If the Ent

There it was, hidden away under layers of dirt in a hole beneath the her mother’s sunflowers. Right where Livilla had glimpsed a spot of deep, bright red glinting in the sun was a dove made of entwood just waiting to be found. Delicately carved and strung on thin rope that was close to crumbling, yet the dove itself was perfect and smooth, as though crafted the day before.

Dropping to her knees, Livilla leaned forward and carefully lifted the artifact from the dirt. Captivated, she felt the hardness of the rich, red wood, traced the curve of it’s wings, her breath still coming in long strides from her frantic digging. Such an amazing piece! She’d never seen anything like it before, not even at Reena’s shop, she was sure.

Livilla jerked as her brothers voice sounded above her, she hadn’t even noticed him in the yard.

“What did you do? Mother asked you to replant a few seedlings, not dig up their roots!”

“I.. Myron.. Look..” Livilla said in a whisper, barely able to speak, her breaths heavy.

“Did you find gold?” Myron teased, but his chuckling died when he saw what was in the palm of his sisters’ hand.

Myron leaned over and lightly, afraid of breaking it, took the dove from her hands.

“Entwood.” He breathed.

He glanced down at Livilla. She was still, almost a statue, looking up at the wonder Myron held.

Standing up, Livilla barely noticed her mother’s sunflowers, disrupted in their beds by her discovery. Nothing was as important as the dove, at least, not in this moment, but she consented to her conscience. The sunflowers did need to be replanted before she had to go to Reena’s. Reena’s! She’d been so excited and worried about the interview, up until the moment she saw the sun’s rays on her new treasure. She’d worry about that later, though, mother was sought after in her line of work and had enough work to do as it was. There wouldn’t be any time for gardening and as the summer creeped to an end, the flowers needed to be moved.

Seeing that Myron was now examining the dove, Livilla felt a strange surge of possession rising in her.

“Help me with this, will you?” she snapped, snatching the dove from him and stuffing it in her skirt pocket as she plopped back down in the dirt and hastily started planting the seedlings in the holes she had been digging before.

“Hey, give a little warning next time, will you?” Myron glared at Livilla as he sat down to help. “And you might want to be more careful with it, could be worth a lot.”

Livilla looked at her brother and her eyes softened. “Sorry, I just.. Wanted it back. I didn’t mean to be rude.”

“You’re not usually so possessive with your findings,” he gave her arm a friendly nudge with his elbow, “But you’re right, this one is something special,” Myron said, moving on to the next seedling. ”I’ve read about how tough entwood is, but the books clearly don’t do it justice, it’s so well preserved. I wonder how long it’s been there..”.

“Of course it’s been buried a long time,” Livilla finished planting the last sunflower, patting the soil down. “Or do you have any other explanation for it?” She sat, resting against the dark brown planks of thornwood fence that surrounded the garden of their family cottage. Myron joined her and she pulled out the stunning dove.

Entwood was a firm, unyielding wood, almost as tough as diamonds. Special tools were required to chip and shape it. It used to grow abundantly, many, many decades ago, in the forests covering a large part of Heathera and woodworkers made a good living of it. Nowadays, Entwood was as scarce as anything could possibly be, and while it did show up at antique auctions on rare occasion, usually in the form of jewelery, boxes, vases and plates, there were very few in the Kingdom who could boast of owning a piece.

“Strange, isn’t it, though?” Myron mused, “You might ask Reena if she knows what became of the entwood sold to Illara.”

When it became known that entwood trees were soon to be extinct, traders from the Kingdom of Illara offered astounding sums of gold in exchange for it. The pieces that show up now are family heirlooms, passed down from generation to generation by those few who refused to sell to Illara.

“Maybe. If there’s anyone in town who has seen some or heard of it, it would be her.” Livilla said, feeling the smooth, polished body of the wooden dove. But no matter how nice Reena was to her, Livilla hesitated to even think about telling her. As a historian, Reena might worry about such a precious artifact being in the hands of a girl so young with much yet to learn about the trade.

A loud squawk came from the cottage, closely followed by another, sending Livilla to her feet.

“Oooh no, I can’t be late!” Livilla scrambled to her feet, pocketing the dove and rushed inside the front door, leaving Myron in the garden. Morkie, usually frustrating her to the point of headaches, was signaling the time. Today, she was thankful her mother had trained the bird so precisely. He gave the family a warning when it was time to get ready for their daily activities or work. Early morning for mother and father, but she and her brother, thankfully, started their day closer to lunchtime. Though not many, at least there were a few privileges to officially still being kids.

Livilla entered her room and stepped out of her muddy skirts and blouse while at the same time rummaging for a clean set of clothes. She washed her face and hands, put on her best new tan leggings, white, long sleeved tunic and brown, open vest. Perfect for a work day. She’d learned not to wear her usual dresses in the shop. Though rarely, she sometimes got too excited and her swishing skirts would knock over a priceless dish or an old birdcage.

4 thoughts on “If the Ent

  1. archie (@causticanatomy) says:

    The title is very original, and I like that you immediately establish at least a loose connection between it and the story via the word “entwood”. I think the scene is just the right length, though the mentions of Reena feel a bit forced in. You mention an “interview”, a concept which sounds a bit too modern for the setting (though I have no idea exactly what the setting is), and you just leave it at that. What’s it for? Why is it a big deal?

    The biggest problem, though, is that you give zero details on Livilla and Myron. What they look like, how old they are, which one of them’s older. You only mention at the very end of the scene that they’re “officially still kids”, though that could mean anywhere between twelve and seventeen.

    Once you fix those — and they’re pretty easy fixes — I think this could be a pretty solid opening to work with.

  2. Joyce says:

    I like the title, it peaked my curiosity and made me want look inside.

    The opening speaks of the dove buried under layers of dirt and a red glimpse spotted in the sun at the same time. It didn’t make sense, so I had to read it twice.

    Who is Reena? What is the interview about? Not enough information here. It seems as if Reena may be Lavillas mother?

    I would like to more about the characters and the setting.

    I think this is an interesting story. An artifact discovered made from extinct wood. I want to know more of what happens when people figure that more may be uncovered. Or may be it holds mysterious properties.

    Flesh out the novel with more backstory to ground the reader. It looks like this will be a good read.

  3. Ray says:

    This is a terrific story so far. There’s enough going on to peek my interest…especially the idea of the rare wood and all that you can do with that. As with all crits, here’s the disclaimer…if any of my observations help, great…if you disagree, feel free to ignore me. 🙂 Some of this may sound nit picky, but that’s just how my brain works…lol. So, here we go.

    One this I did notice on my first read was that you have a lot of compound and longer sentences. I know a lot of your audience can deal with those, but the story will feel like it moves faster if you break those into separate sentences. (as with all the rest of this, just my opinion) The second sentence, “glinting in the sun was a dove made of entwood just waiting to be found.” If you change “was” to “lay” it wouldn’t be as passive and I’d nuke the “just waiting to be found” so it reads faster. The same at the end of paragraph 2, “not even at Reena’s shop, she was sure.” I’d delete the “she was sure.”

    Put, ““What did you do? …” before “Livilla jerked…” and since that is the tag line it’s the same paragraph. In the paragraph that begins, “Standing up, Livilla…” I would nuke the last lines by ending with, She’d worry about that later.”

    After that it reads pretty smooth. Thought you, were going to do the info dump, but you broke it up with dialogue and pulled it off. 🙂 A little bit of character description, even something as simple as hair color or ethnicity would be good to drop in initially as well as some sort of indication of age (remembering that since this is mid grade your main character kinda maxes out at 13…I’m assuming that’s Livilla).

    Great start to what promises to be a great story.

  4. Anna Orridge (@orridge_anna) says:

    Fantastic.
    I really like the characters, the world building and the depiction of ent wood, which is beautiful and leisurely without becoming over-laboured.

    Take care with apostrophes. You’ve got ‘brothers voice’ when it should be ‘brother’s voice’ and ‘sisters’ hand’ when it should be ‘sister’s hand’. Silly, pernickety stuff, I know, but you don’t want editors and agents overlooking your work because of something like that 🙂

    The voice is well-pitched and age appropriate, I feel. I’d just rake out the odd phrase that would sound odd from an 8-12yo – like ‘line of work’.

    I find the dialogue has a nice, natural flow to it, though ‘You’re not usually so possessive of your findings’ is a touch clunky, and doesn’t sound like a brother talking to a sister.

    I think this is intriguing, on the whole. Best of luck with it.

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