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The Lost Dragon Chapter 1 (LMS VI)

by soundofmind

Chapter 1: Where's Your Cow, Boy?

The sky was clear.

It had been a dry summer, and the month of Sael had passed with no rain, leaving the rolling, grassy plains a pattern of yellow and brown. The last time he saw green was down by the river, before they'd moved inland with the herd, slowly leading the cattle to their resting place before the next season and some of them were sold off.

James sat atop his horse, looking down the sloping hill at the herd down below. Faintly, he could hear the cows braying, happy to be grazing on a new patch of grass. Beyond the herd, he could see the other ranch hands, Kenneth and Percy, riding behind their boss, Gregor.

The air was still, and the sun was dipping down towards the horizon. Beyond the cities, out on the rolling plains, the only constants were the four of them, the cows, and the sun beating down on them. Every once in a while there was breeze, but that was a lot to hope for, and hope was something James measured sparingly these days.

With a flick of his reins, he rode along the top of the hill.

"Come on, Elliot," James muttered softly to his steed. "Let's count these cows and then finally get some rest."

Elliot bobbed his head as if in agreement, though James knew Elliot only ever did that as an affectionate response to the sound of his voice. Perhaps Elliot did understand the sentiment, but that was something he would never know.

Meticulously, James began to count the cows head by head. He scanned the herd, trying to pick out each individual cow from the next as they drew closer together. Squinting, he found himself struggling to make them out clearly, as their brown and black forms blurred into one big mass.

Gregor didn't know (and would never know) that he was near-sighted, but it made the task of scouting at the end of the day all the more difficult. In resignation, James was committed to seeing it through even if it meant he had to count ten times over to make sure he had it right. Though Gregor only ever saw it as James being thorough, Percy took it as a license for teasing, leaving him with the nickname "cowpoke." Considering all the things he could be called in comparison, James didn't let it get under his skin, even though he and Percy were never that friendly in the first place.

His first run-through, James counted twenty. The second, third, and fourth time - still twenty.

He glanced down at Elliot, even though Elliot was blissfully unaware a cow had gone missing. It couldn't have wandered far, seeing as the only things surrounding them were hills and grass.

With a sigh, he glanced over at Gregor and the others. They had begun to settle down to camp for the night. Kenneth was digging out a pit for a fire, and Percy was tying up the horses while Gregor was off with one of the cows. Petting it, maybe. James couldn't really tell from such a distance.

He clicked his tongue, and Elliot started forward again, taking them down the hill. He rode around the cows and up to Gregor, who, now that he was closer, looked like he was checking one of the cow's legs.

"Everything alright?" James asked as he rode up behind him.

"It's all right," Gregor said. "She'd just gotten a little rock in her hoof, but we got that out for her and she's all right now, ain't ya, 'ol girl?"

He patted the cow's side with a smile, and the cow dipped her head down to start nibbling at the grass below. Putting his hands on his hips, Gregor turned to James with a smile.

Sitting atop his horse and looking down, Gregor seemed even smaller than he did on foot. He was a short, wiry man with thinning black hair, normally swept back under an old cowboy hat. His brown skin was dark from years of working under the sun, and his plaid shirt, leather boots, and dusty jeans were well-worn.

Gregor was the type of man who looked like he'd worked hard every day of his life and enjoyed every minute of it, but he had the personality of someone who had all the time in the world to rest. Overall, he was enjoyable. He never pried too hard and was kind and supportive, even when it was undeserved. It was a rare thing to find, and also the deciding factor that led James to work for him in the first place. It was the only thing keeping him there, too. At least, for now.

"I think one of the cows wandered off," James said.

Gregor's smile faded, and his eyes flashed worry.

"Is that so?"

James nodded.

"Well," Gregor said slowly, looking out at the other 20, then fixing his eyes back on him. "Matt, would you mind looking for her? Can't have gone too far."

Again, he nodded.

"Of course," James said, and already, he started to ride past him.

"Oh, and Matt?" Gregor called out.

He brought Elliot to a stop and looked back.

"If you're quick about it," Gregor said. "Dinner should be warm and ready when you get back."

James knew it was a well-meaning incentive and merely smiled and dipped his head, tipping the brim of his hat ever so slightly.

"I'll do my best," he said, and then turned back around, passing the cows on his left and Kenneth and Percy on his right. The two of them seemed to pause around the now-lit fire to look up at him as he went, but he offered them no explanation. Gregor would do so for him, and besides - they could stand some getting used to his sudden departures. One day he'd leave for good, and he'd rather no one question it.

Percy narrowed his eyes at him, but it looked less like suspicion and more like minor disdain. He was a broad, stocky, fellow, and his dark eyes often regarded James with some level of annoyance or condescension. Being the latest hire and the least experienced, James understood why, even if it was unnecessary.

James offered Kenneth a small nod, acknowledging him instead. Kenneth, at least, was a decent man and had been working for Gregor the longest. So much could be seen in his sun-bleached red hair and how his naturally pale skin was freckled all over.

Kenneth offered James a nod in return, and James finally began to hurry over the hill.

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18 Reviews

Points: 201
Reviews: 18

Sat Oct 01, 2022 3:38 am
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Purple67 wrote a review...

Hello there SoundofMind! I am here to give you a review on your piece! I hope you get something out of it!

Review Stuff

- I really like the first paragraph of this chapter. It sets up the possible mood for the chapter and it also gives me a sense of calmness. It may change later but I like the mood so far!

- Another thing I like about the chapter is the first scene. It gives us a sense of character actions early on instead of dragging about the weather. It compliments the weather with a piece of full dialogue and actions from the characters.

- The last thing is that I love your characters just from seeing them. They sound like they are really nice people.

I don't really have constructive criticism, so that's it for the review! Sorry!

Have a nice day/night!

- Purple67

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367 Reviews

Points: 10480
Reviews: 367

Tue Sep 20, 2022 5:10 am
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Omni wrote a review...

SOUND?? rewriting tld???? yay that means I don't have to review the rest of tld because I totally didn't finish that >.> so, like, no more griffin arc, right? XD

He glanced down at Elliot, even though Elliot was blissfully unaware that the number was one short. It was supposed to be twenty-one, which meant that he'd either miscounted, or one of the cows had wandered.

Since you had already mentioned it once, there's no need to mention it again here, so you could skip to the reasons why one cow might be missing.

Judging from a quick look around, it was at least one.

You're repeating a lot of the same concepts here. I get that James is being meticulous, but it's repeating a lot of information that the reader is already aware of. When you do that, readers like me tend to wander with their thoughts, and I don't think that's a great thing to have right in the beginning of your story, right?

Matt wasn't his real name, but for Gregor, Percy, and Kenneth, it was the only name they knew. He'd had to train himself for it, but he'd already gotten used to responding to it without delay. To them, he was Matt, and that was how he wanted it to be.

Hmm, interesting decision to declare this so early on. I think it's a bit better than how you did it last draft (which I barely remember but I do remember being confused with all the name drops) but I think this version loses some of the mystery involved with his name. We don't know why he's using a different name so there's still mystery there, but in my humble opinion I think you could have just skipped past this explanation and let the mystery start there, without directly telling the audience that Matt isn't his name.

Kenneth offered James a nod in return, and James finally began to hurry over the hill.

I feel like the line here "James finally began to hurry over the hill" kinda explains my feelings towards this chapter. This was a very slow chapter and beginning to the story. I think this is partly intended as you want to savor this beginning before getting into the call to adventure (because, knowing James, it isnt going to be pretty), but you end up repeating a lot of information over and over again, and I feel like I was reading things over when I wasn't. I think this can be pretty easily solved with some minor rewording and rewrites. I am super excited for this because I loved what I read of the previous draft, looking forward to reading more!

soundofmind says...

slow cowboy is slow repetivttitiive corwerboye yes. thank u dis not a hard fix lol to go back and just shorten lmao but thanku for pointing it out. i did want the chapter to be slower but not that slow B) i may edit it today because i can and want to i am powerful anyhow

i was was wondering about the whole dropping james's name early on, and i knew it'd lose the mystery, but i wanted to not have as much confusion. i like your in-between solution... i shall delete the explanation. ahaha hehe hoho. you are humble GENIUS thank u uwu

happy to see u and thank u for review xoxoxo

Omni says...

Yeeeet im super excited to read the next chapter when i have time to review >.> :P

'They are afraid of nothing,' I grumbled, watching their approach through the window. 'Together, they would brave Satan and all his legions.'
— Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights