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Chapter 1 - A Broken Blade

by VassternichDrauka


Ania crouched, huddled under the low hedge. The bristly needles caught her hair, and the small blue-white pebble-berries that had already fallen burst under the palms of her hands. She heard the soft footfalls on the turf a few feet off, and she slowed her breathing and relaxed the muscles in her body, trying not to make a sound.

When the shadow attached to the footfalls was close enough, she braced her feet against the stout wooden trunk of the hedge, and leapt out in a shower of green needles to tackle the grown man on the foot path.

They both tumbled to the earth in a tangle of limbs and cloth. Ania’s father, Daninite, landed on his back with an “Oof!” and tried in vain to get back onto his feet while Ania wrapped her arms around his legs, giggling with all the fervor of her eleven year old self.

Ania heard a high whistle, and moments later she felt large paws on her back, and a long moist tongue was gluing the leftover pine needles to her hair. She let go of her father’s legs, and tried to turn around to face the panting muzzle of Nama, the not-so-little puppy that was determined to lick the back of her head off.

But as soon as she let go of her father’s shins, he scrambled to his feet and turned the tables, hoisting her into the air with his long arms wrapped around her middle. Ania squirmed and laughed, trying to get free, but Daninite started tickling her ribs, and she nearly fell out of his arms. He pinned her arms to her side, laughing with her as she tried to wriggle out of his strong grip.

Eventually, Ania ran out of breath, gasping for air as her flailing limbs came to rest. “Fine. You win,” she muttered.

When she had stopped squirming, Daninite set her down. He knelt down in front of her, the edges of his long overcoat brushing the tops of the grass. He started brushing the dirt and needles from her cloths, and said, “You know your lesson was supposed to start a quarter-mark ago, don’t you?” His perpetually twinkling eyes looked up through raised eyebrows at her.

She smirked. “Of course I know, Da. Why do you think I was out here waiting for you?” Before he could say anything, she pointed at the side of the red rock wall on the east side of the house. “You always eat in the downstairs parlor, so if I’m late, you always come through that door. You always follow this path,” she said, pointing at the neatly cobbled pathway beneath their feet, “and you always stop right here, because you can see the entire lawn from here.” Ania smiled broadly. "'Know your opponent's motions better than he knows them himself.' The Art of Victory, chapter sixteen."

Daninite laughed, a deep-throated rumble. He reached up and ruffled her short, dark hair, shaking loose some of the burr-like hedge needles from their perch. "That was the assignment I gave you last night. You read it already?"

"I read it last week and you know it."

The petulant look on Ania's eleven-year-old face melted off as her father laughed again, and said, "What I know is that you really only used chapter sixteen as an excuse to stay outside a little longer."

Ania glanced sheepishly down at her feet. No matter what excuse she used, it was almost impossible to fool him. She noticed a small smudge of dirt on the toe of her boot. She tried to brush it off with the tip of the other. She avoided looking at her da. I hope he isn't upset with me... She bit her lip as she saw one of his hands come into view.

Daninite put his hand under her chin, and tilted her gaze up to meet his. A gentle smile curved his lips. "Ania, you're one of the smartest people I know. And that's saying a lot. I know you love being out here, and excuse or not, you've proven that you understand chapter sixteen, and so..." He stood, and knocked the last few needles from her hair. "I don't think we need to have a lesson on something you already know. Why don't you show me some of your knife tricks?"

Ania flung her arms around his waist, burying her face in his overcoat. Backing up, she grabbed his hand and started pulling her da towards one of the larger oak trees along the border of the yard. She got to one with a massive knot in it, and several deep stab marks clustered around the twisted bark, and stopped about twenty feet away from it. She pushed her da back a few steps so he was out of her way, and said, "By the way, Da—they aren't tricks. Don't you pay attention?"

She flicked her wrist, and the butts of her daggers slapped into her palm. She flipped them up into the air, tossing them from hand to hand behind her back, her eyes switching between each of the dancing blades as quickly as the wings of a hummingbird. Left to right, underhand, overhand, behind the back, add a spin, and... Ania's hands blurred, and she threw the knives at the tree trunk with the force of a crossbow bolt. She pulled another pair of daggers from the tops of her leather boots, and sent them to stick only seconds after the first had thudded to a stop.

Ania smiled. The knives had landed exactly where she wanted them too—four knives exactly the same distance away from each other, surrounding the knot in the oak tree. One last knife...

Ania drew the last knife from a belt sheath on her left leg, ready to bring it across and stick it, dead center, with her right hand, but as soon as she brought it out, she knew something was wrong. The balance was off, even the shape... But that wasn't possible. How could the balance be off? This was the exact same knife she'd used yesterday, and it had been fine...

Before she had time to do more than register the problem, the knife, off balance and spinning wildly, hit her hand, but not in a way she could catch it. A corner of the blade was bent nastily into a split burr that dragged across her palm, tearing open a thin layer of pale skin.

Ania cried out at the stinging pain, and brought her throbbing hand in to clutch it to her chest. She stared uncomprehendingly at the knife that was now imbedded into the soft dirt at her feet. She could see now that something had bent the blade, making one side split and creating the burr that had cut her.

Daninite dropped to his knees by her side, his normally smooth brow furrowed in deep concern. "Ania, are you alright? What—" he looked down at the knife and she saw his shoulders slump. "Ah, so that's what it hit." Placing a hand in her shoulder, Daninite said quietly, "Last night, somebody threw a rock through the window of the shed. It was thrown quite hard, and so a lot of equipment was knocked to the ground off the walls, but we couldn't figure out what it collided with first. I guess it must have hit your knives.”

She avoided his gaze, staring instead at the red-beaded tear in her palm. Her finger twitched, and her whole hand stung. She brought the injured palm up to her mouth and started sucking on it. The sharp tang of blood filled her mouth, but the sting faded. She was sorry when it did. Now she didn’t have anything to distract her from the tears threatening to well up. They spilled over and she watched as big wet droplets fell to the ground. A few of them hit the tops of her boots, darkening the faded leather. She tried to concentrate on that, but soon her vision blurred.

Now she didn’t have anything to concentrate on.

Her shoulders started to shake. Staring at the blurry silver splotch on a sea of green that had been her knife, she whispered, “Those were her knives.” She clenched her uninjured fist, remembering how it had felt when her aunt had pressed the bright lengths of polished steel into her hands four years ago. She almost said, "Why did they do it?" but she knew. It was the same reason they followed her home from town, the same reason they stole her books when she left them on the benches on the edges of the lawn, the same reason she looked over her shoulder whenever she was out past dark.

Her right hand, which had decided on a dull ache, dropped down to the necklace hanging under her collar. The thumb-sized pendant hung from a twisted silver chain, and it fit snugly in her palm. The metal was cool on the torn skin. She squeezed it, and felt the imprint of a hawk's head dig into her fingers. Just because of a necklace, she thought. Just because I'm not scared of it like they are. Just because I don't hate it. Just because -

She felt her father's arms wrap around her, and she buried her face in his shoulder.

"I know, Ania. I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry."

* * *

When Ania had calmed down, and her da had used his sleeve to dry her cheeks, and her eyes weren't quite so red and puffy anymore, Daninite backed up and looked her up and down. "You know, I don't think we need to finish your lessons today. I was going to go over chapter sixteen, but if you already understand it well enough to use it, I think I can let you off the hook." Placing his hands on her shoulders, he pushed himself upright to a standing position. Ruffling her now very messy hair, he said as he led her back towards the path where she had ambushed him, "Why don't you head down into town and see if Karra can help you fix your knife? You can stay down at the forge for as long as you want."

Ania's step picked up when he mentioned Karra. She'd been distracted enough that she'd completely forgotten about that option. She looked up at him, making sure that he was really alright with her skipping the rest of her lesson.

When he saw the look on her face, Daninite laughed and shook his head. He pushed her towards the stable lot. "Go on, Ania. And don't come back without a smile on your face!"


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Mon Jun 17, 2013 4:56 am
MariaRowlands1 wrote a review...



This is quite a good story but I can't see the connesction between the characters and Angels. To me this story just looks like it's a bit mixed up. Esspecially since I have no clue what the characters look like. But so far, a good story line and an okay start.






Whoops! I was talking about chapter 4. I clicked on the fourth chapter to go to the first. SORRY! :(



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Wed Feb 13, 2013 2:47 pm
Caesar wrote a review...



Heyhowdyhey VassternichDrauka! Nice username.

Now, onto the review. The way you structured this, your 'voice' was fairly good. It doesn't really suit a rigid, medieval context, however. If this is medieval at all. If it is medieval, you'd have to think of social context and whatnot. They evidently seem rich/well-off, as his father is schooling his daughter, and she can speak good English, if it is English, and also read. Not a lot of girls were like that during medieval times, and even if they were rich, they'd have tutors. A father certainly wouldn't bother.

Speaking of that, what father lets his daughter play with knives? Like, really. That's dangerous, very dangerous. It'd be risky and suicidal, and the sign of a not very good father. You'll have to justify it, and it better be a pretty good justification.

On that note, the girl throws knives powerfully and accurately. An eleven year old girl wouldn't be able to do that, indeed no. So she must have superpowers. Does she? You don't mention, so readers would be inclined to believe she doesn't. In this case, it wouldn't really make sense.

You also lack the physical description of people and places, which I recommend including. The chapter really isn't vivid nor plausible, as things stand.

Hope this helped
~Ita






Hey, thanks for the review. :)

I've noticed that a few of the issues that you've pointed out seem to be coming from the fact that in this chapter, I haven't fully established the full society and culture that she lives in. That comes in more in later chapters, but just so you know: This isn't "medieval" as we would know it. While there are certain aspects that are taken from our own history, because of the different way this world evolved, the setting is notably different. Also, this is a female dominated society (like I said, that becomes a little clearer in future chapters). Therefore, the father IS the tutor. Yes, normally they would hire a separate person, but her father, Daninite, is one of few men that have received an education himself, and Ania's mother both acknowledges and respects his intelligence, and so he is the one that gives all of their children their preliminary educations.

As to the knives: Like I said, this is a female dominated society, so think of it this way: who lets a young man (in our own history) play with swords? Just about every noble or affluent family. Ania's mother is actually a military advisor, and her eldest sister is in the army as well. Therefore, when Ania's aunt (a kind of soldier herself) chose to teach Ania how to throw knives, it was not an entirely abnormal thing. Also, she started learning at a very young age, which is actually plausible. It doesn't take very long to grow proficient at knife throwing (and I've checked all of this against an actual knife-thrower. It isn't actually all that rare to teach a young child martial techniques like that). As for why he lets her, he doesn't have much control or say over what kinds of martial training she receives, and she's proven that she is actually quite proficient at it. No superpowers necessary or present. :)

As for the physical description, I purposely left out certain things other than those directly involved in the story. I've learned from experience that to add too much sensory detail that isn't directly correlated to what is happening just overloads and bores the reader. The same with people - describe them as it becomes necessary. This is something I've seen in professional writing as well as learned in a collegiate-level writing class. I'll see if I can work some clearer descriptions in, but I'm a little wary to damage the cohesiveness of the story as a whole.

Of course! Any review is welcome.
-Vass





blog/VassternichDrauka/synopsis_for_black_horizons_b-57038.html

I posted the book-jacket synopsis I wrote. I thought it might help clarify the setup of this world a little better.

Thank you again!
-Vass



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Wed Feb 13, 2013 4:00 am
AntonioRivera wrote a review...



I read half of it, and honestly because I am tired haha! I'll read the rest tomorrow, but from what I did read, you have a nice voice here. It's a bit unfitting of what's going on in the story, but it's very nice. Descriptive and well structured. Use that to your advantage :)






Thank you for the review. :) I hope you feel inclined to continue the story.

Thank you - I have been working on strengthening my voice. If I may ask, where did you feel that my voice was unfitting the situation? I'm a little confused.

Thanks again for your time.
-Vass



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Wed Feb 13, 2013 3:46 am
Kafkaescence wrote a review...



So how is an eleven-year-old girl able to take down a grown man? And even if she is superhuman, why would she? It's her dad. It's not cute, it's vicious.

That aside, what kind of father would let their eleven-year-old girl carry sharp knives around? And throw them, and play with them? What is he thinking? Even if she's really skilled with knives, some protective instinct of her father's should be kicking in and reminding him that letting little girls play with knives=dangerous. After all, mistakes happen, and tend to happen much more often when small children are spinning knives in their hands and throwing them at trees.

Dad must have some reason for teaching her knife tricks. Something big, hopefully. You're going to need something big to justify this exhibition of apparent fatherly carelessness.

Adding to the problem is the fact that this seems to take place in a medieval setting, and you have to take into account that women are not accorded the same privileges and the same attention as men are, education-wise especially. No father, no matter how gender-blind, would teach his daughter knife tricks and war strategies. That's life.

Overall, I found this uninteresting due to how unrealistic much of it is. I hope this helped.

-Kafka






Hey, thanks for the review. :)

Perhaps this is just my own experience, but I've seen (within my own family) that is perfectly possible for a young child to knock a fully-grown man to the ground if a) he is unaware, and b) the child knocks them down in the proper way. In other words, from a low enough position that it knocks off their center of balance. As for why, Ania has a very care-free, teasing relationship with her father. This particular instance is actually directly based on several memories I have of my own father wrestling with us as young children. As it is based on personal experience, I apologize for not making the entire situation a little more clear.

As I mentioned with LouisCypher, this is a female dominated society, therefore it was actually not her father but her aunt (as explained later in the story) that taught her to throw knives. As for why, it is the same theory behind why a father or instructor would teach a young man (in our own medieval time period) how to wield a sword. This family has a strong military affiliation: Cerena, the mother, is a military advisor on the national level; Ehmita, the eldest sister, is a member of the military; and Alliania, Ania's beloved aunt, was the equivalent of a special-ops soldier (a Knight). Thus, in this family, every child has some kind of martial training, if only for self-defense, and they all learned some kind of war strategy, due to the fact that their nation is at war (explained in the future). You've accurately pointed out that in our own history, women were not the educational equals of men. Flip that, and you have part of the social make-up of this female-dominate world. Her father actually has no say in what kind of physical training his daughters receive.

Thank you for the review. I hope that what I said clarified certain points and that you'll feel inclined to continue reading, but thank you for the time you spent to read it in spite of your uninterest. A question: Many of these points were either clarified or hinted at in the synopsis (book-jacket summary) I have written. Do you think it would be beneficial to post that as a jumping off point for the reader?

Thank you once again for your time.
-Vass





blog/VassternichDrauka/synopsis_for_black_horizons_b-57038.html

I've posted the book-jacket synopsis as a blog. I hope this helps give a better sense of the world.

Thank you again!
-Vass




"Everything you can imagine is real."
— Pablo Picasso