Let’s make some magic! Actually, critiquing is often hard work, so be ready to sing the Fixer Upper song and get to it!
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Submission #1 – The Crossroads by Sofia
I clutched the deathly cold hand, staring at my dear sister’s pale face. Her light blue eyes once glimmered with joy, love, and life. Now they revealed nothing but Altantsetseg’s exhaustion of the past few months. The long battle that both of us craved would end soon. The joy had been decimated by the savage illness and I had to stoop close to make out her soft, quiet words.
She shifted a bit and tried to sit up better. “Remember that summer, when we camped out in the open in the Ekilani foothills for a week?”
“How could I forget?”
She closed her eyes and sighed before continuing. “Remember that day when I fell off the horse and nearly got trampled underfoot and lost consciousness?”
“I remember that so well. I cried so much.”
“And you prayed for someone to come and help remember? Then that mysterious man named Caerwyn showed up and nursed me back to health.”
“I remember. I was so afraid for you and you nearly died.” I let a tear slip down my own cheek.
“Please be strong, Rhiannon. No matter what happens, try to be strong.”
“Altanti, stop talking like that. You’ll be fine. In a few weeks we’ll camp out again and relive our childhood. You’ll see.” My voice cracked slightly as another tear made its way toward my trembling chin.
“Don’t forget me, dear sister. I… I’m scared, but don’t forget me. Promise me.”
“You’re going to be fine.”
“Promise me, Rhiannon!” Her eyes opened and looked right at me, pleading me to assure her.
I nodded and looked at my feet. “I promise I won’t forget you.”
She sighed and closed her eyes, falling asleep within seconds.
I never saw my beloved sister again, for that very night, sometime between the physicians’ shifts, she passed away. When the physician on duty noticed right away that she wasn’t breathing, he sent some of his assistants to wake up my adoptive father the king Dionysus III of Trinkehnia and my governess Guinevere. My brother Shakiran and I were then awoken and told the dreadful news. My jaw dropped open and tears started forming in my eyes. I couldn’t speak for several minutes and then sat up in bed. I got up and then walked over to where Guinevere had moved to but collapsed in the middle of the room, crying silently. My governess rushed over to me and rose me to my knees, embracing me while whispering, “I’m sorry, Rhiannon. I’m so sorry.”
Thus began the days of mourning for my sister, the Princess Altantsetseg IV of Trinkehnia. We would first bury her in the Forbidden Courtyard and then cremate her belongings so that the illness would not spread. For thirty days we would mourn – day and night, the royal family and the members of the royal court would sit in sackcloth and ashes on the outskirts of Egneldrik, the capital of Trinkehnia, and mourn in silence.
When it was over, we would resume our daily life activities and go on with our normal life and nothing in the world would disrupt it. Nothing, that is, until that day when Guinevere, my governess, had to leave me suddenly to return to her home in the Mountains of the Appalainï for her grandfather’s funeral. It was on that day that I discovered a secret that should have never been hidden from me or the world, a secret had been laying in her journals for the past sixteen years, a secret that once revealed to me would change my life forever.
Submission #2 – The Kraken by Amy Beth
Tash ducked under the whistling sword, then swung her own blade. The steel screamed as it rubbed against Cat’s. She bit her lip, boring into his brown eyes. He matched her intensity. Knowing he was stronger, she suddenly swung her blade out of the lock and simultaneously dropped on her knees and slid between his legs.
She shot to her feet and turned just as his short, curved sword flew dangerously close to decapitating her. Without a thought she swerved right, ran up the side of the sturdy railing and wrapped her legs around his neck. As his sword crashed towards her head she threw back her torso, hanging upside down and parallel to Cat. Before he could make a move she let go with her legs and placed her palms on the polished wood floor.
She let her feet land, then swung her body up, narrowly dodging Cat’s swinging sword. She stood still as cold steel nicked her dark throat.
Tash dropped her two curved fighting daggers. She chuckled, panting. “All right, I give up.”
He smiled, wiping sweat from his brow. Gray streaks decorated his brown hair. “You’re faster than you used to be. And I’m getting too old for this.”
Tash grinned. “Oh really? I thought you did pretty well.”
“All I did was twist around and try to keep up with you.”
Tash shrugged. “You taught me a lot.”
He smiled. With a sigh he strode across the deck and took the wheel from Red. She skipped down the stairs and stopped short of Tash. “So Lin said he saw the float, but he also said we’re being tailed.”
Tash swallowed a gulp of freshwater from her canteen. “Well then.”
“It looked like a pirate rig.”
Tash rolled her eyes. “Great. Competition for our prey. Are they too far to identify?”
Red nodded. “Yup. We’ll just have to take the British before they get here.”
Tash nodded. “And leave them the plunder.”
Red grinned, splaying her fingers and showing her sister tiny blades hidden between each finger. “All right! They’ll think me unarmed. As always.”
Tash smiled, looking over the younger woman. Her dark hair was held in a high pony tail, but the ends still passed her dark shoulders. She wore a strapless fighting top and short leggings, same as Tash. Yes, she does look unarmed, but woe to the man who underestimates her. I know she has hundreds of tiny blades and razors hidden expertly on her person. Ah, yes. Woe to the British who challenge my sister.
Tash climbed up the rigging, loving how the wind tousled her hair. With every step she took on the rope ladder her excitement peaked, until she was standing on the tiny, unguarded platform with Lin. He turned to her, brown eyes only checking who she was before turning back to the sluggish ocean. Without a word he handed her the old brass telescope. “Thanks.” She muttered, not expecting an answer from the mute Asian man.
She peered through the glass in the direction he pointed and identified the large British ship they had been tailing for two days.
She smiled. “No one escapes the Kraken.“
Lin smiled his answer as she surrendered the telescope. He shook his head and pointed behind them. “The pirates.” She muttered and held the glass to her eye once more. A larger ship followed them only ten miles behind. “She’s gaining quickly.”
Lin nodded, holding his hand out for his prize possession.
With a small smile she gave it back, and then slipped down the rigging, landing in a roll. She ended up on her feet, not in the slightest unbalanced. “We’ve caught our prey and are yet prey.” She announced to the gathering crew.
Men of many races and origins listened respectfully. She continued. “We are being tailed by a pirate rig. By the looks of it this ship is a British craft, abducted and altered for banditry purposes. It is gaining quickly, but not quick enough. We will raid the Sea Eagle speedily, then leave the plunder for our fellow pirates.
“Do not kill when it’s not necessary. Do not risk the whole crew by fulfilling personal vendettas or gathering loot. I will choose one person to take a few pounds.
Everyone else will only search.
“And if you see the accursed one, betray all orders to get him and bring him to me. But do not risk his escape if you have no help in bringing him alive; simply kill him and make absolutely sure he is dead. Go on. Lin, you find treasure with Jehan and Alfeo to guard you. And now, arm yourselves!” She watched with pride as her crew scattered, donning weapons of all kinds.
Tash assigned six men to man the cannons and guard the ship if the pirates attacked, then stood waiting as the Kraken drew up close behind the Sea Eagle. “How close is the pirate rig?” she asked Lin. He showed two fingers. She gave a low whistle. “Only two miles. We’ll have to hurry.” She watched amused as the British tried to secure the ship. But their cannons couldn’t hit them, as they were directly behind. She could hear them shouting and could see their red and white sailors scurrying around like ants.
Tash turned when she heard Red chuckle. “Look at how they try to prepare themselves. It is a soldier transport, just like Lin wrote.”
Tash turned to her sister. They stood eye to eye, only a year apart. “Let’s do this.”
She bent and picked up a coil of thick rope with a large metal hook at the end. Knowing Red was doing the same on the other side; she stepped over the side and fell through cool air. Tash held her breath and closed her eyes as she plunged into the icy water. Blowing bubbles, she opened her eyes and kicked powerfully, careful to not waste her oxygen.
Categories: Critique Group