Crown of Snow

Luka drew back her bow and fired. The arrow hit the middle of the target, a small glass bottle atop a bale of hay.  It shattered into a million pieces. A flicker of a smile crossed her face, as the people around her clapped and cheered.

“A perfect shot, Luka, you’re by far the best archer in our group.” Johan’s voice boomed through the tree line.

This time of year, the surrounding forest was washed in gold, green and  brown. The small crowd of town rebels, dressed mainly in brown and dark green, blended perfectly into that background.

Luka kept her expression neutral. But on the inside, she was beaming. To get that sort of praise from Johan, the leader of the group, was something to be proud of.

Johan’s wife, Marian, with their newly born son cradled in her slim arms, nodded in agreement.

To outsiders the couple would  seem like doting parents, proud of their daughter’s achievements.

“May I have your attention for a moment?” Johan’s deep voice rang out to all the members of the rebel group who had gathered around Luka and the other archers.

“There will be an urgent meeting at my place and I want everybody to attend. Please, be there at sunset.”

Only a true leader like Johan could say this with such authority, without people feeling offended or commandeered.

The group quickly dispersed. Luka could feel the excitement and the questions  hang in the air and she herself was curious what the urgency of the meeting was all about.

She slowly followed Johan and Marian to their modest but large hut,  built on the outskirts of the township.  The rebel community,  which consisted of a small group of mostly men, was situated closest to the forest that surrounded the township; by far the poorest area. A perfect place to hide the Rebellion.

Luka shivered, as a cool wind caused a sudden chill in the air. She tightened the roughly sewn cloak around her shoulders and covered her long dark hair with the hood. It will be winter soon, she thought, as she looked into the distance towards the township, where the houses were very much closer together; her former home, where she had lived with her parents.

She remembered her early childhood years, the feeling of safety that came with the certainty of unconditional parental love and nurturing. That happy time was gone forever. She wanted to curl up into herself, to die then and there.

But instead, she raised her glance towards the mountains above the township,  where the castle’s tall towers silhouetted darkly against the fading golden light of the setting sun. Where the royal family was living their comfortable, extravagant life at the cost of their subjects in the township below them.

Not for long, thought Luka, clenching her fists. Those greedy grubs will have to pay for her loss and for every evil act that they committed towards the towns people. It was easier to turn the pain of her grief into anger, rather than suffering the heartache.

She entered the hut, which felt warm and welcoming. Johan had started the wood fire stove while Marian lit a few homemade candles. The scent of burning wood mixed with that of the melting beeswax. It combined with the comforting aroma of herbal tea that was brewing on the stove.

Marian put down the tiny infant, who had contently fallen asleep, cheeks rosy from a good feed, into the wooden cradle.

They pushed the long rustic table and benches to the middle of the living space for the upcoming meeting. The rebels slowly trickled in, some bearing gifts of precious honeycombs in earthenware  bowls, others with bunches of dried flowers and fresh herbs.

They were all familiar with Luka’s healing powers, her ability to make herbal potions for a variety of ailments and injuries. This she inherited from her parents, who were well known healers in the township.

The visitors had settled down with a bowl of steaming hot tea, while they engaged in some general conversation and banter. After a while Johan made the familiar gesture of raising his hand to command attention.

“Well folks, this is going to be a crucial time. We have all prepared for this event during the past year and I must say, I am proud of your dedication to the harsh training schedules and the great results you all have achieved.”

Johan included all rebels in the group into the penetrating gaze of his large black eyes. It always seemed to Luka that there were no secrets to be kept as Johan’s eyes seemed to bore into one’s very soul.

“The plan that I am about to reveal, is going to be extremely risky and dangerous……”
He paused for a while and Luka looked around the table. She gauged the reaction of the rebels so far. Their faces showed no fear at Johan’s revelation, only various degrees of excitement and expectation.

She caught Marian’s glance towards Johan. Luka noticed a nearly imperceptible tremor of her friend’s full mouth, which she tried to stop as she bit her lower lip as hard as possible. Her eyes misted over. It turned the unusual clear blue into a dark murky colour.

Only Luka knew the deep abiding love Marian had for Johan, the fiercely protective feelings she had towards him. Those two were made for each other and Luka could only imagine Marian’s fear of loosing her soulmate.

“The plan is this,” continued Johan. ” We are going to kidnap the prince and hold him hostage, until our demands are met by the king. Each of you have your own grievances and stories to tell, so I need your help to make up a comprehensive list.”

“Starting with you, Seth, would you tell us your story?”

Seth, a large muscly man, his face disfigured with a deep scar across his left cheekbone, took a deep breath and swallowed several times, before he spoke with a hoarse voice that broke at times.

“My father had been held captive and tortured for no other reason than that he was too sick to meet the quota of meat supply to the castle. They accused him of stealing part of it. He came back with broken bones and died soon after they released him. The bastards…. I want to stop this carnage.”

12 thoughts on “Crown of Snow

  1. Anonymous says:

    I like the pacing as well as the rich descriptions have you put in your story, but there are some parts of your story that you have narrated by telling, which could be better by showing.

    Overall, the idea hooked my curiosity as to why they are rebelling.

    • Anonymous says:

      Thank you for your positive input. You are right, I need to show more than tell. It is still a challenge for me.Would love to read your story if you have one.

  2. Karolina says:

    I agree with ANONYMOUS that it wiil be better to show instead of tell in some parts. And because of that I’m not sure if it is a good idea to place all backstories of rebels in one place (I assume that they will tell them one by one). If these stories are so important, maybe it will be better to reveal them gradually. Then it can keep readers curious about motivations of particular characters for a longer period of time. Maybe go through some Ellen’s articles and videos. I’m sure that they will help you as they have helped me

    I think you should also be very careful with your main character. From this fragment we know that she is a very good archer and a very good healer. Make sure that she isn’t too perfect.

    Overall, I really enjoyed reading your fragment and the title is very intriguing.

    Good luck with writing!

    • Anonymous says:

      Thank you Karolina, I am takingyour advice on board and will remove the back stories in the first chapter.. Definitely too much information and telling. I would love to read your story.

  3. Blake says:

    I like the pacing, and the characters certainly have potential. There are a few things that I found odd. It is said that Luka has ”healing powers.” At first, I thought that was linking towards some form of magic, but then it was explained that she could create ”herbal potions” which further confused me – is it a power or a skill? I also found strange how Johan would pause the explanation of his plan to ask some of the members to speak of their past – shouldn’t the leader of the rebellion, as well as the rebellion itself, know the reason why they are fighting already? Perhaps the backstories should not be revealed so early.

    • Anonymous says:

      Thanks Blake, your comments were very helpful. I will clarify her healing ability as a skill rather than power. I will also omit the back stories at the meeting and incorporate them into the story more gradually. I would love to read your story.

  4. Hailey says:

    I like that this reminds me of Robin Hood, since that kind of setting has always been a favourite of mine.
    I was a tiny bit thrown off at the start because I think of Luka as a boy’s name. (I have a second-cousin named Luka)
    The thing that mainly bugged me about this section is that there’s a lot of places where stuff is seems like it’s being said simply to inform the reader. Most of the dialogue and character’s thoughts didn’t read naturally to me.
    I think the scene could be reworked to present things more through inferring and showing. For example, I understood that Luka is a good archer from her hitting the target. Describing the poverty around the rebels could work to show why they’re angry, instead of an outline of each person’s story. It’s more fun for readers to pick up on clues than be told straight out.
    I like that Luka is a healer, but I’m less enthused by her archery because I’ve read a lot of archer characters recently. Giving her both talents – and having her be good at them – is a lot of accomplishment. I think she’d be more relatable/authentic if her skills were toned down in some way.
    I hope this is helpful, good luck with writing. 🙂

    • Anonymous says:

      Thank you Hailey, your comments are extremely helpful and I totally agree with them. This first chapter did not seem right, but I could not put my finger on it. I will partly rewrite and omit the relevant parts. I would love to read your story. Regards Ann.

  5. April Marie Cox says:

    Your characters don’t really grab me. Why am I supposed to care about this meeting? The archery? If it were me, I’d start right with the meeting rather than all of the backstory–you can fill that in later, but I would focus more on Luka’s reaction to Johan words. Use her reaction to show us who she is.

    I’m also not a fan of the story about what the enemy had done. Presumably, the rebels would already know about that, and reiterating it here doesn’t really show them favorably. It makes them sound more blood thirsty, and I kind of want them to lose the war in all honesty.

    • Anonymous says:

      Thanks April, you are quite right. I have trouble myself connecting to the main characters in this first chapter. and definitely give to much unnecessary information, instead of delving into Luka’s feelings to make her come more alive. Telling versus showing is always a challenge for me. I definitely will take your advice on board. Regards, Ann.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Many thanks to all of you for your helpful comments. Especially since most of you agree on certain points, I am new to fantasy novel writing and struggling to make the characters come alive. I definitely need to do more showing than telling. I will omit certain parts of the meeting as well, and incorporate a lot of the information more gradually and naturally during the unfolding of the story. Also make the main character less perfect, not too many achievements.

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