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Kagiso: Chapter 1

by AyumiGosu17


Chapter 1

The jungle rose tall and thick before them. The foliage had been thickening gradually over the past several days, but now the caravan came across its first true jungle woods. Thick, black-barked trunks stood with sweeping buttresses, dappled green with leaves and vines. Very little light reached the floor of the jungle through the wide arms of the canopy. Bamboo, shrubs, and rocks filled in the space instead. The caravan crept to a stop at the forest’s edge.

There were several horses, each one carrying a man with leather armor, a short sword, and a crossbow. There were a few wagons, drawn by an ox each, and several people rode on them. One group of people, dressed in fine clothes, took up seats over two of the wagons. A woman had a shawl around her head and shoulders, protecting herself from pesky bugs. At the front of the caravan, a man raised his hand as he reined his horse to a halt. It nickered softly and shuffled.

Eduoard called back over his shoulder, “We’ll camp here tonight!”

The caravan began to disassemble, turning the wagons so they shielded their camp on two sides. Men set up bedrolls and tents, while a couple of hunters ventured deeper into the woods with their bows and knives. The family gathered together and put up a larger tent for themselves. A second large tent was erected beside it. Eduoard set himself up in the latter. He hung a rough map on one wall and flipped several buckets over to use as stools. That night, he called the merchants, hunters, trackers, and the ambassadors into the tent. The ambassadors and merchants took the stools. The hunters and trackers stood behind them. One stood closer to the flaps than the others, amber eyes scanning meticulously over each marking on the map. His skin was a little darker than theirs, sunkissed to a shade of caramel. Chocolate hair was long and thoroughly braided, and all of the braids were pulled up and tied together, out of his face. Even then, the ends tickled his shoulders. He had a scar on his shoulder, a couple of stripes of similar length, width, and texture. He had other, smaller scars as well, giving his arms and legs a weathered look. There was a band on his left wrist, braided out of leather straps with a clear, tawny stone braided in.

He listened as the captain spoke. "From our first efforts, we assume the jungle is two hundred leagues wide and six hundred deep. There are mountains, ravines, caverns, waterfalls, ruins, and gods know what else. Last time, our hunters encountered strange and powerful beasts. There is also a population of wildlings. Human, but fierce and uncanny with their attunement to the earth."

A younger mercenary interrupted. "Aren't they descendants of elves?"

"That's a theory, yes."

"They say they get their strength from blood sacrifice and eating the hearts of their victims," another one, older, said with a smile on his face. He winked and nudged the hunter closest to him. Others chuckled at the horrified expression he received from the youth.

Gael smirked, huffing lightly in amusement. Talks of wildlings always amused him.

Eduoard called for silence. The laughter died down. "Your amusement will be your death. The stories are true, but they are the least of your concerns here." He laid out some sketches of creatures, tacking them to the back wall with pins. The first one showed a large cat-like creature, with thick tufts of fur on the backs on its elbows, down the back of its neck, and on the tip of its tail. The tufts had been given a wispy, fire-like quality, and shadows were erased. The more disturbing detail was the size of the fangs in its jaw. A second picture showed a bird with wings open, a silhouette of a man beside it. Feathers fell like puffs of fire and smoke. A third picture showed a horse covered in stripes and dapples, a short and coarse mane, with a twisted horn rising out of the forehead. There were several other images, including a bull with a split, Y-shaped horn on its forehead, a deer with dapples and antlers like tree branches, and a serpent with a wide, colorful frill and glowing eyes. The captain hung up one more picture that had been sketched. It was a dragon.

He looked at the group pointedly. "These were sketched on the last trip my scouts made. They encountered each of these beasts. I don't need to tell you that this place is dangerous, and it will kill you if you do not stay with the caravan and do exactly as I or my tracker tell you do." He gestured toward the flaps of the tent. "This is my tracker and master hunter, Gael Lestor, of Pagetonya."

All eyes turned on the man with braids. He met each face, each set of eyes, and nodded once.

"Gael joined the last scouting trip as a recruit. He returned as one of our few survivors, and I'll drink to this: if not for his patience and skill with the wild, more would have died before they could get back."

Eduoard returned to the map. He placed two marks on it, a circle in the northeastern corner and a circle in the southwest. "We are here," he said, tapping the northern mark, "and our intention is to get here. We've made contact with a group of woodland elves. Darker skinned and closer to us in stature, but willing to work out an arrangement to trade. However, communication is a problem. Our only means of communicating with them as of yet is by ship, but the journey takes two to three months, and that’s not considering the dangers of this eastern passage. A route through the jungle may be safer and more direct, reducing time to two or three weeks instead. His Majesty would be pleased if we can return with a written agreement establishing trade with the people of Kagiso.”

The ambassador to the king’s court shifted and stood. “Don’t mind if I interrupt, Lord Eduoard. You are doing a fabulous job.” Eduoard’s eyes flashed a little, but the man seemed to not care or notice because he continued, “There is a lot at stake with this arrangement. I will not put it lightly, as some others have. The restoration efforts in Dureiden have put a stress on our treasury and storehouses. If we are to persevere against the blood elves, we must establish more connections. This is a feral land, inhabited by feral people and elves alike. Relationships - in body and coin - are vital to our survival and to maintaining this eden that our forefathers imagined and built for us a hundred years ago.”

“Laurent, you talk too much,” the other finely dressed man chided. “Sit down and let the captain speak. He was elected to lead this venture, after all. Not you. You’ve hardly got the place to speak of duty here, since you’ve never ventured beyond your estate until --”

“I’ll have you know --”

“Lord Laurent. Lord Pierre. Gentlemen!” Eduoard interrupted them firmly. The two men bristled and turned away from each other with a huff. The captain continued, “I’m sure you both have more than enough expertise to contribute, but we must do so peacefully or this will be more miserable than necessary.”

The group went quiet again. Eduoard sighed and resumed his briefing. He began to sketch a path through the jungle. Gael finally spoke up. “There are mountains in the middle. High, dense, and steep. Some are sheer. It would be wise to turn south and skirt them.”

Eduoard and many of the others looked back at the man. The captain nodded. “I agree. Master Gael, since you’ve been exposed to these woods before, perhaps you should lead this part of the plan?” He offered him the piece of charcoal that was being used to draw with. He stepped up to the map with him. By evening, the group had devised a rough plan for their trek. They would maintain their course for a few more days, then turn south and bypass the mountains. On the west side of the range, the ground sloped dramatically to flat jungles and wetlands, all the way to the coast. Eduoard assured them that it was unlikely for them to encounter wildlings or feral elves, for the sheer breadth and density of the jungles. Gael had little faith in that assumption.

Night fell on the camp. Fires glowed like clusters of starlight in the patchy fringes of the jungle. The merchants settled together around one fire. Hamon and Chrestien were brothers, though they didn’t favor each other. Chrestien had even brought his wife along. The two men talked and laughed lightly over pints of wine. Next to them, a man set up camp alone, with his own small fire and a modest pallet of battered, old furs. The brown tunic and leggings with simple leather boots and wooden beads hung around his neck made him seem out of place here. Yet, there was a gentleness about him that was refreshing when compared to the others. Gael approached him and stopped just outside of the fire’s light. “May I join you?”

The man looked up. His face was smooth, and his hair was thinning on his crown. “Ah, yes. Of course.” He gestured to the patch of grass on the other side of the fire. “Company is always a pleasure in trying times.”

Gael set his bag down first. He pulled out his own fur to sleep on, laying it down. He sighed softly and sat down on it. He opened his bag and pulled out some pieces of dried meat and smoked fat. “Hungry?”

The man shook his head. “Oh no, I don’t touch the stuff. Bad for my stomach. Thank you, though.”

He nodded and took a bite. He looked the man over one more time. He noticed the polished, wooden beads tucked into his clothes, and a small knife secure on his hip. “Why are you here? You aren’t a hunter or a soldier.”

“Ah, no, not exactly. I am a cleric, though, a soldier of spiritual matters. I am here as a holy man, in the event of… well, an accident or injury.”

Gael nodded. “So a medicine man.”

“Yes, you could… you could say that.” The hunter took another bite. “What do they call you, Master Hunter?”

“I’m not a master. My name is Gael. Just Gael.”

“Gael. It’s my pleasure.” He extended his hand to him. The hunter hesitated, then took hold. They shook gently, and Gael could tell from the touch, this was a man he could trust.


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7 Reviews

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Mon Feb 12, 2024 9:44 am
R33SES wrote a review...



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Hello fellow mortal! Sojourner Reese here for a review!
I take my reviews very seriously, but that doesn't mean you should. I am, as you are, just another aspiring artist seeking to create life from pen and paper, and everything I have to say is a matter of opinion, so please use my review as insight. This is also not an editorial, I don't like to nitpick specifics, but rather provide my honest, but perhaps biased, reviewal of your wonderful work!

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FIRST IMPRESSION'S A KILLER:
- a general overview of my impression taken from your work -

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Spoiler! :
WOW FACTOR:
- what immediately stands out when reading this piece -

As I mentioned when I reviewed a later chapter, your dialogue is very crisp and realistic, and this is something I love! Nothing turns me off reading more than super bland, unbelievable soap-opera speech that lacks any form of energy or flow. Specifically when you allow your characters to interrupt each other! Very delighted to see this, and I would say it is certainly one of your main strengths.
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HOT OR COLD:
- is there too much or too little of anything -

This may be a null note, and potentially as I read more I may find that this is simply character development, but I sense that all of your characters tend to speak in the same fashion, and it comes across as very...militant and robotic. Obviously some of these characters exist in that expertise, but others don't or shouldn't, and even then some simply don't adhere to normality. I'm referencing how each seems to know exactly what to say, how they want to say it, and has no trouble saying it directly. But in a realistic sense, even well seasoned public speakers pause, take a moment to think, and will sometimes use filler words as they think. Others will even need to correct themselves.

Again, may just be who these characters are and I just haven't seen that yet, but feels a little leaned towards the "been training for this moment my whole life" when speaking is probably the last thing most of them have spent time studying and practicing.
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PROSE IT LIKE A PRO:
- a look at the writing style, grammar, rhetoric and verbiage -

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Spoiler! :
DEVIL'S IN THE DETAILS:
- how consistent and connected is the prose -

I'm sensing a very Hugo-esque style of writing here, where specific scenes are explained in very complete and informative detail. To some this may be unnecessary, to others they can't read without this help, but regardless, I like to make note of the things I'm seeing so that you can know whether you're accomplishing your purpose.

Thankfully, you have good pacing here, and where the details would become overburdening, such as when the dialogue starts, you step away and focus on what's important to understand. I think this is a very good control!
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SHOW ME, DON'T TELL ME:
- is the choice of words and grammar effective at delivering a vision, rather than just words -

Firstly, I love your descriptions where you use language, sometimes untraditional, to express or explain emotions or visuals. We all love poetic word choice laced in the prose. But more importantly is using the right words where a very necessary concept is to be expressed, and I am enjoying having a very clear image drawn for me as you do this.
He looked at the group pointedly. "These were sketched...
Simple, stark, yet packed with information.

Secondly, with this strength I feel there is a weakness, and that is the lack of using action and reaction to establish context, rather than establishing context simply by stating "it happened."
Eduoard set himself up in the latter. He hung a rough map on one wall and flipped several buckets over to use as stools.
You've already used several similar sentences to quickly establish a large range of context about the camp and how it's being set up, and again using the "it happened this way" style can become drab and lacking in life. Starts to feel like I'm reading a police report rather than an epic novel. Generally, explaining how rather than what, and why rather than how, is a solid tactic to make this flow better, and feel more entertaining and fulfilling to read. Oftentimes you don't even need to say "it happened" because the reader will be able to assume and fill in the blanks for themselves, thus allowing you to write less, but express more.

As an example: writing
He sat on the toilet. Unrolling the paper towel, he wiped his butt.
Then rewriting it as
He sat on the toilet, and the fluffy sheets of paper felt good on his butt.
We can assume here he's wiping his butt, and we can assume he had to unroll the toilet paper to do so. (Sorry for the inappropriate example, I have an addiction to making this as silly as possible.
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STEPPING THROUGH THE PORTAL:
- notes on the completion and believability of the piece -

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Spoiler! :
WHEN PIGS FLY:
- is the information/story creditable -

So far, I'm very believing of whatever world is being created for me. Nothing crazy or unfamiliar has happened, but so far we can sense it's a high fantasy world, and the actions being taken seem realistic to me!

Except two, which is first, the hanging of things on the tent walls? I would assume, due to lack of other detail, that they are your standard fabric or hide walls, which means things could not be tacked to them?

The second is the introduction of the "wildlings, and then the woodland elves, which seem identical in information so far, and yet are two separate races but one is friendly and one is not, one is human and one is not...so I am left to wonder why and how? Not that there is anything wrong with this situation, but as an outsider I would appreciate some form of additional information, specifically in the form of those present at the meeting, who would also be lacking in knowledge, to ask.
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DON'T LOOK SO MONOCHROME:
- how vibrant and rich is the picture being painted -

I would say that you generally do a good job of painting a nice picture, your language choice as I stated before is not cumbersome and to the point, and I like the vocabulary choices. The only thing that can be lacking at times is the, well, the lack of these descriptors at times. I'm not advocating for using them in every sentence or for every action, but there are small strings where none are used, and then complete scenes where they are abundant, and that inconsistency can be frustrating to read.
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CLIP IT!

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A strong opening scene into this new fantasy realm, I eagerly await plunging into the jungle vines!

-R33SE

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I hope you find my review helpful and uplifting. Again, please remember this is all my own opinion, so whether for compliment or criticism it's simply a window into my experience as I read. If you have any questions, clarifications or just want to chat about your work/the review, please feel free to reply or message me!!


always your muse
- R33SE
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Thu Jan 18, 2024 9:04 pm
keystrings wrote a review...



Hi there! I'm keystrings and I am happy to review your work today.

I noticed a couple of later chapters in the Green Room, so I wanted to be able to start with the beginning of the story, so I had a good understanding of what is happening.

Since other reviewers have mentioned the repetition at the beginning of the chapter, I won't focus too much time on that. One thing to note is that you can always look to see if the sentences are able to be combined together, or if looking up synonyms for "thick" for example would work better. I also read that reviewers pointed out that varying sentence length/clauses and similar ideas can help the reader get more engaged and more focused on the writing since that format can guide the reader through the story a bit more smoothly.

One thing I want to point out is to be careful about perspective changes, especially within a single chapter and without any page breaks/icons/dividers to indicate that the view is changing. I would also say to check over what point-of-views you want to use throughout this story, keeping the basis of it from the very beginning. I would say that the first two paragraphs read as a narration rather than a certain character's perspective, which then including Eduoard as a named character afterwards kind of disrupts the current approach.

If the goal is to start with Eduoard to show the perspective of the invading kingdom (since you mention ambassadors and a ruler's guards/captains) I would say to add a few pieces by him in accordance to traveling through the forest/jungle, so that we realize what view we're seeing this place through, meaning the captain of the caravan/leader of the traveling group from the kingdom. This can be as easy as

Bamboo, shrubs, and rocks filled in the space instead. The caravan crept to a stop at the forest’s edge. Eduoard concentrated on the damp ground, watching out for an open space to settle the caravan for the night.


I put a sample idea in italics to compare between different perspectives. Hopefully this can help you visualize what I'm talking about. In addition, I would say to be careful about when/how you decide to describe characters, especially if you're bouncing between a narrative perspective, a third-person limited perspective, or even omniscient if that's where you'd like to go as well.

I know another reviewer discussed this idea but I just wanted to give a brief example!

Overall, I can get the Pocahontas inspiration -- and honestly I think having Gael's perspective the most would be great since he is going to have a more humane opinion hopefully since he also is Native/Indigenous/however your book interprets the people of Kagiso/Native peoples.

I know this chapter is from a loooong while ago but I hope that helped! I'll start with the next chapter soon.




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Wed Jan 06, 2021 2:23 am
Honora wrote a review...



Hello Ayum! I'm here for a quick review! :D As I've never edited your work before, just know that I mean everything with the best of intentions. I just want to help you improve with no insult intended. With this in mind, I'll jump right into it!

So starting with the first paragraph, I like how you've given me a very clear picture to imagine right from the start. Good on you for that. I did notice, however, that you used the word thick three times in such a small space. Watch for cases like this as it can cause your work to sound repetitive and throw the flow off. ;)

Second paragraph is the same thing. The sentences are all of similar length and build which again, makes it repetitive. I'll show you how you can maybe rephrase it to help this.

Example: Men riding horses interrupted the serene picture of nature as they kept themselves well armed. A sword at their hip while an intricately designed crossbow adorned their back. There were a few wagons behind them, each drawn by an ox while several people rode on them. One group of people, dressed in fine clothes, took up seats over two of the wagons. A woman clothed her head and shoulders, protecting herself from the pesky bugs threatening to land on her.
From the front of the caravan, a man raised his hand as he reigned in his head and called, “We’ll camp here tonight!”

See? The flow was switched up a bit and to me, it helped it but of course, this could be a personal preference. I hope this example helps you either way! :)

Okay that's all I'm going to say on a specific example but I do have some things that I will point out. So the main thing that has me confused is who the main character is...? At the start it seemed as though it would be Eduaord but as the chapter developed, I felt like it was Gael...it was confusing to say the least. If it is Gael, I suggest putting Eduaord in third person in the beginning. Explaing who he is more fully from Gael's POV rather then his own. While they're setting up camp, have it focused on Gael setting up and watching his surroundings instead of the other guy.
If it was Eduaord who you're basing this story about, I suggest not having Gael's character present without him and when he is, have him written from Eduaord's POV...make sense? If not, please let me know and I'll try explain it better.

What I can say about your writing is that you definitely have your dialogue down-pat. I could easily read it even with an older take on how they speak which is an amazing talent. Don't worry about your dialogue at all because you've done a really good job on it.

I really like the picture you've set for me to imagine. Not many books have a jungle as a surrounding and it's piqued my interest. I also really like how you've already established that yes, there are mythical beasts out there and that they will probably frequent your book often enough. That also brings a whole different take on it and again, it seems like it will be really interesting.

From what I can tell, you have a good sense of writing and as a result, I see a lot of potential in this story so far. Awesome job! :D

Happy writing!
Honora




AyumiGosu17 says...


Thank you! I'm saving all of my edits on my original document. Chapters 1, 2, 3, and 4 are posted. <3



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Mon Nov 30, 2020 3:13 am
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Dest wrote a review...



Hello!

There were several horses, each one carrying a man with leather armor, a short sword, and a crossbow. There were a few wagons, drawn by an ox each, and several people rode on them


Since the two sentences started the same way, I thought this part read awkwardly.

The caravan began to disassemble, turning the wagons so they shielded their camp on two sides. Men set up bedrolls and tents, while a couple of hunters ventured deeper into the woods with their bows and knives. The family gathered together and put up a larger tent for themselves. A second large tent was erected beside it. Eduoard set himself up in the latter. He hung a rough map on one wall and flipped several buckets over to use as stools.


I think this paragraph should be split in two. It’s a bit too meaty for lack of a better word. Besides, the next paragraph shows a change in time.

He listened as the captain spoke


Who is he? Eduoard or the other guy. This part wasn’t clear to me. This third pov omniscient, right?

The first one showed a large cat-like creature with thick tufts of fur on the back of its elbows, neck, and tip of its tail.


This reads more concise.

OVERALL

I love when character descriptions are weaved seamlessly into the story. You have good descriptive language, and I can imagine Gael clearly. I think that's one of your strengths. I had to reread a few times, but I realize Eduoard’s the captain. When I would see “the captain,” I would think someone else was talking besides Eduoard, but that may just be me. Eduoard's meeting was not boring, and it sets up the story nicely for the excursion itself.

Great job!




AyumiGosu17 says...


Thank you! I'm saving all of my edits on my original document. Chapters 1, 2, 3, and 4 are posted. <3



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Wed Nov 25, 2020 7:24 am
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EM8650 wrote a review...



Hey there,
first off i would like to say how much i loved your opening... describing the setting, it sets up the underlining tone for the whole chapter.
Your dialogue is well written and has that natural flow that most readers like, however it would be nice to get some voice and tone descriptions.
As far as i can tell you have no grammar mistakes, so well done.
Overall i like the concept of the chapter and would personally like to see more chapters in the near future.
Great job and keep up the good work.




AyumiGosu17 says...


Thank you! I'm saving all of my edits on my original document. Chapters 1, 2, 3, and 4 are posted. <3




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