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Cactus Leaves-- For Good (Ch. 1)

by fortis


Creed

The lady in the white dress turned to look at me, a smug look on her face as she dangled the bright green apple by its stem. I watched in dismay as she brought the fruit up to her ruby lips, smiled, and bit off a small part. She bit delicately and deliberately with her perfect white teeth. The apple made a small, crisp sound that would have been almost unnoticeable had the alleyway not been nearly silent. There was a rough stone wall separating the alley from the rest of the city, and the lady was standing with her back to it-- cornered, but not frightened.

She lifted her thin eyebrows in teasing amusement as I stopped in my tracks, my hand-- which had been reaching for the apple-- slowly dropping down to hang limp at my side. There must have been something in my expression that befuddled her, for the amusement faded from her face, and her eyebrows drew together, like careful hands praying. I took a small step back from her, and her expression edged on horror. I suppose she was mirroring my face because horror was slowly dawning in my mind as well.

The apple she had eaten was no ordinary apple, of course. No ordinary apple could be that green, smell that fresh, feel that smooth, or taste as good as I assumed it did.

The apple was bait. A mark. It was practically a ticking time bomb. Anyone who ate of the apple would stick out like a flare to the guardian of its tree-- a dragon by the name of Arihed. Arihed would hunt any tasters of the fruit down until he killed them or they died from sheer exhaustion. I knew the woman would have no peaceful days left to live.

I continued my slow retreat from her, shaking my head as I did so. I had come to the market place in the first place to destroy the apple, but it had caught the ladytheif's eye, and she stole it right out of my hand, quick as a wink. I gave chase, but sadly, it was too late.

"Why do you look so suddenly sad?" the woman asked.

"You are a dead woman," I replied.

"How do you mean?" She cocked her head, causing her hair to fall across her shoulder in like a red waterfall.

"You have tasted of the fruit of Arihed the Dragon's tree. He will hunt you till the day you die." The words felt cold in my mouth.

The woman threw her head back and gave a tinkling laugh soured with something bitter. "I've been running from death for a long time. I think I can run a little longer."

"If you want to die, that's up to you, but I can't have you endangering other people. Finish the apple," I commanded.

The lady pouted, but, sniffing the apple again, her eyes grew full of a lusty hunger. She quickly devoured the apple, leaving the core. She tossed the apple delicately over a high stone wall. "Done," she said, her bright red lips forming a small smile.

I felt an anger brew inside of me-- double malt. "You know that is going to hurt someone," I seethed through my teeth.

The woman shrugged, a graceful motion like a cat slinking into sunshine. "If they're desperate enough to eat that apple core, their lives aren't worth enough to save it."

"All lives are worth saving," I declared. "It of the Greater Good to save every life possible."

Quick as lightning, the woman was at my throat, a dull knife glinting just barely out of my sight. "Then save your own, and let me go, boy."

I'd love to say that I stood up to her, refusing to let her go until she paid for her crime. I'd like to say that I at least made her pay me back for the apple. I'd rather say that I had no need to detain her, considering that she had just received a death-sentence anyway. But in all actuality, I was afraid of her and of her knife: I slunk away from the alley like a wet cat, letting her breeze away from me, her red head held high and unafraid as she disappeared into the market place. 


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Sat Jun 13, 2015 1:19 am
Megrim wrote a review...



Hi there! I saw chapter 3 up in the sci-fi section and figured it made sense to go back and look at chapter 1. The title really intrigued me.

This is a fun start, making for both an interesting scene in and of itself and also giving promise for some excitment down the road. The idea of a dragon guarding a tree and protecting apples is a refreshing take on dragons. It's nice to get away from the old cliche of hoarding treasure or something like that. I also actually really like that the character had a moment of weakness/cowardice at the end, because it makes him (her?) seem human. I could definitely understand feeling the way he did.

I found myself confused at first, because there's not a lot of context. The question of "What's this about a women with an apple?" was a good start, but wore thin when I couldn't quite figure out what was going on or why. I like the imagery, especially the sound of the apple bite. I got distracted, though, wondering what significance this woman had to the MC, or what the apple was about, or where we were, etc. Once it got explained I was like "Oh, okay," but up until then I was struggling. I think it would make for smoother reading if there was some small explanation, or maybe even just bread crumbs, to give a sense of place and time and purpose. Even at the paragraph about the dragon, I was thinking, "How does the MC know this? Is it something about the apple he recognises?" Because of all this, I felt a little left out of the loop, eg even though we were in the character's head, I felt like I didn't get to hear all his thoughts.

There's a lot of beautiful imagery and a good arc to the scene (solid beginning, middle, and end, I'd say). You might consider looking closely at your adverbs and the more vivid adjectives, and maybe cut a couple, because there's quite a few. Personally I find using too many strong words can actually end up diluting their impact; I prefer placing just a few in strategic spots where I want to draw the reader's attention. Also, as far as adverbs go, I often find if I remove them, the meaning isn't lost, because the verb is pretty good on its own. (I've often said that verbs are our most powerful tools as writers, but that's a whole speech on it's own haha) An example is "slowly dawning" - reading the sentence using only "dawning," I take away the same meaning. And imo, if a word/sentence can be removed without affecting anything, it should be! Fewer words means you're being more precise.

Alrighty, onward to chapter 2! Or maybe tomorrow, but I definitely want to read on one way or the other. Cheers.




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Thu Mar 12, 2015 4:34 pm
AloobaKnights says...



Crap, I think I replied three times. Sorry my iPad went on the fritz




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Thu Mar 12, 2015 4:31 pm
AloobaKnights wrote a review...



Excellent way to kick off a novel. I like the vagueness in the beginning, although I feel like the woman was too laid back about an apparent killer dragon.
"Why do you look so suddenly sad?" the woman asked. Try changing the order of those words, and I'm not sure if a thief would be concerned for this stranger.
"I had come to the market place in the first place to destroy the apple." Maybe get rid of the first "place", it sounds redundant otherwise.
Other than that I loved the first chapter and can't wait to see it develop!




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Wed Mar 11, 2015 8:10 pm
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Pretzelstick wrote a review...



Heya Widder, pretzelsing here for a review, I really liked this first chapter and I want to be a faithful follower of your novel. Tag me or PM me every time that you post another chapter please. I am eager to know what happened next ;)
Let's begin,shall we?

She bit delicately and deliberately with her perfect white teeth.


Perfectly white teeth is only happening in movies, Widder. In real life(even though this is fantasy) teeth aren't perfectly white(mine and my sister's are yellow for example)

The apple made a small, crisp sound that would have been almost unnoticeable had the alleyway not been nearly silent.


The apple made the sound, Widder? :shock: Umm apples don't make sounds.;)

There was a rough stone wall separating the alley from the rest of the city, and the lady was standing with her back to it-- cornered, but not frightened


How could she feel cornered, if her back was against a wall. When I think of cornered I think of when two people are maybe coming towards her(one from one side and one from the other), or if someone is standing in the corner of a busy road.

I took a small step back from her, and her expression edged on horror.


Why would the women be afraid that the boy took a step back? She doesn't want anyone to follow her or go near her, so why does she care?

and she stole it right out of my hand, quick as a wink.


Quick as a wink is catchy but it is a cliche. Why don't you use another phrase or describe it more, how quickly she got away?

The woman threw her head BACK and gave a tinkling laugh soured with something bitter.


I loved this description ^^ Masterfully done!

"It of the Greater Good to save every life possible."


I think that you should put is after it. "It is of..." Also , why is greater capitalized,Widder?

That's it about the nitpicks(your grammar is almost spotless), but I got to say that I thought that this chapter kind of seemed unbelievable. The boy has an apple that he brought to market to destroy it(why did he even bring it to the market, wouldn't it be safer to just dispose of it at home? Where did he get this apple?)The apple gets stolen--why isn't there any mention that the boy chases after the woman, if he is so desperate to save lives. Then he finds the woman in a big town--maybe describe how he finds her?? Where exactly is she?-- there is still a little percent of chance that he found her just before she took the first bite.

I am just pointing out some potential questions-I am not saying that I disliked it-in fact it intrigues me and reminds me kind of of the Garden of Eden, although this is very different.I also am wondering why you gave this story the title:Cactus Leaves-- For Good ,when it seems to be all about an apple right now, Widder. I mean it's your decision, but this is just a thing to think about.


I know that you have many more chapters hopefully,crosses fingers that you will publish, but you didn't really characterize your people at all. I have no idea who the people are(what their names are-how they look like,why they do what they do) and I only have a vague appearance of the lady that has red hair, but that's about it.

I also think that it will be very interesting that you will be switching between the main characters POV.I think that YWS definitively needs more of those stories, because they are so much fun to write and we get to see into both of the character's minds, which leads me to another point. What are the thoughts of this character? You could really show us the thoughts about the horror of seeing her eat it, when he was scared when she put the knife to his throat,etc. Since you are using first person POV-just totally use it Widder--to it's full potential. I encourage you to use thoughts.

That's it from me, if you have any questions you could always PM me. I hope that this review and I truly encourage you to keep on writing!

Image




Widdershins says...


Perfectly white teeth is only happening in movies, Widder. In real life(even though this is fantasy)

That's right, this is fantasy, and I do know people with perfectly white teeth. It's rather startling, but I've seen it.

The apple made the sound, Widder? :shock: Umm apples don't make sounds. ;)

What else would make the sound? Certainly not the woman. The apple made the sound.

The wall made a corner, like you know, an alley way that dead ends.
Spoiler! :
[img]https://encrypted-tbn1.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcRLARjNutQiTcScxaamocJ6gRlLjZfivq8LYYsLPOmgTiKdhbsU[/img

I guess I'll make that clearer though.

Why would the women be afraid that the boy took a step back?

It's not because he took a step, it's because she's mirroring his expression: " I suppose she was mirroring my face because horror was slowly dawning in my mind as well." When you see someone horrified that you did something, don't you start to feel a bit worried yourself? That's why her expression only /edged/ on horror.

Why don't you use another phrase or describe it more, how quickly she got away?

because I don't want a little detail like that to stick out a lot. I don't want to use an adverb, and I know the reader is comfortable with this expression. And winks are quite quick.

Thanks for catching the is typo. The reason for my capitalization of the Greater Good will be explained in time. It has to do with this chapter's title too.

The boy has an apple that he brought to market to destroy it(why did he even bring it to the market, wouldn't it be safer to just dispose of it at home? Where did he get this apple?)

He didn't bring it to market. He was sent to pick it up at the market, because it's obviously dangerous and someone was selling it. I will make that more clear by saying "to find and destroy the apple."

why isn't there any mention that the boy chases after the woman, if he is so desperate to save lives. Then he finds the woman in a big town--maybe describe how he finds her?? Where exactly is she?-- there is still a little percent of chance that he found her just before she took the first bite.
I did mention that, and it is explained:
and she stole it right out of my hand, quick as a wink. I gave chase, but sadly, it was too late.
He finds her because she stole it and he chased her, but she was faster, and she got a bite before he could take it back.

I also am wondering why you gave this story the title:Cactus Leaves-- For Good ,when it seems to be all about an apple right now, Widder.

The apple will be very inconsequential in the plot line. This is going to be an entire novel. The "For Good" part is the chapter title.

but you didn't really characterize your people at all.
The lady is not a main character. The boy will be characterized later. His name is Creed (as is noted at the top, but it's okay if you didn't notice that).

I hope this answered your questions!



Widdershins says...


whoops that last part shouldn't have all been in a review box.

And I forgot to thank you for the review!



pretzelsing says...


No problem, thanks for writing your long reply, I understand your writing a little bit more thanks to that!Happy Writing!



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Wed Mar 11, 2015 8:07 pm
Lightsong wrote a review...



Hey, I'm here for a short review. I'm going to touch about the content of the prologue (I assume this is a prologue) and the dialogues.

For content, or the entire substance of this prologue, it lacks explanation. Why does the dragon wants to eat tasters only? How does the boy know that the apple is a mark? Why does the lady has no idea about this? You need to answer these questions. For me, the prologue is your platform to explain in general the entire setting of the world you create. The people, government, norms, system, or whatever aspect in it. You are doing a sci-fi novel - what is so technological in your novel that shows its clear genre which is sci-fi? Does having a dragon and apples who act like marking points are enough to show that? What kind of dragon you are try to introduce - mythical, mechanical, or hybrid that blends mythical and mechanical? Explain those kind of things by showing.

About the dialogues, fix them. Make them flow more. If A wants to stop B from doing something, make A threats or beg B to stop doing it. Make B respond to A by being scared, or by being ignorant. Don't let B ask A's sad expression. Let B says, "Your sad face won't stop me from doing what I want." Make B stubborn if you want. You will distrupt the flow when A says, "Finish it quickly. Don't throw the core of it. Eat it," and B responds, "Why are you sad? Rough day, huh?"

To sum it up, edit this prologue. Fix things that need fixing. Give readers a complete picture of the sci-fi world. It would make your prologue better in quality.




Widdershins says...


First of all, this isn't a prologue, and I absolutely hate info dumps in the first chapter (the parts where you detail what kind of world the story takes place in as well as who the characters are belong starting in the second chapter, and spread out along the first half of the rising action, in my opinion)
The story is sci-fi fantasy, but it won't get into the sci-fi aspect for quite a while now, so don't wait up for that.
Thanks for the review though. You asked some questions I hadn't considered.



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Wed Mar 11, 2015 7:39 pm
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Pompadour wrote a review...



HEY THERE.

So I figured I'd review this from my phone just because. It also kinda helps me procrastinate on my Maths revision, but hey, I'm never one to turn down a good story. :P

That being said and all, I'm gonna try to keep this short.

That beginning is clunky, Fort. I know I nag people on beginnings a lot--you could even say it's starting to get old--but your beginning is IMPORTANT. I wouldn't nag if it wasn't. Aaanyway, the clunkiness is largely owing to the itty-bitty redundancies that litter your first paragraph. I know that beginnings are hard to nail; you start out with a bit of description and you don't know how to make one sentence flow into the next. It gets awkward. I think this is what's happened here, too. So here is my prescription for the editing process:

Cut, cut, cut.

You expound on the biting into the apple after clearly stating that the woman bit into the apple. As a reader, this bores me. I don't want to know/read the same thing twice. Condense this. I'm also left craving some main character thoughts here, because while Narrator describes the woman pretty clearly, I can't see their reactions. Some internal voice/thoughts/movement would be nice. It would make the intro more active and we'd get acquainted with the character more quickly as well.

My thoughts on this:

1) Why did the narrator--Creed?--not take any action against the lady-thief? Does it have something to do with propriety or such? Because I think, if he was really intent on destroying the apple, he would have done so regardless of the lady's quickness/agility/generally lady-ishness. If he wanted to destroy the apple, wouldn't he have brought a weapon? I desperately want some backstory here. I won't pretend to understand why he didn't just take the apple before the lady brought out her knife; he didn't know she had a knife. Which his why his actions confuse me.

Everything is rather scattered and I'm having trouble getting the general gist of things. I think this is an issue because you've started off stark in the middle of a scene that is supposed to be intense--but it fails to be because you have to tell us a whole lot of things to make sure we understand. So, a) this needs grounding, and b) if you want to preserve a hook but give this the groundedness it requires, it might be wise to take things slow. At least--for the first chapter. This looks to be kind of like high fantasy, and the main task with high fantasy is the meshing of worldbuilding + plot together in a way that isn't entirely tell-y. This is hard.

I know this is becoming quite a tangent, so I'll skip the ramble and get to making suggestions: I think you could start out with the chase, maybe even as Creed halts in front of the woman, shocked and frightened. You could also expound on a lot of dry matter through conversation--I am keen on seeing more character interaction. I guess we'll be getting more of that later, but--characters--ugh.

2) Your dialogue is stunted in places. The lady, when she first begins speaking, sounds too formal. Also who asks that? XD 'Hey, I just stole your apple and ate it--why are you so sad?' You settle into the dialogue as your story carries on, though, and nearing the end it flows really well. I guess the awkward narrative wall is one that will be broken as you proceed with this.

3) Pacing! I felt like the ending was too rushed. Again, don't be afraid to go a bit slower.

Okay. So I can't really think of much more to say. I did enjoy reading this, mainly because DRAGONS have been mentioned. Your writing style is also lovely, and your descriptions are pleasing~

Technical stuff: you've misspelled 'thief' once. I also noticed that you leave a space after every en-dash (--) which isn't supposed to be there. When you write this out on a word processor like Microsoft Word, without spaces, it will automatically get changed to a dash.

Righto. I think I'll be off to study now! You keep me updated with this, all right? I want to see what becomes of Creed. ;) This lady also intrigues me. I'm wondering who she is and if she'll play an even bigger role in what's to come....

Keep writing! Keep it up!

Hope this helped a little~

~Pomp




Widdershins says...


Get used to formal dialogue mahahaha!
I always have problems with beginnings. This actually started off as a writing doodle to talk about eating an apple, so obviously much more emphasis was placed on that than should have been. I was just trying to get the first chapter out of the way so I could move on to improving. I'll edit the heck out of it when I can worry about what my first chapter looks like.
Creed was going to buy the apple at the market, then quietly take it somewhere else to destroy it. He didn't feel like he needed a weapon at that moment in time. he's a pacifist.



Pompadour says...


Ahh, things make more sense now. I have no real iffies with the formal dialogue, just be careful about not overdoing it. It can get distracting sometimes.

And of course! Your main focus should be on moving forwards at this point. I'm keen to see where to take this tbh. It's interesting.

Keep me updated. x



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Wed Mar 11, 2015 6:31 pm
kevin25a says...



Interesting story, and good choice of fruit I like apples. Only thing I don't understand is the title. Not sure how that fits the story.





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