"Author's note: This is the first chapter from a novel I'm writing. I've written a fair bit more than this by now, and have thrown subsequent chapters at various beta-readers, but this opening chapter still worries me. The opening chapter of a book is supposed to be excellent enough to draw readers in -- I fear this hasn't accomplished that. I'm trying to write an adventure/fantasy story with smidgens of dry humour and religious satire (later chapters obviously explore the Devil and such); I worry if that tone just makes this opening chapter, which doesn't have the theological elements introduced yet, feel weak. Tell me what you think -- does it form a premise that you want to read more of? Does it fall flat? Is it interesting enough? Is it rushed? Does the dry comedy just feel out of place? Is the setting and character too hollow? What parts of it make you go "this feels like a mediocre story, I'd rather not read it"? Really need advice here tbh."
Lucian Belmont casually walked out of his favourite casino, his pockets filled with winnings. It was his favourite casino not because he was spoiled for choice, but simply because it was the only one that he had frequented for more than a month before the other resident poker players had strongly suggested it was in his best interests to leave. He was an exceptionally lucky poker player; but of course, he would argue that he was skilled, not lucky; and certainly any priest who happened to also be a gambling enthusiast would argue that he was neither lucky nor skilled, but blessed. None of these were traits that his poker opponents found appealing, so he would rarely get to bleed the same people of their money for too long. In fact, the only reason he was still welcome in this casino after so long was because it did not have one steady group of resident poker players, but many who came and went. This was a comfortable situation for Lucian, and he savoured the knowledge that he was skilled enough to win against any unsuspecting poker player that would walk inside throughout the course of the day, or indeed, well into the night, before he retired home with his winnings.
It was also his favourite casino because most other casinos were home to poker players that weren’t gentle losers. Lucian had angered them with his skill, and their various armed gangs had already made many attempts at attacking Lucian – and it was a very recurrent pain, because these gambling-centered gangs had infested Vegas. If there was such a thing as infamy in Vegas, Lucian defined it. This casino seemed to be void of those ruffians, and fortunately so, because he had been on the verge of running out of places to safely gamble in.
This favourite casino of his was doused with the customary Vegas lights, much like every other building in sight, so the night sky was not as dark as it might have been. On one hand, Lucian knew he was a ruggedly good-looking gentleman, and to be in the dark would be a shame. On the other, quite a few poker enthusiasts had by now memorized his dashing features, and would have assaulted him on sight, so staying hidden would have perhaps been more ideal. The truest of dilemmas – but Lucian had always been an uncanny step ahead of these thugs, inside the casino or out. Tonight, for instance, he was leaving very early; in order to avoid the small gang of armed card-players he suspected would want to intercept him on his route home.
Walking was not fashionable in the city of sin, but Lucian had secured an apartment quite close to a number of casinos near the Vegas Strip, so he had no long commutes to make. Given that poker was his only source of income, and that he had to feed both himself and his wife, Vegas was an abundantly satisfying place of residence. He had amassed quite a sum of money in a small time, and was certainly proud of himself. Even tonight, he was carrying home money in the thousands from a few decent cash games. Had he played longer, he was sure he would have won far more. In any case, the tall, devilishly-moulded man, with the dark hair that seemed as if it would take an eternity to grey, walked home underneath shimmering lights, shimmering stars, and shimmering lights that were inexplicably manufactured into the shape of stars. He soon found himself, having stealthily avoided the gang of assailants who would have cornered him had he been here a few more hours into the night, at the foot of his home.
This was Lucian’s daily routine these days; wake up, spend as long as he could in a casino winning as much money from poker as possible, and then travel back home. It was incredibly cyclic, and he would skillfully avoid any possible interruptions to his system. Be it angry poker gangs or the common mugger, Lucian had never run into any major trouble in Vegas, even though trouble desperately tried to meet him every day. He’d always escaped. The various gangs of Vegas that had lost their gambles against Lucian so continuously were no doubt infuriated by this. The consistency of Lucian’s good fortune had gradually inflated his ego, although it would have done this to most anybody. Many people had told him that Vegas would be a terrible place for him to live, but he had been enjoying nearly idyllic circumstances ever since he had arrived. Indeed, he was sure he had never even gotten wet in the admittedly rare rainstorms, because there was little shortage of shelter in the crowded city. The only stains in his routine were the threats to his life, kindly delivered by the gang-men, but he had consistently escaped those as well. This situation had, unfortunately, turned Lucian complacent, confident, and perhaps a little dull. But that did not matter, because he was good at poker.
At this point, any ordinary main-character would have realised that they had been living a life so free of conflict for so long that they had to be nearing the point of the story in which an excessive amount of conflict would be injected into their lives all at once, and so would have made a hasty exit. Unfortunately, Lucian was not ordinary. In fact, he was quite special, but this is not important yet.
Lucian found himself, perhaps serendipitously, thinking back to near-escapes from the armed gang-men. Tonight was relatively safe – he had avoided the trouble before it had even begun – but he had, on several occasions, actually been shot at, to which he had responded to by running away, using instinctually mapped-out paths which always seemed to reveal themselves to be expertly-designed escape routes. It was nothing short of a miracle that he had never been shot. He counted his blessings, or at least he would have done, if he had been a man of faith.
The pathway up to Lucian’s house could only have been described as clinical. You could not have guessed that anyone had ever used this pathway, because it was entirely resistant to footprints or any wear whatsoever. These were the qualities of a good pathway, as far as Lucian was concerned, because it helped keep the knowledge of where Lucian currently lived a fair bit more hidden from any dangerous poker gangs. It led up to an inviting wooden door, which opened up into the house, where Lucian and his wife lived, alone.