Because of all the critique submissions coming in, I am posting two today. If the rate continues, I will have to post three. That might reduce the number of helpful edits for each piece, but let’s see what happens.
With each critique, remember to follow the guidelines posted here. All you have to do is post a comment about the writing (see the submissions below). Don’t feel like you need to critique both or the whole piece of either one. Even a short comment on one aspect can be helpful.
When you critique, be sure to mention which piece you’re critiquing. This week I am including the author’s first name so you can address him or her directly.
We received lots of great critiques last week. Let’s keep up the good work. Don’t forget to start with something positive, like the person in the above cartoon did.
This post will stay active indefinitely, so you can come back and add comments at any time. If you are one of the writers who is being critiqued, you should subscribe to this post so you can be notified when any comments are added.
Submission #1 – Glorious Downfall (By Susan)
The sharp sound of a foreign horn split the air, rushing up the main street, ushering in a wave of silence over the crowd as cold as a north wind. The cheering went silent. The Blood Moon festival, in its entirety, came to an unceremonious, unnatural halt. A stir made its way through the people, and the palace banners flapped in the wind, the only sound after the horn ceased.
But it was only for a breath. The same horn blared again, this time joined by several others, like a pack of coyotes singing numerous harmonies, and the eerie clash of notes sent a chill down Shilow’s spine. She alone stood from her seat, leaning on the balcony rail to look out over the street below. Who in Urde was rude enough to interrupt the best part of the festival?
“Shilow, sit down!” the emperor hissed at her, probably waved a hand at her too. She could hear the rustle of his ridiculous robes. She leaned her arms on the rail, not sparing him a glance.
With a huff, she reluctantly heeded her father. Seeing what was happening wasn’t worth some irksome repercussion, like no weapons or no riding, later.
A loud tramping soon rose up as percussion to the horn blasts, like toms, the constant stamp-stamp ricocheting off the stucco buildings and sounding as though it came from all directions. The real source, however, showed itself as the people parted. A dark mass marched its way up the main street, soldiers in jagged armor that covered them from head to toe, bronze dragon masks obscuring their faces, swordstaffs in their hands and reptilian wings furled on their backs.
“Bellai, your Imperial Majesty,” said the warad, Yishta, at his post behind the emperor’s chair. Ekmaloaph merely nodded in response.
“I see that…”
“Who gave them the right to just march in here?” Shilow leaned forward, ready to spring to her feet again, only to be waved down by her father. “They can’t just do that!”
“Obviously, they don’t agree. Here they are.”
“This is bad, Adda,” Elcaern spoke for the first time, sounding more concerned than any of them. Of course, none would listen, and Shilow mentally slapped her forehead at the fear evident in her twin’s voice. “We should alert the guard.”
“Hush. Let us see what they want.”
The sheer size of the force entering the city prompted the people, previously enjoying the lively atmosphere, to completely clear the street to make way. The lines of Bellai soldiers spanned from gutter to gutter. Some carried banners in blood red, marked with a twisting gold and black dragon figure that was the Seal of the Nights, and others guided teams of half a dozen oxen hooked to massive wagons, laden with an assortment of goods. Fruits and vegetables of giants’ proportions, barrels, great iron trunks, and one even filled to the brim with glittering gold speckled with jewels of exotic colors. Shilow’s mouth went slack – what by Apep was this supposed to be!? She glanced at Ekmaloaph, ready to speak, only to have him shake his head at her. She clamped her mouth shut with a scowl.
The soldiers reached the edge of the square and came to a synchronized standstill, the abrupt halt enough to make the air seem eerily still without the sound of their march. Then, from the center out, the ranks parted to make an aisle, allowing a few figures to walk from the middle of the hoard to the front.
A tall, burly scarred Bellai came into full view first at the base of the fight platform. Half of his face and his entire right hand was disfigured, his eye – which should have been the same brilliant green as the other – a foggy white and his fingers twisted into a gruesome sort of fleshy claw.
After him followed one slightly leaner Bellai, with fiery red hair that spilled across his armor-clad shoulders – just like an elf; what was it with them and long flowing locks? – and the very same brilliant green eyes. His crimson-scaled wings stood out in the sea of black and gold, one of only two pairs of that color, and on his breastplate glinted the Seal of the Nights in bronze and rubies. A Bellai royal.
Lastly stepped out another red-winged elf, in more elaborate armor and a draping black cape that had slits cut to account for his wings and that trailed on the cobblestone behind him. His black hair was pulled back tight in a strange, high-set tail, but his face matched that of the redhead – prominent cheekbones, pallid skin, almond-shaped eyes, exotic compared to the surrounding Orklouise peasants. And without gauntlets like the rest of his company, this third Bellai’s long dark talons twitched at his sides as he strode right up and climbed onto the fight platform. The two fighters, confused, shared a look before giving the foreign stranger room.
Finally, Ekmaloaph stood, folding his hands in the gaping ends of his ridiculous sleeves – elvin fashion really didn’t suit him, but he refused to give it up. “Welcome to Kukefie – what is the purpose of your company?”
“Adda,” Elcaern hissed low, “that’s-”
“Greetings, O great Ekmaloaph of the Orklouise!” The Bellai that had intruded upon the platform gave a broad flourish of his arms, speaking loud and clear so that his voice echoed over the square. “We come bearing gifts from the imperial treasury of the Bellai empire!”
“And who is it that addresses His Imperial Majesty?” Yishta called down, standing at his master’s side.
The Bellai bowed low with extravagance that made Shilow wrinkle her nose. What a show pony!
“Where are my manners – I am Ameas Night, emperor of Bellus, ambassador of the East, ruler of the lands from Calla to Baccara and all between.”
He could’ve left off the entire last half; so this man was overblown and a narcissist. How annoying.
Submission #2 – Blood Cure (By Anna)
Michael Radner walked up the steps of the orphanage, slowly, thinking of what had happened over the past four years. And all of it was centered on the two boys who clung to his hands. It had been their fathers that had started this and they had left a heavy burden upon their son’s shoulders. Not that either the boys or their fathers knew. Not to mention their mothers who were giving them up to this place.
Michael scowled as he rang the bell beside the door. From the inside he could hear someone walking quickly to the door. The next moment it swung open to reveal a thin fierce looking nun in glasses.
“Yes?” she asked.
Michael took the folders from beneath his arm and passed them to the woman. She took them. “This is the information for these two boys. This is James Tomas.” He put his hand on the head of the darker haired child. Touching the one with lighter hair he said, “And this is Eko Amenta. Keep them here until I come for them or until they are eighteen. Do not let them be adopted. It is all explained. Good day.”
Michael turned and walked down the steps to a black car seated at the curb.
He stepped into it and sped away. The road flashed past him as he drove out of Chicago. As he drove Michael thought. He felt so angry. It had been his job to keep the Experiments from escaping but still they had gotten out. He had started calling it his greatest failure. Since his promotion he had been working steadily and diligently to cover up that painful memory. He would reach his goal. One day he and no one else would resurrect the experiment and this time he would not fail!
Michael’s cell phone rang. He reached over to the passenger seat and picked it up. He held it to his ear.
“Hello,” He said.
“Yes Agent Radner. You have a new assignment,” Said the man on the other end.
Robert Thernstrom rushed about his house grabbing things and putting them into the two bags sitting on the kitchen table. He shoved a laptop computer in to its bag and zipped it shut. He set it on the counter and looked over the two bags. One was his and one was his daughter’s. Both held clothing though his held more tools than clothing.
“Daddy?” the tiny girl’s voice spoke from the hall. He looked over. There stood his daughter Nella in her pink onesie. “What is going on Dad?” Her blue eyes were scared and confused. Through her eyes he saw the past.
She was a tiny baby. So small she shouldn’t have been alive. Her mother, Caroline, lay on the hospital bed sleeping peacefully. The doctor came up to him.
“Robert, you know what you have to do,” said the man, Robert’s closest friend. He knew about Robert’s past. The past not even his wife knew.
“Yes. I’m ready.” He handed his newborn child to Patrick and took from his pocket a tiny piece of computer material.
The next few hours as his wife slept would be terrible for him and for his daughter. She would have to endure the trauma of a surgery in the first few hours of her life so that his greatest secret could be kept. His wife wouldn’t wake the next morning leaving her child without a mother. Robert vowed to do all he could to keep his child safe.
Robert came out of his memory and looked at his daughter. He went over to her and crouched down.
“We are leaving Nella. We need to leave very soon. Is there anything you want to take with you?” he asked. He didn’t expect her to really understand but the three year old trotted to the table in the middle of the living room. She lifted a framed picture of her mother from it. The picture had been there all her life. Her mother smiled out with her arms wrapped around her swollen stomach. Hugging the child that at the time she believed she would raise. Nella handed it to her father and tears filled his eyes. She reached up and wiped her pudgy hand across his cheek.
“Don’t cry Daddy,” she said. Robert stood up and set the picture on the table. He took Nella’s hand and walked with her to her room. He quickly dressed her and led her back into the kitchen. He grabbed the bags from the table and they went into the garage. A small car sat there ready for use.
Robert backed out of the garage and they sped down the quiet moonlit street. As he turned down the street a black car sped past. Robert took a deep breath and gripped the wheel hard. He knew who had just driven past. Radner. The man who was the reason he got to have a child. The man who was responsible for the failure. In the rear-view mirror Robert could see that Nella was asleep on the seat. She looked so innocent, so young.
It was early in the morning when he reached his destination. Robert turned down a deserted dirt road and drove for another five minutes before pulling over. He stepped out and waited for Radner to catch up with him.
Caroline would kill him for he’d done. He’d left her. He’d left Nella. But she would be safe. The orphanage would take care of her. He’d made sure of that. He had money in the bank for her. They would keep her heart safe. Her pure innocent heart, that had been changed on the day of her birth. Her heart that now held the most valuable information in the world.
A black car rolled to a stop behind Robert’s. Radner stepped out. He was well built looking strong and sure. His brown hair was combed back. Radner walked toward Robert.
“Good evening Michael,” said Robert.
“Hello. It has been awhile,” Radner said. “I need you to come with me.”
“And if I say no?” asked Robert. “Will you kill me like you killed them?”
“No. You are much more valuable. We can always get a-hold of more subjects. But there is only one you,” said Radner.
“I won’t tell you anything,” said Robert, “But I will go with you.” Robert stepped toward Radner. They turned and walked to the car. An on looker may have thought they were friends but it was clear from the stiffness in their shoulders that each of them hated the other and neither was happy.
Categories: Critique Group