Greyn’s dogs whined and strained at their harnesses, scrambling to dig their claws into the ice as they pulled the sled up the eastern slope of the Laskyn Valley toward the icefield. He hated pushing his sled from behind, leaning into it with all his weight, often slipping, and always getting hot and sweaty inside his furs. He already regretted giving in to Tardra about coming up here. It could cost them dearly. But Tardra wouldn’t take this kind of risk without good reason. He was a fool, but he wasn’t stupid.
They hadn’t come up the eastern slope for years. There was no reason. All the hot spring valleys were to the west. Only desolate ice lay out this way. But Tardra’s agitation about what he had found out here was infectious. Greyn was curious. Tardra couldn’t tell him what it was, not because he was being his usual irritating self, but because he actually had no idea. He insisted it was important, but, how important, only the spirits knew. Tardra was easily excited.
Greyn peeked up from under his fur lined hood and a gust of wind whipped tiny ice crystals into his face. He shut his eyes.
Lately, he had been swearing more and more, and for any small reason. He couldn’t stop himself. He would swear at the wind and the sun and at other people and even inanimate objects if they got in his way. Now it was about his stinging eyes and burning cheeks. Even with a full beard, he envied his dogs their fur-covered faces.
Tardra’s sled was just reaching the top ahead of him. The dogs chuffed clouds of white breath into the crisp morning air. Greyn was glad he had left Caro behind. Her injured foot and tail wouldn’t have survived this abuse.
Finally, they reached flat ice. Greyn cracked his whip above his dogs’ heads forcing them ahead of Tardra’s who were were already lying down. He didn’t need any fighting today.
His dogs resting, Greyn walked back to Tardra who was standing there grinning at him. It was times like these he enjoyed imagining punching Tardra’s teeth out. He looked down into the Laskyn Valley from where they had come. White steam billowed up from the hot springs below, warm and inviting. He felt like going home and submerging himself. Something was weighing on him, depressing him, but he didn’t know what it was. Just a heaviness, like the cloud mass that covered the sky today.
“What the hell do you want me to see out here?” said Greyn.
Tardra just smiled, and nodded out toward the northeast.
Greyn scanned the icefield. There were no trails in the snow on this side of the Laskyn Valley, just gray ice merging with gray cloud and a dark band all around the horizon. He knew what was out there. Nothing but shiny black peaks jabbing into the sky, so steep that snow could not cling. No matter which way you went, you would inevitably reach those cold mountain cliffs. Even the gyrfalcons rejected them, preferring to build their nests on the warm walls of Silverthrone, the old volcano to the north.
“Just show me where the hell it is, and we can get on with our work,” he said.
“Look!” Tardra shouted, startling him. He was pointing to Silverthrone.
Greyn noticed a darker grazing of black in the sky over the volcano in the distance. It streaked out in a horizontal line over the mountains.
“She’s been smoking more lately,” Tardra said.
“I know that,” said Greyn. “Is that all you wanted to show me?”
“No, that’s over there.” Tardra pointed to an area just east of Silverthrone.
Greyn could see the gyrfalcons off in the distance, flying around, as if they were being disturbed by something. He had always envied them their wings. As a boy, he had wished he could fly over the mountains to see if there was anything out beyond them.
He noticed a faint trail to the northeast, just visible as a shadow in the snow.
Tardra rose up and down on his toes, unable to contain himself. Greyn couldn’t help smiling. Tardra had always had that effect on him. He never knew whether to love him or hate him. He was such a child, even at seventeen. It reminded him of when they had been novices together with Kern and Brag, and deer herding had been an adventure. Each new hot spring valley had been a discovery, as if no one had ever been there before. But that was over now. They had been to all the valleys hundreds of times. Kern was dead and Brag was fighting to keep his first child fed.
Greyn knew Tardra just wanted to impress him. He was one year younger and had always followed him as the leader. Sometimes he was glad of that, and sometimes he wished Tardra would take some of the burden of responsibility.
He felt a wave of exhaustion, and went over to lay a hand on Tardra’s shoulder. “Now let’s, get going. We’ll see your secret, and then we have to go back. We still have reindeer to move.”
They had left the herd in one of the smaller hot spring valleys two moons ago. They would be hungry now, would have eaten all the succulent willow shoots at the edge of the warm water and would be pawing at the snow, rooting for mosses and sedges. He hoped none of them had calved. They must be moved to another valley or they would starve.
“Yes, master,” Tardra bowed his head.
Greyn snapped and grabbed the front of Tardra’s parka. He was tired of Tardra comparing him to the Harrud king, even in jest.
Tardra’s eyes narrowed. The smile left his face.
Instantly Greyn was sorry for what he had done. Violence against a fellow Laskyn was madness. Maybe Tardra was right. Maybe he was becoming like one of the Harrudin.
24 thoughts on “The Magistry of Dreams”
Very interesting, it makes me want to know what happened to Kern and how he died. It also makes me wonder why Greyn is so angry 🙂 I’d read on.
Start off promisingly. I like the style and descriptions. Put me in the moment without overwhelming me with details. However, having the first spoken dialogue be a simple “Shit!” was jarring and aligned me against the character. I actually decided to stop reading there. Not enough had happened to make me want to further invest in the character. Also, I was slightly confused about Tardra sounding stable and reliable (he wouldn’t take the risk for no reason) but then sounding like he cries wolf a lot (he was very excitable). Didn’t mesh in my mind.
I do think this shows a lot of promise, though, and may give it another shot once I’ve read through some of the others. Keep it up!
Thanks for this. I’ll work on the Tardra character.
Also, if Ellen could comment about using swearing in stories, I’d appreciate it. I want my character to be in a chronic bad mood, but I’m having trouble with the swearing issue. Ellen, do you have any suggestions on how other authors have handled this?
Very good start, for me. I am hooked. I like the way you are descriptive on one hand, but have a sense of not offering too much at a time.
The characters are quite vivid, and though we have no concrete ideas about what hey are looking for, you give us enough splints to wake interest and care.
i very much like how you are conveying the small inner “battle” of Greyn, being out instead of enjoying a hot bath in th esprings.
Yes, I would read it… good job!
Thank you for the detailed comments. I’m glad you enjoyed it.
You’re off to a great start, I think. The first sentence was a little long, but that might just be a personal preference thing. If you did want to shorten it though, it could easily be:
“Greyn’s dogs whined and strained at their harnesses, scrambling to dig their claws into the ice as they pulled the sled up the eastern slope. He hated pushing his sled from behind, leaning into it with all his weight, often slipping, and always getting hot and sweaty inside his furs. He already regretted giving in to Tardra about coming up to the Laskyn Valley. It could cost them dearly. But Tardra wouldn’t take this kind of risk without good reason. He was a fool, but he wasn’t stupid.”
Also, I didn’t connect with the last sentence in this paragraph. I feel like fools are stupid, so it threw me. Maybe something like, “He was reckless, but he wasn’t stupid.” Or some other word that gives us a better idea of his character.
Overall, I liked the writing. You kept things in check with your descriptions, and moving things along. I can’t say that I’m really clear on what they’re after, but I think you have a good, solid rough draft to work with here.
Thanks for the detailed response. I have reworded that first sentence. I agree that it was too long mainly because it brought in the name of the valley too soon.
Also, you’re right about the “fool” word. I changed it to “playful”
Good start, nice hook straight in – why would it cost them dearly? kept me reading on. The setting is evocative, not too many silly names to overwhelm. I thought the last couple of bits were a little weaker however – I didn’t really understand the relationship between the two – seems affectionate, then it’s revealed he resents the other guy to the point of violence – it jarred a little
Thanks, my reply is below.
Thanks for the comments.
I agree about the violence being too strong. Where he imagines punching Tardra’s teeth out, that was WAY too strong. I’ve reworked their relationship to show affection, yet irritation.
Your suggestions will make this better. Thank you.
It’s intriguing. I want to know what Tardra has found, and also how he found it if no one ever went out that way.
I don’t know why but I got confused with who was who and I can’t tell you why that is. The second time I read it was fine. Maybe just the unfamiliar names and being introduced to two new characters at the same time.
It was jarring to read “Greyn couldn’t help smiling. Tardra had always had that effect on him. He never knew whether to love him or hate him.” I felt that smiling was suddenly out of character for Greyn who was in such a bad mood, particularly in that moment when he had no idea what Tardra was so excited about.
Thank you. Good point about — how did Tardra find it if no one ever went out that way??? I’ll have to explain that. I’ll look at the smiling issue again, too. Thanks for the comments.
Good point about — how did Tardra find it if no one ever went out that way???. I’ll have to explain that!
I’ll look at the smiling issue, too.
Thanks for your comments. This will help me make the first page better.
The start was promising and I read the whole beginning. It was disappointing that Tardra’s mysterious discovery came to nothing. In addition, as a reader I would want to get a glimpse of the main forces of this fantasy world. It sure needs not be with lots of detail and info dumping, but it should be there to hook me up to the world itself. It is tough to weave grains of insight and keep the action going on at the same time but I believe it is worth the effort.
You can sneak some more from Greyn’s view and thoughts on this world (the joys and sorrows, the dangers) in addition to his attitudes towards Tardra.
Also, I could not understand what you meant with: “Greyn cracked his whip above his dogs’ heads forcing them ahead of Tardra’s who were were already lying down. He didn’t need any fighting today.”
Still, I think there is a good potential in the story, but the “first page promise” must be there, clear as a freshly fallen snow. 😉
Wow, that was interesting that you thought Tardra’s mysterious discovery came to nothing. It actually didn’t, but obviously, I didn’t explain that well enough.
Also, I have already done some edits that address your next point about giving a glimpse of the main forces of the fantasy world. I noticed that was missing as well.
I’m glad you commented. It will make my work better. Thank you.
I think you have a good starting here, with good descriptions and introductions of characters, one thing I didn’t understand is when Tardra says “Yes master” I get it is a jest but as you don’t explain who the Harrudin are it can be a bit confusing.
Apart from that great setting for the first 1000 words 🙂
Yes, that’s a good point. I have edited it with more about the Harrudin, so I think this “Yes master” will make more sense now.
Thank you for your comments. This is very useful, as I want the first page to be as good as I can make it.
I liked what I knew about the characters after the read. But this boot camp has made me more focused on getting the hook in quickly, and this felt like there was more about the world, descriptions and reactions which drew out the desire to know why they were going. Tightening that up, I think, would get the hook in and then you can drive home character or world development.
I also am a fan of “show, don’t tell”, though I sometimes feel I overuse it. Sporadically I saw it in your text. “He felt a wave of exhaustion, and went over to lay a hand on Tardra’s shoulder.” You told us he was exhausted, then showed us a gesture of contrition. I think it would have read better if you described his exhaustion. “Instantly Greyn was sorry for what he had done,” show the remorse. I only recall one other instance early on. I think a great example was how you handled Tardra throughout – you kept his actions speaking for him.
I like this, and would have kept reading.
Thanks for your comments. You nailed the issue that I’m trying to work with right now – showing not telling! And thanks for pointing out a few examples. It’s so easy for me to fall into the telling mode. I’ll definitely be taking your suggestions.
Also, others have made the point about getting the hook in earlier, so, yes, I’ll be editing for that.
Great suggestions! Thanks so much!