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Author Topic: story hour ;)
Xanthine

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Icon 1 posted March 03, 2005 20:55      Profile for Xanthine     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Tell me what you think. And it will drop the current distant, glossed over tone in a couple pages or so.

******************

In the earliest days, when the Kingdom of the Northlands was still small and impoverished, there lived a dark-haired man named Colin. Later, he would counted as one of the mightiest knights and greatest kings the known world would ever see, but where this tale begins he is the son of a dishonored and landless Skarnathi knight. Proud and bold, even as a youth Colin cared little for pain or death, for growing up impoverished on the western plateau of Skarnath had taught him that these things are natural, and he had the fire of a warrior burning in him. He grew up herding cattle, studying the sword, and dreaming of the day he’d win back all his father had lost. He continued to do this even after his father sickened and his mother sold the family’s ancient sword to pay the healers. The sale of that weapon came to nothing, for the man died anyways and left his son, at the age of thirteen, the head of a destitute and dishonored house that earned its bread by herding its liege lord’s cattle. Yet Colin clung to hope, for it seemed to him that he was destined for greater things than scraping a living off the plateau.

Those early dreams of glory ended the night he defended his sister’s honor. He was walking in from the fields, and in the bushes he heard his sister crying. Hand on the hilt of his knife, an ancient yet keen, folded-steel blade that would fetch no price and therefore, of all their family heirlooms, remained unsold, he went to look, and found her pinned to the ground by their liege lord’s second son, her dress torn half open. Without thinking, Colin killed the man, and when he’d brought his sobbing, shaking sister home his mother gave him their only piece of silver and a loaf of bread and then, with a tearful kiss, bid him run. The young man obeyed.

Fearless and desperate, he stole a horse from this same lord’s stables and fled eastward. He was inexperienced but clever, and survival came naturally to him. For many months he evaded capture by the authorities and murder by his fellow outlaws. But before that year was out, Colin had killed again.

A dragon, small for its race but nonetheless great and dangerous to men, had come to ravage the eastern farmlands. None had been able to withstand its fire or teeth, nor had they been able to placate its lust with treasure. The King himself offered, on top of the customary half of the dragon’s hoard, a reward of some of the best land in the kingdom to the one who slayed the beast. Colin learned of this when he wandered into the distant provinces where the dragon dwelled. Desperate, and with nothing to lose, Colin saw a chance to gain a pardon and achieve everything he’d ever dreamed of. Pursued by lawmen and armed with nothing more than his knife, Colin challenged the dragon in its lair, and in a dark cave on a cold winter night, he spilled its heart’s blood. In glory he was brought before the king, where he was pardoned of murder, knighted, and rewarded with the promised land and treasure and a fine sword of noble lineage from the king’s own armory. His family was restored to glory and Colin’s name went on the Roll of Heroes. He took as trophies the eye teeth and the horn. The eye teeth he hung in his family’s new castle. The horn was made into a new handle for his knife. Colin was all of 17 years old.

It was at a banquet held in his honor Colin’s eyes first fell on Princess Elerin, the king’s daughter. Tall, slender, with copper hair and eyes the watery grey of a winter sky, the king counted her the brightest jewel in his kingdom and doted on her accordingly. Colin fell in love with her instantly, and would have asked her hand in marriage, but his fame and newfound riches were not enough for the hand of the king’s beloved daughter. Her bride price was no less than the eye teeth of the four Great Dragons, and many a man from many a kingdom had died trying to fetch them for her. Still flushed with his victory, Colin heard all this and was not dismayed. Had he not already succeeded where others had failed? Though his mother and sister tried to sway him otherwise, Colin decided that he too had to try, and began the quest that would make him a legend.

*******************

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And it's one, two, three / On the wrong side of the lee / What were you meant for? / What were you meant for?
- The Decemberists

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n4dmx
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Icon 1 posted March 03, 2005 21:42      Profile for n4dmx     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Nice. [thumbsup]

But now you've left me hanging!!?! I really want to read more. Is this perhaps from a book you are writing? If so I would definitely purchase a copy upon completion. [Wink]

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Serenak

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Icon 1 posted March 04, 2005 04:58      Profile for Serenak     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Not bad but I wouldn't give up the day job just yet...

Warning - please don't take any of the following as a personal slur - just trying to pass some hopefully creative criticisms.

The plot doesn't seem very original (but that is true of plenty of bestsellers).

I don't know how to describe the sensation I get reading that intro, the writing seems a bit strained or rushed or forced in some manner I can't quite put my finger on - it's like a first draft that needs a workover to get a more "relaxed" feel.

Slow down a bit Xanth. I know it is the intro but even so - dishonour, poverty, death, rape, murder, exile, dragons, fame and fortune in just a few paragraphs? There is enough plot in there to keep a fantasy hack in 2 trilogies at least... [Smile]

I guess it all seems just a bit much and all happening too fast... Make more of a meal of it... I know too much about the character's life and and not enough about the character at the same time - he feels like a cardboard cutout at the moment.

Hey, I don't want to rain on your parade, but you wouldn't want me to lie to you either, would you? Anyway good on you for having the guts to share it with us... I didn't hate it, just think it'd benefit from being a bit less "full on"

If I can find it I will post a fantasy mood piece I wrote years ago and then you can all rip my creative writing talents to shreds too... [Big Grin]

if you want to read some truly abysmal fantasy fiction check out The Eye Of Argon possibly the worst fantasy story ever?

Oh yeah, change the hero's name... Colin doesn't really cut it somehow, if he comes from a place called Skarnath I reckon he should have a name like Jared or Vort or Serenak or something.... [Wink]

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"So if you want my address - it's No. 1 at the end of the bar, where I sit with the broken angels, clutching at straws and nursing my scars..."

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drunkennewfiemidget
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Icon 1 posted March 04, 2005 06:25      Profile for drunkennewfiemidget     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Serenak:
... I reckon he should have a name like Jared or Vort or Serenak or something.... [Wink]

Coincidental, I'm sure. [Wink]

Xanth: Not bad. I actually read all of it, and more often than not, posts like that I only skim -- that should tell ya something -- about it, not me. [Big Grin]

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Xanthine

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Icon 1 posted March 04, 2005 07:41      Profile for Xanthine     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Serenak, I promise, it takes a twist soon. I did the intro fast because it is rather typical and boring and in a fit of lousy self-disclpline I decided I couldn't stand to dwell on it. I should probably think of a new set-up, though the cliched hero-princess-dragon triangle was a choice I made and so I took the standard route to get the hero on the road...any ideas that haven't been done to death? Would it be better if he was having a normal happy life until he either a) ran up some bad gambling debts and ran off to get rich or b) made a bet or c) killed someone in a drunken brawl? I kinda want the reason to be trivial (right now he's off slaying dragons for a school-boy crush) because he needs to rise from something, be it dishonor or just good old stupidity or both. I'm not making fun, well, maybe I am, but not of you guys, I'm just asking.

It's not a book. It never will be. And I'm not quitting my lovely job either, however tempting it gets some days, especially not to become a writer - I've gotten too used to the comfortable lifestyle my student stipend affords me. I would have to give up things like fresh vegetables and my guinea pig to try and live off writing. But it is about 50 pages long (and finished, so yes, the fscker ends). If I'd looked at the page count before posting I prolly woulda just let it sit on my HD.

Serenak, feel lucky; in a fit of rebellion against over-blown fantasy names I almost named him "Mike". But I'm open to suggestions that aren't 1) over-blown (like Vort [Wink] ) or 2) redneck, like Jared (even though the hero kinda is one).

And since I have no idea when I'll get another chance at posting more this weekend, here's a bit more. With a bit of color in Colin's outlines.

**************************
A little more than one year later, a messenger from a far eastern land came to the princess bearing a large box of ivory and gilt. In the box, lying on a bed of scarlet velvet, were the glistening white eye teeth of the Eastern Dragon. They were as long as a man’s arm and sharp as swords, and strung around them was a beautiful necklace of diamonds and rubies that Colin had plucked from the dragon’s hoard. The messenger then sang a song in a foreign tongue, which a court interpreter translated. It was the tale of Colin’s battle with the Great Eastern Dragon, and it became a popular and much requested lay in the court of Skarnath.

A year and a half later Elerin received another large box, this time from the southern end of the world. This one was crafted of pure silver and lined with blue silk satin. In it were the eye teeth of the Southern Dragon and a bejeweled golden girdle. Again, the messenger sang a foreign song, and again the song told the tale of Colin’s epic deeds. Other songs of this mighty dragon-slayer were also reaching the ears of the Skarnathis, and the king’s chief bard had set about collecting and translating them into an epic poem. The people of Skarnath, who were certain that they’d never see their beloved and admired princess married, began to take hope, and though he was absent Sir Colin became immensely popular. This popularity spread to his family as well, and his sister’s hand was sought by many. For her part, Princess Elerin clearly enjoyed the gifts Sir Colin had sent her, yet none could guess her heart, for it seemed that though she appreciated his popularity and wealth, she had no love for him. Yet she did nothing to dissuade him from his quest, and indeed, after he killed the Eastern Dragon she sent messengers in search of him, each bearing a token of her favor. None returned, for Colin traveled in dragon country, and few men may go to such places and return.

Then another year passed, and then two, and as that second year stretched into a third with no word from Colin Princess Elerin began to believe that her most persistent suitor had succumbed to the Western Dragon. But then one day, as winter was melting to spring she received an ebony and gold casket filled with another pair of teeth and a ring set with an enormous sapphire. The messenger who brought the gifts also sang a song, and so it was that Princess Elerin learned that Sir Colin had been wounded in his first battle with the Western Dragon and relayed the young knight’s apologies for being late. The princess, who’d never turned much thought to what was necessary to kill a dragon brushed the apology aside with a simple “I shall expect Sir Colin to answer for himself when he returns.” In the meantime, she returned to her life at court, and found herself falling madly in love with the son of the Glacian ambassador. Well aware, however, of how much her own popularity depended on how she behaved towards Sir Colin, she kept the affair secret, and so Sir Colin continued his quest, drawing ever nearer to the finish and his ultimate prize.


Colin arrived in the Northlands, seeking the dragon that dwelt there at about the same time that Elerin was accepting his gifts from the farthest reaches of the west. He’d been to almost every corner of the known world, learned the tongues of many men, and in addition to the Eastern, Southern, and Western dragons he’d slain many lesser ones as well. He’d amassed a fortune greater than any kingdom in his shares of dragon hoards, so much so that while he sent a fair portion to his king as taxes and to his family as sustenance (though they hardly needed it) he’d taken to leaving all but a few choice trinkets with the people he’d liberated from the terror of the dragons. His fame had spread throughout the world, and it had quickly come to pass that just about anywhere he went, someone knew him. Even the dragons knew him, and the lesser ones feared him. There was already talk that he'd saved a village by standing on a rock. The dragon came, saw him, and fled. Colin had gotten a good chuckle out of that notion of a dragon fleeing anything. In truth he’d been several miles away from the village in question, on horseback, with no rocks in sight. The dragon, a small one as dragons go, saw him, dove, got a closer look, and pulled up spitting fire that Mouse, Colin’s horse, and Colin dodged easily. The dragon started circling above them, clearly unsure of what to do, and Colin shot it in the wingjoint with his bow. He’d meant to hit it in the heart but he was never more than a fair marksman. The beast screamed, fell, and he finished it off with little trouble. As is the case with rumor, by the time the story found its way back to Colin it had changed beyond all recognition and turned into a preposterous story of a dragon driven to complete cowardice. What made the whole affair dwell on his mind as he entered the Northlands was the fear Forbelgd, the dragon, had shown. He’d died without a fight, frozen in the sort of panic men went into sometimes when faced with a foe greater than themselves. The knowledge that he could so thoroughly master such a beast was reassuring, but it was only a Lesser Dragon. It had not and never would be so easy with the Great Ones, and as he left that little kingdom Colin felt something of a charlatan, for he knew that his battle with the Northern Dragon would be his hardest yet, and he was in some doubt as to whether or not he could win against her. The Northern Dragon was the mother of them all, and he was coming to her crippled both in mind and body.

His first battle with the Western Dragon had left both nearly dead with wounds and though the Dragon had claimed his sword in that fight Sir Colin had been able to escape alive, though he barely remembered anything past leaving the dragon’s cave, covered in his and her blood, his sword arm shattered. The second had not gone much better, though this time he walked away, his sword in hand, and the dragon did not. However, he’d been forced to kill the beast with his old knife with the horn hilt, and in doing so the burning blood of the dragon had scorched his sword arm. He would bear those scars for the rest of his life, in addition to the ones he’d taken on his back, leg, and belly in the first round with the Great Western, and the arm could no longer endure a protracted battle. However, those injuries were not what weighed on him the most. The Western Dragon had taught him he was mortal, but he’d also taken another lesson from that fight: the meaning of fear and failure. Riding into the Northlands, he was forced to honestly admit to himself that, for the first time, he was afraid to face a dragon. His heart’s wish was no longer to take the dragon’s teeth and win Elerin. His heart’s wish was to go home, live quietly and tend his lands. He was 22, but he wanted to retire, and when facing an enemy that can see your heart, wishing for anything other than the death of that enemy, desiring anything other than battle, is the road to defeat. Unless he could summon the same stony will that had seen him through his previous battles, Colin knew that the Northern Dragon would be his end. Yet everywhere he went he seemed to be the only one in doubt – even the Western Dragon, she who had taught him doubt, had, in her last breath, foretold that he would destroy the last of her kind.

--------------------
And it's one, two, three / On the wrong side of the lee / What were you meant for? / What were you meant for?
- The Decemberists

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TheMoMan
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Icon 1 posted March 04, 2005 07:51      Profile for TheMoMan         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Xantine________I like the plot, but am some what in league with Serenak. I feel as if I have read the cliff notes of a condensed version or a condensed version. I wish I was as good of a wordsmith as you but I think your grammer teachers used too wordy on you too often, let the prose flow. Five paragraphs for four years of Colins life. You got my attention I need more of the details.

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Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.


Benjamin Franklin,

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spungo
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Icon 1 posted March 04, 2005 08:08      Profile for spungo     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Fair enough that you want an original fantasy character name, but I'm not sure about the whole 'Colin' thing. I've heard too many gags about superheroes and what-not about Colins on the radio...

<Deep, booming, movie-trailer voice>
His name is Colin, and he's a tough, ball-breaking chartered accountant from the mean streets of Henley-on-Thames. Whenever bookkeeping crime rears its ugly head, there he is.

*shot of bloke pointing a fountain pen*

"I know what you're thinking, punk. You're asking yourself 'has he double-entered five columns on his tax return form, or six? To be honest, in the excitement I kinda lost track myself'..."
</Deep, booming, movie-trailer voice>

That kinda thing. Apart from that, I'm getting quite hooked. [Smile]

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Shameless plug. (Please forgive me.)

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Xanthine

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Icon 1 posted March 04, 2005 09:52      Profile for Xanthine     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Okay...a worthless prize to whoever can give my character a name that isn't too fantastic or too plain. Bonus points if you can mkae it a little fruity (though the character is straight). [Wink]

And you guys are right, I should flesh out that beginning. I just need to figure out where and how (and I'll ignore all of you screaming "But that's obvious!!" [Razz] ). I was mulling it over on my way to work. I'll mull it over more on my way home.

Before this goes further, is Valerie an okay name for a beautiful princess? I was going for pretty but not ditzy on that one (though ditzy might be fun).

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And it's one, two, three / On the wrong side of the lee / What were you meant for? / What were you meant for?
- The Decemberists

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CommanderShroom
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Icon 1 posted March 04, 2005 10:23      Profile for CommanderShroom     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I could live with the name for the princess. How about Sid? Paul? Gary? Or... Jim Bob? [Big Grin]


Has promise. I would like to see what you have fleshed out a bit more. You know inner struggles, pain, fear, and regrets. The usual.

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Does he know our big secret?
Has one of us confessed?
'Bout the wires circuits and motors
Buried in our chest

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Stereo

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Icon 1 posted March 04, 2005 10:24      Profile for Stereo     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
A new reason to take the road? How about a non-heroic one? I mean, a boy who goes on to kill dragons for the eyes of a princess he saw once must be a little air-headed, IMHO. May I suggest something along the lines of:

quote:

This life of poverty and constant humiliation didn't fit well with a young boy hoping for the perceived glory of warriors. He had heard tales and tales of their feats (and fates) at the local inn where he ran every night when it got too dark to work in the fields anymore. He would sit and glare at any traveller recounting some story. And he accepted all the odd jobs the innkeepers would offer him - be it wash the dishes, serve at the tables, tend the horses or entertain the audience with some stupid trick he knew - as long as a bronze piece was thrown in once in a while. Back at home, he would count what little he had gained, and went to bed dreaming of the sword, the boots or armor he would buy with it - someday.

Until that night when he didn't go to bed. It had rained heavily that day, and the travelers didn't feel like telling any tales until they were dry again. So Colin was asked to do his little show. But also there that night was their liege lord’s second son, Red, who took fun into ridiculing him in any way he could. So back at home, his heart still in fury, he took his little stack of bronze and the bread for the next breakfeast, he stormed away without so much of an apology note for leaving his family behind (granted, he couldn't write). He set his first destination to be his lord's stables, where he stole Red's horse as a rightful compensation for the mistreatment he had endured (or so he thought).

He was quickly pointed out as a thief, and forced into hiding. (...)

That's just a suggestion, and I'm sure you could write it much better than I. (I don't read much fantasy, and even less in English, so my vocabulary is lacking here, and I'm not talking about the grammar mistakes I must have done.)

But like the other who spoke before me, I can't but hope you will opt to beef up this story into a great epic! Giving details about the countries Colin travelled, the friends he made, the foes he slained, etc., would add to the atmosphere, and increase the understanding of Colin's growth from a boyhood into manhood.

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Eppur, si muove!

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Stereo

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Icon 1 posted March 04, 2005 10:35      Profile for Stereo     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
(Hit the wrong button, sorry!)

Allow me to use this wasted post to suggest a replacement name for Colin: Elwood! (It came to me while looking at my list of songs and happened to see one by the Blues Brothers.)

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Eppur, si muove!

Galileo Galilei

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Icon 1 posted March 04, 2005 18:24      Profile for HalfVast     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Okay...a worthless prize to whoever can give my character a name that isn't too fantastic or too plain. Bonus points if you can mkae it a little fruity (though the character is straight).

Homer: No I'm not, Marge! They're embarrasing me. They're embarrassing America. They turned the Navy into a floating joke. They ruined all our best names like Bruce, and Lance, and Julian. Those were the toughest names we had! Now they're just, uh...

John: Queer?

Homer Simpson confronting John Waters. Ep 815

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n4dmx
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Icon 1 posted March 04, 2005 20:13      Profile for n4dmx     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
For some reason, Colin seems more like a Frances to me... I don't know why.

But I seriously like it. I did think the beginning was just kind of an overview or something, it could use more detail. But like Spungo, I am getting quite hooked, so please go on. [Smile]

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garlicguy

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Icon 1 posted March 04, 2005 21:03      Profile for garlicguy   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Lance.

Great name for a guy wielding a sword....

or two. [Roll Eyes]

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I don't know what I was thinking... it seemed like a good idea at the time.

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Xanthine

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Icon 1 posted March 04, 2005 21:16      Profile for Xanthine     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Thanks to you GG I will never again be able to look at the name Lancelot without giggling.

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And it's one, two, three / On the wrong side of the lee / What were you meant for? / What were you meant for?
- The Decemberists

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Rhonwyyn

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Icon 1 posted March 04, 2005 21:42      Profile for Rhonwyyn   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
When I hear the name Colin I think of Frances Hodgson Burnett's "The Secret Garden." Colin in there started out as a spoiled rich boy, but with a little positive attention and a purpose he turned into quite a worthwhile and admirable young man.

Then too, there're twins in CS Lewis's "Prince Caspian," I believe, named Col and Cor, short for Colin and Corin.

'Tis a good name. Much better than Richard or Lyle. I like Jason of the Argonauts (the myth, not the movie), but just plain Jason isn't that great for a dragon-fighting hero.

Whenever I hear the name Lucy I think of the pig in Laura Ingalls Wilder's "Farmer Boy." She got taffy stuck in her teeth and ran squealing around the yard for a few hours. I'm definitely NOT naming a daughter Lucy!

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Change the way you SEE, not the way you LOOK!

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TMBWITW,PB

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Icon 1 posted March 04, 2005 21:59      Profile for TMBWITW,PB     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Rhonwyyn:

Then too, there're twins in CS Lewis's "Prince Caspian," I believe, named Col and Cor, short for Colin and Corin.

The Horse and His Boy. [Wink]

/re-lurk

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"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and it may be necessary from time to time to give a stupid or misinformed beholder a black eye."
—Miss Piggy

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Rhonwyyn

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Icon 1 posted March 04, 2005 22:02      Profile for Rhonwyyn   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Thanks, Peebs. [Smile] I knew Prince Caspian didn't sound right, but I went through the list and forgot about Horse and His Boy.... kinda like when I name the Seven Dwarves. I always forget at least one. (Probably doesn't help that I haven't seen the movie!)

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Change the way you SEE, not the way you LOOK!

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The Famous Druid

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Icon 1 posted March 04, 2005 22:48      Profile for The Famous Druid     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Xanthine:
Okay...a worthless prize to whoever can give my character a name that isn't too fantastic or too plain.

Well, he's from the frozen north, so something something a little celtic would seem appropriate.

How about Connor?

quote:
Before this goes further, is Valerie an okay name for a beautiful princess?
A princess should have a name that's wild and exotic, something one-of-a-kind. How about 'Xanthine' ?

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If you watch 'The History Of NASA' backwards, it's about a space agency that has no manned spaceflight capability, then does low-orbit flights, then lands on the Moon.

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Xanthine

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Icon 1 posted March 05, 2005 12:06      Profile for Xanthine     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by The Famous Druid:
[QUOTE]A princess should have a name that's wild and exotic, something one-of-a-kind. How about 'Xanthine' ?

Flattering, but no.

Here you all go before I head up to the lab again. Humility is not one of Colin's strong points.

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He’d heard much of the desolation the dragon had wrought on the great Northland kingdom, of how they’d been driven into poverty to placate its lust and that while they claimed all the lands between Arvagnon’s Forbidden Range and the Glaciar High Ranges, only the fertile vale lying between the Dragon’s Range, the string of rugged mountains that cut the Northland Kingdom in two, and the High Ranges was currently governed. Most told him to come in from the south, passing through the Canyonlands and Celanyl, rather than risk the lawless Western Plain and the dark Forest Hills that they said was haunted by the Great Northern’s fury. But Colin made a point of choosing the swiftest if not safest ways to his quarry, and so it was that he came into the Northlands via the west, passing over the Forbidden Range and riding across the Plains. His fame as a dragon-slayer was such that none hindered him as he rode from hamlet to hamlet, and though he felt eyes on him as he wound his way through the Forest Hills no one stopped him. He crossed the mighty Black River at the ancient stone bridge near the southern border of the kingdom, and from there turned north and passed through the Dragon’s Range at Red Pass without meeting a soul. Dropping out of that pass he caught his first glimpse of The Vale, of the fallow fields and empty towns, and a knot of regret formed in his stomach. This place had long been under the dragon’s yoke, and the chains of fear and despair were heavy here. The kingdom had been all but destroyed by the beast. There was a good chance he’d come too late to be of any use to these people. Yet as he rode toward the capital city to pay his respects to the king and ask leave to hunt the dragon he saw signs of hope: a farmer planting his field, a smith working metal, a child singing, and as he joined the main roads he saw men and women both driving carts of goods to markets and journeying to the capital. The surviving Northlanders were as resilient a people as any Colin had encountered living in dragon country, for though they were under the shadow of the mightiest dragon to ever live they sang as they walked, and the overall mood of those he met was jubilant. Those that recognized him welcomed him openly, and those that didn’t smiled when they learned who he was. He only hoped that he could find the strength to deliver them from the evil that haunted them.

The capital was arrayed for a festival when he arrived with his sturdy travel garb dusty and his great brown horse sweaty. He would have liked to simply find an inn and grab some ale and listen to his fellow travelers talk, but that was not to be. A man of about Colin’s age, wearing the red and gold uniform of the royal guard and armed with one of the single-edged swords favored in this region was waiting at the city gates. His face was composed into an expression of stern calm, but his eyes were friendly enough and as Colin drew close and made eye contact he felt a strange spark of kinship jump between them. He’d never seen this man before, yet he felt as if he knew him. It was a feeling Colin had only found among other dragon-slayers, and as the man approached to take his horses reins Colin was certain beyond any doubt that here was a man who had faced a dragon and won. Perhaps he should not be surprised at this – in other realms they called the Northlands “The Dragons’ Country”. Many a slayer had made a name for himself in its hard mountain ranges and fertile Vale. However, dragon-slayers were honored the world over. Why one such as this should be set as a mere gatewarden was as surprising at it was curious.

“Word of your arrival precedes you,” the soldier said in slightly accented Skarnathi, bidding the famous knight to dismount, “and our king commanded that your horse be stabled and you be brought before him when you enter the city.” Colin was not sure what surprised him more – that this gateward spoke his language or that his arrival had been anticipated. He’d seen maybe one troop of men bearing the royal crest, and they had been journeying in the opposite direction. But eager tongues will speak, and it was a wise king who listened to his subjects. Still, he usually rode faster than the flap of tongues. Yet his forewarned arrival would explain why a dragon-slayer was sent to greet him.

“Might I clean up first?” he asked, attempting to return the surprise with his own command of Northlander. Poor as his family was, his parents had both seen to it that he received the sort of education that would behoove a nobleman, and, anyways, Colin had a knack for tongues. “It would be an insult to your lord to appear as I do now.”

“Not so great as it would be if you did not strictly obey his orders,” the guard did not bat an eye at either the request or the language change.

“May I at least see Mouse properly to his stall?”

“Mouse?” The guard nearly lost his composure at hearing this.

“My horse.” He patted the big brown charger affectionately.

“Oh aye, King Jordan has permitted that. Your steed shall not have to suffer more than he must.” Colin decided that he could respect that and spoke no more, but wearily followed the man through the city, dodging among the merchants setting up stalls in the square. His sword was sheathed and attached to his saddle – the only weapon he bore in easy reach was his horn-handled knife – yet he still seemed to generate a sort of fearful respect. “You have arrived at a good time,” the guardsman commented as they approached the castle gate, which was decorated with a brilliant banner of red and gold. “Our New Year festival is tomorrow, and Princess Valerie will finally appear before us again.”

It was the latter remark that made Colin wonder. He’d been among many people in many nations and he no longer anticipated how one kingdom might mark its years. In fact, he could hardly remember when the Skarnathi New Year happened. He’d also been places where women were kept cloistered, but looking about that did not seem to be the case among the Northlanders and he commented, “So you only allow your women outside for the New Year then?” He kept any sort of judgment out of his voice so as not to be insulting, but the guard only laughed.

“Oh no sir, to keep women trammeled indoors with none but themselves for company would be the very definition of trouble they say,” his escort chuckled, and Colin had to smile at that. “Nay, our women go as they will when they will. The Princess has been gravely ill for most of the past year, and it has been a sorrowful thing, for we all love her well. She is our good king’s only surviving child, and she will take the crown when he dies.” He said a few more things about the beauty and virtue of Valerie, but Colin paid little attention. He’d met his share of princesses. The praise given them was always the same. Sometimes the princess actually measured up to it. In any event, his heart was pledged to only one.

His arrival had been anticipated at the castle as well, and after stabling his horse next to a small, rugged dun stallion that supposedly belonged to Princess Valerie herself, he was met by additional guardsmen. He was somewhat surprised by the Princess’s mount– it seemed more the sort of horse he’d expect to find in the hill country than a royal stable, but this was a poor kingdom.

He entered the throne room led by the man who had greeted him and flanked by three men carrying spears, an improvised honor guard of sorts. He was used to this sort of treatment and amused by it. Colin as a rule traveled alone – he’d ask no page or esquire to ride into dragon-fire with him – and so kings typically made their own arrangements, though whether it was to protect themselves or him, Colin was never entirely sure. King Jordan was no exception, it seemed. As if anyone would be attacked in this throne room.
It was one long hall, with stone columns and ancient musty hangings. The silence was heavy on the hall as Colin and his guard marched up the worn rug. King Jordan himself sat high on a throne carved of the same dark stone that his mountains and castle halls were made of – it seemed to rise seamlessly from the floor – and he wore a heavy fur lined cape over simple, well-made clothes. Upon his brow was a plain gold circlet; around his neck a simple gold torque. One signet ring was on his finger. He was slender, neither young nor old, and he wore no beard on his battle-scarred chin. His dark hair was streaked with grey, and his face was alert and stern. As he drew near Colin saw the ornate hilt of a sword at the king’s side – one royal heirloom that the dragon had yet to claim. At the king’s right side was another great empty seat, presumably for the queen, and on his left a smaller, more comfortable looking wooden chair for either the princess or an adviser. Standing over the king’s shoulder was another man; broader, younger, and sterner, and he announced Colin’s name and known deeds (for Colin often preceded the updates to his legend) as the knight errant bowed before the king. Again, Colin was used to such treatment, and usually did not mind hearing the list of dragon’s he’d killed, but for some reason, in this place, with his dragon-slaying escort present, it embarrassed him and he kept his eyes downcast long after the king bid him rise. “Sir Colin of Skarnath I welcome you to my hall,” the king said in fluent Skarnathi when the steward had finished. This surprised Colin, for no matter how learned they were in other languages most monarchs insisted on using their native tongue in their court. Apparently King Jordan felt secure enough in his position that he did not bother with such pride. “Long has it been since one of your stature graced the threshold of this castle.”

“It is an honor to be here, King,” Colin replied, “for I labored hard to see this day come. Would it be easier, Your Majesty, if we spoke the language of the Northlands?” The King smiled at this.

“Yea, good knight, it would be,” he said, shifting to his preferred language, “though not by much. Once we traded much and often with your people, and it is custom for our noblemen to learn your tongue and learn it well.” Now that was an interesting piece of information about the gatewarden. “You are here for the dragon, I presume?”

“Yes Your Majesty, I have come to ask your leave to rid the kingdom of her pestilence.” The king again smiled drily, as if stifling a laugh.

“I doubt that Kelish, as the Old People in the Forest Hills call it, would appreciate being called pestilence.”

“Yet she holds your entire kingdom and the lands surrounding it in her jaws.”

“Perhaps.” The king smiled strangely again. “I notice you call our dragon a she – how is it that you can know this without facing her?”

“She is the mother of the Great Western, or so the Great Western told me.”

“Ah, so you did converse with the Great Dragon of the West. I thought that a bardic embellishment. Surely one of your experience would have known better.”

“Sometimes, Your Highness, the right thing is the rash thing.” The King chuckled lightly at this.

“Well said, Knight of Skarnath, well said.” He then rose, dismissing all but Colin and the steward with a gesture. “The hour grows late, Sir Colin, and you have traveled far. I bid you partake of my hospitality. Your horse is stabled, yes?”

“Yes, milord.”

“Then Lord Garrick, my steward, shall show you to your rooms. When you have cleaned up you will join my wife, my daughter, and myself for dinner. I warn you, however, that my daughter will doubtlessly want to practice her Skarnathi as much as you seem to want to practice Northlander. I should also like it if you stayed through our New Year’s festivities tomorrow. It would bring us all great joy to have the world’s greatest dragon-slayer present.” The king was looking straight into Colin’s eyes, and though he was anxious to be gone and fulfill his quest, Colin could hardly say no.

******************************
Enjoy. No promises on when I can post more.

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And it's one, two, three / On the wrong side of the lee / What were you meant for? / What were you meant for?
- The Decemberists

Posts: 7670 | From: the lab | Registered: Mar 2001  |  IP: Logged
Serenak

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Icon 1 posted March 05, 2005 13:25      Profile for Serenak     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Now, it is getting better Xanth.

Us fantasy readers love to be immersed and cossetted in our little bubble as we read, the pace could still slow a little, but that last post showed much more "maturity" storywise and began to feel like a passage from a novel, rather than the rather forced/full throttle intro... The post between the two fell short of the quality of this post but was better than the intro (I really think that needs a major rewite to calm it down...) it is definitely improving as you got into it...

Anyway, I am now beginning to enjoy the story and the writing.

Again Bravo for being brave enough to share it with us...

[thumbsup]

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"So if you want my address - it's No. 1 at the end of the bar, where I sit with the broken angels, clutching at straws and nursing my scars..."

Posts: 1938 | From: Suffolk England | Registered: Sep 2004  |  IP: Logged
Xanthine

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Icon 1 posted March 05, 2005 14:29      Profile for Xanthine     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Did I not tell you it would get better? [Razz] Your patience is being sorta rewarded now.

A bit of self-discipline would have helped that beginning, but next to the rest of the story it was rather boring (for me at least) so I guess I just sorta short-changed my vic^H^H^Hreaders.

Posts: 7670 | From: the lab | Registered: Mar 2001  |  IP: Logged
n4dmx
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Icon 1 posted March 05, 2005 16:01      Profile for n4dmx     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Excellent. [thumbsup]

I can't wait for the next episode. [Smile]

Posts: 218 | From: Georgia | Registered: Dec 2004  |  IP: Logged
dragon34
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Icon 14 posted March 05, 2005 17:03      Profile for dragon34     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I'm throwing in my vote for more story please. I'm hooked already [Smile]
Posts: 146 | From: Central PA | Registered: Nov 2001  |  IP: Logged
HalfVast

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Icon 14 posted March 05, 2005 19:12      Profile for HalfVast     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Glad I waited to comment. I had some points after your second post but your third post wiped them all out. I can't remember who said it but it was, "Don't tell your readers what happened, show them. How did it feel? How did it look? What did they say? What were they thinking. Your third post did all that and I started to be brought in. Now that I hear what the locals are saying and what is going through Collins' mind my interest is peaked. The cultural details with the language and the joke about women only appearing once a year help with the sense of place. Now things are looking real promising!

The first two posts read more like a history. In fact I could see your very first paragraph used as an introduction to a first chapter, being quoted from a history of the events around Collin as told by Royal Archivist so-and-so in the 31st year of king Whatshisface. This can be a great device to introduce each chapter, (think 'Dune')

This is a great start Xanthine. Keep at it, please [Big Grin]

Posts: 796 | From: In the mitten around the abductor pollicis brevis. | Registered: Jan 2005  |  IP: Logged


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