Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Ring in Fire

Bear with me please folks. I don’t, at the moment, have a character I know well enough, or wish to digress with, to do this exercise of creating for them a life-changing decision.
As some of you know, I have been playing with the idea of writing a book using a second century B.C. ring I have, as a link between stories set in half a dozen time periods.
To get the ring in motion, I have thought about - but not yet written about - a soldier in the army of Alexander the Great. The soldier is the first character to receive the ring because the artist witnesses him make a decision of life-changing magnitude.
So, this will be the first draft of the first scene. I don’t plan to stay up all night with it so it will be a rough, rough draft and feel free to criticize at length. Advice never hurts and you have helped me so many times already with your comments to me and to others.
Edward is obviously not an ancient name of a Mesopotamian, Persian or any other ‘ian’ I suppose, but I need a name tonight and I will research later
Here goes:
The smoke, the fire and the screams, but most of all the roar of a firestorm, ground at him until he owned a rage that exploded within him, to tear at his brain. He shook with it. He thought it would burst out of him like a demon. His terror at his rage frightened him as much as the blood and the fire viciously whirling out of control around him, making the city square worse than Hades could ever be.
He was covered in ash, grime and blood that wriggled down his bare chest in streams of sweat. The heat weakened him, but he, Edward of Mesopotamia, soldier who marched with Alexander the Great, was no longer strengthened by the blood madness that had held him until seconds before. His eyes were opened and he was aware now.
He was stunned, aghast at the sights before him. This walled city of Hanula, once the strongest city in Persia, never before entered by an enemy, had been entered now. Alexander’s army, 10,000 strong, was celebrating, still driven by the fury that allowed it to defeat Hanula’s army. Now, the fury drove it to recreate the city with blocks of the dead and dying, streets full of blood and towers of fire which were rising a hundred feet above the city walls. By morning, this uncontrolled and utterly vicious crushing of liberty and of life of Hanula’s people, would leave a city of the dead. The only thing that would quiver with any life at all would be snakes of smoke rising weakly as the fires burned down to coals and entered the earth below to wait like an animal for another chance to destroy.
Edward’s attention was drawn abruptly to his left. An old man lay in the street struggling uselessly to rise or crawl away before the maddened, stampeding horses, slashed him to death with horrific blows of their iron shod hooves. He was partially covered by a blood-stained robe that might have been white or maybe grey.
What a stupid question to ask himself - the color of his robe - Edward thought. He raged toward the man, sending horses, soldiers, screaming women, children and terrified dogs fleeing from him with his whistling sword as he slashed back and forth before him to clear his way. The old man’s eyes widened but he composed himself in the same breath of time, to face the death he believed Edward was bringing to him. The sword sighed as Edward slipped into its sheath and clanked against the stones, as Edward kneeled to lift the old man into his arms.
A blast of air caused by a disintegrating, fire-eaten building crashing down, blew an opening in the smoke around them. Edward glimpsed a vision of a hell-bent man glowering in the opening, his sword raised with both hands and his legs spread apart to take the shock of the blow he was about to swing down across Edward’s neck; a blow that would tear off his head.
For a speck in time, Edward stared at his murderer, then he deliberately straightened his shoulders and glared defiantly at the man in the vision, kneeling at the same time to lift the old man into his arms.
Alexander himself stared back, then stabbed his sword into its scabbard and strode away into the smoke.
Edward climbed the marble steps of some kind of temple with the old man sagging in his arms. He knew nothing of these people and their gods. He placed the old man on the stone floor as comfortably as he could make him and then slid down beside him, leaning his head wearily against the wall. He pulled off his helmet, dropped it beside him and dropped his forearms onto his bent knees.
“That was stupid you know. He won’t forget. You have brought on your own death by carrying me here. What possessed you?”
“Hate, I suppose”, Edward answered in a voice so hollow it shook the old man.


Laura Breck said...

Very descriptive. Great job of bringing us right into the action.

It's a good start, just a few things confused me. If Edward is a soldier in Alexander's army, why would Alexander want to kill him?

And was it just a "vision of a hell-bent man" or was it real?

And the last pieces of dialogue, still not sure why Alexander wants to kill Edward.

The great thing is that I'm really intrigued by the story already. I would like to read it.

Janet said...

In media res - right in the heart of action. I could tell just from this snippet that Edward (yeah, you'll have to change the name) is finding the sacking/pillaging of this city hard to accept - making him a great hero in my mind.

I love the fact that he went to the old man's rescue, come hell or high water. And I love the questions raised - Will Alexander punish him for his compassion? Will the old man live? Will Edward decide to leave the fighting life/can he?

Well done - yes, there needs to be some cleaning up and the start is a little confusing, but like you said it's a rough, rough draft. All stories start someplace and this is a very good start, Connie.

Helena said...

The action pulled me right in, then I'm like the others -- so many questions. But that's what keeps us reading, to find out the answers.

Good start. And I'm wondering if you will be reading The Golden Mean by Annabel Lyon (Giller nominee, and also nominated for GG, which was announced while we - and Annabel - were at Surrey). The premise sounds fascinating; it's about the young Alexander before he became "great" and his mentor, Aristotle. If nothing else, it would be interesting to read Annabel's take on that era.

Karyn Good said...

Loved the description, Connie. I felt like I was there. Edward has indeed chosen a difficult path and made an enemy out of a powerful foe. It leaves me wondering what is going to happen to Edward and what the repercussions of saving the old man are going to be. Where can he go from here?

I love your idea of a ring connecting several stories, that idea is a keeper! I'm glad you're getting started on it. Keep on writing and finishing the first draft. Can't wait to hear how its coming along.

Jana Richards said...

Hi Connie,
Well done! The action and your character drew me in. Like Karyn, I'm intrigued by the idea of the ring linking different people in different time periods.

Like Janet said it needs to be cleaned up, but it is a rough draft. But even so the scene was very compelling. You really need to finish this!


Molli said...

This is a good start, Connie. I like it; I like the strength of the life change, the idea of the series revolving around the ring, and in particular I like the small details that make him real--the moment's thought given to the colour of the old man's robe, and the weary dropping of Edward's arms on his bent knees. At this rough stage the only advice that comes to mind is to consider some of the "editorial" passages (e.g. utterly vicious crushing--your descriptions are so much more effective--and take a look at the dialogue of the old man with Edward (it struck me as more expository than I'd expect, almost as if he was familiar with Edward, and for me it would be more effective and realistic if it was only one or two shorter phrases, or a single "Why?").

Very strong story potential; I'll look forward to reading the rest.

connie said...

Hi Laura,
Your questions are good ones. I will have to make the consequence of saving an old man in a night of what Alexander would consider righteous action against the enemy.
Alexander would see Edward's act as a defection.
The vision was real. Alexander would be as blood crazed as his men.
Because Edward has gone 'over to the enemy' by helping the old man makes him very much a traitor in Alexander's mind.
Thank you for your questions and compliment.

connie said...

Hi Janet,
Thanks for commenting. You are right on to Edward. Now - can he rise to the occasion he has brought about or will he fizzle?
Cleaning up now and worrying about his next move later is such a temptation. But, I have a feeling I have to just write until I get to the end of the entire book before I dare chance bogging down by cleaning up details.

connie said...

Thanks for your comments.
I had not heard about The Golden Mean. I will definitely try to lay hands on it and read it thoroughly.
I have always been awestruck by Alexander's accomplishments. But there is something hidden about him that makes it all possible and his death reasonable. I will look for it in Lyon's book. Maybe she has found it and expounded on it.
p.s. I am really enjoying jack whyte's book you loaned to me. I have rounded up all the dream of eagles series and having my own brand of Roman orgy.

connie said...

Thank you. I think I may have found my 'opus operandi' and the very 'opus' in question. I feel like this one is real, while my attempts at mediaeval romance didn't take off.
The MO is going to be writing straight through in one fell swoop and going back at it afterwords.
This one, I am going to love doing.

connie said...

Thanks Jana,
I am concerned about trying to link events centuries apart through the ring. However, when I said so to Jack Whyte while explaining what I wanted to do, he told me to reread Rutherford who takes the reader through several thousand years linking the stories by an extra long toe!
If you haven't read Rutherford, check him out. The best, to my mind, is Sarum.

connie said...

Your suggestion that it sounds like the old man knows Edward is a good thought. I wanted him to 'see' Edward, as Edward is, in an instant. He has a lot of emotion and information to pass on in the very short time he has left. I am thinking on that one. I am not sure what all Edward means by 'hate'. Your idea about compressing what the old man has to say into one word is a really good one

connie said...

On rereading my reply, (after printing it, of course) I realized I had not finished the sentence "I will have to...against the enemy".
I will have to make it clearer that Alexander is furious at the 'defection' yet understands in a way and has let it go - through compassion? disgust? realizing that Edward's passion has gone beyond blood rage to act in the opposite way to that which Alexander would have expected of one of his men.
To try to explain that more clearly: when I settled refugees, I found that parents who had lost their children at sea, often laughed while telling the story. Their passion had gone beyond the horror of it to the direct opposite of pain, to allow them to function at all. Does that make sense? help explain why Edward threw aside his expected behaviour to act in opposition to it?