The Silence of the Bells

In southern Barceria, there is much beauty. The land is easy to tend, the streams run into strong rivers, and the foothills into broad valleys that run either into lake or sea. It felt good to sit there now in the small forest clearing, beneath a small, weather-beaten boulder. The familiar and beautiful smell of grass and creek soil were as abundant as they were pungent. The soft touch of the ground held him in his place, softly. The sun filtered through the green sheaves above with golden fire, setting ablaze everything that it touched.

One arm lay settled into the stream, an angry green tint showing on the base of his thumb. The young man mentally scolded himself. How hard was it to forget to wear a brace while flying arrows?

A trivial problem, nothing he wouldn’t survive. Everything was at peace now, everything calm, and as it should be. The season offered fruitful tides of a good year. His folly would give him a bruised hand for the time of maybe two weeks, forgiving him for not noticing the sting.

It could not be right. Of all the things to happen, this is not what he could imagine. For all of the things to have been seen, it was this that he witnessed now. All of the peace and all of the beauty, but still his mind was haunted by the terrors of what was lost; what horrid things that only a number of months ago had been set upon him. Though he had emerged relatively unscathed, many did not, and now he had to sit here and appreciate it all while others laid in graves.

On his right wrist were both the open ankh of His Holyness as well as the moonstar of the Sacred Wyrdden as small baubles. He did pray every night and hope that his thoughts would ease, that he could find the strength to breathe deeply and know joy again. He bowed his head and prayed to any of the goodly gods that dwelled in these lands. He did this hoping that laughter would again come deeply from his chest, wishing that the songs and sounds of lute and drums would interest his hours. The idea that he could return to running errands, fishing, farming, and herding happily both brought a smile to his face, and struck him nearly to tears.

More deeply still, the young man prayed to quell the horrors that shook him from his sleep, and tossed the meal from his stomach as he awoke in the night. Gulping, he would see departed friends in his dreams, and as much as that haunted him he would beg wordlessly for the chance to see those faces again – those that were returned to the earth. He would beg for a holy salve that could wipe away the blood from his hands. He wanted an answer that he could take into his hands and know for true; a way to accept why he had lived and so many did die.

Those questions tore him up inside, and even more than that was one other. What man could he hope to be, what had slain another man?

Suddenly, the fellow by his side shifted, and the young man looked up at him.

“Do you remember,” the voice said in its brusque tone, a tanned arm stretched out towards the rolling low foothills that were likely mountains to peoples of flatter lands, “I used to tell you that beyond that rise on the horizon is Lake Taebar. You would ask how long it would take us to go there, and I said not long at all. Now look at you. You have crossed the country and become a man, and I have done little for you.”

The young man gave a slight shake of his head, finding himself chuckling at the mention, a smile appearing on his face now, partially genuine. “That’s not true. I have learned much from you, and I would not have done anything had it not been for you.”

“Teachin’ is one thing of it, perhaps. I taught you to tie knots, learned you not to tarry, showed you how to work a sword into your hand,” The older fellow offered. “Such ain’t enough, Leoberht. I did those things, aye. Though, t’was you what knew what to do with it.”

The man was the sheriff, and his words struck young Leobehrt deeply. His sword belt weighed idly on him on the best days, most days. Though, in the past two seasons it had seen more use than he had ever hoped of it. The sleeveless gambeson that he wore over his long working tunic was shorter than most, but he managed to keep it tidy. The hobnails on the caligae he wore tapped as his feet shifted onto a piece of stone in the stream.

His voice carried the weight of recent troubles, but was able to shoulder them away. “I am proud of you, Leoberht. I know I have told you… I think of you like a little brother.”

A weight pooled behind Leoberht’s eyes, as pride and guilt battled in his mind for supremacy, forcing in himself a smile that managed to become real. “Thank you, Cenweald. You are as much a brother as I could hope to have in this world.”

33 thoughts on “The Silence of the Bells

  1. Melissa says:

    Hello,
    I really liked the opening scene although it was a bit long, but not too long as to make me loose interest. My main problem is some of the words when describing, although I know what an ankh and what baubles are, others might not, so I suggest you try describing them rather than just giving their names,
    I think you have described really well how the character is feeling right now, but you don’t really give much imput to him apart from his name. So I would like to know more about him in the begining.
    Having said this none of this would stop me from reading the book as I think you have set the scene well.
    Kind regards
    Melissa

    • Dominic Sero-Asturi says:

      Many thanks for the critique!

      I do believe I will be working on bringing a spark to the first few sentences, or rearranging a bit of the opening body, to better hook the reader. The first paragraph wound up there to help me begin writing when I first started, but lacks a reliable hook for the reader. I’ll make sure to address that, and I plan to put Leoberht more fully in the spotlight when I do.

      Thanks again for all the feedback!

    • Dominic Sero-Asturi says:

      Thank you very much! I often struggle with names, and it took quite a long time to fashion this one. I will most definitely keep writing!

  2. sam says:

    This is a story i would probably be a bit more forgiving of than most stories of other genres. Maybe, OUTSIDE of this boot camp forum, I’d give it a couple of chapters before I decided whether i loved it, or hated it.

    I stopped reading after “The man was the Sheriff…”

    I really don’t doubt that this story would eventually grab my imagination, lots of the elements for it are apparent — some pivotal battle that this person took part in, a world that sounds like it’s going to be rich in “off-screen” history, a main character who starts in a place that can really cause him to grow in just about any direction…

    That said…

    i think a lot of the ‘native dialect’ is really distracting and seems to be a random assortment of high fantasy/olde english stuff, Bayou, and Appalachian…and some other stuff… I think this is only a safe direction to go if there’s some story reason for it, AND if it’s limited to dialogue, and inner-monologue, and not a part of the narration.

    ie “He wanted an answer that he could take into his hands and know for true; a way to accept why he had lived and so many did die.” “Those questions tore him up inside, and even more than that was one other. What man could he hope to be, what had slain another man?”

    it seemed like at the beginning there was confusion about whether this was first person or not. If this is a first person narration then the narrator wouldn’t call himself “He” or “him” … if it’s NOT a first person, i don’t think the narrator should convey things as though he/she was also there experiencing them, ie “…it felt good to sit there now…”

    Why I stopped at “The man was the Sheriff…”
    It was just the last question I could handle in such a short amount of story-time.
    1. what is the base of a thumb?
    2. what does “Flying arrows” mean?
    3. …It could not be right. Of all the things to happen, this is not what he could imagine…” WHAT is not what he could imagine?
    4. “…. For all of the things to have been seen, it was this that he witnessed now….” What does this mean?
    5. what is a Bauble? (i will have to look it up)
    6. Why is he sitting here?
    6. Oh, there’s a guy sleeping next to him?
    7. They seem to know each other very well… how do they know each other?
    8. He’s a sheriff?
    I just felt like if i kept reading they’d just pile up and i wasn’t sure what was intentionally setting up as mysterious, and what was just, maybe not being described well.

    Please don’t let any of this discourage you.
    I can tell that I would like this, and that you know exactly how to let this story unfold… and like i said… in any other forum, I would have let all that go.. but I’m SUPPOSED to be constructive!
    Keep writing!

    • Dominic Sero-Asturi says:

      Thank you very much for the very full and weighty comment!

      I will be posting this somewhere in physical media, that I can look it over while I write. You point out a lot here, and I would be foolish not to consider it. My language seems to dissuade some people, so I may have to work on making it less hampering.

      But again, I really appreciate your critique, and your support. I will most definitely keep writing, and I hope you do as well.

  3. Hari Paruchuri says:

    I read around three to four paragraphs after this one because this was good:

    One arm lay settled into the stream, an angry green tint showing on the base of his thumb. The young man mentally scolded himself. How hard was it to forget to wear a brace while flying arrows?

    “That green tint. . . thumb” was nice and it is what propelled me further. But somewhere I lost the flow. Specially words like “ankh” etc demotivated me. Many words like that made me feel that I will need a dictionary. Anyway thats me.

    • Dominic Sero-Asturi says:

      Thank you very much for the feedback! I will likely be working on my use of language, and help engross the reader earlier on.

  4. Belinda Rimmer says:

    I liked the tone of this story, and enjoyed the first paragraph, although I felt there were too many adjectives. The character intrigued me and I wanted to know more about what he’d lost, what had been set upon him. The language seemed laboured and not that of a young man which I assume is befitting of the time and place he inhabits. It was a bit difficult to engage with Overall the story interests me, and the religious elements seem unusual. It touched upon the guilt of survivng when others do not. i was keen to know more. Towards the end, the voice changes and we learn names too. This seemed confusing, I hope you finish your story as i see potential here.

  5. dlodes1 says:

    I try to comment as I read. Remember all I say are my opinions. You are the author and what I say may not be relevant at all. If so, chuck it.
    I realize you can not judge something by 1000 words. I am not one to give up on something early and often it will take many pages to get sucked in. So take my words as friendly help only.

    Nice description at the beginning, but why would the reader care at this point. This is my opinion, but I think you should use his name somewhere early. For me the first paragraph seems too distant. Someone is telling me about it. I would like to know who it is.
    I say this because most writings today seem to be written in a closer perspective. That way you get to know the main characters better. This is described by a narrator perhaps and not from a close third person.
    If omniscient, ignore my ravings.

    You could tighten up a few spots like
    It felt good to sit there now in the small forest clearing,
    It felt good to sit in the small forest clearing. (there now) is not needed.

    Overall, well written.

    Thanks for sharing and good luck.

    Dave

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