Critique Group – The Blind Seer (Rewrite)

Maybe he can’t not file for the right to fervently appeal where he’s at?

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The Blind Seer (Rewrite) – by Alahna

Original version –

The forest pulsed with life, the creatures sensing something was amiss. Wagons rattled along the well-traveled road, the men oblivious to the eyes watching them from the shadows. But the horses knew. Their instincts told them what their wild cousins already understood. Something was about to happen. Something the old forest had not witnessed for decades. The men in the caravan laughed and passed skins of wine between them, but one man at the front of the line sat erect in his saddle and scanned the trees on both sides of the road. He too sensed something was amiss. He patted his horse’s neck. “Steady, Samson,” Ulrich whispered reassuringly. “It’s all right. Nothing to worry about.”

Samson’s ears pricked forward and Ulrich sat up, straining to find what had alerted his horse. The faint sound of hooves on dirt reached his ears, growing closer. Ulrich raised a fisted hand and the procession ground to a halt. Ulrich could sense the men behind him tensing, the carefree demeanors replaced by their warrior instincts. A few minutes later, three riders came careening around the corner toward the group and halted before Ulrich. “Report,” Ulrich commanded.

“Sir,” the man on the left struck his right fist against his heart in salute, “Roughly four leagues from here we encountered a troupe of gypsies. Four men to be exact. Their wagon was pulled off the side of the road with a broken axle. Though they appeared harmless, they carried swords and their horses were of military stock. Nothing like the gypsy horses we see around Crannog. Realizing this was unusual for a normally peaceful and poor people I had Stephen, who is fluent in the gypsy dialect, dismount so that he might speak with them. They grew agitated at his approach and backed toward their wagon. Stephen stopped and removed his sword as a show of good-will and continued forward. Out of nowhere, an arrow flew from the trees and struck Stephen in the back. We immediately went on the defensive and within a few minutes had the four men disarmed, though the man in the tree fell and died upon impact. We tied the survivors up and I left Marcus and Vitruvius to guard them while I reported back to you.”

“Did the gypsies have anything of value with them?”

“Not as far as I could tell, Sir. Just some soldiers’ rations and their weapons.”

“Hmm,” Ulrich paused, contemplating. “Arthur.”

“Yes, Sir,” a large, muscular man rode up next to Ulrich, his salt-and-pepper hair betraying his years.

“What do you make of this information?” asked Ulrich.

“I’m not sure, Sir. I can’t imagine what a troupe of gypsies would be doing out here, especially this close to the siege.”

“Indeed,” Ulrich turned back to the scout who had delivered the message. “Did you find anything else?”

“No, Sir. Just the soldiers, horses, and wagon.”

Ulrich noticed one of the scouts, a younger man not yet old enough to shave, fidgeting with his horse’s reins.

“What’s your name, son?” Ulrich asked.

The boy startled and sat up stiffly in his saddle “Alexander, Sir.”

“And do you have anything to add to your Captain’s report, Alexander?”

The boy paused before answering, “Well, Sir, after disarming of the gypsies, as the Captain said, I started wondering about the wagon.”

“The wagon?” Ulrich questioned, glancing at Arthur who was also focused on the boy.

“Yes, Sir. You see, before Stephen was . . . shot, they were took great care keeping themselves between us and the wagon, so I naturally wondered what might be inside.”

“And did you find anything?” Ulrich asked.

“Yes sir. The wagon was painted in bright gypsy colors, but the paint was faint and peeling on the door at the back. I peeled some of the paint back and found that it was made of solid metal, like the ones we have on the back of our prison wagons. And the horses were all branded with the Crow and Crown of the Alsatian military, though the gypsies had tried to hide the brands with mud.”

“So you think these men may be Alsatian soldiers disguised as gypsies? Perhaps transporting something?”

“It is possible, Sir.”

Ulrich turned to Arthur and could see that he was processing the information. “I think we should look into this,” Arthur whispered. “If these men are Alsatian soldiers they may have come from the fort. And if they are fleeing the siege, they must be in possession of something that is of great value to their king.”

“Agreed,” Ulrich said, turning back to the scout party. “Lead the way Captain. Your wounds will be seen to once we have the Alsatians and wagon secured.”

“Yes, Sir,” the Captain turned his mount around and the train continued down the road.

The entourage soon came to the spot described. Ulrich took in the scene; four dirty and bloody men in gypsies garb tied and sitting on the ground, two of his soldiers others standing over them with swords drawn, and a pair of brown horses hitched to a wagon painted bright red and orange. After giving a few instructions, Ulrich dismounted and moved toward the wagon, young Alexander at his side.

The duo approached and Ulrich studied the cart. Up close it appeared just as Alexander had described it; three sides and a roof of brightly painted oak, and a door of solid metal occupying the back wall. A thick chain was wrapped and locked around the handle. Calling for a sledgehammer, Ulrich stepped back as a large soldier swung the hammer in a deathly arch. After a few deafening hits, the chain fell to the grass. Ulrich pulled open the door and was instantly hit by the smell of mildew and sweat. He peered into the darkness. The low light revealed a shape huddled in a far corner. A dirty head of hair and grimy feet peeked out from the folds of dark rags, and another chain hung from a ring buried in the wall. As metal clanked against metal, the rags shifted, revealing a pair of thin, delicate hands locked in thick manacles attached to the chain.

“Do not fear,” Ulrich said softly, “You are safe now. What is your name?”

No sound. Ulrich reached into the wagon and gently touched a hand. It shrank back and the figure huddled farther into the corner.

“Do not be afraid,” he repeated, “My name is Commander Ulrich of Castle Crannog and I swear that my men will not harm you. What is your name?”

A raspy whisper answered him.

“I beg your pardon?”

“My name is Myrna.” The voice was quiet, but decidedly feminine.

“Well then, Myrna,” Ulrich said, “May we help you out of those chains, and perhaps we could find you something to eat.”

The nest of hair nodded and Ulrich motioned for the large soldier to step up. Using a smaller mallet and chisel, the soldier dug the ring out of the side of the wagon and chipped the chain from the manacles. Ulrich grasped the pale hands and pulled Myrna towards the back of the wagon. She stepped down and clung tightly to Ulrich’s hand, her face hidden behind her hair. “Who are all these men?”

Ulrich glanced around and started when he saw the small crowd that had gathered, curious to know what was inside the fortified wagon.

“These are my men,” he said, “and none of them shall harm you.”

He glared at all, daring them to contradict, before turning to Arthur, who stood studying the wagon. “We’re not far from the edge of the wood,” he said, drawing Arthur’s attention from the wagon, “take the men to the outskirts and set up camp for the night. Have Claudius prepare the medical tent right away and pitch it beside mine.”

Arthur saluted and mounted his horse, calling to the men to mount up.

“Myrna,” Ulrich said, turning back to the young woman, “may I take you to my tent? I shall have the physician sent for to assess your injuries and some food and drink brought.”

“. . . All right.”

Ulrich guided Myrna away from the wagon toward his horse. For the first time, he noticed a dirty strip of linen wrapped around her eyes. It must be a blind to keep her disoriented so that she cannot escape, he thought. Ulrich slid his fingers under the edge of the linen and slipped it down off her eyes. Myrna screamed as the cloth slid down her cheeks, hiding her face in her hands. Ulrich stared in horror at the young woman. For a few brief seconds, two gaping, black holes had stared at him from where a pair of bright eyes should have been.


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5 replies

  1. Alahna,

    I see many improvements. I now like Ulrich as a character. His kindness no longer seems out of place.

    Will Alexander become an important character? I wondered about him telling Ulrich about his observations. If he isn’t important, it might be better to allow Ulrich to see the things Alexander noted.

    Here are a few picky issues that occurred to me:

    “No sound.” This is a narrative fragment, not a sentence.

    “Ulrich stared in horror at the young woman.” You reported his reaction before reporting the motivation.

    “Who are all these men?” – Wouldn’t Ulrich think about this statement when he saw the blindfold?

    “Calling for a sledgehammer, Ulrich stepped back as a large soldier swung the hammer in a deathly arch.” This makes it sound like calling for the sledgehammer happened at the same time the soldier swung the hammer.

    There were several instances in which you have a compound sentence without a separating comma.

    “Yes, Sir,” the Captain turned his mount around and the train continued down the road. – This is punctuated incorrectly.

    “Yes, sir.” The Captain turned his mount around, and the train continued down the road. – This is correct.

    “Do not be afraid,” he repeated, “My name is Commander Ulrich of Castle Crannog and I swear that my men will not harm you.

    He didn’t repeat it. Earlier he said, “Do not fear.” Also, this is punctuated incorrectly.

    “Do not be afraid,” he repeated. “My name is Commander Ulrich of Castle Crannog, and I swear that my men will not harm you. – This is correct. Note the period instead of the comma as well as the added comma.

    Look for more issues like these.

    Overall, this is well written and intriguing. Keep up the good work.

  2. Thank you so much for your help and suggestions, Mr. Davis. One thing I’m noticing in my writing is the desire to write sentences like; “David groaned and sat up, a few pieces of paper sticking to his sweaty cheek.” Or starting sentences with “As” too often. Any suggestions to help break this habit?

    Thank you again!!

    • Those types of sentences are certainly allowable, but when you use them too often, they are noticeable. I have the same issue. I once looked back at a published novel of mine and found the same structure as your “David groaned” sentence used five times in a row. Yikes!

      I don’t know of any advice except to watch carefully. Since I have the same disease, it’s tough to advise.

  3. This is quite good, and my lack of ability to see issues with it makes it hard to critique.
    I will warn you that there are some politically correct crowds that have issues with mentioning Gypsies. It’s not something I have a problem with, but it’s worth mentioning.
    Overall, it’s quite good.


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