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The Lord of Sipan

by Trident


The raucous clamor of the thousands below was the only thing she could hear over the thrumming in her chest. It seemed the entire Moche civilization had congregated at the base of the pyramid to see her dear brother put to final rest in the sunken tomb before her feet. She kicked at a patch of sand and small pebbles and they fell to their inescapable doom.

She spotted his ornate coffin within the pit and leaned over the edge to pay her final respects. The lord had been beloved by all, especially her, yet their love could not save him. Struck down by some terrible and unforeseen ailment, he had suffered his last breaths at her bosom, bargaining with the gods for redemption and a second life to make all well again. His offer did little to gratify the gods’ demands and was not met with acceptance. Instead he would live in the afterlife.

A bedraggled man walked up to the hole next to her and wiped his brow with a dirt-filled bit of cloth. He gave the body the briefest of glances and rested there shirtless and stinking in the hot desert sun. In his right hand, he held the reins of two llamas, beasts the Moche respected and loved for their life-giving capacities. He passed the reins to a priest who swiftly brought a rock shard across the animals’ throats, sending warm blood onto the sands and down into the pit. The lord’s sister took a step back in horror. The crowd prayed solemnly as their former lord would now have companions in the afterlife.

Next to be placed in the tomb were the two bodies of the lord’s deceased brides. Their earlier deaths had each had their toll on her brother; she recalled when he came to seek her solace. She welcomed him in her embrace and gave him much needed reassurances.

The commoners down below the pyramid grew silent in anticipation of the next ceremonial rite. Two burly warriors lumbered onto the top of the pyramid’s platform. Heroes among all men, they stood before the great audience with the posture of the gods, willing their fate to come. The priest nodded showing the accorded respect. The warriors were given small shafts of sharpened bone, which they jabbed into their stomachs. They uttered no screams or faithless wails at their time of death. The priest then cut off their left feet, assuring that in the afterlife, they would not leave their lord’s side. The bodies were then carried down into the tomb.

The lord’s sister stood at the top of the enclosed pit, her fate now sealed, her duty yet to be upheld. She looked down at the body, the gilded copper platelets, the gold and silver pectoral shield, the feathered ornaments, the elaborate headdress, the ear spools inlaid with turquoise. He was beautiful even in death.

The priest came up beside her and gently placed a hand on her shoulder. He stretched out the other and on his palm rested two more bone shafts. She grasped one while the priest took the other. He shoved the shaft into his abdomen, his hand slid down her back as he fell to the earthen platform.

She loved her brother. Her hands wrapped around the shaft and she plunged it deep into her stomach. This time it would be her brother’s embrace that welcomed her.


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Mon Dec 11, 2006 4:39 pm
Unrecompensed wrote a review...



It is the idea, more than the prose, that sells a story. Your prose are in need of so much work, so I don't have to focus on them. You're more than capable to see the faults yourself, I bet.

The piece itself is a little empty, devoid of any real weight. You give me a character, and you give me a scene, and you give me her death. It needs more.

Think of ways to add depth to the piece. Make me care about this person.

- Give me her love for this man more solidly. Give me a memories of their time together, her observations of his mannerisms (and contrast it with his lifeless body, perhaps). Give me depth, give me realism. She loved him and she died so she is sad is not enough. It's not real. Give me substance, give me her real thoughts, her real pain beyond that scratched from the surface.

- Show her fear - real fear - for what is coming. Make me care for her and sympathise with her situation. She wants to be with her love in the afterlife, but surely - like anyone - she is scared. Give me it, show me it, let me feel it in the prose. Give her a choice to die or run, and have her make it gradually.

- Give her a name! She should I care about this stranger, when I don't even know her name? It's a small change, but it makes a huge difference. Pronouns become tedious, too. Give her a name that'll add something to her, and make me care. I don't hurt when a man is murdered, but a do care when Matthew Davies with wife and child is.

After all that, when she kills herself, I'll care. No one can care for cardboard, and right now, that's what I see her. Make her human, make her real.

Like I said, your prose will get you buy. I doubt that's your focus at the moment, and if it is, it shouuldn't be. Ideas sell, prose package.

Hope I helped, Trident.

- Andy




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Thu Dec 07, 2006 4:01 am
bubblewrapped wrote a review...



THis was very good. A nice little piece that flowed well (like Ari said) and didnt overwhelm the story with historical detail. Well done! I'm going to be picky and note a few things which I think you could improve on:

1. In your first paragraph, I would remove the word "dear" from the second sentence. Since the story isnt written exclusively from the sister's POV it colours the narrative to much IMHO. Also, you tell us in the next paragraph that the lord was beloved; I dont think you need to mention it here (and, frankly, it sounds soppy, LMAO).

2. Also first paragraph. The phrase "inescapable doom" bothers me. I like the echo of foreshadowing here, but ... the phrase still bothers me. It's a bit exaggerated, and I think you would do better to tone it down. After all, they're only pebbles.

3. Second paragraph. I initially felt this was overdone, so maybe you could tone down the language just a wee bit -- "struck down", "terrible", "unforeseen" "ailment", "bosom" are fine in small doses, but altogether they're a bit much for me. But I love the last three lines about bargaining and redemption. They redeemed the entire paragraph for me :)

4. Third paragraph. I'd used "approached" instead of walked up to, simply because it will offset the wordiness of the rest of the passage. "Face" might be better instead of brow (yes, I'm being nitpicky, but...OK, I'm just being nitpicky). And I'm not sure "dirt-filled" works - I'm getting images of a handkerchief with a load of dirt cupped in it, which I'm sure is not what you meant LOL.

5. Also third paragraph. More nit-picking. "Rock shard" is too specific, methinks -- it gives away that this is "historical fiction" and thus has facts to insert. Better might be "obsidian blade" or "flint blade" or something.

6. Again, third paragraph. I dont know why I'm so detailed either. Blame it on OCD. Anyways, assuming the sacrifice of llama to be an ordinary thing, why is the lord's sister horrified? I would think disgust might be a better word? And I'd replace "lord" with "master" too, because you're still calling him "lord" in the rest and it sounds funny.

7. Forth paragraph; might be a good idea to work in the exhumation of the two deceased brides.

8. Fifth paragraph. "Heroes among [s]all[/s] men" sounds better. Also, "showing the accorded respect" is awkward. Perhaps rewording would help.

9. Next paragraph. "Her fate now sealed" -- wouldnt it have already been sealed, this being the usual procedure on a lord's death? I like the juxtaposition of a fate sealed, and a duty yet to be upheld, but I would change the wording to show her fate was already sealed.

10. 7th paragraph. "shoved" seems too soft a word.

Love the ending :D. Really is a nice piece -- I know I'm being nitpicky above, but small details change big pictures into something better, honest! LOL. Kudos on a very interesting (and informative) piece!




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Thu Dec 07, 2006 2:46 am
Areida wrote a review...



I'll be the third to compliment you on the no-name thing. It always seems to either distract or confuse me when people include character names in very short pieces; it just seems unnecessary for such a small piece. So here, referring to them only as their roles in the story, worked very well for me.

The description was great; nothing felt overdone or or blown out of proportion. The piece flowed nicely as well, and I love reading well-done historical fiction about an era with which I am unfamiliar. Very nice work! I'm extremely impressed. Can't believe I won up next to this! Thanks for the read. :D




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Thu Dec 07, 2006 2:20 am
Cassandra wrote a review...



In his right hand, he held the reins of two llamas, beasts the Moche respected and loved for their life-giving capacities.


You don't need the first comma in this sentence, just the second--read it aloud and you can probably hear what I mean, as a comma indicates a pause in the reading.


I, like Myth, also liked that the characters did not have names. It worked well with this piece.


Also, your description was excellent. It wasn't superfluous to the point that I was bogged down by the words, and at the same time, there was enough to keep a beautiful picture painted in my mind's eye. Nice work. :D




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Sun Dec 03, 2006 10:19 pm
Trident says...



The brides were previosuly buried, yes, but ancient cultures often dug up graves of the family members (especially spouses) of important rulers and reburied them with the ruler.

I suppose I took that piece of information for granted when I wrote this.




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Sat Dec 02, 2006 12:46 pm
Myth wrote a review...



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*

Next to be placed in the tomb were the two bodies of the lord’s deceased brides. Their earlier deaths had each had their toll on her brother; she recalled when he came to seek her solace.


Were the brides not buried previously?

The commoners down below the pyramid grew silent in anticipation of the next ceremonial rite. Two burly warriors lumbered onto the top of the pyramid’s platform. Heroes among all men, they stood before the great audience with the posture of the gods, willing their fate to come. The priest nodded showing the accorded respect. The warriors were given small shafts of sharpened bone, which they jabbed into their stomachs. They uttered no screams or faithless wails at their time of death. The priest then cut off their left feet, assuring that in the afterlife, they would not leave their lord’s side. The bodies were then carried down into the tomb.

The lord’s sister stood at the top of the enclosed pit, her fate now sealed, her duty yet to be upheld. She looked down at the body, the gilded copper platelets, the gold and silver pectoral shield, the feathered ornaments, the elaborate headdress, the ear spools inlaid with turquoise. He was beautiful even in death.

The priest came up beside her and gently placed a hand on her shoulder. He stretched out the other and on his palm rested two more bone shafts. She grasped one while the priest took the other. He shoved the shaft into his abdomen, his hand slid down her back as he fell to the earthen platform.


The only other thing I could find was a few sentences all beginning with ‘the’, you could rephrase so the structure differs each time but leaving a few of them in.

For a short piece I liked how you didn’t have any character names in. All you had was the lord, his sister, the priest and a few soldiers and usually there are a couple of names thrown in for the sake of the reader.

I don’t know much about the Aztecs and their civilisation and so I found it an interesting piece as a lot of cultures have different ‘sacrifices’. And the gruesome scene with the llamas wasn't over the top, it was nice and short.

-- Myth





We are discreet sheep; we wait to see how the drove is going, and then go with the drove.
— Mark Twain