The Fall Of Arkanar

Aryas had a solemn duty to spread the True Religion to all corners of the Known World. Only chaos and evil could exist outside the borders of the Arkan Empire. Why any Province would choose to rebel was beyond his comprehension. But it wasn’t his task to question anything, he had orders.

The rain was dripping from Aryas’ helmet, the soaked red plume from front to back only hinting at its usual majesty. The water found its way across his iron armor, decorated with an eagle, and down his leather skirt. Mud covered half of his face and he had big rings under his eyes. In fact his face looked like he had already lost the war.

But it was not over yet, now that he was in command he had devised a new plan to take the last city of the Avarrian rebels. Along with his officers he had gathered right outside the reach of the enemy archers. A field of arrows had planted itself a few feet before them. Next to the young leader stood he testament to his ingenuity, the new torsion catapult. A device that could sling rocks further than any machine known to man, beyond the reach of any enemy.

His green eyes gazed towards the clouds of doom that seemed to hang over the entire world. Would the same clouds be raining back home as well? He suddenly felt a hand on his shoulder. “Don’t worry commander, today we destroy these pointy eared heretics.”

Aryas looked up at his old friend Cugarta, a man with piercing blue eyes and raven black hair, who was now his second. He was well aware that he owed his command to the deaths of those who outranked him and so the young man relied heavily on the officers still with him. Three years was an eternity to besiege an enemy city.

The commander bit his upper lip as the men poured oil over a number of rocks and lifted one on the catapult. It took them a while to light it on fire in the rain, but once they succeeded then lifted the first one on the catapult and set it on fire. Aryas stared at the mighty walls of Avarris, seemingly confident, but inside he knew everything depended on this. Once he nodded the men pulled a lever and the first fireball soared through the air. For a moment the whole army was silent, everyone held their breath.

It smashed into the walls and forced a crack. The army cheered loudly. Other torsion catapults now started slinging flaming rocks from different strategic positions. It was clear the gamble was paying off, there would soon be several chasms in the walls that Aryas could send his men through to finally take the last Avarrian city.

From their position the Arkan army could see the walls weaken, many parts were crumbling down, taking quite a few archers with them. The Imperial officers looked looked at their leader, who mounted his horse. His gaze met theirs as he scraped his throat.

“Listen to me, I know everyone is exhausted. We all want to go home. But soon we will have ways into the city as I promised. We must pray to the True God for a good outcome, for the end of this accursed war! When we win this battle there will be peace throughout an Empire that stretches from ocean to ocean. And we can spread the True Religion to every single person.”

The men took off their helmets and bowed their heads with the commander in a moment of silence. Aryas looked around, making sure everyone was devoted enough to pray. With a thundering sound the men could hear the walls crack and a hole open up. Aryas wiped his wet dark hairs back and put his helmet back on. He nodded at a soldier carrying a trumpet and the man blew it in response. The commander focused on the tree line.

The Arkan army slowly marched out of the woods towards them. Thirty-five thousand spear infantry, twenty thousand regular infantry, ten thousand cavalry, ten thousand archers and a group of battle mages. The last category was something the Avarrians wouldn’t have since it was forbidden by the Empire for anyone but the True Religion to train battle mages, under direct supervision of the Emperor.

Just when the officers joined their divisions two new holes opened up in the wall. Aryas drew his sword. “Battle mages, target the remaining archers, then come to the city to cover us. The rest of you know the plan… Forward!”

15 thoughts on “The Fall Of Arkanar

  1. Nicole L Ochoa says:

    I think there should be a “the” here. “…Next to the young leader stood he testament to his ingenuity…”

    I like the story and am curious to see how it turns out. The hook could probably be a bit stronger to draw readers in earlier on.

    • Bjorn Schievers says:

      Thanks Nicole, you are correct about the typo! I had a difficult couple of days so I was still typing late at night till I couldn’t focus at all and had to stop.

      I’m happy you like the story. Do you have any suggestions on how to make the hook stronger?

      What’s the title of your story?

  2. Ash says:

    Hi! I’m intrigued by the idea of battle mages and what they’ll be able to do. I also liked that you worked in the tidbit about Avarrians having pointy ears. These little details help distinguish genre early on.

    I read to the end of the sample (I liked that there is a definite conflict), but I’m not honestly sure if I would continue with the rest of the story. And it’s primarily because of the protagonist and his goal. This line “But it wasn’t his task to question anything, (comma splice) he had orders” in particular just really put me off Aryas, who I’m assuming is the protag. In a single sentence, I no longer want to follow him or care how long he’s been fighting, because he doesn’t seem to have a reason for doing it beyond that it’s what he was told to do. It makes me wonder whether the “pointy eared heretics” really deserve to be invaded.

    “And we can spread the True Religion to every single person.” You have me feeling bad for the Avarrians and feeling stabby towards Aryas and Cugarta. If that was your goal, then kudos! But if I’m supposed to be feeling sympathetic for the wet soldiers, this intro isn’t doing it’s job, IMO. You might consider starting with something more engaging, perhaps more sensory in nature. Like is there a smell that goes along with the fluid and ignition of the rocks being loaded onto the catapults? Maybe Aryas catches the smell? Then just focus on the scene and what’s actively happening. You can sprinkle backstory and their actual reason for invading in later, where you’ll have more time to expand on their beliefs. Because right now, they sound like religious zealots bent on bending everyone else to their ways. But maybe that’s just me.

    The prayer bit, where everyone takes off their helmets and bows their heads, felt really out of place too. They’re literally in the middle of slinging flaming rock balls at their opponents, and then stop to pray.

    Again, I like the conflict. I just get the feeling I’m rooting for the wrong person. Other readers may feel differently. Good luck!

    • Bjorn Schievers says:

      Thanks a lot for your comments, they’re very helpful. I want to come up with a name for the battle mages that sounds more at home in the religious empire. I see your point with the ‘questioning orders’ bit and will change that.

      And the Avarrians don’t deserve to be invaded. Consider Aryas an American patriot who thinks he’s serving his country, but he’s been sent to Iraq to kill innocent people. He thinks he’s doing the right thing, but they see him as pure evil. Two sides in a conflict. But he’s a very honorable man. Later in the story he will realize he’s on the wrong side of the war and redeem himself. If he’s coming off as an asshole I will do my best to change this.

      The Empire is very religious, so in my mind it made sense for them to pray for a good outcome. The reason they would have time is they are safe out of archer range and it takes a while for catapults to destroy a wall. So there is some time to kill. I’m not trying to argue with you, this was just my logic.

      • Ash says:

        I totally get what you’re saying about war. But the reader needs something to latch onto with Aryas, especially if he’s someone the reader will be following around most of the novel. Even if I’m not sold on the war (it sounds like Aryas isn’t anyway), I want to be able to root for him as a person. I wouldn’t say he’s coming across like an asshole. He’s coming across like a puppet. Right now, and this is just my opinion, it seems like the Empire’s goal (spreading religion) is overshadowing Aryas’s personality and his own personal goals.

        I really enjoyed the way you described the water coming off of his helmet. And I can see now that you did convey they were out of archery range for the prayer. I missed that. *blushes* Actually, there are some really great details woven throughout. I honestly think I just got caught up on the idea of this one True Religion and how this group of soldiers thinks it’s their job to force everyone to believe what they do. I may have read too much into that. I get that they’re from a religious empire, and it’s probably important to convey that. Maybe rather than rally his men by telling them they’ll “spread the True Religion to every single person” he can have a private, internal moment where he sends up a prayer for the safety of his men. What I mean is, maybe try to find a way to make them sound less like religious zealots, and more like men at war who happen to be religious.

        And I’m always up for having another set of eyes on my pages! Mine is EcoSphere. Thanks!

        • Bjorn Schievers says:

          Thanks Ash, I did hear you and took two lines out of the text after you commented. The one about spreading True Religion to every single person and the one where I said it wasn’t up to him to question orders. You made some very good points! I do plan to make a few more adjustments and post it again. I will go to your story now and see if I can say anything helpful. 🙂

  3. April Marie Cox says:

    Aryas had a solemn duty to spread the True Religion to all corners of the Known World.

    This one line would be enough for me to put your story down. You might want to find a way to engage your reader before stating this–get your reader to connect with Aryas somehow before revealing this, because I am not the only person who would have a reaction to that line.

    In reading further, I would just cut the first paragraph altogether and fill in that information as you go. Start with where he is right now, in the moment and don’t worry about why he is there. You can get to that–perhaps have him come across and enemy soldier and have him feel disgust at his anti-religious comments.

    There should also be more tension in the actual battle, and the prayer sort of seems out of place in the way that it is written. The enemy is trying to get in….it just seems as if there should be more tension. The prayer should be deliberately short….maybe have him even say, I know we are short on time, but let us offer this to God (or whoever it is they are worshipping). Taking off the helmets seems a bit much here. I get that it’s meant to be a sign of respect, but I don’t think there is time.

    Mostly, you really need to have a clear picture of who Aryas is and have that come through to the reader–give the reader a way to connect to Aryas.

    • Bjorn Schievers says:

      Hi April,

      Thanks so much for your feedback. Everything you guys say is valuable and helpful. I’ve just stopped my new edit, which may not have addressed all problems yet, but I definitely see it as an improvement. I’m so grateful for everything you guys have been able to point out!

  4. Bjorn Schievers says:

    New Edit:

    Rain was dripping from Aryas’ helmet, the soaked red plume from front to back still hinting at its usual majesty. The salty taste in his mouth seemed a poor replacement for the wine back home. The rainwater found its way across his iron armor, decorated with an eagle, and trickled down his leather skirt. His boots were drenched from the muddy puddles and he felt like the water was crawling up his wool trousers trying to reach his family jewels.

    Dirt covered half of his face and he had dark rings under his eyes. The young Arkan commander stared across a field of arrows at the mighty walls of Avarris, last city of the enemy. The entrance to the port had been reduced to rubble during a recent naval battle. Three hundred feet behind him the treeline of the woods began. Suddenly another arrow pierced the ground. It startled him for a brief moment but he felt secure knowing they were well out of shooting range.

    Next to him stood the new torsion catapult, a testament to his ingenuity. This device could sling rocks further than any machine known to man, beyond the reach of any enemy. If it worked. None of his officers believed the thing would hold up with all the counterweight. Aryas wrinkled his nose as a pungent smell worked its way up his nostrils.

    Two soldiers had poured oil over a rock on the catapult and were trying to light it, not an easy task in this weather. His green eyes gazed towards the clouds of doom that seemed to hang over the entire world. Would the same clouds be raining back home as well? He suddenly felt a hand on his shoulder. “Commander, your face looks like we already lost the war. Don’t worry, today we destroy these pointy eared heretics.”

    Aryas looked over at his old friend Cugarta, a man with piercing blue eyes and raven black hair, who was now his second. He was well aware that he owed his command to the deaths of those who outranked him, so the young man relied heavily on the officers still with him. Three years was an eternity to besiege a single city. The rock suddenly caught fire and lit up the faces of several officers nearby. A nod from their leader made the men pull the lever and the first fireball soared through the air. For a moment one heard nothing but the rain.

    With a thundering boom the rock smashed into the wall and forced a crack to appear. The army cheered loudly as several archers ran away from the crack. Other torsion catapults now began slinging flaming rocks from different strategic positions. It was clear the gamble was paying off, there would soon be several chasms in the walls that Aryas could send his men through to finally take the last Avarrian city.

    He cleared his throat and turned to his officers. “Listen to me, I know everyone is exhausted. We all want to go home. It will take a while before we breach the walls but soon we will have ways into the city as I promised. We must pray to the True God for a good outcome, for the end of this accursed war! When we win this battle there will be peace throughout an Empire that stretches from ocean to ocean.”

    The men quickly bowed their heads with their commander in a moment of silence. Aryas looked around, checking on his men’s devotion to their religion. For once thunder was a reassuring sound as it meant the enemy defense was weakening. When they were done praying Aryas nodded at a soldier carrying a trumpet and the man blew it in response. The commander focused his attention on the tree line.

    Slowly the ground started vibrating, cracking sounds came out of the woods, until regular steady stomping became the dominating sound. Horses were neighing and metal was heard clattering. Ten thousand cavalry parted with the woods and trotted towards them, followed by thirty-five thousand spear infantry, twenty thousand regular infantry, ten thousand archers and a group of battle mages. It was a massive army, stretching from the far left to the far right. But it would still fall short of the army they knew to be inside the city.

    The officers joined their respective divisions and took up their final positions, from which they could see the wall weaken, many parts were crumbling down, taking quite a few archers with them. Everyone paid close attention to the Arkan leader, who mounted his horse. With a thundering sound the men could hear the walls crack and a hole open up. Another loud cheer overruled everything else.

    Two new holes opened up in the wall. Aryas drew his short steel sword from the leather scabbard hanging against his leg. “Battle mages, you will be our biggest advantage since Avarris has no magic. Target the remaining archers, then come to the city to cover us. The rest of you know the plan… Forward!”

    • Alex Zaykov says:

      Hi Bjorn, just finished my comment and then I read your new edit. It does read better and I am even more certain that you’ll end up wit ha polished gem at some point.
      Just a clarification, my advice about the cliffhanger around the bombardment is just to pull the use of inflammable liquid for a last attempt, as a last gamble, in order to increase the suspense.

  5. Alex Zaykov says:

    Hi Bjorn,
    The death throes of a religious war between humans and elves and perhaps other races, a final desperate battle, a clash of mages, a weary, battle-hardened protagonist, definitely the kind of fantasy I would buy and devour during a summer vacation, a long flight or a lazy winter weekend. Your shaping of the scene is very good. I like how you use the rain trickling down Aryas to describe his appearance and gear. I’ve used something similar. The other descriptions are vivid, yet not heavy, they read easily.
    Now my five cents on how this can be enhanced even further. The previous commentators are right that the stakes for the main character should feel higher. I do believe they currently are high enough, but you can boost them with a few simple changes.
    – The walls vs. the siege machines. They fall too easily, too quickly. What if, the first stones land against the walls with an ominous thud “but they stand as grim sentinels mocking his feeble attempt…”, plus some jeers from the walls? Another interesting twist would be to make his position as commander much less comfortable. What if the senior officers have chosen him precisely because of their high hopes in his improved, but untested, siege machine? Now, while the stones are flying against the ancient Avarrian structure his position as commander hangs on a thread. It would be even better if he had been chosen over a more senior warrior who glares at Aryas and he feels is preparing to destroy him should the attack fail like so many before it. Perhaps a last desperate trick will change the outcome of the bombardment – throw a secret inflammable liquid against the walls, then fire up the stone projectiles to produce an inferno from which the wooden palisades on top would burst in horrible flames. If you go that way, you may need to think about giving more information, even in passing, on the improvement he has invented.
    – The haranguing of the troops. Currently, it’s not convincing. He may be secretly longing for peace, of blissful retirement and everyone in his place probably would, but this is war, the final siege. He is a commander and he must fire up the troops into bleeding one more time, into dying one more time. This works usually through playing with their greed, inciting rage or promising an easy victory. Play with these. Plus, it’s a religious war and you can use that for the pep talk. If it’s an instrument of imperial policy, the establishment would have invested a monstrous deal of propaganda to establish its monopoly, to spur thousands into dying for the just cause. I personally find it easier to describe a person motivated by greed, fear, anger, than one motivated by religious fervor. But you need to have this at some point in the book. I know all this is a tough assignment as we always need to watch our work for info dumping and overloading the text with too much background story too early.

    I am really happy that you like my opening and my writing style and I appreciate the very useful advice you have given me. Just FYI, in the past couple of years I have fully re-written the first chapter twice (so, three first chapters in total) 😉 and line edited it at least ten times. My first draft, I think was pretty flawed, so I have no doubt that yours will shine with a little more re-writing and polishing. I have re-written many sections in my first novel draft and I find it much easier now to reshape scene and adjust the plot than I previously thought possible.
    Good luck, Bjorn, and when your book is out, drop me a note at aviolator@yahoo.com , so that I buy a copy. 🙂

  6. vanessafowler says:

    I’m going to comment as I read. Hopefully it makes sense.
    – I like how you begin Aryas and then pan out to the broader scene – that worked well. The wording in Aryas’s description felt like it could use some crisping up. I like how you use the rain to describe him. Not sure about including the “family jewels” but atet may be just personal taste.
    – I love the second paragraph, but I wish you had given us maybe one or two more sentences after the tree line description. I’m mostly oriented, but not entirely. Using the words “suddenly” didn’t feel sudden, just a distraction from your otherwise engaging description.
    – the catapult is totally cool: now you have me hooked.
    – the fourth paragraph is helpful. I’m starting to better understand what is happening, and I like his green eyes, and the image I have of his face. I like your descriptions.
    – the fifth paragraph feels too mauve like a patchwork quilt of information. it takes me out of the story. Maybe the sentences are a bit cumbersome? I’m not sure what it is. I love “for a moment they heard nothing but rain” – mysterious and poetic, without being irritating : ).
    – love the rock smashing into that wall and the soldier’s reactions. Can totally see it and hear it.
    – para 6: Aryas’s words kind of disappointed me. They weren’t horrible, but somewhat cliche. And I expected his voice to be more interesting. I like his sentiment, and his leadership.
    – I’m having a hard time connecting Aryas’s words to the religious bowing that happens afterwords. Maybe there could be one more sentence or something to bridge between the two?
    – the last few paragraphs my eyes started skimming. I think I want to connect with Aryas more, or have a better understanding (or more clues) as to what his purpose is. Right now I am guessing that it is a religious war and they are taking over the city. I’m not sure whether i’m supposed to like Aryas or not. Am I supposed to cheer for him? I want to, but then he feels evil too, so it’s hard to engage emotionally. Does that make any sense?

    Overall, you have some great descriptions, and there are some cool features to the scene. There are some aspects I can truly see. It does feel rushed in some sections, but I think small modifications would go a super long way. The bottom line for me is this: I want more info on what the deal is with Aryas, and am I going to want to read about him for the duration of a book?

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