Mirror of Sparrows

Along with the pumpkin pies and roasted chestnuts, Correnstrait’s stick-fighting championships were part of the season’s delights. The excitement of the people of Port Ofenter and the hopes of the fighters ignited the air with expectation. Molly had struggled to make a name for herself, but now she was in the regional quarter-finals. As a sixteen-year-old refugee from the North, this was a big opportunity for her. The guys had already had their first tournament, and Paul, her twin, had placed first as expected.
Now Molly faced Peace, but her eyes gravitated towards the stands. Where is Paul? He promised he would be here. Paul was nowhere there and Molly hadn’t seen him in several days.
Molly’s absent mindedness lasted a moment too long and breath gushed from her mouth as she doubled over. The gathered crowd silenced. Molly hadn’t even attempted to defend herself.
I think I’m going to throw up, thought Molly.
Peace jammed the length of her stick into the back of Molly’s legs, and Molly sank to her knees, hands landing in the red, moist dirt. Peace gave another jab of the stick, and Molly’s face fell into the dirt, too. Molly closed her dark eyes; the pit spun around her as her thoughts ensnared her.
I’m losing way too fast. I don’t think I’ve ever even seen someone loose this fast.
“Is this a joke?” yelled a woman from the crowd. “Who let this girl into the rink?”
I’m glad I can’t see that woman’s face. Molly took a deep breath.
“Pull yourself together and fight,” said Peace. Molly sensed Peace right behind her, waiting. She was giving Molly the opportunity to fight back.
“Molly! Get the up and fight!” The tone of the voice from the opposite side of the pit had sounded familiar. Was that Paul? Molly’s heart rushed with joy and she looked up. But her mind had tricked her. It wasn’t Paul at all, but a colossal guy with dark skin and hair tied up in a makeshift bun. Molly knew him as a stick fighter from another region, and that he would fight her brother in the up-coming inter-regional contests. She wanted to yell back at him to leave her the alone, but instead she closed her eyes. Why should he care what happens, and how does he even know my name? It must be in the program.
Molly felt the coolness of a drizzling rain on her hair and back.
Focus, she told herself. But she couldn’t.
Molly sighed and opened her eyes. Peace stood in front of her now. She looked clever and pretty, with her narrow face and straw hair, woven through with lots of little braids. Peace must have been about two years older than her.
She feels pity for me. Peace’s lively blue eyes were an easy read for Molly.
“Whatever it is, snap out of it,” Peace whispered, so only Molly could hear. “At least put up the semblance of a fight.”
Molly pushed herself up and readied her fighting stick, as best as she could. The girls circled each other. Molly swung her stick towards Peace’s fighting arm but missed. Peace could have retaliated, but didn’t.
“Damn it, Molly. I can only hold off for so long.”
This is ironic. The person who should be trying to beat the crap out me is not. Why?
Molly stepped in close to Peace. “I’m done here.”
Peace shook her head. “What?”
Molly nodded.
Peace frowned and then swatted Molly’s stick to the ground. Molly’s stick lay in the dirt. The undulating pattern in its dark wood and its engravings were in a distinct northern style. The fight was over. Molly’s loss was complete, and Paul’s absence and her incompetence simmered into anger within her.
I have to get away from here.
Molly walked over to pick up her stick and strapped it to her back. Guards dressed in the Southern Correnstrait brown uniform came down to escort Molly and Peace through the crowd. As the girls emerged from the dirt hollow, Molly took hold of her pendant and checked it. Wherever he was, Paul was not doing well – but he hadn’t been well in a long time. Molly’s pendant had a bird, a sparrow, that would transform to show the emotions of the other pendant’s bearer, and Paul owned the twinned pendant. So even though Paul and Molly were apart, they could still know how each other was doing.
Molly was annoyed. They were each other’s only family and he had ditched her. She wanted to know why. Molly decided she had to find Paul – not because she worried about him, but because she wanted to know what had taken precedence over the most important fight of her life.
“Go back to the North!” someone shouted into Molly’s ear. “You’re not from here, and we don’t want you here!” Molly tried to ignore the animosity. She had never wanted to be in the South in the first place. The only problem was that the North had almost killed Paul and her. The Manipulator had brutally forced their escape to Port Ofenter two years ago.
“Shut up,” Peace yelled at the person harassing Molly.
Molly looked over at Peace, surprised. “Don’t get yourself in bad with the crowd on my account.” Molly couldn’t remember a time when someone had stood up for her, and she wondered about Peace’s persistence attempts at goodness towards her.
“Don’t listen to them,” said Peace.
“I’m not,” Molly lied.
Molly and Peace kept moving forward, towards their lockers. The wet dirt, sweat, and rain seeped through Molly’s black shirt, and she felt chilly. The guards were not managing the crowd well, and Molly and Peace had to push their own way through the surging throng.
In the next moment, someone reached out and grabbed the pendant that connected Molly to Paul. Molly felt a tug around her neck, and then a snap.

25 thoughts on “Mirror of Sparrows

  1. Anonymous says:

    I think you could better your writing by showing how Molly felt. “Molly was annoyed.” How was she annoyed? A simple technique is describing their body parts. Did she “cross her eyes”? Did she clenched her fist?

    There is an occasional POV shifting from third to first, which you must fix. “I have to get away from here” was not quoted.

  2. Hailey says:

    I think the narration could focus a little closer to Molly. Right now, it’s kind of skimming over and the bits of exposition for setting and backstory pull away from seeing the scene as it plays out for Molly.
    It might help to open the scene right before the fight, which is a more likely time for all the thoughts about Paul, being a refugee, and describing the setting. I can’t fight, but I do dance, and I imagine that having someone attack you is similar to keeping up with music. It seems very fast, you’re hyperaware but can’t focus, and you’re just trying not to fall over or miss anything. Maybe aim for making the fight feel faster, keep description short – Peace, the ground, blurs in peripheral vision – save looking for Paul and anything else for later.
    Another note, I have a twin (female, though) and I’ve never understood why twins in books always have some kind of magical bond. I can’t think of a single exception in a fantasy novel, so Molly’s pendant is, for me, unrelatable and bordering on a cliche. Also worth noting is that if my twin went missing and I knew for sure that she wasn’t okay, I would probably be trying to contact her or find her. Paul’s absence loses some urgency since Molly hasn’t done anything about it and isn’t panicking too much.
    Sorry that this is really long. I hope it’s somewhat helpful.

  3. vanessafowler says:

    Edited version:
    The fighters’ hopes ignited the air with expectation, and along with the pumpkin pies and roasted chestnuts, Correnstrait’s stick-fighting championships were part of the season’s delights. Molly had struggled to make a name for herself, but now she was in the regional quarter-finals. As a sixteen-year-old refugee from the North, this was a big opportunity for her. The guys had already had their first tournament, and Paul, her older brother, had placed first as expected. It was Molly’s turn to fight, and she was going to face Peace from the Pine Forests. But Molly was worried because Paul wasn’t there. He had promised her that he would come, and he always kept his promises. Molly checked her pendant. Molly’s pendant had a bird, a sparrow, that would transform to show the emotions of the other pendant’s bearer, and Paul wore the twinned pendant. Paul had given her the pendant to comfort her when they had fled the North two years earlier. So even when Paul and Molly were apart, they could still know how each other was doing. Wherever he was, Paul was not doing well. It was time for Molly to get into the dirt pit. She scanned the stands one more time, but Paul was nowhere there.
    Now Molly faced Peace. Peace looked clever and pretty, with her narrow face and straw hair, woven through with lots of little braids. Peace must have been about two years older than her, about the same age as Paul. Peace eyed at Molly’s pendant and smiled at her. And then the pit master rang the bell for the fight to begin.
    Molly glanced up at the stands one more time to check for Paul, and in a blur, Peace jammed the length of her stick into the back of Molly’s legs, and Molly sank to her knees, hands landing in the red, moist dirt. Peace gave a forceful jab of the stick into Molly’s side, and Molly’s face fell into the dirt, too. Molly closed her dark eyes; the pit spun around her as her thoughts ensnared her.
    I’m losing way too fast, thought Molly. I don’t think I’ve ever even seen someone loose this fast.
    “Is this a joke?” yelled a woman from the crowd. “Who let this girl into the rink?”
    I’m glad I can’t see that woman’s face. Molly took a deep breath.
    Molly sighed and opened her eyes. Peace stood in front of her.
    She feels pity for me. Peace’s lively grey eyes were an easy read now.
    Molly stood back up, and Peace smiled at her again. This time Molly knew better than to let her guard down. The girls circled each other, but Peace sprang fast and Molly’s breath gushed from her mouth as she doubled over. The gathered crowd silenced.
    I think I’m going to throw up, thought Molly.
    Molly felt the coolness of a drizzling rain on her hair and back. She pushed herself up and readied her fighting stick. Molly swung her stick towards Peace’s fighting arm but missed.
    Focus, she told herself. Forget about Paul for now.
    “At least put on the semblance of a fight,” Peace challenged, so only Molly could hear.
    Molly spun her stick around and caught Peace in the legs. Peace stumbled but caught herself and fought Molly back. The crowd cheered.
    Molly took a second to glance back at her pendant. The sparrow was gone.
    I have to get away from here. I have to find out what’s happened to Paul.
    Molly stepped in close to Peace. “I’m done here.”
    Peace shook her head. “What?”
    Molly nodded.
    Peace frowned and then swatted Molly’s stick to the ground. Molly’s stick lay in the dirt. The undulating pattern in its dark wood and its engravings were in a distinct northern style. The fight was over. Molly’s loss was complete, but Paul’s disappearance took priority. Molly walked over to pick up her stick and strapped it to her back. Guards dressed in the Southern Correnstrait brown uniform came down to escort Molly and Peace through the crowd.
    As the girls emerged from the dirt hollow, someone shouted at Molly. “Go back to the North! We don’t want you here!” Molly tried to ignore the animosity. She had never wanted to be in the South in the first place. The only problem was that the North had almost killed Paul and her. The Manipulator had brutally forced their escape to Port Ofenter two years ago.
    “Shut up,” Peace yelled at the person harassing Molly.
    Molly looked over at Peace, surprised. “Don’t get yourself in bad with the crowd on my account.”
    “Don’t listen to them,” said Peace.
    “I’m not,” Molly lied.
    Molly and Peace kept moving forward, towards their lockers. The guards were not managing the crowd well, and Molly and Peace had to push their own way through the surging throng. The wet dirt, sweat, and rain seeped through Molly’s black shirt and she felt chilly.
    In the next moment, Molly felt a tug around her neck, and then a snap. Someone had reached out and grabbed the pendant. Molly swung around. The thief would not get away. Molly pulled out her fighting stick and pounced. She walloped the fleeing man across the temple. He dropped to the ground, blood trickling out from above his ear. Molly had only intended to stop him, not to harm him.

    • Sam says:

      (thanks for giving your thoughts on Great Commission…for some reason it’s posted under “Andrew”.. but my name is sam) –

      I only read your re-write version here. I liked it. I think you’ve done a good job with giving just enough info so that I understand the Main Character is in a battle tournament… and that there’s an underlying animosity toward her because of where she’s from… and that she has a brother she’s worried about… there’s enough here to make me want to find out what happens next. I’m normally pretty Nit-Picky with inner-monologue, and exposition, but since there’s no way to see how you formatted it, i can’t really be specific… but as far as the actual events within the scene… you’d have me hooked for at LEAST the rest of this first scene 🙂

  4. Nicole L Ochoa says:

    I like the story and I can’t wait to find out what happened to her brother. I really got into it a this point, “Peace jammed the length of her stick into the back of Molly’s legs…” There might be a little too much tell in the paragraph before it, maybe cut out a sentence or two and add it elsewhere, but overall, an excellent read. I liked Peace too.

  5. Bjorn Schievers says:

    I will comment twice. This one is on what you wrote before the latest edit:

    Your new opening works better than the one you had sent to Ellen for workshop 1. I might be wrong here, but I disagree with Hailey about opening the story sooner. I think you chose the perfect moment in the story to begin your novel.

    Without saying much I can feel the atmosphere of your setting. Maybe because medieval festivals in fantasy fiction are recognizable? But those details like ‘roasted chestnuts’ and ‘season’s delights’ help make it feel real. To me Molly feels real and likable early on too, she struggled but achieved some success, and she’s working hard to get places. At the same time I also feel sorry for her getting hit so badly just because of a moment’s distraction, which is good. 🙂

    Towards the end of the fight I’m wondering why Peace would let Molly win. First I thought it was out of honor, but after a while it gives the impression she has a specific interest in helping Molly. You seem to confirm this towards the end of the text, so I’m happy. Those pendants are really cool! Especially with Molly’s pendant being taken at the end. Very engaging. And who is the Manipulator? It’s a big name!

    While I was reading your story I saw everything happen like I was watching a movie, or perhaps a bit like an anime feature. I don’t know why but I kept thinking about Thundercats (the 2011 remake), which was influenced by the style of The Last Avatar. In any case, this went from a story opening that didn’t peek my interest to one that really has me waiting to see what happened to Molly’s brother, what Molly will do about it, why someone took her pendant, who the Manipulator is and why Peace has such a specific interest in her. Overall I’d say great job so far!

    I think sometimes the writing is a bit basic or lacks some focus, which makes it not flow as well as it could. This is something my writing suffers from too. I’m not trying to put you down. I agree with Anonymous that you should show more how Molly feels. Personally I would open with your third line: “Molly had struggled to make a name for herself, but now she was in the regional quarter-finals. “ It’s more of a BAM. It also introduces Molly in the first line. I’d move the atmospheric description to the second paragraph.

  6. Bjorn Schievers says:

    These are further comments after your latest edit:

    I would split things up into more paragraphs so it’s easier to read. ‘It was Molly’s turn to fight’ could easily open your second paragraph. I think you’ve definitely improved the first paragraph and the way it is written now, maybe Molly doesn’t have to be in the first line. The first paragraph sets a good atmosphere and then immediately introduces Molly in a good fashion.

    I also like that that amazing pendant gets mentioned so early on in paragraph two because it’s something that intrigues readers. It also tells us why she’s so worried about Paul, so you give us a nice hook in paragraph two! However, you should explain that the pendant faded and this is how we know Paul’s not doing well. At the same time I’d cut “Paul had given her the pendant to comfort her when they had fled the North two years earlier.” It’s too much backstory that we don’t need to know now. Also cut “So even when Paul and Molly were apart, they could still know how each other was doing.” This is already obvious from Molly’s pendant fading and telling us Paul’s not well.

    I would start paragraph three already at “It was time for Molly to get into the dirt pit.”

    Wow, the ending of this text now has her possibly kill someone by accident. You’re getting there! It needs a little more work to make the opening flow better.

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