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Vyheria - Chapter 1

by Sheyren


Chapter One

Navarre’s fist connected firmly with her left cheek, sending her stumbling backwards. She wiped the trail of blood running down her chin from her mouth before lunging forward with a punch of her own. Just as it seemed like it would land, Navarre sidestepped, and the attack missed him by almost a foot. In one fluid motion, he placed his hand on her wrist and pulled it down to her side, then kept pulling as he slid behind her. Finally, he stopped when her arm was flush with her spine, forcing her onto the ground.

“You’re slowing, Exliana,” he said. She struggled to break free of his grasp, but the harder she tried to free herself, the tighter his grip grew. “If you hadn’t held your fist out in front of me for so long, we wouldn’t be like this. You basically handed me victory.”

Exliana muttered something that Navarre didn’t seem to care about, before weighing her options. Forcing her way out of his hold wouldn’t work with the current situation, and he had restricted her legs with his body weight, ruling out any plan to knock him away via kick. Instead, she decided to mock going limp, successfully convincing Navarre that she had admitted defeat. His grip loosened momentarily, but it was enough for Exliana to capitalize on and shove him off her.

She jumped up and spun around as Navarre fell to the ground. He rolled backwards and onto his feet, narrowly dodging a heavy dropkick. Force him on the defense, Exliana commanded herself as she relentlessly showered him with jabs and punches. He narrowly dodged each one, swinging the weight of his body accordingly.

It wasn’t long before his repeated dodging led her to impatience, and she changed her approach abruptly. Leaping up vertically, she twisted around with her leg extended, creating a sweep kick. Navarre predicted the change in tactics and ducked low. When gravity pulled Exliana down, Navarre was waiting. He wrapped his arms around her thighs and jumped backwards. She slammed onto the ground behind her and Navarre, and the air was knocked out of her by Navarre’s entire body weight landing atop her.

“Okay, that’s enough. I’m declaring Navarre the winner,” came a voice from behind them. The older man in the green cloak—Sage Meru, as he went by—approaching them nodded, and Navarre hopped off of his partner. Exliana stood up indignantly, wiping the dirt and dust off of her clothing.

“Good fight, Ex,” Navarre said, holding out his hand for her to shake.

Exliana turned to Meru, not shaking his hand. “It’s not fair! Why can’t we use magic in the spars? Everyone else will be using it tomorrow.”

“Both of you will be better off if you hone your martial combat skills, and use magic solely as a backup. I don’t expect either one of you to outperform a single combatant with your magic alone, so I’m forcing you to practice as though you won’t be using it at all,” Meru explained.

Sighing, Exliana turned and finally shook Navarre’s hand. “Good fight. How’d you know I was going to change tactics?”

“You’re really transparent when something annoys you. I figured your attacks repeatedly missing would make you a bit more reckless, and the aerial sweep-kick was the most likely follow-up attack.”

Exliana laughed, rubbing the bruise forming on the back of her head. “Damn, I guess you had me figured out from the start.”

“Exliana,” Meru started, “You must start utilizing your body weight more. You’re smaller than Navarre, but if you were to place your entire body on him, there would be little he could do in response. Even against larger opponents, it can at least buy you time.”

Exliana nodded, taking a seat beside a tree on the edge of the sand-floored clearing. Navarre walked over and placed himself beside her. The two said nothing, and did nothing, but they were so exhausted that doing nothing was the desired course of action. Sage Meru remained standing in the center of the hollow, staring into the branches of one of the trees.

Following his gaze, she saw nothing except a bird’s nest. Two baby birds sat in the home of wood and leaves, feathers puffed like balls of fuzz, chirping louder than it seemed bodies of their size should be able to. The mother—or perhaps father—was sitting on the edge of the nest, nodding at the ground. A number of worms were swarming the base of the tree, and the grown bird seemed to be trying to make their children fly to the ground themselves.

“Why's he so enthralled by that bird's nest?” Exliana whispered, leaning close to Navarre. He was following Meru’s gaze as well.

“It’s a metaphor,” Navarre whispered back.

“Oh.” The two watched him admire the nest for a few moments longer. He wiped a tear from his eye and turned back to Exliana and Navarre. They looked away, acting like the beetle on the bush beside them was the most interesting thing they had seen today.

“Navarre. Exliana. Look at me.” She looked him in the eyes, elbowing Navarre to tear his eyes away from the beetle and do the same. “You two are the only apprentices I’ve been fortunate enough to train. Truly, you’ve been wonderful students. However, the assessment tomorrow marks the end of my mentorship, whether you’re accepted into the Magicians’ Program or not. Stand up.”

Exliana and Navarre rose to their feet. After a long pause, Meru reached under his cloak and pulled out a red ribbon and light blue ribbon. He placed the red ribbon in Exliana’s hand, and placed the light blue ribbon in Navarre’s. “These ribbons state that you have officially been deemed fit to compete for admission into the Magicians Program by your mentor.” He stepped forward, pulling the two of them into an affectionate embrace. Exliana and Navarre stared at each other over his should, a shocked expression crossing both of their faces. “Good luck tomorrow.”

“Now,” he said, releasing them from the embrace, “You have a big day tomorrow, and the day grows late. Go home and get some sleep.” He turned and walked away from the clearing without another word, and Exliana smiled. The Meru she grew up with was back.

---|===|---

Moonlight illuminated the room, making the few pieces of furniture glow an eerie white color. Exliana lay with her head facing the only window, watching the full moon rise higher and higher into the sky. Her stomach was doing loops, and she struggled to calm the nervous anxiety creeping into her veins.

“58 contestants, and only 16 can be accepted,” Navarre spoke softly, clearly aware that Exliana was still awake. She had assumed he was too, but didn’t want to start a conversation.

“Really just the worst timing there, Nav.” Exliana laughed, rolling and peering over the side of the top bunk to where Navarre was laying. He was staring up at her, smirking.

“What? Are you nervous?”

“Damn right I am, and don’t act like you aren’t either!” she exclaimed before rolling back to watch the moon again. “I would be much more confident if I was able to take these stupid gloves off, but Meru still won’t tell me where he hid the key.”

“You know that’s for the better.” A pause. “Remember that time you cut them off with a knife? A knife you stole, I’ll add.”

“Yes, of course I remember.”

“You nearly burnt this place down. You nearly burnt me down!” His voice shook as he said it, almost to suggest he was shivering.

“I said I remember. But I was younger then, and a lot more reckle-” Navarre burst out into laughter, and Exliana threw her straw pillow over the side of the bed at him to shut him up. “Come on though, surely you’re nervous too?”

Navarre seemed to grow serious. “If I’ve learned anything from Meru, it’s that worrying gets you nowhere, so it’s better to never worry at all.”

“Easier said than done...” Exliana muttered under her breath. “If you used your magic to its full potential in tomorrow’s contest, you would be just about guaranteed a place in the program.”

“I’ve already decided to never use my magic without limits again. It’s dangerous, and trust me when I say I know what I’m capable of. The last thing I want is for a contestant to die tomorrow.”

“I guess.” A sigh escaped Exliana’s lips. “Well, we really should get some sleep.”

“Yeah, we definitely should. Good night, Ex.”

“Good night, Nav. Good luck tomorrow.”

"You too."


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Tue Jul 10, 2018 9:09 pm
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shusher says...



Your character starts off fighting herself, so it seems. Description is needed. Thought i'd let you know




Sheyren says...


Oh... I thought the difference of gender between the two characters would make the difference in character more noticeable. I'll keep that in mind in the future.



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Tue Jul 10, 2018 8:36 pm
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DarkPandemonium wrote a review...



Hiya, Sheyren. I critiqued your prologue and I'm wrapped up in all things LMS, so I thought I'd swing by and review your first chapter as well. Like last time, I'll start with small comments and then round off the review with my overall thoughts. Let's go!

Small Comments

Navarre’s fist connected firmly with her left cheek, sending her stumbling backwards.


I feel like 'connected' is a bit of a limp verb choice. It makes me think of USB ports and Lego, not a fist smashing into someone's cheek. Verbs are so crucial to imagery, so don't waste them.

His grip loosened momentarily, but it was enough for Exliana to capitalize on and shove him off her.


There's no need to say she's capitalising on it when that's clearly demonstrated by her actions. Show don't tell and all that jazz.

The older man in the green cloak—Sage Meru, as he went by—approaching them nodded


As the subject of a sentence, that's a bit of a mouthful. Something like 'Sage Meru nodded as he approached them, his green cloak trailing on the floor. Navarre hopped off of his partner [...]' would be a bit more palatable.

However, the assessment tomorrow marks the end of my mentorship, whether you’re accepted into the Magicians’ Program or not. Stand up.”


I assume they already know this, so it does feel a bit For The Audience to have him say it. It's not terrible offender, as dialogue exposition goes, but if you feel you can edit it out, it might be worth considering.

Moonlight illuminated the room, making the few pieces of furniture glow an eerie white color.


Like Zoom, I'd like you to be more specific here. You don't need to go overboard, but detailing the kinds of furniture would give me a better picture of the room.

Overall Thoughts

1) So, I like that this chapter is a bit more in the thick of things. The prologue relied more on mystery and suspense and hinting at old backstories, which doesn't interest me as much as actual action. It's good to meet our protagonists properly and establish their goals.

2) Personally, I'm not that keen on your starting the chapter with a sparring match. The problem with practice sparring is that there's not really any danger in it, nor much mystery, so it doesn't really rope me in. It's just fighting for the sake of it. This is probably a matter of personal preference, though, because I don't go in for fight scenes and action in books that often.

You do write the scene clearly and effectively, though. I could picture what was going on with ease, which is important for fight scenes. If I had a suggestion, it would be to describe the physical side of the fight a bit more - tell us about the pain of the blows, or the sweat against Exliana's back, the actual exertion. It'll just let the reader entrench themselves more substantially in her perspective.

3) Exliana and Nevarre's dynamic doesn't feel quite natural to me. Or perhaps just not close enough, considering how long they must've known each other. In the final scene, the way they talk to each other feels sort of restrained - when they're talking about the pointlessness of worry and what they're 'capable of', it just strikes me as overly formal. There's not that kind of easy, deep-seated understanding that close siblings have.

4) The jury is still out on how I feel about the plot. As far as I can gather, they're trying to get into some kind of magical program or academy, which doesn't feel like the most original angle I've seen in fantasy. I'll give it a little longer before I judge, though. Common tropes can work excellently as long as they're executed well.

That's all for this review! I hope it helped. In general, I think this chapter held my interest better than the prologue did, and I think your dialogue was more natural-sounding in this instalment. I'd like to see you integrate more description - not by much, though, because I do like how economical your style is - and focus more on Exliana and Nevarre's characters and dynamic. Once you've got me rooting for the characters, I'll be powerless.

Keep writing! :D
~Pan




Sheyren says...


Thanks for the review!

I'll definitely be keeping your suggestions in mind while writing the next few chapters. :) I'm glad you enjoyed this chapter more than the prologue, and hopefully the next few will engage even more. (Yes, the plot seems unoriginal at the moment, and it may seem like that for a little while longer, but it will break free into uniqueness.)

Thanks again!
- Shey



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Tue Jul 10, 2018 8:13 pm
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shusher says...



I guess I have to read the prologue first, but I would recommend, when starting a new chapter, to not use pronouns in reference to a character. If having a person getting lost at the start was done on purpose so they'd read the prologue first, I recommend referring to this as chapter 2, and prologue as chapter 1.




Sheyren says...


Thanks for the review! I'll keep your suggestions in mind during future drafts. :)

- Shey



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Tue Jul 10, 2018 6:27 pm
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Zoom wrote a review...



Hey,

Exliana muttered something that Navarre didn’t seem to care about,


I'm not sure you can get away with this so early into the story. If we were at the point where you have built up a solid characterisation of Exliana where we the readers can infer what she may have muttered, then this would have value. However it serves no real purpose without any context.

She jumped up and spun around as Navarre fell to the ground. He rolled backwards and onto his feet, narrowly dodging a heavy dropkick. Force him on the defense, Exliana commanded herself as she relentlessly showered him with jabs and punches. He narrowly dodged each one, swinging the weight of his body accordingly.


Dropkicks are generally heavy in nature, they're kind of an all or nothing attack option. Also considering this, I think it's unrealistic that Exliana is already up on her feet to shower him with jabs.

“Both of you will be better off if you hone your martial combat skills, and use magic solely as a backup. I don’t expect either one of you to outperform a single combatant with your magic alone, so I’m forcing you to practice as though you won’t be using it at all,” Meru explained.


This seems a bit unbelievable that Sage Meru starts addressing something he considers a major flaw the day before the [insert whatever is happening "tomorrow"]

The Meru she grew up with was back.


I wasn't sure what this indicated.


Moonlight illuminated the room, making the few pieces of furniture glow an eerie white color.


This was difficult to imagine because I have no knowledge of the type of building, furniture etc. I'm not saying that you should go overboard with a description, however something subtle could clue us in to the kind of setting you are going for here.

Navarre seemed to grow serious.


This is a considerable change of emotion, so I feel you should use this opportunity to show us some characterisation of Navaree. I can imagine someone becoming serious, but I can't imagine Navaree becoming serious.

“Yeah, we definitely should. Good night, Ex.”

“Good night, Nav. Good luck tomorrow.”

"You too."


This was too toneless for my liking. I suggest to work on this ending and really cap this chapter off with the conflict of emotion between Exliana and Nav.

***

Overall comments:

Your writing is smooth to read. I like your sentence structure and how minimalist you are when it comes to descriptions. I always see first chapters as a promise the writer is making to their readers, of what the story will be about. By opening with a technical fight scene you are promising that this story will be very battle oriented, and I'm honestly all for it.

What I didn't like so much is that the characters felt a bit flat and didn't really leave me with any lasting impression of who they are and what they are about, beyond anxious female character, carefree boy character and typical mentor type old man.

I also think it is essential that you show more of your magic system early on, because your story kind of lives and dies with that. So far the magic system seems ordinary and unexciting simply because I don't know anything about it.

With all of that said, something that intrigued me was that the contest tomorrow doesn't involve trying to kill your opponent, which almost makes me more nervous to know what's going to go down.

Also as a side note, have you played a relatively new game called Wizard of Legend? Because this story gave me WoL vibes which again, I'm all for.

If you do tags, please include me.

-Zoom




Sheyren says...


Thanks for the review!

You left me a ton of helpful comments, and I definitely intend to go back to this while writing future chapters and future drafts. :)

(Can't say I've played WoL... Is it worth checking out?)

Thanks again!
- Shey




"Be happy, my friend; and if you obey me in this one request, remain satisfied that nothing on earth will have the power to interrupt my tranquility."
— Mary Shelley, Frankenstein