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The Fallen King: Prologue

by MaybeAndrew


 Arwen listened to the wind blowing through the distant trees, trying to focus on that instead of the music around her. Instead of the sounds of the people, the little children laughing, the way the adults reeked of memories, and how old buildings and their old walls whispered of their makers.

It was her turn. She smiled nervously, she felt like a pot of corn kernels over the fire, popping and churning inside, but she had to keep an exterior of calm.

Around her, everything spoke of joy, the band playing cheery tunes, the smell of baking pies, the children running around the bonfire, the crowds of people, and the games. It was a festival day—Samhain. The harvest had just been completed, the food was plentiful, and everyone was settling in for the darkness. A time of closed doors, fires, soups, and mittens.

At least, that was the hope.

But this was not her normal festival day; it was her sixteenth, so she was selected as the Offering. She was proud of the selection—if a bit nervous. Some people said that the most beautiful girls were selected. Though Arwen didn’t think that was true, she did know she had a good singing voice, and though the Keepers didn’t know it, she sang to the forest.

Every girl in Lownire knew this could be their fate as well. They had learned the song from a young age, seen the graves of the previous Offerings, admired the beautiful white dress given to the selected girl, and once a year watched them leave. Many girls had hoped to be chosen. To be remembered in the hearts of the village forever. It was the highest honor. All knew that. It was nobler than a soldier or even a Keeper.

But it was not honor, nor the dress, that Arwen thought of.

It was the stars. The tapestry of light that dotted the sky. They were the only thing unfettered by the Corruption of the earth. Their songs were the most distant and the most magnificent. That day, she would be joining their host.

As the music subsided, she smiled. She always liked the festivities, but all the sounds and people looking at her made her nervous and fidgety. Arwen could hear things others couldn’t, so she preferred to be alone. She was one of the few who did not live within the walls of Lownire,and she was glad of it. People were too loud.

Arwen felt her insides tighten. The moment was drawing closer. She looked out at the crowd she’d been ignoring all day. They were all gathering in front of the stone upon which she stood. The entire town was there, everyone she had ever known.

Her aunt and uncle, cousins, and grandfather. Her friends, teachers, childhood enemies, and sweethearts. She spotted Matthew, the son of Hough. Tall, handsome, kind, a year older than her and a member of the Watch. He smiled at her, and she felt her heart rate increase. In the summers, he always came to visit her before going out for his night watch, and though she pretended not to care, that was her favorite part of the day. She smiled nervously back at him and tried not to notice that his eyes lacked his usual mischievous spark.

She scanned the rest of the crowd. Everyone was dressed brightly, faces browned from the summer, and bellies full from the harvest. Behind them were banners and wooden booths for the village’s games. Plenty and joy were on every face, except one. Liam, her eleven-year-old brother, was crying quietly. He refused to be comforted. He held his wooden sword at his side so tightly that his knuckles turned white. His eyes were red and defiant. Arwen tried to smile at him encouragingly. He was the audience of her stories, the keeper of her heart, and the only one quiet enough to hear her.

Liam blinked tears from his eyes. Even though the village’s chatter was still loud, she could hear his every heartbeat. He was quiet for her, but he had the potential to be deafening.

***

The last time they had spoken, it had been upon the ocean cliffs they had spent much of their childhood. Their legs had been hanging off a rock as the sea below churned and crashed against the rough stones.

“Promise me you will someday make a good Keeper?” she had said to him.

He had taken a rock and thrown it into the sea forlornly. “But I don’t like the stuffy lighthouse. You were supposed to be the Keeper. I wanted to go be a hero.”

“If I had been supposed to be the Keeper, then I wouldn’t have been selected to be an Offering. Liam, you will be a hero. That’s what Keepers are.”

“Maybe the Keepers of the Wall, they get swords, but we have to take care of a silly fire.”

Arwen smiled, “You can get a sword too. Dad has a sword, and anyway, don’t tell anyone, but I know with that fire you could be the best Keeper there ever was–the most honorable, the most heroic, better with your sword than even Cormac.”

Liam looked up at her hopefully, “How do you know that?”

She smiled, “The wind told me while I slept last night, and the forest as the sun rose, and the ocean tells me now. Even the birds sing it.”

There was a long pause as her brother looked out at sea. Without turning, he finally spoke, “Okay then. If they did, I do promise. I’ll be a good Keeper.”

***

Now, among the crowd, Liam stood there. She saw him steady his breathing. He swung his wooden sword and then pointed it behind her at the distant lighthouse. He was saying he’d keep his promise. She tried not to laugh at the overdramatic way he communicated it. Arwen tore her gaze from her brother. If anything broke her today, it would be Liam. She did this for him, but he made her feel weak in doing it. He had been motherless, so she had taken up that duty. But Aunt Maria would take care of him, and one must trust the stars.

The three Keepers approached in a line. Hough, Keeper of the Water, with his old gnarled face, large nose, red beard, and kind eyes. Uncle Sitric, Keeper of the Walls, wore his armor, cape, and sword. Lastly came Father, Keeper of the Light. Dad had been hiding his terror ever since she’d been selected. She’d tried not to notice, but sometimes, when he thought she was asleep, he’d come and sit by her bed, and she’d see tears glistening on his cheek. And anyway, she could feel it. She always could. Grandpa said she was the best listener he’d ever met.

The three stopped before the stone and dropped to their knees, heads bowed. Arwen blushed. These men ruled the village and got respect everywhere they went. And now, they were bowing to her.

First, Uncle Sitric stood. He stopped for a moment after standing, giving Arwen time to kneel.

She let the dress fall around her as she knelt on the hard stone. It was cold through the cloth, and she could almost feel it whispering to her.

Sitric approached, holding a wreath of white flowers. These white flowers were the only plants watered directly by the water of the sacred well of Lastoris. They glistened and gleamed like they were made of sunlight. They were weaved and kept by Elizabeth, the wife of Hough. Sitric placed the wreath upon her head, they were soft and almost delicate, but they rested there. Uncle Sitric stepped away, and next came her father.

He approached, carrying the torch that gleamed with blue flames. He handed it to her, keeping his eyes on the stone. Arwen took the torch and felt the warmth from it. He looked up at her and smiled. He looked perfectly confident, proud, and encouraging. But she knew, though he was proud, it shook him.

Father stepped away, and Hough stepped forward. Hough smiled, the corners of his eyes crinkling. He helped her stand with his large rough hand. Once she was upright, he turned to the gathered village and flipped open a book. The whole village of Lownire stared at her, most with wonder and adoration. Keepers were respected but not seen as royalty, so, though she was a daughter of one of the three Keepers, she had never been treated with such reverence. Today was like she was a queen of old.

Arwen was wearing a white silk dress lined with threads of silver that gleamed in the autumn sunlight, and her wreath of flowers was bright against her dark hair. She might not have been picked because she was the most beautiful girl in town, but today she was.

“With a crown of the flower, cleansed by the water of the well, kept by the women of the well, adorned by the prince of the kingdom, clothed in white, and holding the power of the fire in her right hand, this Offering goes up to cleanse our village of Darkness, and to quench the wrath of The Beast,” Hough said in his low, gravely voice. He closed the book, lifted up his hands, and began to sing. For just one moment, his rough, old, sea-tinted voice sang alone, but then, the village joined him. They were singing the farewell song. The song that wished her goodbye thanked her and sent their troubles with her. It was strange not to sing it with them, but she listened. The many voices repeating words they had heard since early childhood, but she had never really understood until now.

The singing ended, the last note ringing in the air after the voices had finished. Everything was quiet now. The three Keepers led her out of the village center, and the crowd followed in silence. Her arm was already getting tired of holding the torch upright, so she tried not to think about what it would feel like by the end of the night.

They arrived at the city gate. The stone walls around it were tall and obscured the view of the trees when you were this close. The crowd all halted. They waited for a moment, and then the bell from the city center chimed three times. A clicking and creaking followed as the metal gate was pulled up, and then the wooden gate pushed open.

Arwen glanced back at the crowd. Aunt Maria smiled encouragingly, Matthew gave her a thumbs-up, and Liam quickly wiped a tear away. Uncle Sitric placed his hand on her pack comfortingly and turned her away from the village. She complied and, with the three Keepers, passed under the gate, leaving everyone else behind.

They walked through the recently harvested farmland. It smelled of hay and the sweet fragrance of autumn. These fields would be abandoned by the farmers until spring. Even with the Offering, it was too dangerous to be outside the walls in the darkness of winter.

Soon, they arrived at the treeline. A single path weaved through the forest. It was like a tunnel, walled in by trunk, branch, and bush. She’d never walked this way. This was the way to the Dark Wood. The Beast’s Dominion.

They followed the one narrow path that weaved through the tall trees, the brightness of her torch already becoming noticeable in the fading evening light. The trees that towered above had white and gray trunks, the leaves had all changed by now, and the canopy overhead was a smattering of browns, oranges, reds, and purples. The forest floor, too, was covered in colorful leaves.

The forest was full of different senses than the village. She could hear the wind through the trees, causing the leaves to crackle and hiss against each other. The birds cawing and the snapping of the men’s boots on the path reminded her this forest was not empty.

She took a deep breath as they entered the clearing. It smelled like crunched leaves, dirt, and the distant smoke of the village.

The clearing had short green grass. In its center, a low, moss-covered boulder protruded from the earth. A beam of light pierced the canopy and shone upon a rock in a red spotlight of sunset. She stepped up onto it shakily, noticing once again the spirals and words of the ancient tongue carved upon it. One of the two rocks put in place by The Old One.

On the opposite end of the clearing was the beginning of the dark wood. Its trees were no longer straight and royal like the wood behind but now bent and covered in thorny ivy that seemed to drag them down. The dry vines weaved together so tightly that they held leaves of autumn’s past and kept out the sunlight.

She stood as tall as she could and tightened her grip on the torch. The Keepers each stepped forward and kissed her forehead, sealing her fate and giving her their Authority to be the Offering for the village. First Uncle Sitric, then Hough, and last, Father. Dad took her head in both of his large hands and pressed his lips against her forehead. He held it there for much longer than the others, then he pulled away. He studied her face for one last time. Arwen realized he was sacrificing much more than her. She smiled at him and grabbed his hand that was still on her head. He smiled back, his eyes shimmering. He let his hands fall to his side and turned away.

She watched as he followed the other two out of the clearing, his broad shoulders getting smaller and smaller until he had disappeared from sight.

She was alone.

Alone, all but for the raven that sat upon the low branch by the path. It cawed at her rudely before ruffling its feathers. Ravens, a sign of a creature of the Darkness. Normally, children were taught to flee them, but now, she must stand her ground. Arwen tried to ignore it, holding her torch by her side and flattening out her dress with her other hand. She took a deep breath and began to sing.

The song of the Offering. The song of the ancient tongue. The language that at one time could tell the very mountains to shake and the oceans to rise.

Two more crows landed on the tree and began to watch her quietly. The sun sank lower as she entered the first chorus, the shadows growing out and pooling.

The lullaby for the forest. Telling it to sleep this winter and do no more. If the forest did not sleep, if The Beast of the Darkness did not sleep...

She put more of her energy into the song, and as she burst out with the second chorus, her words traveled farther through the forest than they should have been able to, stilling the trees and animals.

She and her song were the Offering, for the forest to accept or deny.

The sun sunk lower until the red light was almost entirely gone. the darkness of the forest spread out like an inky stain, but as she sang, she kept a sliver of light, so she and the rock were not consumed by shadow. More crows landed with every creeping shard of gloom. The last of the light left, and no stars or moon came, not tonight. Not even the lighthouse shone, but she glimmered.

Then, she felt It coming. The cold gathered, her breath misted the air, and her skin prickled with a shiver.

The Beast stepped out of the sea of darkness and into the clearing. Immense compared to any bear or creature of the wood, It was almost as tall as the city walls. A hulking creature of shadow, Its legs were as thick as tree trunks, and Its arms as powerful as steel. The dark arms hung down past Its knees, the long gray claws scraping along the leaves as It slowly walked towards her. She tried to keep her eyes at Its feet as It approached. You were never supposed to look at The Beast’s face.

Its body was covered in a thick dark mat of what seemed like a mix between fur and feathers. It reminded her of the feathers of the raven. Each step was slow and powerful but much quieter than you would expect from such a large beast. Its feet looked like the horrid mix of a bear’s padded feet and eagle talons. Many said that the bear was the queen of the creatures of the wood, but this, this was the king. The King of the night, The King of winter, The King of death, The King of all mortals, and Its tribute must be paid.

As It stopped above her, she felt her song catch in her throat.

It surveyed her.

This tradition had gone on for centuries, and it was the only thing that kept the Darkness away every year, the only thing that kept The Beast away.

She was the Offering. She kept the village safe. The lives and light of everyone she knew were balanced on her, on whether she went willingly, on whether she continued singing. Some things are terrible without being cruel. Some things are beautiful without being painless.

She finished the last line of the song, her voice was raw, and she was quivering from the power of it. As she finished, an intense silence settled. No wind whispered across the bows, not a single bird chirped, nor a leaf fell. There was nothing.

Everyone in the village lived for the village.

And she would die for it.

The Beast accepted the Offering.

He took her and shot back into the darkness, jumping like a lion.

As soon as she was accepted, the wind hit the trees, causing an intense creaking as they swayed, the crows exploded into cawing, and the distant bells of the Lastrios chimed.

This year they would be safe from the Darkness.

This year the forest would sleep.


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Mon May 02, 2022 4:44 am
PoetryMisfit wrote a review...



Hey MaybeAndrew.

I have read some of your other pieces before and I am excited to discover that you've been writing a novel. Let's dive into this review shall we!

Specific Thoughts:
"Instead of the sounds of the people, the little children laughing, the way the adults reeked of memories, and how old buildings and their old walls whispered of their makers." (this is an interesting way to describe sensory details in a way that piqued my interest. Her senses are more acute and a little different from normal with being able to smell memories and listen to the whispers of buildings).

"Around her, everything spoke of joy, the band playing cheery tunes, the smell of baking pies, the children running around the bonfire, the crowds of people, and the games. It was a festival day—Samhain. The harvest had just been completed, the food was plentiful, and everyone was settling in for the darkness. A time of closed doors, fires, soups, and mittens." (I really enjoy your descriptions here. There is a nostalgic tone that suggests the comforts of a well-loved festival yet it isn't comfort that Arwen feels. The festival appears to be a sign of an impending fate that only she can fulfill. These descriptions are subtle yet further the plot through the intrigue of contrasting Arwen's nervousness to the relaxed tone of the festival.)

"At least, that was the hope." (Isolating this sentence is a great way to undermine every sense of comfort implied in the previous paragraph and emphasize Arwen's nervousness).

"She smiled nervously back at him and tried not to notice that his eyes lacked his usual mischievous spark." (Up to this point all details seem to be pointing to the fact that she will be killed as part of the Offering. What solidified this for me was this line above because I can see no other reason why he would look downcast but because she would be dying. This along with your descriptions and vivid imagery create a somber tone that further increases the tension of the moment).

"He was quiet for her, but he had the potential to be deafening." (I paused at this line because of how profound it is. This line in so few words but articulately put expresses how the one she cares for the most can have the most affect on her. His silence it seems can feel like a weight and this sad detail further continues the somber tone woven throughout).

The dialogue between her and her brother is incredibly sweet, showcasing her nurturing nature towards him and how much she cares for him. I think the portrayal of Liam is done really well because as a kid he does not sound more wise than his age or too childish. His responses are believable as is the entire scenario - I can envision it perfectly in my mind. Inserting the memory increases the tension in the Offering scene as she is about to give all that up - him up - for the honor of being the Sacrifice. This definitely helps me understand her anxiety more and empathize with her situation, creating an emotional swell steeped in somberness.

"Sitric approached, holding a wreath of white flowers. These white flowers were the only plants watered directly by the water of the sacred well of Lastoris. They glistened and gleamed like they were made of sunlight. They were weaved and kept by Elizabeth, the wife of Hough. Sitric placed the wreath upon her head, they were soft and almost delicate, but they rested there. Uncle Sitric stepped away, and next came her father." (The way you describe the flowers is interesting because to me I interpret their white gleaming pallor to represent innocence. Like a lamb before the slaughter, Arwen is prepared as the Sacrifice of innocence to protect the village).


Suggestions for improvement:

"If I had been supposed to be the Keeper, then I wouldn’t have been selected to be an Offering." (This line seems a little too busy, and the words "been" and "be" are too close together in the sentence that it creates unnecessary repetition that is a bit distracting. I recommend condensing this sentence some way perhaps by replacing "had been" with "was" to make the sentence).

There were mulitple instances where Arwen was referred to or described as a listener and becuase of her acute sensory skills, this seems like a name that should be capitalized to indicate her unique ability. I only say this because given the context, being referred to as a listener seems to mean more than an ability of increaed attentiveness when others speak. There is greater depth here and annotating it would further draw attention to the reader about that as well.

Wrap up:
Overall this is a great opening to your story. The writing was fast-paced and intriguing with how you subtley built tension both through the somber tone and Arwen's nervous perspective on the proceeding. You introduce your characters very well, not info dumping but giving just enough to know some insight into their personalities and their relation to Arwen. Your dialogue also flowed naturally and as with the memory between her and Liam, further developed the characters and added more emotional depth to your novel. I really enjoyed reading this and you may very well see my reviews surface on the next chapters of your novel.

Thanks for sharing!

-Poetry Misfit




MaybeAndrew says...


Thank you so much for the review! I'll be sure to edit all of those points!



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Mon May 02, 2022 1:20 am
waywardxwanderer wrote a review...



Hello! I'm planning on doing a review every day for this month, and have thus decided to read a bunch of the novels on here, so prepare to get a review each day from me for this work!

COMPLIMENTS

the way the adults reeked of memories, and how old buildings and their old walls whispered of their makers


This quote is lovely and somber - it really serves to set the mood, that everyone else is dancing and having fun and, while Arwen wants to participate, she can't help but be more quiet and reflective.

It was the stars. The tapestry of light that dotted the sky. They were the only thing unfettered by the Corruption of the earth. Their songs were the most distant and the most magnificent. That day, she would be joining their host.


I love pretty much anything regarding the stars (as is evident if you've read literally anything I've written), and this quote is absolutely stunning. The personification here is incredible, mystical and mysterious and reverent, once again setting a very good mood for this chapter.

He was quiet for her, but he had the potential to be deafening.


This quote reminds me a lot of the writing style of Maggie Stiefvater (who is an absolutely brilliant author, so this is high praise). The way you weave this characterisation into the story as Arwen looks on the crowd that she's dying for is so painfully beautiful.

It smelled of hay and the sweet fragrance of autumn. These fields would be abandoned by the farmers until spring.


Your subtle worldbuilding woven throughout the chapter is incredibly well done, and I particularly love this quote. There's a contrast here which is seen throughout the chapter as well, the turning from something lovely and joyful like a festival to the death of a girl.

She could hear the wind through the trees, causing the leaves to crackle and hiss against each other. The birds cawing and the snapping of the men’s boots on the path reminded her this forest was not empty.


The way you've twisted and contorted what you previously wrote to be beautiful is incredible, and you convey the overwhelmingness of her situation very well. This is a prime example of show-not-tell - it's very clear that this is when the fear Arwen feels starts to properly set in, and her death seems to feel more real and imminent.

CRITIQUES

Most of these are just grammatical things, so don't be overwhelmed at the number of quotes. I can tend to be a bit nitpicky - sorry!

She smiled nervously, she felt like a pot of corn kernels over the fire, popping and churning inside, but she had to keep an exterior of calm.


This here is a comma splice; after "nervously", you could either use a semicolon or a period to start a new sentence.

Around her, everything spoke of joy, the band playing cheery tunes


Here, it would be more appropriate to replace the comma after "joy" with either a colon or an em dash because you're introducing an idea and then listing examples.

his eyes lacked his usual mischievous spark


Here, I might say "his eyes lacked *their* usual mischevious spark" just to emphasise that the spark is in the eye, that sort of thing.

“Maybe the Keepers of the Wall, they get swords, but we have to take care of a silly fire.”


Here, after "Keepers of the Wall", I would suggest either a semicolon or a period instead of a comma.

Lastly came Father, Keeper of the Light. Dad had been hiding his terror ever since she’d been selected.


This was a bit confusing - are "Father" and "Dad" the same person? If so, I'd suggest stickign with one name or the other. While this story is in third person, it's still in a limited point-of-view, and children don't typically call their parents by multiple names or variations of names.

Today was like she was a queen of old.


Here, I might rearrange the words to better get across the point: "Today she was like a queen of old." This brings the focus more onto Arwen, and the phrasing of the initial sentence just looks a bit confusing.

The song that wished her goodbye thanked her and sent their troubles with her.


Here, you may want to add commas for the listing. (Btw this sentence is absolutely lovely.)

The sun sunk lower until the red light was almost entirely gone. the darkness of the forest


Here, I think you just forgot to capitalise "The".

Its feet looked like the horrid mix of a bear’s padded feet and eagle talons.


Here, I may suggest saying "bear's padded paws" instead, since a repetition of the word "feet" for bear and not eagle is a bit odd.

Remember, take what you like and leave the rest! The most important thing is that you like and are proud of the chapter :^)

OVERALL

This is a fantastic beginning to a story, and I'm super excited to read more! Your descriptions and imagery are very immersing and poetic, and your subtle characterisation and worldbuilding is very well done and makes the chapter much more well-fleshed-out. Your writing style is very neat, and I particularly loved the scene between Arwen and her brother. You write their relationship very well - a close sibling relationship with one taking on a sort of caretaker role. The conversations flow very naturally, and the internal monologue is great at immersing the reader in Arwen's thoughts and perception. The pacing is lovely, and so far the themes of self-sacrifice and familial love, as well as contorted dreams of the future, are very well-established.

Sorry this is so long!! I'm still figuring out a review style after all this time. This was fantastic, and I'm excited to read more!

Keep writing,
Wayward(:




MaybeAndrew says...


Thank you sooo much for the review wayward! I'll be sure to edit all those points!
Excited to get more of this amazing feedback on future chapters.



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Wed Feb 02, 2022 2:31 am
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looseleaf wrote a review...



Hey MaybeAndrew! I'm here with your review. :)

Let me just say, wow this was really interesting! Normally I'm not a fantasy fan, but I really liked this one. You managed to grab the reader's attention by mentioning all these ceremonies and traditions without fully explaining what they were. It was great and I'm excited to read the next chapter!

Grammar-wise, there's only two things I would change:

She let the dress fall around her as she knelt down on the hard stone. It was cold through the cloth, and she could almost feel it whispering to her.


Down is kind of pointless in this situation. I don't think it's even possible to kneel up, so saying "knelt down" isn't necessary.

Also, you capitalize "it" when referring to the Beast. I don't think this is necessary, but keep doing it if you like it- it doesn't make a difference on how the story reads.

The beginning was great: it had an eerie sort of calm and also had a ton of suspense. I was constantly like: When is this set? What's happening? Why is she so happy? Then, BOOM!, she's a sacrifice. That hit me like a rock, to be honest. The line about her seeing the graves of the previous Offerings also surprised me. I liked that line, although it raises some questions:

1. Are they actual graves or just cenographs (monuments)?
2. If they're real graves, did the Beast not eat the Offerings?
3. And, if the Beast doesn't eat them, what does it do?

So far, I like Arwen as a character (but, of course, that [and she] doesn't last long), but sometimes she left me a little confused. She's about to be sacrificed to a gruesome Beast and she's thinking about the stars? A little strange, as she's about to die, but OK. I also like Liam and I have a hunch he'll be in the first chapter. This feels like his backstory on how he wants to be a hero but never had the chance because his sister died. It's actually a pretty good plot if that's how you're going to work it!

Her dad's reaction was heartbreaking. He has to act strong and he's supposed to be all proud but, of course, he's losing a daughter. You mentioned his feelings just enough so it didn't feel like too much information and irrelevant, but it still struck a chord with me. Good job!

The actual part where she's blessed (I don't know what else to call it) and led out of the town is amazing. The details with the flowers and the path towards the Beast is detailed and had some great imagery. It's suspenseful and really sets the town for the whole work. Again, the part with her dad kissing her forehead is *chef's kiss* and her singing just makes it even better.

Then you end the piece abruptly (kind of) and it was perfect. Amazing, incredible, fantastic, I don't know what else to call it. The following lines (besides the grave one) are my favorite:

Everyone in the village lived for the village.

And she would die for it.


Anyways, I loved this prologue! It was well-written and kept my attention the whole time! Thanks for requesting a review and, please, have a good day!




MaybeAndrew says...


Oh my gosh! I don't know how this slipped through, but I never got a notification for it!
Thank you so much for the review. The capitalization of the Beast when referring to It is intentional. It's both inspired by the old English habit to capitalize big ideas (like Freedom, Love, or Government etc) and the holdover from that which is capitalizing He when referring to God. I want the Beast to feel larger than life, this immortal force of death and destruction, so I decided to capitalize all references to it. This story also has a lot of theological undertones, so I am hoping that by doing the It thing, the attentive religious reader might see the ways I am almost connecting the Beast to God.
It might be just distracting though, and I might cut it, but it is intentional.
I'll be sure to edit those other points! And yes, you guessed correctly, Liams the main character (all be it 4 years later), and the first chapter actually answers your question about the graves, because Liam visits Arwens 'grave' in it. (:
You asked about the stars, and maybe I did a bad job of showing this, but in this culture, the stars are like their angels/gods, and the righteous join these celestial beings in the heavens upon death. Traditional holds that Arwen, being an Offering, has a one-way ticket/free-pass to the heavens, whereas everyone else has to wait until the return of the king to do so.
Annyyyway, you probably don't care about any of that, but thank you for the review!



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Sun Jan 16, 2022 1:56 pm
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Moonglade wrote a review...



Hey there, MaybeAndrew,

I hope all is well and you are having an excellent morning/afternoon/evening! Let's get this started.

Arwen listened to the wind blow through the distant trees, trying to focus on that instead of the music around her. Instead of the sounds of the people, the little children laughing, the way the adults reeked of memories, and how old buildings and their old walls whispered of their makers.

It was her turn. She smiled nervously, she felt like a pot of corn kernels over the fire, popping and churning inside, but she had to keep an exterior of calm.

Around her, everything spoke of joy. The band playing cheery tunes, the smell of baking pies, the children running around the bonfire, the crowds of people, and the games. It was a festival day, Samhain. The harvest had just been completed, the food was plentiful, and everyone was settling in for the darkness. A time of closed doors, fires, soups, and mittens.

At least, that was the hope.

But this was not her normal festival day; it was her sixteenth, so she was selected as the Offering. She was proud of the selection - if a bit nervous. Some people said that the most beautiful girls were selected. Though Arwen didn't think that was true, she did know she had a good singing voice, and though the Keepers didn't know it, she sang to the forest.

As the music subsided, she smiled. She always liked the festivities, but all the sounds and people looking at her made her nervous and fidgety. Arwen could hear things others couldn't, so she preferred to be alone. She was one of the few who did not live within the walls of Lownire, and glad of it, people were too loud.


For me at least, this is extremely relatable. I always love the festivities of a party. Presents. Sweets. But, the noise, especially the music drives me nuts and a lot of the time I'll go off and sit somewhere quiet and feel like a guardian. Like someone who has to protect others with the knowledge that I'm okay. The music's a little loud. No worries. I just think that the fact you can open up my memories like this and entwine me with the stories shows me the beauty of the writing behind it.

Every girl in Lownire knew this could be their fate as well. They had learned the song from a young age, seen the graves of the previous Offerings, admired the beautiful white dress given to the selected girl, and once a year watched them leave. Many girls had hoped to be chosen. To be remembered in the hearts of the village forever. It was the highest honor, all knew that, nobler than a soldier or even a keeper.

But it was not honor, nor the dress, that Arwen thought of.

It was the stars. The tapestry of light that dotted the sky. They were the only thing unfettered by the corruption of the earth. Their songs were the most distant and the most magnificent. That day, she would be joining their host.


Maybe this is what bugs me the most. The feeling of a tribe/village that the best thing a person can do is sacrifice their life. Is there something wrong with the village, because as far I would guess little girls don't really feel good about being killed just because they can wear a dress. Just my opinion though. And I hope that later on, this book may reveal something more to answer this question.

Once again a beautiful comment, something so unsuspected it draws me briefly away and dumps me back as all of a sudden something bad happens and the mood changes. The constant transition from these beautiful paragraphs to the start of a new part of the prologue really keeps a good flow.

The music stopped, and Arwen felt her insides tighten. The moment was drawing closer. She looked out at the crowd she'd been ignoring all day. They were all gathering in front of the stone upon which she stood. The entire town was there, everyone she had ever known.

Her aunt and uncle, cousins, and grandfather. Her friends, teachers, childhood enemies, and sweethearts. She spotted Matthew, the son of Hough. Tall, handsome, very nice, a year older than her, and a member of the Watch. He smiled at her, and she felt her heart rate increase. In the summers, he always came to visit her before going out for his night watch, and though she pretended not to care, that was her favorite part of the day. She smiled nervously back at him and tried not to notice that his eyes lacked his usual mischievous spark.

She scanned the rest of the crowd. Everyone was dressed brightly, faces browned from the summer, and bellies full from the harvest. Behind them were banners and wooden booths for the village's games. Plenty and joy were on every face, except one. Liam, her eleven-year-old brother, was crying quietly. He refused to be comforted. Holding his wooden sword at his side so tight, his knuckles turned white. His eyes were red and defiant. Arwen tried to smile at him encouragingly. He was the audience of her stories, the keeper of her heart, and the only one quiet enough to hear her.

Liam blinked tears from his eyes. Even though the village's chatter was still loud, she could hear his every heartbeat. He was quiet for her, but he had the potential to be deafening.


Personally, this piece is the start of the sadness of this situation. Enchanting and depressing. My chest tightens just reading it. I would love to hear that maybe some of the smiles were forced to show that someone other than Liam cared about her.

"Promise me you will someday make a good keeper?" She had said to him when they sat upon the ocean cliffs.

He had taken a rock and thrown it into the sea forlornly. "But I don't like the stuffy lighthouse. You were supposed to be the keeper. I wanted to go be a hero."

"If I had been supposed to be the keeper, then I wouldn't have been selected to be on Offering. Liam, you will be a hero. That's what keepers are."

"Maybe the Keepers of the Wall, they get swords, but we have to take care of a silly fire."

Arwen smiled, "You can get a sword too. Dad has a sword, and anyway, don't tell anyone, but I know with that fire you could be the best keeper there ever was. The most honorable, the most heroic, better with your sword than even Cormac."

Liam looked up at her, "How do you know that?"

She smiled, "The wind told me while I slept last night, and the forest as the sun rose, and the ocean tells me now. Even the birds sing it."

"Okay then, if they did, I do promise."


I love the idea of this bit of the story, but I feel all of a sudden leaping into memory and breaking the flow does obstruct the reader. May I suggest that alternately you rather say something like, "And she remembered back to a Sunny day upon the grassy ridges of the ocean cliffs, ... (The memory in italics.)." This way you don't have to break up the story and you can still keep this heart-wrenching memory.

[/quote] Now, as Liam stood there, she saw him steady his breathing. He swung the sword clutched at his side and then pointed the sword behind her. She knew at the distant lighthouse. He was saying he'd keep his promise. She tried not to laugh at the overdramatic way he communicated it. Arwen tore her gaze from her brother. If anything broke her today, it would be Liam. She did this for him, but he made her feel weak in doing it. He had been motherless, and so she had taken up that duty. But Aunt Maria would take care of him, and one must trust the stars.

The three keepers approached in a line. Hough, Keeper of the Water, with his old gnarled face, large nose, red beard, and kind eyes. Uncle Sitric, Keeper of the Walls, wore his armor, cape, and sword. Lastly came Father, Keeper of the Light. Dad had been hiding his terror ever since she'd been selected. She'd tried not to notice, but sometimes, when he thought she was asleep, he'd come and sit by her bed, and she'd see tears glistening on his cheek. And anyway, she could feel it. She always could. Grandpa said she was the best listener he'd ever met.

The three stopped before the stone and dropped to their knees, heads bowed. Arwen blushed. These men ruled the village and got respect everywhere they went. And now, they were bowing to her.

First, Uncle Sitric stood. He stopped for a moment after standing, giving Arwen time to kneel.

She let the dress fall around her as she knelt down on the hard stone. It was cold through the cloth, and she could almost feel it whispering to her.

Sitric approached, holding a wreath of white flowers. These white flowers were the only plants watered directly by the water of the sacred well of Lastoris. They glistened and gleamed like they were made of sunlight. Weaved and kept by Elizabeth, the wife of Hough. Sitric placed the wreath upon her head, they were soft and almost delicate, but they rested there. Uncle Sitric stepped away, and next came her father.

He approached, carrying the torch that gleamed with blue flames. He handed it to her, keeping his eyes on the stone. Arwen took the torch and felt the warmth from it. He looked up at her and smiled. He looked perfectly confident, proud, and encouraging. But she knew, though he was proud, it shook him.

Father stepped away, and Hough stepped forward. Hough smiled, the corners of his eyes crinkling. He helped her stand with his large rough hand. Once she was upright, he turned to the gathered village and flipped open a book. The whole village of Lownire stared at her, most with wonder and adoration. Keepers were respected but not seen as royalty, so, though she was a daughter of one of the three keepers, she had never been treated with such reverence. It was like she was a queen of old.

Arwen was wearing a white dress lined with threads of silver that gleamed in the autumn sunlight, and her wreath of flowers was bright against her dark hair. She might not have been picked because she was the most beautiful girl in town, but today she was.

"With a crown of the flower, cleansed by the water of the well, kept by the women of the well, adorned by the prince of the kingdom, and holding the power of the flames of Astrum in her right hand, this Offering goes up to cleanse our village of Darkness, and to quench the wrath of the beast," Hough said in his low, gravely voice. He closed the book and led the village in the farewell song. It was strange not to sing it with them, but she listened. The many voicing repeating words they had heard since early childhood, but she had never really understood until now.

When the singing ended, the three keepers led her out of the village center. The crowd followed in silence. Her arm was already getting tired of holding the torch upright, so she tried not to think about what it would feel like by the end of the night. [/quote]

What I love most about this piece is the short, but powerful speech by Hough. Something I constantly try to and struggle to pull off. Her father's affection is almost heartbreaking. My throat feels dry and my eyes wet.

[/quote] They arrived at the city gate. The stone walls around it were tall and obscured almost all view of the trees when you were this close. The crowd all halted. They waited for a moment, and then the bell from the city center chimed three times. A clicking and creaking followed as the metal gate was pulled up, and then the wooden gate pushed open.

Arwen glanced back at the crowd. Aunt Maria smiled encouragingly, Matthew gave her a quick thumbs-up, and Liam quickly wiped a tear away. Uncle Sitric placed his hand on her pack comfortingly and turned her away from the village. She complied, and with the three keepers, passed under the gate, leaving everyone behind. They walked through the recently harvested farmland. It smelled of hay and the sweet fragrance of autumn. These fields would be abandoned by the farmers until spring. Even with the Offering, it was too dangerous to be outside the walls in the darkness of winter.

Soon, they arrived at the treeline. A single path weaved through the forest. It was like a tunnel, walled in by trunk, branch, and bush. She'd never walked this way. This was the way to the Dark Wood. The Beast's Dominion. [/quote]

All of a sudden the story follows more of a creepy tone. I'd love to hear a little about the journey. Walking through knee-high grass, listening to the whisper of the woods. Feeling, hearing as she approaches the Dark Wood a strange sense of darkness.

They followed the one narrow path that weaved through the tall trees, the brightness of her torch already becoming noticeable in the fading evening light. The trees that towered above had white and gray trunks, the leaves had all changed by now, and the canopy overhead was a smattering of browns, oranges, reds, and purples. The forest floor, too, was covered in colorful leaves.

The forest was full of different senses than the village. She could hear the wind through the trees, causing the leaves to crackle and hiss against each other. The birds cawing and the snapping of the men's boots on the path reminded her this forest was not empty.

She took a deep breath as they entered the clearing. It smelled like crunched leaves, dirt, and the distant smoke of the village.

The clearing had short, still green grass. In the center, a low, moss-covered boulder protruded from the earth. A beam of light pierced the canopy and shone upon a rock in a red spotlight of sunset. She stepped up onto it shakily, noticing once again the spirals and words of the ancient tongue carved upon it. One of the two rocks put in place by The Old One.

She stood as tall as she could and tightened her grip on the torch. The keepers each stepped forward and kissed her forehead, sealing her fate and giving her their authority to be the Offering for the village. First Uncle Sitric, then Hough, and last, father. Dad took her head in both of his large hands and pressed his lips against her forehead. He held it there for much longer than the others, then he pulled away, he studied her face for one last time. Arwen realized he was sacrificing much more than her. She smiled at him and grabbed his hand that was still on her head. He smiled back, his eyes shimmering. He let his hands fall to his side and turned away.

She watched as he followed the other two out of the clearing, his broad shoulders getting smaller and smaller until he had disappeared from sight.

She was alone.


And now I want to cry. The interaction between father and daughter is something heart-touching, the clearing starts to hint at the true reality of this beast. A cold, hearted monster.

[/quote] Alone, all for the raven that sat upon the low branch by the path. It cawed at her rudely before ruffling its feathers. Ravens, a sign of a creature of the darkness. Normally, children were taught to flee them, but now, she must stand her ground. Arwen tried to ignore it, holding her torch by her side and flattening out her dress with her other hand. She took a deep breath and began to sing.

The song of the Offering. The song of the ancient tongue. The language that at one time could tell the very mountains to shake and the oceans to rise.

Two more crows landed on the tree and began to watch her quietly. The sun sank lower as she entered the first chorus, the shadows growing out and pooling.

The lullaby for the forest. Telling it to sleep this winter and do no more. If the forest did not sleep, if The Beast of The Darkness did not sleep...

She put more of her energy into the song, and as she burst with the second chorus, her words traveled farther through the forest than they should have been able to, stilling the trees and animals.

She and her song were The Offering, for the forest to accept or deny.

The sun sunk lower until the red light was almost entirely gone, the darkness of the forest spread out like an inky stain, but as she sang, she kept a sliver of light, so she and the rock were not consumed by shadow. More crows landed with every creeping shard of gloom. The last of the light left, and no stars or moon came, not tonight. But she glimmered.

Then, she felt It coming. The cold gathered, her breath misted the air, and her skin prickled with a shiver.

The Beast stepped out of the sea of darkness and into the clearing. Immense compared to any bear or creature of the wood, It was almost as tall as the city walls. A hulking creature of shadow, Its legs were as thick as tree trunks, and Its arms as powerful as steel. The dark arms hung down past Its knees, the long gray claws scraping along the leaves as It slowly walked towards her. She tried to keep her eyes at Its feet as it approached. You were never supposed to look at The Beast's face.

Its body was covered in a thick dark mat of what seemed like a mix between fur and feathers. It reminded her of the feathers of the raven. Each step was slow and powerful but much quieter than you would expect from such a large beast. Its feet looked like the horrid mix of a bear's padded feet and eagle talons. Many said that the bear was the queen of the creatures of the wood, but this, this was the king. The king of the night, the king of winter, the king of death, the king of all mortals, and Its tribute must be paid.

As it stopped above her, she felt her song catch in her throat.

It surveyed her.

This tradition had gone on for centuries, and it was the only thing that kept the darkness away every year, the only thing that kept The Beast away.

She was the Offering. She kept the village safe. The entire lives and light of everyone she knew were balanced on her, on whether she went willingly, on whether she continued singing. Some things are terrible without being cruel. Some things are beautiful without being painless.

She finished the last line of the song, her voice was raw, and she was quivering from the power of it. As she finished, an intense silence settled. No wind whispered across the bows, not a single bird chirped, nor a leaf fell. There was nothing.

Everyone in the village lived for the village.

And she would die for it.

The Beast Accepted the Offering.

He took her and shot back into the darkness. Jumping like a lion.

As soon as she was accepted, the wind hit the trees, causing an intense creaking as they swayed, the crows exploded into cawing, and the distant bells of the Lastrios chimed.

This year they would be safe from The Darkness.

This year the forest would sleep. [/quote]

Is it me or is this just cemented in horror? I love the aspect of the crows and the song, most probably quite an interesting song. Something I would love to see added to the story. The picture of the beast you detail is excellent and right until the end I feel the story is great. Please. And I say please. Please. Add more, I want to hear a little about how she feels after being taken. Do the jaws crush her or is she just taken away?




MaybeAndrew says...


Thank you so much for the review! I%u013Al be sure to edit those points!
Maybe this is what bugs me the most. The feeling of a tribe/village that the best thing a person can do is sacrifice their life. Is there something wrong with the village, because as far I would guess little girls don't really feel good about being killed just because they can wear a dress

Yes, the theme of self sacrifice, and whether is is necessary/good will be explored later. But on the point that the girls don want to die, also an idea that will be explored later, but interestingly enough, some of them might have felt it was an honor most of the time. I%u1E3F heavily bases thins off of multiple pagan cultures who have a ritualist sacrifice in which the sacrifice goes willing.
To me the most interesting are the inca. In the incan people, there are records of teenage members of royalty being specially chosen to be ritually sacrificed. Before hand they would be honored, they would go to feasts and parades, and they would be glad to go - at least according to our records.
I think the idea of someone being so invested in their culture and community theyd be glad to die for it is intensely interesting and one I hope to explore as the story goes on



Moonglade says...


I can't wait to see how you do so. My theory is Liam is sceptical after his sister is sacrificed.



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ShpidderMon says...



I'm hooked already! Can't wait for the rest of the book! :D




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Wed Jan 12, 2022 9:08 am
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MailicedeNamedy wrote a review...



Hi MaybeAndrew,

Mailice here with a short review! :D

At first impression, it seems like a very exciting and epic prologue to a great fantasy novel. You set the mood with the words to give the reader a very detailed and gruesome insight into your world.

I think that's actually all that convinced me to continue the story when the time comes. But let's start again from the beginning. You have a good way of describing things here. Especially the introduction, you've written it so elegantly that it's like a slide for the reader to fall into. You build up a tremendous amount of tension and pressure that runs through the entire prologue. I like the fact that you've made such an effort to give us so many details and only gradually open up more, as if you were throwing us one puzzle piece after the next.

Your writing style is also different in places. Sometimes it seems like a poem and sometimes like you are writing a kind of essay. Sometimes it seems a bit too distant and is noticeable when you get from one point to the next, but nothing that necessarily affects the flow of reading. One section, however, stood out to me here:

As the music subsided, she smiled. She always liked the festivities, but all the sounds and people looking at her made her nervous and fidgety. She preferred to be alone. Arwen heard things others couldn't. She was one of the few who did not live within the walls of Lownire, and glad of it, people were too loud.


You describe a lot here in very short sentences, and compared to the section before and after, it makes a kind of valley in the mountains that you wrote. I would just try to rewrite it to keep the structure of the sentences, or reinterpret it so that it doesn't stand out in comparison to the rest.

What I also liked in the course of the story were your attempts to give some very beautiful descriptions, like here:

It was cold through the cloth, and she could almost feel it whispering to her.


That's just one example here, but you throw in descriptions like that every few paragraphs, and I think it's also appropriate and not overdone. It doesn't distract from the actual course of events, especially because the tension increases significantly in the last half, when she is standing at the altar.

You manage to create a breathtaking atmosphere from the first to the last line. I can't describe much of the story yet, and I'll have to wait and see, but I think the writing style is very good so far.

In summary, it really is a very, very exciting narrative and a good prologue. I am now curious to see how it compares to the first chapters.

Have fun writing!

Mailice




MaybeAndrew says...


As always malice, a great review! Thank you so much! I agree that paragraph needs editing, I'll try to figure that out.



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AlyTheBookworm says...



This was incredible and a very gripping prologue. I look forward to reading more from you! You have a real talent for characterization and worldbuilding.

Feel free to tag me when you share the first chapter, I'd love to read it! :)




MaybeAndrew says...


Thanks so much! I'll be sure to tag you when the next chapter comes out!




You know what the big problem is in telling fantasy and reality apart? They're both ridiculous.
— The 12th Doctor