The Fall of Arkanar

A treacherous fog over the waters had given the Elves a false sense of security in their last remaining stronghold, Avarris. But now the Human Empire of Arkanar had taken the Avarrian fleet by surprise, most of the Elven ships never even made it out of the port. Cheers rose from the Arkan ships as they catapulted huge rocks at the two Colossi that had protected the Avarrian port for centuries. Each of the huge statues had their feet planted firmly on two large pedestals, pointy ears stuck high in the air and their blue crystal eyes directed at all who entered the harbor.

On land Aryas carefully poked his head around the crumbling wall that offered him and his men shelter near the city’s main gates. His dark brown hair waved in the wind, dust blew in his face. The white sun partially blinded his eyes, forcing him to shade his forest green eyes from the light. On the city wall he noticed the wretched Elves, ready to fight till their last breath for their city. Sweat dropped like rain from Aryas’ forehead. Fiercely he wiped at it, leaving a black trail of mud on his face behind, and reached down for his water bag. Suddenly, an arrow slammed into his bag forcing him back to reality. Aryas jerked back his head with practiced swiftness, realizing the arrow had just missed him by an inch. But then he noticed the last of his water had just dripped out of the water bag. He let himself hang against the wall and wearily sighed. Normally this wouldn’t happen to him, but he was exhausted.

Addressing the men near his side he said “We must pray to the gods for a good outcome, for the end of this accursed war! When we win this battle there will be universal peace throughout the Empire and we can spread the True Religion to every single person.” The men took off their helmets and bowed their heads in a moment of silence. Aryas felt a familiar hand on his shoulder, the voice equally recognizable. Cugarta smiled at him, “Your face looks like it’s losing the war, you remind me of my old ass that died a couple years back. Let’s show those bastards what the Arkan Empire is made off!”

Another salvo of rocks was fired at the statues, one of them hit a pedestal and the whole statue crashed into the sea. It effectively blocked the entrance to the rectangular port where most of the Elven fleet remained stuck. The Arkan ships fired flaming arrows at the trapped Elven vessels, setting them ablaze. The flames spread rapidly, giving Aryas and Cugarta the sign they had been waiting for. They knew it was time to attack the main gates now. Aryas’ eyes flew wide open in spite of the dust swirling around and he looked straight at Cugarta, grinning, “This time we’re dealing with them for good!”

The heroes drew their swords in unison and stormed the walls without a glance towards their troops. Stunned, the soldiers looked at each other for a brief moment, then they took up the battle cry and chased after the two madmen. Arrows flew past their ears at an alarming rate but they pressed their position with steadfast conviction. Several siege ladders carried by some of the men were shoved up against the battlements. Each time, they received a drenching rain of boiling oil for an answer, which soaked the men and left them convulsing on the ground as their flesh blistered painfully. The ensuing chaos was horrific: boiling oil was repeatedly poured over the ladders and screaming soldiers either jumped off the ladders or fell down in agony.

As soon as one bowl of oil was emptied, Cugarta sped up a ladder. He jumped onto the immense stone wall and slashed a head off with one swing of his sword. He commented off-handedly, “Try to keep up, brother”.
Aryas reached the top of the wall right after Cugarta and lashed out against an Avarrian behind his friend, leaving another dead Elf on the floor, “ You wouldn’t get far without me”.
Cugarta grinned boldly. His eyes widened with surprise as another Avarrian stormed towards them with weapons drawn. Swords rang like thunder as the blades met and the combatants contended for an advantage. The duel was decided when Cugarta slashed a gaping hole in the belly of their attacker. “Three, I’m ahead by one!”

The remaining soldiers now scaled the wall and joined in the fight with the Avarrians. “This is for the Battle at Kinhys.” “This is for Kiostra!” They screamed a battle cry every time they plunged their swords into an Avarrian.
The smell of blood and death gradually overpowered the city. There was no time for any of the Arkans to notice however, their bodies seemingly acting on their own, without conscious thought or mental effort. Metal met flesh with a frightening regularity. When Aryas realized he could swing no more he paused to take a quick breath, and looked at Cugarta.

Cugarta smiled nostalgically. “Remember the time when we…”
“Look out”, Aryas screamed and drove his sword through an Elf that was about to decapitate his friend. Looking around he discovered the wall was theirs; the enemy lay beneath their feet, broken and bleeding in the death throes.
A few Arkan soldiers scrambled to get to the main city gates and began to pull the enormous chains to raise them. The men pulled hard, grunting loudly. More of them joined the effort, each adding their strength to the group. Slowly the chains began unwinding, opening the gate.

21 thoughts on “The Fall of Arkanar

  1. Kylie Betzner says:

    Firstly, I enjoy your writing style. The opening sets a good tone, mood, and high stakes for the rest of the novel. I would read your published works.

    Some concerns. In the opening paragraph, we are not introduced to any characters. There is a lot of info: city names, places, and history that gets dumped on the reader, but I learn nothing more of Aryas other than that he has brown hair. BTW, great name!

    Can the opening be reworked to start off with our protagonist? Maybe have his point of view as the destination falls into view and he prepares to bring down this city or what-have-you. I understand wanting to start “in media res” but it’s waaaay to abrupt to start with a battle, no characters introduced. I don’t know much about Arkan or the Elves either.A little set-up or background would be helpful.

    Also, I’d suggest throughout weeding out some of the adjectives. There are quite a few to the point where reading becomes laborious at times.

    Where the action is centered around Aryas is more exciting. I was more interested in the last paragraph because you showed his experience in the battle and what was happening to him.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Bjorn Schievers says:

      Thank you Kylie. I’m glad you like the name.

      I come from more of a movie background and find it logical to first go to the global setting and then to the character. But it seems that everyone who has anything to say about writing disagrees with that. So I’ll rewrite it and try it your way, I can see why you say it’s too abrupt. Thanks for all your kind comments, I look forward to rewriting it.

  2. edgett2014 says:

    First off, I like the passion in your writing voice. This is your strong point. I like the energy in your dialogue as well.

    However, I agree with the other poster that the first paragraph was too much of an info dump, and that you should start with your protagonist. Let the info about the elves out more slowly.

    I do not like stories that start in a battle because I have no investment in the outcome of the battle. I have not had the time to care about the characters yet. Therefore, I just skimmed the last few paragraphs.

    One other suggestion would be to show more, and tell less. For instance, you say, “The heroes drew their swords in unison and …” I think it would be better to show how they could be considered heroes, and let the reader decide whether they are heroes or not by their actions.

    Another example is where you say, “The ensuing chaos was horrific:…” Just show the horror and let the reader decide if it is horrific or not.

    I’d rather get to know Aryas and Cugarta more before seeing them in battle.

    • Bjorn Schievers says:

      Thank you. So far I’ve been focusing mostly on plot and outlining and I totally recognize the style and actual writing still need work. I’m still finding my voice. Your comments are similar to Kylie’s and I’m absolutely hearing both of you. I’m learning from both the feedback to my opening and reading other people’s openings. Thank you very much!

  3. Dominic Sero-Asturi says:

    I read through almost to the end, up to the point where Cugarta speaks: “Remember the time when we…”

    I will say, I enjoyed the writing, though my personal taste for fantasy tends to stay on the level of gritty, low-fantasy, and I am presently unsure of what this promises to be. My primary concerns were that a lot of effort was made to showcase the bravado of these two brave men who throw themselves steadfast into the conflict. I wasn’t wholly interested in them by this turn, as right now – they appear to be single-faceted killing machines. There isn’t anything wrong with this, and I’m sure this changes later on in the section – but, it might not be enough to keep others reading as far as I might be willing to.

    My advice would be to paint these characters a little bit more, but not so much that the battle becomes pointless. Their thoughts, their anticipation, a long awaited goal, paint that a little more fully, and I think this will shine.

    You describe things quickly, and with bold language. I would offer that you might want to consider passing a second sentence to elaborate on some things, to add mystery, without slowing down the pace. You mention Colossi, but do it so quick, that while I can picture them and their direct downfall – I am uninterested. Were they celebrated, were they defender constructs, do men remember seeing them before in their history – perhaps as an oppressive image of the elves? Just thoughts.

    I also don’t feel invested in this battle. I don’t know what the stakes are. I know its a holy war, a ‘righteous’ war, which interests me a little – but I don’t know if there are other groups of elves, other races, if this happens often, or much else. I don’t recommend bogging down the narrative too much with this, but – a little bit more might help.

    These are all just my thoughts, with attempted objectivity.
    Best of luck in all your writing!

    • Bjorn Schievers says:

      Very much appreciated!

      Up till now I have mostly focused on the story and outline. I do intend things to be more realistic and a bit more gritty by the time I’m done. My ideal goal is that when people have read the book they’ll say “I was able to taste the blood and sweat or sand in he novel”. I know I still have a long way to go, which is why I’m doing this workshop.

      I will definitely work more on making things come to life and give the reader some time to get to know at least Aryas a bit before commencing the battle. All this feedback has been very helpful!

  4. psutton2008 says:

    probably not your target audience – I stopped reading after the first paragraph, too info dumpy, too many fantasy names introduced and elves, meh I’m so bored of elves.

    • Bjorn Schievers says:

      Well, I still appreciate your comment. I will work on the info dumping.
      However, they will not be your typical Elves. In my world Elves and other races are similar to races on Earth, namely there’s different physical traits but there is not a typical Elven culture. Just like you had black people in Africa that created several advanced ancient kingdoms, so there are elves with different cultures who may or may not get along.

      • psutton2008 says:

        Sorry that was a bit rude of me. If I may, though – you put the word “elves” into your book and that is a referential code, a signifier to the reader who has a million shortcuts of what elves are – although it is of course possible to subvert the trope (Terry Ptatchett Lords and Ladies) you are using a fantasy trope, at the beginning of the book there is no. Hint that this is any different to a thousand other Tolkein inspired fantasy novels. I read the first paragraph and made a snap decision based on the signposts you have chosen to leave me, the reader. However, as I said – I’m probably not the target audience (I want something different from the fantasy I was reading 30 years ago) and maybe another reader will think “excellent another book with elves in” but then will they be happy or disappointed that your elves are not the standard fantasy elves found in many other books?

        • Bjorn Schievers says:

          No problem! Maybe by the time I’m done writing this story I won’t refer to them as Elves anymore, let’s call them Vulcans or Romulans. 🙂 I’m aware there are Elves in a zillion fantasy stories, but then I’d like to say to you there are Humans in nearly every story. If you look at Conan the Barbarian, nearly everyone is Human there. But there’s dozens of different cultures, and that’s what makes it interesting. On top of that there will be a number of different races in my story, some you might consider typically fantasy at first, others that you might think of in a Star Trek or Star Wars sort of universe. If it’s any consolation the ‘Elves’ get virtually wiped out and enslaved in chapter one, so I’ll have the rest of the story free for other races.

  5. Jennifer F. Santucci says:

    Hey Bjorn!
    I saw in your reply to Kylie that your background is in movies. This opening certainly reads like an epic fantasy movie. Reminded me of LOTR, specifically the Helm’s Deep scene. I love epic battle scenes where the odds are against a few and they prevail. The action in this scene is fantastic and the imagery is captivating.

    But, as others have pointed out, there’s a lot going on and it’s difficult to grasp what and who we’re supposed to care about. This scene reads like the climatic point in the story, but it’s at the beginning.Who are the Elves and what do they want? Why are the Arkans fighting them? By the end of the submission, it seems the reader is supposed to root for the humans Curgata and Aryas. There’s a glimpse of their camraderie. They call each other brothers, but since we don’t know anything about them, it’s taken as the literal meaning when it could mean they’re brothers-in-arms.

    I really think you have something here, but the reader needs to feel connected. This scene is fantistic, but without any backstory, the reader doesn’t become invested and so this hard-won fight is a hallow victory. It seems like Aryas is the protagonist. I liked the little bits he was in and if you brought him out, I’m sure the reader would find connecting with him easy.

    • Bjorn Schievers says:

      Thanks Jennifer!

      After I give a few more people some feedback I plan on using the comments I received to try and fix these issues. I mainly wonder what I’ll have to use to make the reader care about Aryas. But I plan on writing an intro of his character that can come before this part.

      • Jennifer F. Santucci says:

        If I may make a suggestion, writing an introduction to Aryas might come through as info dumping if you use it for the beginning of your story. Consider using the introduction as a tool only you’ll see. From the introduction, it might be easier to select a trait or event that can be used to introduce his character.

  6. Melissa says:

    hi,
    I think you have a good starter here, I love your descriptions as they really put me into the scene, my only issue is with the characters. I barely get to know them as you start in the middle of a battle. Who are the good and who are the bad? Why are Aryas and Cugarta fighting? Are they mere soldiers or something more important?
    I read in one of the comments before that although you call them elves their not? If so I would suggest giving them another name, as saying they are elves will give the reader an image which will completly change later on, and could confuse them.
    Apart from that I enjoyed reading this and hope to read more someday.
    Good luck

    • Bjorn Schievers says:

      Thanks, I need to find a way to let the reader know they’re pointy eared bastards without referring to them as Elves. 🙂

      And your comments are definitely in line with those of other people, I’m trying to think of how to open the novel before going into this part.

      I look very much forward to showing the next version to people.

  7. dlodes1 says:

    I usually read through and comment as I go. What I say is only my opinion so take it as just that.

    The writing is good, but with this topic you will have to do something early to set your story apart from all the other tales of elves and men.

    Two collossi is a bit cliché. We see this in many of the epic movies.

    There is a fine line with how much you tell, but you have to be careful when POV character is describing the scene. You are throwing in details the would know already. Some would say its info dumping.

    The heroes drew their swords in unison and stormed the walls without a glance towards their troops.
    I’m a bit confused. I thought they were on ships and the harbor was blocked. How are the able to attack on land?

    The heroes drew their swords in unison and stormed the walls without a glance towards their troops.
    This scenario is directly from Lord of the Rings.

    I’m not an expert at all, but novels and movies must be handled differently. A reader needs to be able to use their imagination and fill in some detail, while a movie must feed the detail to the watcher. This is where the difficulty lies. How much detail is too much. I must confess I don’t know, still struggling with it myself.

    At the moment is sounds too much like the epic movies we have all watched recently. I know you can not cover it all in 1000 words but I’m looking for something different. Like I said before, what will set you apart from all the others. That twist to the story that will suck the reader in.

    From some of your comments it sounds like this may be an early version. Just keep working at it. A thousand more drafts and it will be perfect. Ha Ha. Just kidding.

    Hope some of my rantings have helped a little.

    Good luck.
    Dave.

    • Bjorn Schievers says:

      I’m glad you like the writing even though I recognize it still requires quite a bit of work.

      I think I got a good story for the book in it’s entire length, but yes, if this workshop has made anything clear it’s just how much more work the opening needs and how much I need to try to set it apart. 🙂

      I can see why you’d feel the colossi are a cliche, but then again I’m working with ancient cultures, not medieval ones. And many ancient cultures had huge statues and other giant wonders: Colossus of Nero (Italy), Colossus of Rhodes (Greece), Colossi of Memnon (Egypt), Statue of Zeus at Olympia (Greece), Nubian Monuments (Egypt), Aukana Buddha Statue (Sri Lanka), Gommateshvara Bahubali Statue (India), Leshan Giant Buddha Statue (China), Moai (Easter Island)….. So it was a wide spread thing.

      The two main characters were on the land, the ships are commanded by someone else. But I’ll take a look at it.

      Yes, your rantings are helpful. 🙂 Info dumping seems to be my big problem, so I’ll try to work on that.

  8. Eliza Worner says:

    I’ve been reading and wanting to comment, but not sure quite what to say as this particular genre isn’t really my speciality. However, in light of the clever analysis you made on my piece, I would suggest you start with Aryas and give us some of his energy, his exhaustion, his movement, his temperament, his frustrations and hope, his feelings as he watches the scene unfold. All shown in the action taking place. If he’s exhausted does he pause before attempting to climb over a massive boulder, readying himself for the effort… something like that.

    You mention that they are missionaries spreading the one true religion, so instead of just telling us that, how about showing Aryas kneeling in prayer or offering something to his God, maybe something strong like he cuts his own arm and lets the blood hit the earth as an offering (that’s just a random idea that may be totally useless to you, but I’m just using my imagination).

    Yes I agree with the others that at this point we don’t really connect with Aryas to care if they win or lose, so let us in on the ante. What will it mean to Aryas, how long has the battle been raging, will he go home to a wife and family when it’s done, will he be crowned with glory and title, there needs to be something personal riding on it to make us care.

    This actually reminded me a lot less of Lord of the Rings as others have suggested and more of The Odyssey which, if I can remember correctly (having read it eons ago), starts around the fall of Troy and shows Odysseus having a nasty vengeful tantrum over the slaying of his friend (and lover?), which gives us a nice look at his character and his motivations.

    If you haven’t read it, it might be worth having a look at.

    • Bjorn Schievers says:

      Interesting, both Troy and Carthage are on my mind when dealing with Chapter 1, which is the total destruction of Avarris (the Carthaginians), last stronghold of the enemy. It’s supposed to usher in an era of peace and stability as Arka (the Romans) now rule most of the known world. However, a conspiracy that overthrows the emperor makes sure there will be no peace.

      I will definitely take a look at the opening of The Odyssey, I loved it as a kid!

      Your other comments were very helpful and will aid me as I rewrite the opening this weekend!
      Many thanks, I’m so glad you commented. 🙂

  9. Bjorn Schievers says:

    Some of you have compared this with Lord Of The Rings, a friend of mine said this is totally the opening of Gladiator… So I watched the opening of Gladiator and I must say, I don’t care about Maximus in the first scene(s). I’m just automatically routing for the Romans. 🙂 I kinda bothers me I can’t take my time to establish things as I like the Star Wars approach, but I see the need to draw the reader in immediately. I’m trying to adjust.

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