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Kings Of The North

by karljohnston


I’m sweating buckets into my boots despite taking off my ski mask, gloves and unzipping my parka. Sliding around the living room floor, I dig my toes into the texture of the tall hairs of the carpet; a forest beneath my feet. My feet are wrapped in plastic grocery bags from Kaeser's store, protecting against the snow but not my own sweat. It's a common trick to do so when walking in a Northwest Territories' winter.

Inhaling the sweet aroma of chocolate-covered bannock, emanating from the kitchen, I nearly forgot the reason why I was there in the first place. My friend and I were getting ready to watch New Years Eve fireworks, over the Fort Smith lookout.

Tonight it’s -40 C, not including the wind-chill. Frost lines the glass around the window, building icy bridges fringing the glass panes. It reminds me of the ice road Dad and I crossed on our snowmobiles, the week before.

I hear a thudding sound behind me, of footsteps coming up the stairs from the basement. My friend, Thomas, is geared up and ready. Weighing in at about 150 lbs and at least 30 of that weight a solid mass of winter gloves, jet-black ski pants, parka, and -60C rated winter boots. We both knew the rating was fickle. When your feet got wet it was game over. That’s why we put bags over our socks, tucking them in at the ankles. Wet feet could easily become a problem, in the winter, for someone growing up in the Northwest Territories of Fort Smith.

With a quick pull, I cracked open the front door. A blast of wind fills our faces, assaulting our cheeks with a spray of tiny knives. It was a lot colder than -40 tonight. With the contribution of the wind-chill, it was probably easily -60 degrees Celsius. In this weather, pulling off a glove meant frostbite in under a minute.

About 10 seconds passed before Thomas and I took one last deep breath of bannock-scented warm air… and dove into the clutches of an icy winter wonderland

I felt the air stolen from my lungs, old man winter stole the last bit of heat I had been storing beneath my ribs

A short pause later, and the winter air filled my nostrils. I took a deep breath, tasting the cold air in my mouth, filling up my throat as if I had just taken a big gulp of ice water. I could hear my friend’s footsteps up ahead, crunching down the soft packed snow beneath his footfalls. Testily,

It was only a few feet before we plunged into pure darkness. Until our eyes adjusted. A glance to the heavens and I see the stars are out. It’s a clear night. Above, the purest white stars - glimmering like the eyes of millions of spectators - gaze down from above. Frigid winter air cut at me again, and I pull up my scarf, tucking it into my hood. I had my face covered but was thankful for the wind, as it helped me find the gaps in between the fabric. If there were any gaps in my coat, I now knew exactly where. That sub-arctic wind would let a man know exactly how vulnerable he was, and where. Like water, it flowed, unstopping through the air.

Down the snowy trail we walked, a muted royal blue reflects in the snow of the dark skies.

Within the depths of the darkness, the odd flicker of light sparkled between the trees. As if winking faeries were darting in between our peripheral vision. The arctic is truly the home of Canadian diamonds. Our trails are full of them, lined to the brim: moonlight reflecting off of the snow made us feel like kings, awash in our riches of the land. We were bathing in the light of the stars, above, and our path was lit from the diamonds lining the silent trail.

Alas, we are all royalty here, if you had the potential to recognise it within. For you have to have a bit of magic in your spirit to see the kingdom, otherwise, it would appear to the uninitiated as a frozen wasteland. But not to us, and not that night.

Tonight, we were kings in the great halls of the subarctic taiga, joined by merry dancers and ancestors alike in our court. As the trail flowed through the woods, so did we, in our regal cloaks lined with down and fur hoods. Before long we approached a slide in the land, leading down to a valley by the river bottom. It was here, on the Slave River, that we listened to the crack of the ice during the spring thaw. Where we launched boats in the summer, and courted our women during the autumn amongst the falling golden leafy trees. However, on this winter’s night, the trees were blackened like dark stone turrets. A top those turrets, we would be gifted by a display from Merlin himself.

Up the “turret” we began to climb. Stair by stair, we scaled every branch until near enough to the top to have a good view (but not to be spotted).

Upon reaching the top, we gazed out and noted the “wizards” had begun to take a position at the base of the hill, their dodgy steeds idling nearby. For several minutes, we waited, which soon turned to several more.

From below we hear a voice; “#$%^, it’s too cold. Nobody’s going to show up. Anyway, in this wind, I can’t get anything lit! Let’s go home! Fireworks display is cancelled for tonight.”

And so it was.

Yet we silently sat, swaying in the breeze, atop obsidian turrets and watched as our kin faded away, the lights from their trucks disappearing in the distance.

Fortunately, we were not alone, as we had brought our merry dancers, and they began to take their positions in the night sky above. Ready to make a show for us and the spectating stars above. Sprawling greens gave way to vibrant purples, then the orange, and the red. When suddenly; Light blue streaked by the crowds of stars; a meteor shower had begun.

It was time to wish in a new year

To the future of our northern kingdom.


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44 Reviews


Points: 3764
Reviews: 44

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Sun May 01, 2016 3:53 pm
Duncan wrote a review...



Hi! I am Duncan. I hope this helps. :)

So TribeofArt has already talked a lot about language, so I think I am not going to delve too much into it. So instead I am going to look more into plot and characterization.

Plot

Spoiler! :
As I read here I think this has a real potential to develop into a good short story. The setting is attractive (at least to me: I love snowy settings. They always have a wonderful magical quality.), and the 'kings of the north' theme in your work can work beautifully in a short story. I know you may just want to write a short piece to record your experience but do seriously consider extending this into a full-length story. I shall leave it for you, but you mentioned ancestors dancing in your work. I think that might also work fantastically.

Your experience does not stand out amongst all other narrative work, and you could try working out a bit with exaggerating and tweaking details to make it more memorable (unless you want an honest report of past events). For example, what might be some difficulties in your journey aside the cold? Or perhaps what, at the same time, might have happened in the house the narrator started the journey? Or basically, how does watching fireworks play a part in the narrator's life? These questions are worth thinking.

You have magnificent visual and touch descriptions throughout the whole piece, which helped a lot for me to visualize the scene, but as my usual greedy self I would have wanted more descriptions of sounds and smells to help readers submerge and feel together with the narrator. What might have the snow smelt like? Any sounds from footsteps? What may happen if you hear sounds that do not belong to such a wintry night?


Characterization
Spoiler! :
In your whole story we cannot really see much character development. We don't seem to be able to feel emotions from the perspective of both the narrator and Thomas. Any actions or dialogues that will let us learn more about these characters will help a lot. For example, after the
“#$%^, it’s too cold. Nobody’s going to show up. Anyway, in this wind, I can’t get anything lit! Let’s go home! Fireworks display is cancelled for tonight.”


How could the narrator encourage him and persuade him to stay? How can this help readers understand the backstory of the narrator? Or what gestures did the narrator use to hold onto him?


You have a really wonderful voice and excellent description skills. Keep it on, and write more! :)

Yours, Duncan




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16 Reviews


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Reviews: 16

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Mon Apr 18, 2016 8:25 pm
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TribeofArt wrote a review...



Hello hope my review helps you out a bit!

"I’m sweating buckets into my boots despite taking off my ski mask, gloves and unzipping my parka. I am sliding around the living room floor, enjoying the texture of the soft carpet between my toes and the plastic bags wrapped over my socks."

This one is just a reallyyyyyy teeenyyyy problem it's not even a problem actually just that it feels kind of weird when both sentences starts with 'I' it feels like my imagination got cut off all of a sudden or something. Breaks off the beautiful feeling to the story a bit u know? But of course it's just my opinion and seriously i bet nobody even notices that.

"The smell of chocolate muffins fills the air, on inhaling it’s like being in a bakery. It’s not like I’m waiting for my friend to get ready, in the living room."

The sentence here doesn't really connect. I get it the meaning of it but I had to read a few times to fully understand it. Maybe something like:

'Inhaling the sweet aroma, I nearly forgot about the reason why I was there in the first place-waiting for my friend to get ready for __.'

"Tonight it’s -40 C, not including the wind-chill. Frost lines the glass around the window, reminding me of the ice road dad and I crossed on our Skidoos, the week before."

My english actually isn't that good so i'm not sure but maybe there's no need to add comel after Skidoos?

"I hear a thudding sound behind me, of footsteps coming up the stairs from the basement. My friend, Thomas, is geared up and ready. Weighing in at about 150 lbs and at least 30 of that weight a solid mass of winter gloves, jet-black ski pants, parka, and -60C rated winter boots. We both knew the rating was fickle. When your feet got wet it was game over. That’s why we put bags over our socks, tucking them in at the ankles.

To keep them dry. Wet feet could easily become a problem, in the winter, for someone growing up in the Northwest Territories of Fort Smith."

In English sentence structure we can't start a sentence with 'to'. I don't understand why did you make 'to keep them dry' into another paragraph. *Hope you don't get offended by all the arrogant things i'm saying T^T*

"A blast of wind fills our faces, assaulting our cheeks with a splay of tiny knives. It was a lot colder than -40 tonight. With that wind-chill, it was probably touching easily on -60 degrees Celsius. In that kind of weather, pulling off a glove meant frostbite in under a minute."

The beginning of each of these sentences made it a bit weird. The first one already had 'A blast of wind', so when the second sentence starts with 'with that wind-chill', it feels kind of repetitive same thing as the 'I' from before actually it isn't wrong so don't mind me I bet everyone doesn't even notice pfft.

"Hence, the open door to our frigid destination. Which we warily peered out from."

I think it's better if you just make it into one sentence. Abruptly stopping before 'which' makes it kind of weird.

"About 10 seconds passed before Thomas and I took one last deep breath of cookie-scented warm air… and dove into the clutches of an icy winter wonderland."

Ooh i like the 'cookie-scented warm air' hehee *drools*

"I felt the air stolen from my lungs as if drinking the last gulp of hot coffee from a cup; they stole the last bit of heat I had been storing beneath my ribs."

This one is probably my fault for not getting it since I don't drink coffee or anything but why would you feel the air stolen from your lungs when drinking the last gulp of hot coffee?

"A short pause later, and the winter smell filled my nostrils, a deep breath of cold air passed over the tongue and filled my nostrils as if I took a deep gulp of ice water."

The word 'passed over' isn't very accurate for the situation. Maybe 'as I took a deep breath, I could taste the icy cold air in my mouth, filling up my nostrils as if I had just took a *big* gulp of ice water.

'I could hear my friend’s footsteps up ahead, crunching down the soft packed snow beneath his footfalls.'

I like this one it gives off a tender feeling, the way you describe the scene.

"It was only a few feet before we plunged into pure darkness. Until our eyes adjusted. A glance to the heavens and I see the stars are out. It’s a clear night. Legions above us are the purest white stars, glimmering like the eyes of millions of spectators, gazing down at us from above. Frigid winter air cut at me again, and I pull up my scarf, tucking it into my hood. I had my face covered but was thankful for the wind, as it helped me find the gaps in between the fabric. If there were any gaps in my coat, I now knew exactly where. That sub-arctic wind would let a man know exactly how vulnerable he was, and where. Like water, it flowed, unstopping through the air."

The descriptions here are really beautiful. I could almost feel the cold air blowing in my face gently haha. It seems so romantic and beautiful with the way you describe the stars, I would love to see a scenery like that in real life.

"Down the snowy trail, we walked, a muted royal blue reflecting in the snow of the dark skies. "

I think canceling the comel after trail will make the sentence much smoother.

'Down the snowy trail we walked, a muted royal blue reflects in the snow of the dark skies.' See?

"Within the depths of the darkness, the odd flicker of light sparkled between the trees. As if winking faeries were darting in between our peripheral vision. The arctic is truly the home of Canadian diamonds. Our trails are full of them, lined to the brim: moonlight reflecting off of the snow made us feel like kings, awash in our riches of the land. We were bathing in the light of the stars, above, and our path was lit from the diamonds lining the silent trail."

Again the description here was breathtaking! I really love the way you make the scene sound so beautiful and calming.

Overall it's a good job as long as you fix the sentence structures and some adjectives. The story is good and it gives off a very beautiful and soothing feeling, calms my good ol heart down. So keep on the good work mate and I hope i'll get to review again!




karljohnston says...


Thank you!! Helps tremendously. Will have a sort through it in word and give it a brush-up



karljohnston says...


I took a lot of your edits into consideration and updated the file - thanks again for the beta-read & review !



TribeofArt says...


naww it's no prob at all :)




To gain your own voice, you have to forget about having it heard.
— Allen Ginsberg