Critique Group – The Essenus Wars Part 1

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The Essenus Wars – by CJ Janzen (Part 1)

Nandor gripped the smooth varnish of the pull down ladder leading into the attic. Above, a dark square lured him to put his foot on the bottom rung. “Grandpa! Do you need a hand up there?”

A sharp clicking noise came from the hole and a light began to illuminate the gap in the ceiling. Nandor scurried up the ladder and pushed himself onto his knees onto the rough wooden floor. Nandor’s grandfather stood before himholding a freshly lit candle. It’s soft glow revealed piles upon piles of crates and old pieces of wooden furniture. The fringes of grandpa’s white hair turned an orangey hue as he stepped in front of the light coming from the circular window on the far side of the attic. Darkness engulfed the peak of the ceiling with a shadowy area where the candle light could not reach.

Nandor’s grandpa beamed with a smile, “Welcome to the adventurous world of stories.” His eyes shone with a glint as he repositioned a chair and then placed the candle on a crate. He sat down and motioned for Nandor to come over.

Nandor chuckled, and kept his head low as to avoid putting his head in the shadows. He made his way to a second chair near his grandfather. On his chair was a small maple box; he gingerly picked up the smooth glossy article and examined its intricate silver clasp. Naturally, Nandor started to fiddle with the mechanism, but was interrupted abruptly by his grandfather waving his arms franticly.

“Ah, there’s a lot of cobwebs up here,” the grandfather said. “Nasty little things. I’ve had a few run-ins with spiders myself if you ask me. Ugh. Nasty blighters they can be.” He got up from his chair and stomped his foot heavily. “Ah, there’s one less of the little buggers.”

Nandor chuckled and tried to refocus on the box.

“Spiders can get big you know,” said the grandfather. “Only if you let them of course. It takes a very long time. Only the oldest ones can get big.” The grandfather wiped his hands on his pants.

“What’s the largest spider you’ve seen grandpa?” asked Nandor just as the clasp on the box made a satisfying click.

“Wonderful! It looks like you’ve found my box,” the grandfather sat once again. “Look inside!”

Nandor opened the beautiful hardwood box. His fingers brushed against a purple velvet cloth on the inside. He gently unravelled it, revealing a small circular object which seemed to glow slightly in the candlelight; or was it? The more he stared at the golden ring the more it seemed to be surrounded by a aurora of silver luminescence. Nandor’s finger lingered over the ring as he breathed deeply, “It looks magical.”

“That’s because it is!” replied the grandfather simply.

Nandor laughed. His grandfather was always cooking up fantastical stories of giant spiders, and giants, and giant quests, but magic. This was new. “A magical ring you say,” Nandor picked up the ring. It was cool to the touch. “Where did you get it?”

“Ah, I’m glad you asked,” the grandfather exclaimed cheerfully. His smile was massive, but suddenly grew calm, and then he became serious. “This story is about the time one of our ancestors was about to start fighting in the great Essenus War.”

Nandor leaned back in his chair to relax; this was going to be good.

The grandfather rubbed his hands together gently, “Where should we begin. Ah, yes, at the beginning!”


Eldin’s parents walked side by side along the forest trail. Richard, the father, carried a small clay pot which held a glowing plant, while Lauren carried a small grey cot which held a growing baby. Eldin was this baby and his parents were walking through the red hued maples and tall white birch trees toward the sacred mountain forge.

You may ask me what this glowing plant Richard held was all about. It is very important, but you will find out about it later. For now, all you need to know is that the plant is sacred and is known as Essenus. It was a gift to humanity ages ago.

The descending sun shimmered ahead to the right of the pathway. It threatened to eclipse behind the mountain ahead. Richard leaned over to his wife, “We will have to quicken our pace to reach the forge by nightfall.”

As they hustled along the pair made sure to keep their legs bent so as to avoid disturbing either the plant or the child. The pair exited the forest just as the sun clipped the horizon. Before them was a tall hill, with a dark path that led to the entrance to the forge. Richard whispered something to the Essenus plant and stroked it’s thick stem. He ran his finger along the stem to one of the plant’s large broadleaves. It had a total of three large leaves. As he did this the plant’s white glow increased tremendously revealing the aforementioned pathway. Little baby Eldin squealed with one of those cute happy baby sounds that nobody can describe in words. Lauren laughed and cuddled the child.

“It looks like the Essenus has brought him joy,” said Richard. “That is a good sign. His heart is already filling with loyalty and love.”

They moved forward along the pathway; to the right was a deep valley, and to the left lay large craggily rocks. In the middle, they walked on a clean pathway wide enough for two horses to walk side by side.

“Do you think the forge-master will be awake still?” Lauren asked. The muffled noise of the rhythmic beat of a hammer on metal began.

Richard laughed, “The priest told us that arriving with the descended sun is best, but we mustn’t keep him waiting.”

They reached the entrance which was the size of a standard doorframe without the door. Warm air blew from the interior and it mingled with the cooler evening air.

Richard looked at his wife holding little Eldin who chirped happily and raised his hands toward the warm air. The family stepped inside together.


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6 replies

  1. It’s an interesting idea! The point of view is a little strange through most of it, and I’m not sure what exactly you’re trying to tell yet, but I’d say to keep writing! This could turn out to be pretty cool.

  2. C.J.,

    It’s fun to read a story from a narrator’s perspective, and you have a good start with it.

    Since the introduction is in a third-person POV, I would like to see more intimacy.

    I edited the manuscript in MS Word with the changes tracked, and I added some comments. You can find the document here –

    Please let me know if you have questions.

    • Thank you for putting the time in to help with those edits. Those are very helpful, and I can see now where things could have been tightened up there for intimacy.

      Its always interesting seeing how a few small changes can enhance the beginning of a story quite a bit. You have a great skill in being able to do that. Thanks for sharing that skill with everybody on this forum and helping us learn together.

  3. C.J,
    I enjoyed your visual descriptions in the opening paragraphs. I think you have a good idea of what you want this story to look like, but I think there needs to be more intimacy in Nandor’s point of view. I noticed some grammar issues which I think can easily be resolved with some editing. The second section of this (the part with Eldin’s parents) is interesting because it raises questions in the reader’s mind. What is the plant? Who is the priest mentioned by the parents? I do not know if you have read C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, but I think that is a good source to examine since you’re putting the narrator’s perspective directly into the story. May your pen stay sharp!

  4. Thank you for the kind words and suggestions. And I agree the Narnia series is an excellent read, I’ll look into them again for a refresher!


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