Critique Group – Stronghold Part 3

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Stronghold Part 3 – By Stephanie

Link to part 1 –

Link to part 2 –

The distant roar and crash of waves echoed through Dalia’s dreams, creating a synchronized rhythm with her slow breathing. She basked in the warmth from the morning sunlight that saturated her cold waterlogged skin. After a lifetime of cold nights, she imagined that she rested in a wonderful afterlife full of warm sunshine. Dalia relished the heat as it soaked in, driving away every reminder of the constant state of cold she once suffered.

Her suspicions of her whereabouts were also confirmed by the lack of throb from her injures. Though she had not dared move to test this theory, the constant dull ache that plagued her since her accident in the alley was happily absent. If this was death she wondered, then why did she fight so hard to stay alive in such misery?

If she was dead, then there was no longer any need to worry about her surroundings or be driven by the constant mandate to think three steps ahead of herself in order to survive. For the first time in years, she allowed the sun to lull her back to sleep with no care for her future.

Sharp pinching pain on her arm woke her with a start sometime later. She sat up and slapped the hungry scavenger crab away. She patted and blew on the gouge in her arm while looking over her new home. She was not too impressed with the supposed paradise of afterlife. It looked like any normal stretch of beach along the eastern coast of Maganda.

The crabs are just as rude too,” she groused as she kicked a shell at her tenacious attacker. “I’m not dead, so go find something else to eat.”

That notion struck Dalia. What if she was alive and some how washed up on a beach? She slowly rolled her neck and shoulders, no pain. That made no sense, for someone who was so near death last night, she should still be miserable. She reached up and probed her warm face and found no injuries or bruises.

There, see, I died. How else could I be healed?”

Another crab managed to sneak over and get a pinch of her leg. She shouted and slapped it away.

So much for no more pain in paradise,” she complained as she stood shakily to her feet in order to better examine her small cove. Only ten feet of beach ended at a border of rocks and trees. The palm trees and brush hid any view along the coast beyond the cove.

She checked the sand for footprints and found one large set of feet leading away from where she slept. The prints walked up the shore and led to a hole in the rocks.

She stood frozen as the sand heated the thin soles of her boots and her heart hammered in her chest. How had she let her guard down so completely when she could still be in danger? “So much for no fear in paradise,” she whispered.

However brief, the absence of fear gave her a strange sensation. It took her a few moments to sort through her conflicting feelings. Her heart was lifted and danced with the notion of that life could change and become satisfying. Was it possible to live a life without the existence of fear hounding you every thought and action?

Now, that would be paradise,” she whispered as she cautiously crept up the beach in the same direction of the foot prints.

At the base of the rocks was a small alcove about eleven feet high and eight feet deep. The prints walked around a few logs laid out ready for a fire. Then they walked to a natural shelf where there was a natural stone basin filled with water and a cloth bag. Surprisingly the water was fresh, she sipped a few mouthfuls before examining the contents of the bag. It held some bread and dried fish, as well as, a few handfuls of blueberries.

She gasped in wonder when she pinched a blueberry between her fingers and brought the delectable fruit to her mouth. Only once in her life had she eaten such a tasty treat and it had been a soggy bruised blueberry thrown away by her mother’s ex-employer. However, all of the blueberries in the sack were perfectly round and ripe and Dalia hoped that whoever left the food would not mind her eating just the one.

Another notion struck her thoughts, what if this food was left here for her? She looked at the foot prints again, they came to the shelf and stopped. There was no trail leaving the alcove or the beach. She looked up at the rocks and saw no hand holds or way to climb.

Taking another deep drink from the basin, she carried the bag of food over to the readied fire and sat to eat. Unconsciously, she said, “Thank you,” as she bit into the flaky bread not remembering the last time she had this much food to eat in one sitting.

Flavor exploded in her mouth as she chewed, it was quite foreign. Her usual fare was scrounged or stolen, hardly ever fresh or considered delicious. She hazard a sniff, a habit she learned long ago to ignore when choosing food, and her mouth watered as she was greeted by whiff of yeasty buttery goodness. This was not just hard rations but food fit for a feast.

The fish was just a delectable, crunchy and seasoned to perfection. Hard as she tried to save some of her meal for later, she soon found herself licking blueberry juice from her fingers as she popped the last heavenly delight into her mouth. She wrestled with herself briefly over eating so much but found solace with the truth that she had no memories of her last full meal, only scant scraps and pilfered handfuls from the street market.

Her stomach rumbled blissfully and she let out a satisfied belch. The warm breeze and full stomach counseled her to rest some more.

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5 replies

  1. Stephanie,

    I enjoyed the mystery and intrigue that you put in Dalia’s rest period. I am interested in who her benefactor was.

    To critique this, I edited it in MS Word and added some comments.

    Here is the link –

    My most common critiques are excess wordiness and telling instead of showing. When you tell, you take me out of intimacy with Dalia’s POV.

    If you have any questions, let me know.

  2. Already found the random of in a sentence. Also natural twice in one sentence.

  3. I went back and read parts 1 and 2 before starting part 3. Dalia’s story hooked me in part 1. The whisper in part 2 made me wonder where this is going. Now…on to part 3!

    “What if she was alive…” It’s probably more correct to use “were”. (Tricky verb tense, I know.)

    Footprints in the sand. Hmm…any connection to the symbolism in a well-known poem?

    “Was it possible to live a life without the existence of fear hounding you every thought and action?” Do I rightly spot the story question? 🙂

    “Eleven feet high and eight feet deep.” Unless Dalia is really good at estimating distances, I wonder if she might use some less-precise measurements? Perhaps “twice her height” or “as deep as a flight of stairs”? (I’m guessing at heights myself.)

    A prepared fire and food next to a seashore: very evocative for readers of the Gospels. Again, I’m wondering, where is this going?

    I had no trouble feeling myself in the scene with Dalia. I’m not sure what the overall story goal is yet, but I suppose that is made clear by the person who left the footprints. At this point in the story, I’m happy to tag along and find out!

    (Also, thank you for treating certain issues with delicacy. This feels like a story I could read to my kids at bedtime.)

    • Thanks for the input John. Glad you like the tale so far. This is one storyline within a full novel I’ve already written. The editing will be a pain but the book will tell a better story with all I’ve learned in this group.
      You’re spot on with the symbolisms.

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