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Cedric Frost
January 29th, 2002, 01:02 AM
I attempted to submit this on the site, but I think I must have done it wrong because I don't see it in the list. I would be grateful to read your comments and feedback. This is my first attempt at putting some ideas on paper. I rather enjoyed telling this part of the story, I just don't know what the rest of the story is about yet.

Anyway, thanks in advance for your comments.

PS: To the admins and mods: I apologize if I have gone about this wrong, I am still rather new to sffworld and trying to find my way around. Thanks for your patience.




Prologue: The Moment

Cold.

Straining his eyes to pierce the darkness unfolding around him, he peered intently at the horizon, and then down at the road below. It wouldnít be long now.

Waiting was the most difficult part of the hunt. Perched on the limb of a tree, struggling to stay warm against the biting night air, he had always hated the waiting. But in the waiting was the money. And where there was money, he found his salvation.

It was the jerky movement of the horse that caught his eye first. In the distance, a tiny black spec was growing against the skyline. Not long now.

Time slowed, the cold forgotten, as the man concentrated intently on his prey. He could make out the rider now. Swaying rhythmically to the horses canter, his body balanced precariously on its back. The riderís cloak billowed out over the horseís flanks, and his hood was drawn down masking his face.

A pang of anxiety swept through him as he realized that this might not be his prey. Hours of waiting, and now, how could he be sure. He glared at the rider through the darkness, as if by sheer will alone he would see through the cloak. Then he saw it. A pendant of gold reflecting brightly off the moonlight, hung at the riderís neck. The man sighed with relief, confident at last that the moment was at hand.

Silently and smoothly, he un-slung his crossbow and notched the first bolt. With luck the only bolt. Clenching and unclenching his hand on the stock of the bow, he peered down the shaft and through the sight of the weapon at the approaching rider. Nestled high above the road below, the man positively stirred with anticipation. This was the moment he loved. Just before a kill, when adrenaline coursed through his veins causing his heart to pound so loud that he thought he might go deaf from the sound. The moment. The rush. This was why he loved his job.

The rider was closer now, his pendant shining like a beacon in the night or a target hanging from his neck. The man smiled at the thought. Yes, a target. The man leaned into the butt of the bow, and fought to steady his breathing. His head was throbbing and he could barely keep from shaking. Almost there.

When the rider and horse were within a few yards of the man, he squeezed the trigger of the bow. The bolt seemed to burst from the weapon like a thunderclap in the sky. Although he couldnít see the shaft charging for the prey, he was witness to the results. The bolt hit its target hard and the rider was spun out of his saddle, hitting the ground below. Startled and now weightless, the terrified horse leapt into the air and raced further into the night.

Silence returned to the grove. Staring at the now still body of the rider, the man searched for any signs of life. Sensing none, he slipped the crossbow over his shoulder and slid from his perch to the hard ground below. He was paid for the kill, and that meant verifying that his victim was dead. Scanning the deserted road and seeing nothing, the man moved out of the thicket towards the rider. Although certain of what he would find, caution and experience warned him to take his time. Not knowing for sure where his bolt had struck, he could not afford to take for granted that the rider was dead. Drawing his dagger, the man stole across the clearing towards the motionless form.

He reached the body with a few quick steps. The rider had been taken from his horse so violently that he had been twisted around, and now lay face down on the dirt road. Finding no trace that the bolt had penetrated its mark, the man felt compelled to turn the rider over. The body was heavy, and the man had to work to get his foot under his victimís shoulder. Without warning the rider twisted to the right and kicked out at the legs of his attacker, knocking the man to the ground.

Wounded but not yet dead, the rider struggled against the pain coursing through his body, as he rose unsteadily to his feet. Reaching for his sword while fighting back the tears welling up in his eyes, he stared intently at his assailant.

As his sword scraped from its sheath, his eyes locked with those of his enemy, and for an instant, recognition and understanding passed between them. The would be assassin moved to his feet, and in one smooth motion drew his sword.

And so it was. The real battle was joined, each combatant trapped hopelessly by the moment, one to live and one to die.

The warriors launched into the calculated movements of two animals on the hunt, each circling the other, their swords gleaming in the moonlight, searching for the weakness of their opponent, waiting for the moment to turn. Seemingly without warning the pace changed, the swords flashed, and the men leapt across the imaginary circle separating them. The sounds of their swords colliding reverberated through the night air, and tiny sparks exploded with each successive blow. On and on they moved, back and forth through the glade, parry and thrust, two figures dancing by the light of the moon.

Cold sweat glistened on the riderís face and his hand had become cramped on the hilt of his sword. Each swing of his arm caused the assassinís bolt to shift, expanding the already gaping wound on his shoulder. Through exhaustion and the excruciating pain the rider tried to keep pace with his enemy but the force of each blow simply drew away what little energy remained. In desperation the rider searched his opponent for some unseen advantage. Finding none, he resigned himself to his fate. He would die.

A sudden calm swept over the rider, as if the very idea of dying would be an acceptable price to pay for his failure. With the resolve of one committed to death, the rider let his pain consume him. No longer fighting the impending loss of consciousness, he abruptly collapsed to his knees, his sword slipping from his grasp.

With imploring eyes he searched the face of his executioner one last time, hoping to find some sign of reprieve. Sensing none, he closed his eyes and waited for death to take him.

The assassinís lips curled into a smile that failed to mask his contempt for the rider. The moment was his once again. With a sweeping arc, the man swung his blade at the riderís neck and with one graceful motion cleaved his victimís head from his shoulders.

It was almost over.

Oblivious to the sight of the headless body, the man bent down and began searching his victim. He found the envelope hidden in a concealed pocket at the small of the riderís back, and holding it up to the moonlight, he confirmed that it was what he had come for. The man tucked the envelope into his pack and searched the rest of the lifeless rider.
Discovering nothing more of interest, the man stood and let out an audible sigh.

It was over.

As he turned to walk back towards his original perch, his eyes were drawn to the sight of the gold medallion that still hung around the severed neck of the dead rider. The man grabbed the pendant, pausing just long enough to consider the folk tales told to scare little children about the magical powers imbued in the locket. Having never actually confirmed the truth of such cautionary tales, the man felt confident that the stories could be ignored. With one last look behind him, the assassin strode quietly off into the darkness, his new pendant hanging from his neck.



[This message has been edited by Cedric Frost (edited January 29, 2002).]

Erebus
January 29th, 2002, 12:27 PM
Hi Cedric,

Your story was submitted to us last week and is in the queue awaiting processing. But, I guess we have no need to post it elsewhere now that you have put it here. We apologise for the delay, but submissions are normally posted within a fortnight. As you can imagine, we get hundreds of submissions to process, and at times, there just isn't enough hours in the day! http://www.sffworld.com/ubb/smile.gif

Cheers, Neil

Cedric Frost
January 30th, 2002, 12:33 AM
hmmm, err, guess I got a head of myself, sincere apologies. http://www.sffworld.com/ubb/smile.gif

I would still appreciate your posting it on the main site, as I would be grateful for the widest audience for people's comments. If it makes it easier, please feel free to delete this topic after reading.

Once again, my apologies.

Erebus
January 30th, 2002, 03:35 AM
No problem, Cedric, we'll get it into the story section as soon as we can. http://www.sffworld.com/ubb/smile.gif

Erebus
January 30th, 2002, 04:44 PM
I just read your submission, Cedric, and I really like your style. Of course, this is but a small snippet form a much larger piece, but you certainly have made an impressive start. (The story will appear in the Story section with the next site update.)

estranghero
January 30th, 2002, 05:53 PM
Pretty good, Frost. Like erebus said, you have a good style of writing. Loads of potential, really, and your writing per se is also good.

However, I think your work would flow better if you avoid the usual cliched sayings, e.g. 'his pendant shining like a beacon in the night'. (Though I like the addition to that phrase of 'or a target hanging from his neck', which sounds very sarcastic.) How do you avoid this? Well, I presume you read a lot so just keep track of those sayings that are constantly being used in books and stories and then make up your own replacements. http://www.sffworld.com/ubb/smile.gif

Cedric Frost
January 31st, 2002, 12:28 AM
Thanks you both for your positive feedback. As I said, I am not sure where the story is going, but I have begun the next part and will be done shortly.

Hopefully it will be longer and a little less cliche. Someone else I passed it on to suggested the fight scene was not "gritty" enough. Not sure what he meant, except that he felt he couldn't get into the dual?

Any comments on that? I find that I lack an ability for description so perhaps he is right. In most books I tend to skim, skip or otherwise move past the descriptive to the dialogue. Perhaps that has created a shortcoming.

In any event, thanks for your comments.

nicba
January 31st, 2002, 11:02 AM
Hi Frost

I thought the fight scene was written very well. I don't think that it needs to be more 'gritty.' Usually with descriptions of limps flying and blood spraying, I just get the impression that it's overdone for effect. And a duel between two sword-fighting men wouldn't really be like that, would it? But anyway, it's mostly a question of style and taste. I like the style you have choosen.

The only thing I can think to question is your use of Point-Of-View during the fight. You start out with the assisin as the POV-character, then switches to the rider for a brief moment and then finally switches back to the assasin again.

It didn't become confusing in your case, because you handled it well. But personally I tend to prefer the writer to keep the POV more constant and to mark changes by making a paragraph break and placing a # or some *'s where the change occurs.