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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.

James brought Elliot to a stop and looked back. Months ago, he'd introduced himself as Matt. By now, James had grown accustomed to responding to the false name.

"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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Sun Jun 11, 2023 4:22 am
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AuroraPayn wrote a review...



Gonna be honest, this was better than I expected it to be.

You’re pretty good at capturing people’s attention in the first chapter, way better than me haha.

The only question I have is why did James tell Gregor that his name was Matt? Is he running from something? Or someone? Did he just lie to lie? Guess I’ll have to find out when I read more.

I also love how you introduced and described the characters, definitely better than my descriptions and introductions.

Overall, this is a great chapter, I already love it and am intrigued as to what happens next.

I know this is a pretty short review, but that’s kinda my specialty.

- Your local rando, Aurora Payn




soundofmind says...


Thanks, Aurora! Glad you enjoyed it! As for your questions those will be answered in later chapters, haha



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Fri May 26, 2023 3:23 am
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Lael wrote a review...



Hey sound! This is ages overdue, but here I am at last. :) I can't think of a better way to both read this draft of your novel and get back into reviewing after an obscenely long amount of time, haha.

So starting from the beginning, I really liked how you lay out the scene. The descriptive words and the way you put them together really felt like painting a picture of how everything looked from James' perspective. It's giving those Western vibes, which I know you were definitely going for. The only thing that stood out to me a little from the first couple of paragraphs was this sentence:

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.


This was the first actual mention of James in the chapter, and I felt like it could be a bit jarring or confusing to a new reader until arriving at the next paragraph. So perhaps this part could refer to him by name and the next paragraph begin with "He" instead.

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.


You know, I've never really seen any book that has a protagonist with bad eyesight, so that's very refreshing. I'm just imagining James squinting at all sorts of things now and pretending like he knows what he's doing. :P I'm also trying to think of how Kaia would react seeing him squint like that.

One of the things I really like about your writing style (as I've kind of already begun to say) is the descriptions. I enjoyed the way you describe the other men in this chapter as well, and I feel like it gave me a good initial grasp of who they are as people.

I was wondering how you were going to tackle the issue of introducing James as James but having him present himself under a fake name to other characters, but I like the way it is written now at the time of this review. It's subtle and effective in its execution. However, there's one tiny thing that can be done to make it even smoother, in my opinion.

"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.


I think the use of "Matt" within this span of sentences is a little close together, and if it is only used once (specifically, in the second instance), I think it makes the best lead-up to the next sentence, which is about how James is used to responding to the name Matt. Also, it could make the dialogue a little more natural, since Gregor was already talking to James, and people don't necessarily address each other by name so often if they're very familiar with each other and see each other all the time the way I imagine these guys do.

In conclusion, I enjoyed this introduction to this latest version of The Lost Dragon. It's good to be back in James' story and immerse in the world of Nye. I think the almost-idyllic and quiet setting presented here is a good contrast with some questions that readers may obviously have about James' mysterious behavior and backstory.

I will be back to review the next part hopefully soon! ;)




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Sun Dec 18, 2022 3:22 am
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Shady wrote a review...



Heya soundie! I am here at LONG LAST, excited to get started reading your LMS novel, in honor of Team Chicken Heist for this wondrous Review Day. I will admit I am already a little review fatigued since this makes my 17th review xD but I am going to get through as many chapters as I can before I run out of steam! Let's get started!

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.


As someone who was raised on a cattle farm, I can tell you with certainty that farmers do not routinely pet their cattle xD most aren't docile enough to let you get that close unless they're like a milk cow or something.

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.


Ahh that fits more ^^

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.


You know, in retrospect, this probably isn't actually a big deal. Like, realistically speaking, how many people have cattle farmer experience to be reading this book to know if it's realistic? Probably not many. So it probably doesn't matter.

But this does seem like the world's most domestic cow xD like cattle can definitely be mellow like this if it's like a 4-H cow for showing or a dairy cow or something that gets handled daily. But I know for my own farm with beef cattle we were pretty hands-off, so when we did need to give them medical care, we had to put them in a headgate and deal with them trying to murder us while we did whatever we needed. I assume the same is for cowboys ^^

"Oh, and Matt?" Gregor called out.


Does... his boss not know his name? xD The first time he called him Matt I thought he was asking one of his coworkers to go get the cow but then he did this lol that's pretty funny. And also intriguing. I think that was a really smooth way to pique interest. Like... is this a case of an absent-minded boss? Or is James lying about his identity? Already adds an extra layer of intrigue straight out of the gates and is really well done!

I think this was a good opening chapter part! It was pretty peaceful, but still established a problem right away and gave us interest in your characters, so I think it set the tone well and has me excited to read on.

So I'll go do that now. Hope this helped!

~Shady 8)




soundofmind says...


As someone who was raised on a cattle farm, I can tell you with certainty that farmers do not routinely pet their cattle xD most aren't docile enough to let you get that close unless they're like a milk cow or something.

OOOOOOOOOOOOH I am learning. Thank you for this now I know I can poke u for cow info. *takes notes*

Does... his boss not know his name?

Lol... yeah he doesn't. I'm glad this added intrigue tho. I'm still figuring out the best way to make it clear that Gregor thinks James's name is Matt while still keeping an air of mystery around it as to why. ^^''

THANK U SHADY FOR YOUR REVIEW ILY AND THANK U FOR READING <3



Shady says...


Thank you for this now I know I can poke u for cow info.


hahaha you can indeed, though it will come jaded xD I freaking hate cattle so much they're the worst.

Lol... yeah he doesn't. I'm glad this added intrigue tho. I'm still figuring out the best way to make it clear that Gregor thinks James's name is Matt while still keeping an air of mystery around it as to why. ^^''


haha I think you're okay ^^ it was mild confusion for a few seconds but especially now that I've seen him introduce himself as Matt to Clandestine it just seems mysterious.

THANK U SHADY FOR YOUR REVIEW ILY AND THANK U FOR READING <3


UR WELC ILU 2



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Fri Dec 16, 2022 9:47 pm
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IcyFlame wrote a review...



Hey sound! I'm jumping on the opportunity to actually read this from the beginning as I seem to keep catching you when you're on like chapter 15 or 16. I know you've already got quite far with posting this draft but I'm going to get as far through as I can. I'm trying to forget everything I already know of this novel but sorry in advance if I mention something that's from an older version.

I like the slower pace of the start here - it gives me some time to get to know the characters and get a bit of an idea of what's going on. I will say though that beyond my knowing that you can tell a great story I haven't got a huge reason to read on just from this section. We haven't been put in the middle of any action, and the mystery of the missing cow seems a bit downplayed. It's only the first half of the chapter though, so I'll reserve full judgement on the hook of the chapter for when I read the second part.

I also found the whole interaction with Gregor/Kenneth confusing because of them calling him Matt. It took me quite a while (and reading through Omni's review) to work out that was what they were calling James. I understand your decision to remove the exposition, but I think a side comment just acknowledging that it's still James would be helpful?

I'm not sure we might be on the side of too slow a start, but I'll read part two and get back to you xD

Happy Review Day!

Icy




soundofmind says...


I understand your decision to remove the exposition, but I think a side comment just acknowledging that it's still James would be helpful?

Ahh ok, lol. I DO BE TORN between two options and I shall need to find a better middle. Thanks for noting this though - I had a feeling it'd still be a point of confusion. I shall try to fix.

Also, bless you for being cool with reading this after being exposed to the earlier draft lmao. No worries if things get confusing.

I did want this story to start out a lot slower than the last which I know has its weaknesses. It doesn't have much pull at the start, but I guess I really wanted a chance to give some exposition (and admittedly I didn't have any other ideas I really loved). Hopefully, it's not too boring ehehe, but if it is, let me know. :^)



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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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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




If I were a girl in a book, this would all be so easy.
— Jo March