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Hunted 2.2

by Noelle


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It was midday when Ryder finally woke up. The sun blinded her when she blinked her eyes open. Despite how long she had slept, she was still groggy and wanted to turn back over and close her eyes. But she couldn’t. There was a village meeting she had to attend.

She wasn’t looking forward to it. Twice before she had been to one and they consisted of old people arguing in circles. Maybe that wasn’t a fair evaluation. There were a few members under fifty. Elanor who headed the textiles was young. She was pregnant again; her fifth child. Then there was Marco who had come of age three years ago. He was the closest in age to Ryder. She figured there were others, but she couldn’t recall. There wasn’t much time for socialization during meetings.

Despite the rule of having to be overage to be a leader, Ryder had yet to come of age. The age was twenty and she was a few years away from that still. If Harold the previous leader hadn’t passed away so suddenly, she wouldn’t even have been considered. Although she was honored to be a leader so young, she wasn’t fond of the responsibilities. There were many days that she wished Harold was still there. Not only because he could retain his job, but he was a good man and a good friend. She hadn’t worked for anyone besides him.

There was a knock on her door. “Are you awake, dear? Lunch is ready.”

“Yeah, Mary I’ll be right out.”

“Better hurry. The stew is warm and your brother is hungry. Can’t promise he’ll save you any.”

Ryder smiled and gave a soft chuckle. “I’ll be out.”

Mary wasn’t her real mother. Terrance wasn’t her real brother. But she had come to think of them as blood. Seven years ago they took her in when she had nowhere else to go. Having them made life less miserable.

She plucked a raggedy maroon sweater off her chair in the corner and pulled it over her head. The house was cold as they weather outside was changing. Winter was behind them, but the cold wasn’t ready to leave.

When she reached the kitchen, both Mary and Terrance were sitting at the table. Mary gave her smile as she pulled out the chair next to her while Terrance stuffed one spoonful after another into his mouth.

The kitchen was small, but homey. A stove with embers still burning from the seared wood stood next to an ice box. The table sat in the middle of the room with a rose patterned rug beneath. Elanor had designed it specifically for Mary as that was always the flower of choice in Mary’s garden.

Ryder eased her way onto the chair. The wood was old and warping and she didn’t trust a single piece of it. One day she would sit down and it would break.

“Morning, Ryder,” Terrance said, muffled by the bread piled in his mouth. “About time you woke up.”

Ryder slapped his arm. “It was a late night.”

He grinned at her before turning back to his food. He had his mother’s smile. And her eyes. They were a light hazel that reminded Ryder of coffee drowned in milk. Oh how she longed for a cup of the dark drink. It had been a while since the wanderer was able to find coffee beans. They were a delicacy one could only come upon in the street markets of the city.

They a while in silence. It was nice to take in the quiet and listen to the noises around them. The birds squawked outside of the lone window and the wind blew against the curtains. Ryder watched them ripple back and forth. Anxiety left her. A new found feeling surged inside her, spreading to every inch of her body. She closed her eyes and breathed in the moment.

“How was Collection Day?” Mary meant well, but Ryder didn’t want to revisit it.

She stared into the bowl in front of her. “It went okay. Definitely different having to actually be there.”

“Saw the prince looking at you,” Terrance added, a gleam in his eye. “What was that about?”

The prince. She had tried to forget about him, push the memory from her mind. But he lingered there through the night and appeared in strange dreams. She couldn’t remember the details, only the feeling of hopelessness and the panic that surrounded her.

They were dreams she wished she’d never have again.

“I don’t know what to tell you. He might have glanced at me for a moment, but I was too focused on what I was doing.” She would be lying if she said she hadn’t noticed. And the part about being too focused was a bit of a stretch. The prince’s gaze only added to her anxiety. She was left wondering what was going on and if she was in trouble. Her first Collection Day was hard enough.

“Maybe he thinks you’re pretty,” Terrance teased. “He’ll come back next Collection Day and ask to court you.”

“That’s enough, Terrance,” Mary scolded. “Let the girl enjoy her lunch.”

Ryder would’ve thanked Mary if her thoughts hadn’t started swirling. Not in a way she could control either. She was focused on the food in front of her, but endless clouds crept into her mind. She tried to grasp at any of them and when she did they slipped from her grip. A bright light flashed across them, as if a storm was forming. It rattled her brain and caused a pain she had never felt before.

She excused herself quickly and ran back to her room. Mary’s voice trailed off as she left, telling Terrance off for upsetting Ryder. It wasn’t the comment that set her off, it was the thoughts of the prince.

The door slammed behind her and she stumbled to her bed. She couldn’t feel as she fell on top of mattress and buried her head beneath the pillow. When she opened her eyes again, lines or red and purple spun in front of her vision. Desperate, she threw the pillow off of her and sat up. Maybe the change of position would help. But the only thing it brought was confusion.

Ryder’s room was gone. Her bed was still beneath her, but there were no walls surrounding her. Instead, a dark forest spread in each direction. A layer of fog creeped inches from the ground. The smell of sulfur filled the air, clogging her throat and making it hard to breathe. She covered her nose with the hem of her shirt as she stood.

There had to be an explanation for this. It must’ve been her overactive imagination, a side effect from a bad migraine. It was the only logical answer.

Then she saw a figure coming toward her. It was running, crushing leaves and everything in its way. Ryder’s heart raced as it came closer. Her throat tightened even more than it had and she took a quick step back. She tripped over the root of a tree and landed on her tailbone. The pain didn’t register over the fear gripping her.

When the figure reached her, she recognized who it was. The prince. He was breathing almost as heavy as she was and her fear was reflected in his face.

“Why are you here?” he asked.

She gaped up at him, trying to decide what to say. Before she had a chance to even speak, another pain erupted in her head. She clutched her temple and closed her eyes. It was the same pain as before. Only when she opened her eyes this time, she was back in her room.

Mary was knocking at her door, but Ryder didn’t have the strength to open it. She shouted that she was feeling sick and wanted to get some rest. Mary accepted the answer and left her alone.

The pain had left Ryder’s head. There wasn’t anything left. She felt just as normal as she had when she woke up.

Maybe rest would do her some good after all. She had been out late last night and figured she didn’t get as much sleep as she should’ve. A few more hours wouldn’t hurt. The meeting wasn’t until the night anyway.

She went over to the chair and took off her sweater, laying it neatly as to not let it wrinkle. The dresser stood next to her and she searched the top drawer for a suitable shirt. The first one she found was a shirt Terrance had outgrown. It would have to do.

When she pulled it over her head, it snagged on something. She reached down to find the opal necklace her mother gave her around her neck. She had forgotten she even wore it today. When she untangled it and let it fall to her skin, she let out a hiss. A pain spread across her skin when it touched. She touched the spot gingerly and felt something soft and slimy. It churned her stomach.

She rushed to the mirror over top the chair and tore the shirt off. There, where the necklace hung, was a fresh burn.


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Mon Oct 08, 2018 8:31 pm
Messenger wrote a review...



Hey, Noelle, trying to get some reviews in today.

This chapter starts off a bit tell-y. I'm not sure that we need to know Mary and Terrance's relation in as much detail or the explanation of everyone's age at the meeting. Let us figure that out more naturally later on. It doesn't pertain to our immediate situation so it isn't overly necessary.
I am confused though. If Ryder was the girl in the first chapter, then shouldn't she be even younger (she sounds like she's about sixteen here, but if I remember correctly in the first chapter she seemed like she was at the oldest, twelve maybe?) Maybe that's on me for not paying attention though. I would like to have seen more of the Collection from Ryder's perspective though if that was her, instead of getting the tidbit about the Robin Hood figure.

Once you hit the meal it got a lot better. You nail the weather and the feelings (that early spring-still winterish feeling that I love) and the conversation flows in a natural way. I could imagine the whole setting very well in my mind. You had a nice balance of giving us the main items i.e. table, rug, food, but we can imagine the other bits in ourselves to make it our interpretation.
I love the vision thingy. You reel us in, and then let us out to dry with basically no answers. I NEED ANSWERS. The vision itself is described well (And this is out of place but I loved the little coffee paragraph: nice characterization) and I'm guessing it connects to Alekos. The necklace is an okay touch, but if I'm being honest it felt cliche. Dead mom's necklace/ring/diary is a much-overused item in all stories, so hopefully, you can make it unique. The idea of it burning her (hmmm interesting) could really make it come into its own so we'll see! I have faith in you.

~Messy




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Sun Sep 30, 2018 4:30 pm
niteowl wrote a review...



Hi Noelle! Here to get this out of the Green Room this fine Review Day! :D

Hm...so they made this young person the leader even though she hasn't come of age and most of the people with authority are old? I know I'm jumping in here, but that seems highly unusual and I find myself wondering why they would make such a choice. Like I'd think they'd go for another old person on the council or something. Also, if she's the leader, she doesn't just have to attend the meeting, but rather like preside over it.

The table sat in the middle of the room with a rose patterned rug beneath. Elanor had designed it specifically for Mary as that was always the flower of choice in Mary’s garden.


Sort of unclear whether "it" is referring to the rug or the table, though I figure it's the rug given that Elanor makes textiles.

Wait so she has this big important meeting, but then after lunch she goes back to bed? It sounds like there's some time before this meeting, but again I find myself thinking that someone would

It wasn’t the comment that set her off, it was the thoughts of the prince.


Just a comma splice here. Replace "it" with "but" and it's fine.

When she opened her eyes again, lines of red and purple spun in front of her vision.


Just a typo.

It's sort of surprising that Mary just accepts that she's sick without comment, given that she's apparently now the leader and has a meeting coming up. Actually, I think it's weird that this girl has been selected to be the leader but then apparently just goes back to her house and living like a normal teenager. That seems weird because it seems like once you're in a position of power, your whole life changes. You have tons of obligations and people to answer to and you may even have to change where you live. It doesn't really feel like anything has changed for Ryder as a result of being the leader, at least in this chapter.

Another thing I'm uncertain about is if this dream with the prince is unusual or not. It mentions that she's had weird dreams about the prince before, but then she's acting like this pain is unusual and this dream-transportation-migraine event hasn't happened before.

Wait, so she's getting dressed to go back to bed? That seems strange.

Okay, so this necklace burns her now, but she'd been wearing it as she slept with no ill effects? I guess clothing could be enough protection, but it seems like the necklace would have probably touched her skin at some point while she slept.

Overall, I think you do have an interesting character here, and I'm intrigued by the bizarre connection to the prince, the dreams, and now the burning necklace. I just wonder how realistic it is that she would be appointed leader and that she'd be just hanging out at home after becoming the leader. But perhaps there is an explanation for all that in the previous chapters. Keep writing! :D




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Thu Sep 27, 2018 4:39 pm
Panikos wrote a review...



Hiya, Noelle! Just dropping in for a quick review. I haven't read any of the previous chapters of this, so I apologise if I'm ignorant about some areas of the plot, but I'll do my best to be helpful nonetheless. I'll pick out little comments as I read through it then round off with my overall impressions.

Small Comments

It was midday when Ryder finally woke up. The sun blinded her when she blinked her eyes open.


Because waking up kind of entails opening your eyes, it feels repetitive to have both of the bits in bold. Maybe you could condense the two sentences? Something like 'When Ryder finally woke, the midday sun blinded her'
would work well enough.

Despite the rule of having to be overage to be a leader, Ryder had yet to come of age. The age was twenty and she was a few years away from that still.


As with the previous quote, I think you could collapse these sentences into one. 'Despite the rule that leaders had to be overage, Ryder wasn't yet twenty' would make the same point much more concisely.

“Morning, Ryder,” Terrance said


Just a heads up, but people don't actually address one another by name as often as we think they do. We only really use names when we're trying to get someone's attention, not when it's already clear that we're talking to them. As such, just 'morning' by itself would be more realistic here.

They a while in silence.


Missing verb here, I think.

She went over to the chair and took off her sweater, laying it neatly as to not let it wrinkle


Is it a wool sweater? I've never found wool to crease, no matter how you fold it.

Overall Thoughts

Obviously I've missed some details jumping into the story so late, but this chapter was really easy to pick up and follow. That's a great sign, because I fully believe that stories should be engaging throughout - even if we don't know everything that's happened, we should still be drawn in by any given chapter. You managed that with me.

An element that confuses me about this chapter is the matter of the village meeting. In the first paragraph, you specifically say that Ryder can't go back to sleep because she has to attend it, so I assumed she was going to depart for the meeting quite quickly. Yet there's no urgency throughout the chapter, and at the very end Ryder decides to take another nap anyway because the meeting isn't until nightfall. It feels at odds with the beginning, so it might be better to just avoid mentioning the village meeting in the first paragraph at all.

Your real strength is your dialogue. It's nicely naturalistic (save for the characters using one another's names slightly too often) and I felt that the conversation with Mary and Terrance was the most enjoyable part of the chapter. You know how to deliver exposition under the guise of dialogue without drawing too much attention to it, which is a great skill.

The rest of your prose doesn't blow me away. It's perfectly serviceable, and I didn't have any trouble following the scene or picturing what was happening, but the description didn't really immerse me as much as it could. I don't think you exploit the senses fully enough. When you describe, you focus predominantly on the visual, and more touches about the sounds and smells and textures of the scenery would plant us more firmly in the narrative. When Ryder had that weird vision about the forest and the prince, I didn't immediately pick up on the change in scenery, and I think that's because you don't signpost it thoroughly enough in the description. You state that her room has disappeared and that a forest has replaced it, but you've got scope for much more; you could talk about how the silence falls, or the sudden smell of pine and soil, or how much colder it feels. The more specific you are, the deeper you'll entrench us in the scene.

In terms of the plot, I'm sort of in two minds. Obviously I can't cast strong judgements on it based on this extract alone, but I am spotting a number of tropes that make me uneasy. You've got the protagonist with no real family, the mysterious visions, the gifted necklace from an absent mother - you execute them pretty well, but they do set off alarm bells because they're such hallmarks of typical fantasy. Your dialogue and characterisation makes me curious to know more about the story, but nothing about the plot itself has especially grabbed me. Then again, I've missed a lot, so take that criticism with a pinch of salt.

I think that's about it from me. It's a mostly well-executed chapter and your dialogue is really good, but the plot seems a little tropey and your description could be richer. On the whole, though, I really enjoyed reading it.

Keep writing! :D
~Pan





A thing of beauty is a joy forever; its loveliness increases...
— John Keats