Yes, it is a Monday, and I am posting an Open Pen Critique rather than a Writing Tip. The reason is simple– I have a couple of scholarships and a summer course to finish this week (in addition to edits on my WIP and working full time) before I backpack this weekend. Yikes!
So, today– Monday– we have an excerpt from Bethia’s fantasy novel about a prince, dragon, and damsel-armed-with-a-bucket-of-water. Bethia blogs over at Reflections on Glass, so if you like this piece, you might want to check out her blog.
As for critiques, Bethia would love to hear about the content of the story. Do you understand what is happening? What is confusing, and is the story too wordy? But so long as you are honest, I think Bethia would love to hear all constructive comments. As always, even short, simple comments help. Thank you for taking the time to comment on this piece– I know the authors who submit to Open Pen love your feedback!
Open Pen is a critique opportunity on this blog. It is specifically meant for teenage writers who want feedback from their peers, but anyone is welcome to submit, especially if you are targeting the YA audience. If you are interested in submitting or learning more about Open Pen, you can on the Open Pen page.
The Morning After She Came by Bethia Lark
Altaio woke with a start. His face was dripping with moisture, and he didn’t think it was sweat. As he wiped the liquid out of his eyes, he saw Bethia with an empty bucket standing over him.
“It’s about time you woke up.”
“What happened?” Altaio asked as he sat up, wringing out his tunic. “Why am I on the ground?”
“I don’t know. Maybe the dragon got you.” She approached him, but Altaio shied away.
“What art thou attempting to do to me?”
“I am trying to see if the dragon injured you. I tried examining you earlier, but I didn’t think you’d appreciate it much without your consent.” She looked up. “Are you in pain?”
“Nay, I am unhurt.” Altaio stood up.
“Are you sure?” She asked doubtfully.
“Then why wouldn’t you wake up?”
“But I did.”
“Yeah, after the fourth bucket I poured over you.” She pointed at the stream of water that was slowly finding its long curving way downhill.
Altaio shrugged. “I canst be a deep sleeper at times. That is why I am all alone.”
“Your family got tired of having to wake you for breakfast?” Came the sarcastic reply.
“Didst thou make breakfast?” Altaio asked hopefully.
“Yes, but not for you.” She said with a smile, and spun on her heels and walked away.
Altaio followed. “Didst thou see the dragon?” He asked as he matched her stride for stride.
Bethia stopped in the middle of the hallway. “Yes, I saw it.” She had grown strangely quiet.
“What didst it look like?”
“It was golden, large, and breathed fire.”
“Was it the dragon that brought thee hence?”
“Yes, the very same.” Bethia let out her breath quickly. “Prince Altaio, tell me now; why did your family leave you here alone?”
“They couldst not find me. This I hath already told thee.”
“Yes, but why did they leave?” Bethia was growing more impatient.
So was Altaio. “Dost thou not use thy head in the morning? They left for fear of the dragon.”
“Then why don’t you leave?”
“I fear not the dragon.” Altaio crossed his arms. “Why dost thou question me thusly?”
“Because I have to know something. Are you the dragon?”
Altaio was a bit taken aback at this question. “Why wouldst thou think that I was the dragon?”
Bethia lifted her hand and started counting on her fingers. “One, you have never seen the dragon. Two, you disappear as long as the dragon is here. Three, the dragon disappears shortly before you reappear and it reappears shortly after you disappear. Doesn’t that look suspicious to you?”
Altaio moved Bethia’s fingers out of his face coldly. “Then thou art supposing that I was the one who kidnapped thee from thy country?”
“Yes! That’s exactly what I was thinking, so somewhere in the back of your brain, you know where I come from.”
“And thou dost think that I can retrieve this memory, carry thee back to thy native land, all so that thou canst marry thy gentleman?” Altaio asked angrily.
“Yes. Maybe if you met him, some of his good behavior would rub off on you.” She huffed.
“Is he a prince?” Altaio shot back.
“You know he isn’t.”
“Then I shouldst rather not meet him that I might not retain his undoubtedly uncouth manner.”
“And your manners aren’t?” Bethia said in disgust, marching onwards.
Altaio didn’t follow her. Breakfast was the farthest thing from his mind right then.
So, he was the dragon? The thought had played about in his mind for years now, but nothing confirmed it. He never saw nor felt the transformation. A second person thinking about it just made it seem all the more concrete. Also, it didn’t really matter before. Now he had another person to think about.
Altaio decided to assume for now that he was indeed the dragon. His first thought after this was how great he was now. Not only was he a prince of one of the greatest kingdoms in Eyleb, but he was also one of the most rare and feared beasts on the island. He would be respected wherever he went.
But the other thought bugged him. It was a tiny part really, nagging at him from the back of his mind. A part that said that this is what his heart really looked like, and it wasn’t right. But he silenced the nagging with the possibility of taming the dragon, now that he was pretty sure it was him, and bringing it under his control.
Altaio’s stomach growled. Breakfast had come back in full fury. He headed to the kitchen, wondering if Bethia had left any for him.
“Probably not.” He thought grumpily.
Sure enough, the pot was clean. She had even washed the dishes so that he couldn’t scrape out any leftovers. Little she knew about him. He would never deign to scrape for leftovers.
He grabbed some salted pork from the pantry, noting that his preserved meat stores were dwindling. He pulled out a skillet and started frying his breakfast up. As he was setting his place, he noticed a basket of freshly baked rolls sitting on the table. He looked around, and when he saw no one, he took one, stuffing half of it in his mouth.
“Aha!” Bethia cried as she came from behind a pillar. “I knew you’d take one.”
“And what wouldst be the issue of my taking these freshly baked goods?” Altaio mumbled out, barely capable of being understood with his mouth full of roll. He swallowed, then added, “Thou didst bake them using my flour, not thine, if I art not mistaken.”
“You’re not.” Bethia took the remaining half from Altaio’s hand right as he was about to stuff it into his mouth. “I did half the work, so I get half the product.” She opened her mouth wide and in went the roll. “It’s fair, really.”
Altaio huffed in disgust.
Bethia mumbled something else, but Altaio couldn’t quite catch it.
Hastily swallowing and almost choking on the bread, she pointed to the stove and repeated, “Your breakfast is burning.”
As Altaio hurried to put out the flames, he heard Bethia chuckling behind his back. She would regret that, he thought.