--of--jorvik

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Blood Moon is an historical romance novel set during the 9th century Viking expansion into England.

My WIP, Blood Moon, explores the impact of the Great Heathen Army in 9th century England from dual perspectives. A young Norse warrior, Balder, and a young Saxon girl, Aefre. Balder is a young man who finds begins questioning his pagan identity when he meets Aefre, a fierce yet fragile young girl who is torn between her passion for Balder and the loyalty of her domineering father. As the two seek to build a secretive relationship, amongst the backdrop of a community divided they discover that sacrifices must be made.

*Content warning: the story includes depictions of violence and references to sexual violence*

I'm a newbie here and would appreciate any feedback- especially regarding the flow of the narrative and the portrayal of the characters. The first chapter intends to set up themes and introduce the two main characters.

Winter

The memory of Odin’s death lived on in the Northmen who had never witnessed the event first hand. They didn’t need to. Each person’s personal imagination had recreated the scene countless times. The memory was bold and vivid: Odin’s body, hanging from the tree of life against a crimson sky, the spear protruding from his side, blood pouring, teeth grinding and sweat dripping was as real to the pagans as the stray grey hairs in the beard of their fathers.
 
Of course, the question never asked was why his death had etched its way into their souls so deeply. And, as with so many questions, there are no easy answers. For Balder, it emphasised something he would grow to learn: some truths can only be uncovered following sacrifice.

As Balder took his first steps on the beaches at East Anglia, thousands of miles away, Odin’s sacrifice was nearly completely forgotten and replaced. In the heart of wild moorlands, bogs and forest, a small village was tucked within a large clearing near to the river Fosse. Here, Odin’s death was little more than a once forgotten spectre. Instead the villagers had their own stories like the lightning strike of the ancient oak tree: the Dead Tree. The villagers believed it to be as old as the earth itself. Within its bark was a large cavity from where it had once been set ablaze from a lightning strike. For a hundred years the so called Dead Tree would stand as each villager born beneath the shadow of the tree would remember blaze strongly and boldly as the features on their loved ones faces. Children were christened beside it, the dead were buried beneath it and as Aefre intently watched her Fador speak to the rest of the villagers, she knew the guilty would be hanged from its branches.
The prisoner wept. Her Fador stood beside him, towering over him like a king, proud, firm and terrible. Beside him the priest stood expressionless.

“Let us see your hands.”

"I pray, please. I am innocent.”

The accused whimpered, his dirty face was streamed in tears. Despite the ferocity of her fador, she felt sorry for him. Was he guilty? Perhaps his only crime was being a slave. His wife clutched at her young child and begged his innocence. But her pleas were inconsequential.

The man’s fate decided entirely upon God’s discretion.

“Hold out your hands, let us witness God’s judgement.” Her father said, as he said this, his left hand gently touched the hilt of his sword.  Her breath caught in her chest as she watched. The priest carefully unwrapped the hands of the prisoner.

“Guilty.” The priest said boldly and lifted the man’s hands to the crowd for all to see. His palms had been seared, his bright red skin shinning in the sunlight.

“NO!” The man screamed as his weight gave way and he tumbled to the ground. “I beseech you, I am innocent!”

“A liar as well as a thief.” Her Fador snarled.

Aefre didn’t move. Did he feel any remorse for the slave? Probably not, she decided. Her father was a proud man, too proud to make mistakes. Everyone admired him and she was always lost in his shadow. She envied her brothers, who seemed to so easily make him swell with patriarchal pride. Hopelessly, she longed to step out of his shadow and prove to him that she could burn as brightly as her brothers.

Aefre was often reminded that her freckled skin and bright red hair was a sign of her unruly nature, something which she knew made her ugly to the core. Despite the reminders, she would secretly pretended that she was beautiful, just as she imagined her mother had been.

Something caught her attention, a discomfort between her legs. Something was happening. Something was dripping down her leg. Quietly, she slipped away. No one noticed her leave, people rarely noticed her at all. She slipped into the woods which surrounded the village and when she felt she was safe she pulled up her skirts. Gasping, her heart began to pound, there was blood between her legs, falling in perfect streams down her thighs. Panicking, she began to cry with horror and repulsion and grabbed whatever leaves she could and tried to clean away the blood.
At first panic struck her. She had no idea what was happening. No one had ever told her what to expect. Her first thought was that it was the mischief of the Ælfa  with their cruel tricks. Or perhaps she was a demon, ready to shed her human façade as a snake sheds its own skin.

Later, she would find her friend, Meghan and reveal her fears. Meghan shrugged her fears away. “Didn’t anyone ever tell you? It is a sign that you have grown. You are no longer little Aefre, God has selected you ready for marriage.”
She knew these words were supposed to calm her, but she struggled to see a future where she was wedded beneath the Dead Tree. It seemed far more likely that she would hang beside the prisoner, lifelessly swaying in the wind beneath its branches.

Meanwhile Balder, young and thirsty for violence, listened eagerly. He stood with his comrades confidently and proud. The Saxons were visibly shivering with fright at the sight of them.

Eric spoke to them. He was a fearsome sight to behold. Covered with thick fur, armour and weaponry. “Yield and you shall live, your village shall remain standing and your women will remain whole.”

Their meek leader began to bow, “What are your terms... um… precisely?”

“Conquest.”

“Here?” his voice became unnaturally high.

“No, north. I have certain plans.”

“Oh, good. Yes. We yield and can give you horses.” He wearily glanced at the army standing behind him. “Lots of horses. Good, fast, strong horses. You’ll be where you need to be before you know it.”

“We’re staying here.”

His face fell. “Oh. I see…”

“For the winter.”

“Oh,” his face brightened again.

“Anyone would believe that you did not want to be our hosts.” Eric laughed, the army copied. It was an intimating sound. The leader laughed nervously. “Do not fear. I do not want to kill you. I would. But I don’t want to, so keep me and mine happy and there’s no need to fear. I assure you, you’re doing well. Now, yield.”

The leader signalled his own men and bowed low. Every single Saxon in the vicinity bowed their heads towards them like the sea crashing its waves into a cliff.

It was a victory, but Balder could not help but ignore the pang of disappointment. He was ready to fight, to main, to kill. Ready to do whatever it took to gain a place in Valhalla.

As he set up his tent near to his friends he was drawn to a booming voice nearby. The voice belonged to a red faced man with bleached blonde hair, the dark kohl was smudged beneath his eyes making them dazzle whilst his grin each from the centre of Asgard to the edge of the earth. He had a rabbit over the spit and was singing a bawdy song much to the amusement of his nearby colleagues.

“Are you well boy?” he said to Balder.

“Yes, thank you.” Balder replied.

“Hakon.” He introduced himself.  “No doubt you are disappointed.”

Balder nodded. “Balder.”

“Your time will come.” He said wisely. He motioned to his thrall to pour him a drink . “Want one?”

“Yes, thank you.” Balder pulled up a stool and seated himself beside his speaker.

“Are you from a raiding family?”

“Yes. My father captured his glory in the Mediterranean some twenty years ago.”

“Your sword looks new, it is not your fathers?”

Balder nearly blushed. “It is a long story.”

“We have time.” Hakon grinned.

“I have no wish to take that time.” Balder replied with a grim smile.

“Ah.” Hakon seemed to understand.

“Have you raided before?”

“Yes. Many times.” Hakon said.

“And killed?”

“Many men. This is why I know you have nothing to worry about. You shall see. You will spend so much time waiting for you first spatter of blood. If you are good, you will live long enough to spill enough to fill a fjord.”

Balder nodded. Somewhat reassured.

Hakon laughed, “Trust me all will be as it should be. It is the natural way of the world. Women give life, men take it away. Your time will come.”
The whole of life is just like watching a film. Only it’s as though you always get in ten minutes after the big picture has started, and no-one will tell you the plot, so you have to work it out all yourself from the clues- Terry Pratchett

Offline JTetstone

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Re: Please critique my first chapter of Blood Moon- word count: 1340
« Reply #1 on: March 03, 2021, 01:07:33 PM »
Skald, your first chapter captured my attention all the way to the end. It's a well written story. I hope to read more of your writing.   jt
I was born and raised wearing hand me down shoes and clothes-but I was richer by far than those who thought themselves 'my betters.'  I'd take love over riches and fame any day.

Offline Skald--of--jorvik

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Re: Please critique my first chapter of Blood Moon- word count: 1340
« Reply #2 on: March 03, 2021, 05:58:56 PM »
Thank you so much for taking the time to read my chapter and your feedback. You have left me grinning from ear to ear.   :D
The whole of life is just like watching a film. Only it’s as though you always get in ten minutes after the big picture has started, and no-one will tell you the plot, so you have to work it out all yourself from the clues- Terry Pratchett

Offline JTetstone

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Re: Please critique my first chapter of Blood Moon- word count: 1340
« Reply #3 on: March 03, 2021, 06:23:09 PM »
You welcome, Skald. I hope one day to see your book in print....  best of luck.
I was born and raised wearing hand me down shoes and clothes-but I was richer by far than those who thought themselves 'my betters.'  I'd take love over riches and fame any day.

Offline Rowan Adams

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Re: Please critique my first chapter of Blood Moon- word count: 1340
« Reply #4 on: March 08, 2021, 12:45:43 PM »
I really liked your writing style. Vivid and evocative.

The only thing that confused me a little was the switch from Baldor to Aefre’s points of view. Am I right they are in different places? I wonder if that can be made clearer. But this might just be me being a bit thick!

Offline Skald--of--jorvik

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Re: Please critique my first chapter of Blood Moon- word count: 1340
« Reply #5 on: March 09, 2021, 07:14:26 AM »
Thank you so much for your kind feedback   :D

You're not being thick at all. They are in different places and I had wondered whether the perspective switch was clear so your feedback really helps me think about how I may format the chapter moving forwards.

 :D
The whole of life is just like watching a film. Only it’s as though you always get in ten minutes after the big picture has started, and no-one will tell you the plot, so you have to work it out all yourself from the clues- Terry Pratchett

Offline Miguel Flores

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Re: Please critique my first chapter of Blood Moon- word count: 1340
« Reply #6 on: March 14, 2021, 06:46:35 PM »
It's a very interesting story. I love Viking stories. Maybe it would be an interesting movie?  ::)

Offline Skald--of--jorvik

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Re: Please critique my first chapter of Blood Moon- word count: 1340
« Reply #7 on: March 15, 2021, 03:21:13 AM »
Thank you so much for your time and feedback! I'd certainly like to think it'd make a good movie but I may be a tad on the biased side haha  ;D
The whole of life is just like watching a film. Only it’s as though you always get in ten minutes after the big picture has started, and no-one will tell you the plot, so you have to work it out all yourself from the clues- Terry Pratchett