Primal Mates

Stepping side ways proved much easier. Nicola drew her cloak up and planted her boot down on the dirt path. Thankfully a full moon sat on a cloudless sky. It illuminated not just the trail, but also the tree tops farther down. Down at the bottom is where she needed to go. And quick. Her guide halted.
“I thought I heard something,” Karm said.
“Wolves?”
“Wolves I can handle.” He tapped the arrow strapped to his back. “But wolves aren’t the only furry raskals that claims the Sunken Mountain. There are others that prowl hidden under the forest canopy,” he said. “But no need to worry. Your protection is guaranteed.”
Beneath the hooded archer-cloak, Karm had a handsome, rugged face. She had never seen eye-brows that thick before and the stubble of beard was so raw, so primal — that it could never pass in the uniformed inspection of the atelier.
Neither had she seen glacial-blue eyes. Shimmering against the moonlight, they imparted a manly wisdom as though he had seen the worst but came out stronger. The man was handsome. Or, at least, had a different vibe than the book-worm types back at the atelier. Still, she could never trust anyone outside the atelier, especially not a hunter.
He slowed his pace down and allowed her to catch up. “So what’s so important down there that they sent you in the middle of night.”
“I’d rather not say.”
“Fair enough,” he said. “Your business is your own.” Dried leaves crunched underneath his boots. “But when most folks from the atelier visit town they leave with sacks of books or bottles or powdered spice and not protection-services.”
“I’m not like most types.”
“I can see that. You caused quite a bit of stir in the hunter-company.” He gave her his hand and helped her hop down a steep section of the trail path.
Her hand tingled. “I caused quite a bit of stir?”
“A company full of men. A girl like you…”
What does he mean a girl like me? “Too bad nobody had the courage to take my contract.”
“Could you blame them?” Karm was quick to answer. “A journey to the bottom of the Sunken Mountain at such quick notice and without information.” He looked between the dark spaces between trees and said, “There are things out here that would make the toughest of all men soil their pants.”
“And I take it you’re unlike most men?” She rolled her eyes.
“Well, I’m new to the hunter-company. So I’m just trying to establish… a… what do you call it? A clientelle. Oh wait for a second.” He pushed a fallen tree bark that was blocking the path, and it tumbled down the side of the deep thud and crashed into a thicket below. “It’s the only way to get repeat customers. Unless I’m talking too much? The guys told me not to talk too much.”
“Not at all,” she said. This was the most excitement she’d had since decades of being in the atelier. Decades since that wolf attack took everything from her. “But I do have a question for you, Karm.”
“Shoot.”
“Why did those hunters refuse the contract. You were the only one interested. Those men are battle hardened veterans, respected and feared throughout the land. So why did you take the contract-do you like have a special ability?”
“Asides from this arrow?”
“Yes. Asides from that arrow.”
“Well you didn’t ask so I didn’t say.” His voice turned sullen. “It’s because I’m not exactly human… I’m a wolf.”

8 thoughts on “Primal Mates

  1. David says:

    I’ll admit, I had to look up the work “atalier.” I think there is a lot of good character development in this passage and I appreciate that. Neither of the characters feels hollow, which is good. But the scene moved a little too quickly for my taste, and I’m not sure if starting in the middle of a scene works here because it is disorienting. The dialogue could probably be a little more clear, and it might help to read it out loud so you could get a better idea of how to make it sound more natural and easier to follow. Also, the repeated use of the word “hunter” confused me a little because I wasn’t sure exactly what they were hunting, and if it was mentioned somewhere, I couldn’t find it, unless that was the thing she would rather not say. Overall, I just wish I had some more context about Nicola’s life, because I think that would probably fix a lot of the problems. It might be interesting to start the novel while she’s waiting for Karm to show up or right when he shows up, that way it would give you some time to set up a scene and show a little bit of what she’s thinking. Sorry for such a long comment, but I hope that helped.

  2. Kevin says:

    If fantasy were my thing, I would be hooked and keep on reading. The story is well told, with enough elements of intrigue, and the words flow very well. My only suggestion would be to reveal special qualities of your protagonist sooner rather than later on. At this stage, the only thing I know about her is that she’s the only female in the profession, which seems a little bland. But I’m being as critical and over-picking as I can.

  3. Douglas Hazelrigg says:

    First, the dialogue needs some attribution in places, because I wasn’t sure who was speaking.

    I would change the following:

    “Unless I’m talking too much? The guys told me not to talk too much.”

    “Not at all,” she said.

    to:

    “The guys told me not to talk too much. Am I talking too much?

    “Not at all,” she said.

    Because when I first read it, it came off as awkward.

    I like the reveal at the end, but the dialogue leading into it is a bit clunky

  4. Andrew says:

    Hi. I’m writing this as I Read… I won’t be pointing out punctuation or spelling —

    — “Wolves I can handle.”
    He tapped the arrow strapped to his back.
    “But wolves aren’t the only furry raskals that claims the Sunken Mountain. There are others that prowl hidden under the forest canopy,” he said.
    “But no need to worry. Your protection is guaranteed.”

    I think I like this so far… and “Karm” is a pretty cool name. I think this bit of dialogue could use a re-write. Karm says “wolves, I can handle, but there are other…. “ this implies that there are things he CAN’T handle… then he says “no need to worry”… he’s protecting her… he implies that HE is worried, then tells her that there’s no need to worry. My GUESS is you’re about to introduce a danger that is/seems too difficult for them to overcome, which is foreshadowed by “there are other….”

    Maybe this: “It may be wolves. There are others that prowl hidden under the forest canopy,” he said, “but, there’s no need to worry. Your protection is guaranteed.”

    – …Beneath the hooded archer-cloak, Karm had a handsome, rugged face. She had never seen… Right here is a great place to repeat her name, because I had to go back up to the top to remember it. Instead of “She had never seen…” try “Nicola had never seen…”

    —“..especially not a hunter.” Why not?

    — …He pushed a fallen tree bark that was blocking the path… do you mean tree branch?

    — “…“It’s the only way to get repeat customers. Unless I’m talking too much? The guys told me not to talk too much.”
    Maybe try this (because the “unless” part, doesn’t make much sense to me) “It’s the only way to get repeat customers. Part of my problem might be that I talk too much. The guys tell me I do. Do you think I’m talking to much?…” “Not at all…”

    — “…Why did those hunters refuse the contract. You were the only one interested. Those men are battle hardened veterans, respected and feared throughout the land. So why did you take the contract-do you like have a special ability?”
    I ALWAYS add too much fat to sentences. It drives me crazy during re-writes… I always think it sounds cool and natural when I’m writing it… but a couple days later, I read it and think “…there’s no way a person would say all this…” maybe try this so Nicola sounds less mechanical “All those guys are brave. They’ve all experienced all kinds of horror. Why didn’t any of them take my contract? What are they so afraid of? Why weren’t you scared?” or something like that.

    This was good! A couple of suggestions, but overall I quite liked it. I can see how these two will have some pretty good chemistry a whole lot of friction… (though the George RR Martin in me would probably be tempted to first show how incredible Karm’s battle abilites are in this scene, and then by the end of the scene, showcase how dangerous the Sunken Mountain is by having some monster utterly destroy Karm…. Haha.. but don’t do that. He seems like a great character…)

    Questions:
    1. Does the fact that Karm only has ONE arrow get explained or come into play? Normally, in fantasy stories archers have a full quiver (sometimes with an absurdly unrealistically enormous number of arrows).
    2. I really like the idea of “The sunken mountain” I’m imagining that their journey, starting at the Atelier was on flat land… and the journey takes them to this place (the sunken mountain) that is basically an enormous gorge that is shaped like an inverted mountain… large round-ish opening at the top, with steep slopes all the way down meeting a thousand feet down at a “reverse” peak in the center… is that close?
    3. Is being a wolf uncommon, or is it just a big reveal because, even though they’re not uncommon, Nicola has some installed issue with wolves (ie, because they took everything…)

  5. Pam Portland (@TruckingWriter) says:

    “Had”
    It’s the one word I often include in my writing and then go back and find as many ways to eliminate it in my revisions because I think it makes the action sound far too passive, even casual action. For example, in the sentences that begins, “Beneath the hooded…” the word ‘had’ is used in almost every sentence. Perhaps consider ways to rearrange your words to keep the same information in a more active voice. For examples, “With eyebrows that thick matching raw, primal stubble, he captivated her completely,” and “His handsome looks offered a different vibe than the book-worm types back at the atelier.”

    I’m all about the active verbs (as my kids will sadly attest). Another way to add some additional energy, even to a casual conversation in the dark of the forest, is to eliminate the word “said.” For example, ‘”Not at all,” hiding her excitement, rarely tapped since her decades in the atelier.’ It still tells the reader who is speaking without telling the reader that the person just spoke.

    I did not have any challenges following who was speaking (thank you for the accurate quotation marks), but I think you can even stretch out this conversation and relay more of their pace as they walk, their comfort level and closeness to one another, and minor details like how long they have known each other.

    I’ve walked down a forest road in Wyoming with a full moon. Your description is pretty accurate – you can definitely see the tree tops that way – but the term “cloudless sky” might be a bit cliche. Perhaps imagine differently what that sky might look like. Are the stars competing with the moon, scattered into specks, but rivaling its brightness? Are the trunks of the trees blackened and silloutted against the star-soaked sky? Have fun with the imagery. It sounds like you are going to have fun with the entire story.

  6. Gentle Reader says:

    Problems with grammar detract from the story. While I won’t point out all of the errors I spotted (because I suspect this will be rewritten anyway), this highlights the need to have someone like Ellen proofread your work before you send it out to an agent.

    There’s a lot of word repetition. For example, the word “down” is overused:

    Nicola drew her cloak up and planted her boot down on the dirt path
    but also the tree tops farther down
    Down at the bottom is where she needed to go
    He slowed his pace down and allowed her to catch up
    He gave her his hand and helped her hop down a steep section of the trail path
    and it tumbled down the side of the deep thud and crashed into a thicket below
    So what’s so important down there that they sent you in the middle of night

    Best of luck, and keep writing!

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