J.F. Posthumus

J.F. Posthumus

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Virginia, United States
A computer tech and artist that thrives on writing fantasy to escape the harshness of reality.
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Monday, May 18, 2009

Teaser Tuesday

Ok, so I technically posted this on Monday, but... oh well! This is my current WIP and it doesn't involve any of the usual cast of characters. In fact, it's based on my signature picture. :-) The coppery tang of freshly spilled blood wafted to Akiela's nose, causing it to wrinkle in distaste. The ability to smell, hear, and see things with an uncanny acuteness had often frightened her as a child. Her mother had constantly warned her to keep silent about things she shouldn't have known, saying it would cause her trouble and grief. Considering she had ostracized by the villagers and neighboring townsfolk, Akiela had obeyed her mother's decree. The first and only time she had attempted to use her skills for a goodly cause she had been ridiculed and ignored. She may have watched in morbid delight and cruel humor as the village had been attacked by an invading army of orcs, had it not been for the fact her mother also perished in the fires that erupted. Akiela had been taken in by Urshad's army that fought against the orcs just outside her small village and given a home with them as they traveled back to Marzwin, the central city of Urshad. Her unique gifts had been useful along the long trip back to Marzwin and, once the Warlord General, Giada, had learned of her, he took her into his home, accepting her as a daughter. Now, Giada had sent her here, to Baron Altwuld's estate under the guise of a traveling noble seeking a place to stay for the night to spy. After several hours of being entertained by the lowly baron, she had managed to talk him into giving her a tour of his estate. Had she not been here on an assignment from Giada, she would have probably killed the man a dozen times over due to his ill-concealed innuendos and roving hands. Death might have been a quick method of venting her irritation and hatred for Altwuld, but it wasn't what she had been sent for. It had taken an hour of searching to find a simple locked door resembling a servant's entrance that opened onto a winding set of stone stairs. Beneath her simple black cotton garments and satin gloves, she shivered as she slinked silently down the steps. If she were caught... no, she refused to think that way. It was midnight and most, if not all, of the servants slept. Even the baron was asleep in his large, plush bed of nubile concubines. The noises from the room had ended two hours ago. The cold, darkened stairwell ended at yet another door. Deftly picking the lock of that door, also, she stepped into a large, circular room filled with tables, chairs, and cages. The stench of death, blood, and smoke filled her senses, causing her to nearly gag. Some vile odor she couldn't place stung her eyes. She presumed the source of the irritant was a fireplace where a large cauldron sat on a blackened, iron grate. Steam wafted from the cast iron container and she guessed it was some concoction to be used upon the dwarves or servants the baron trafficked or kept. A wide, stone bench curved around the room, filled with items used for mutilation or torture. A large, covered bin sat amidst the curving stone and she knew she didn't want to look in it; dried blood trickled down along the edges, destroying the innocent illusion of a mere trash bin. Two large double-doors sat positioned on the opposite side of the room and after one last intense glance around the room, she moved towards it. A peg with a large ring of keys hung beside the door and she grabbed them, uncertain if they would be needed. Best to be prepared, she thought as she opened the door.More darkness greeted Akiela as she crept along, searching for traps as she traversed the unlit corridor. The distant, broken sounds of whimpering, whispers, and shuffling teased her. A single scream pierced the silence and Akiela froze in her steps. Just as abruptly as it shattered the stillness, the scream vanished as though it had been a figment of her imagination. Steeling her nerves, and her resolve, she continued forward along the empty hallway towards the single door that light crept from beneath. Shadows passed before the door, and it was all Akiela could do to not slink backwards the way she came. Tilting her head to the side, she listened intently until the shuffling sounds and flickering shadows abated. The musty scent of a dog's fur teased her nose and she heaved a sigh of relief. Dogs she could handle easily. Humans or other mortals were a different problem altogether. Striding forward with careful, silent steps, she tried the door. It opened with a whisper revealing yet another smaller room with several doors leading off in separate directions. To the far left was a narrow hole in the wall large enough for two wolves to pass through side-by-side. The musky odor of wet fur and fresh blood bit at her nose and she quickly began to search the room. Gods, this man loves his tiny rooms, she thought in disgust and annoyance. Even if the wolves reappeared, she knew they wouldn't bother her. For some strange reason, anything canine loved her and everything feline ran from her as though she were a demon. It was rather amusing, unless it was a bobcat or mountain lion that she stumbled across. Then there were always problems. As she stood before each door, she bent slightly and pressed her ear to the keyhole, listening for anything slightly mortal. Nothing. She moved to the next and repeated the procedure. At the fourth door she heard the soft weeping of a child. Fury swelled within her and she slid a key into the lock and twisted. A soft click filled the room as she turned the key and opened the door. A single, long hallway dead-ended with cells on each side. Within the cages, behind rusted iron grates were dwarves. Surprise flashed across Akiela’s face for she had always thought of dwarves as having long beards and hair. Their ears pointed and features chiseled, as though from stone... and wrinkled. However, these dwarves were feminine with long braided hair of red, blond, and rich chestnut shades. Brilliant eyes set in pixyish faces were swollen from crying and beatings, many blackened and bruised. Fear flashed across their smooth, hairless faces and many of the women held babies that had human or elfish traits. From the torn dresses, scars from shackles and whips to their bruised bodies, she didn’t need to ask or be told how the children came to be born. "I am not here to harm you. I come as a friend," Akiela said in fluent, perfectly enunciated dwarven. The rough language was surprisingly easy for her to speak, unlike most. It rolled from her tongue as though she were part dwarf herself. She kept her voice low as she moved further into the corridor, searching each cell and mentally documenting each atrocity she saw. As she looked closer, she could see ears had been torn, faces slashed and bodies tortured. Several women were pregnant without other infants while others held babies along with their bulging bellies. It was disgusting to see them treated like animals and her heart bled for them. Akiela could only imagine what had been done to their men. One woman, barely in her twenties if Akiela had to guess at her age, stepped towards the bars, holding a pale, sickly infant in her arms. The child had pure, straight black hair with bright green eyes that stared unblinking at the ceiling. It had been wrapped in pieces of soiled cloth that must have come from its mother's underskirt. The mother stared at Akiela with pleading eyes. Surprisingly, the dwarven woman spoke in clear Common as she addressed Akiela. "If you are a friend, then take my infant with you. That monster who keeps us says he'll kill the infant, for she is sickly and cannot be sold. Take her, please!" Hesitatingly, Akiela went to the cell door where the mother slid the tiny child, miraculously, through the bars. Holding the infant close to her, Akiela smiled slightly at the baby. She had once, in her youth, considered having children, but those notions had vanished the older she grew. Children meant responsibility she wasn't ready for and she wasn't certain she wanted to curse a child with being forced to live a life alone as she had done. Well, that wasn't entirely true. She had plenty compatriots who enjoyed having her around and she had several she spent time with on a near-constant basis, but none had ever approached her with the desire to court her. Now, however, looking into the fragile face of the infant, she knew that some day she would have a child to covet and care for. Someday. "What of you, lady? How will you explain the missing child?" Akiela asked, forcing her gaze away from the child to the mother. "What is the child's name?" "Gisela," the mother promptly replied. "The Keeper will think it is dead and a servant took it away." "What of the rest of us?" Another dwarven maiden asked in dwarvish, holding her own child close to her chest. Akiela gazed around the multitude of women, knowing her proof of the atrocities of the baron rested in her arms. "Within the week all will be released," she replied in their language. "I must go, but I promise that in seven day's time you will be released and allowed to return to your homes and families." Blessings arose in whispers around her and Akiela smiled slightly as she stared at the tiny infant that was sucking a dirty thumb. Perhaps she could persuade Tiernay to begin the attack prior to the designated seven days. Perhaps.


  1. This is really, really compelling stuff! You really get a feel for Akiela here, and she seems like a fascinating character. Definitely a lot to work with!

    My two comments are these: the opening gives us too much information we don't need; a scene like this benefits from getting right into the action and staying there.

    The second thing is, again, that there are just too many words - too many qualifiers and runaround phrases that could be tightened and put a lot more directly, and with a lot more impact. A really unforgiving line-edit would do the work a world of good.

    That said, I REALLY enjoyed it and hope you'll be putting up more! This is going in a good direction. Well done!

  2. My thoughts echo Sarah's - you've got a dark, fascinating story in here. I'm curious where this is going! Unfortunately, the story is getting buried under a lot of information that we don't need right away and it's slowing things down. As Sarah said, a good pruning would do the trick in a future edit.

    You've got intriguing, creepy stuff going on - I like! Good luck with it!

  3. Thanks!! I was wondering if I tossed in too much backstory. Considering I could toss it in later, I can easily cut it out here.

    Glad you like it!

    I'm really enjoying writing this story and it seems to be coming fairly easily right now as I plot chapter-by-chapter!

  4. I agree with the others. I really got drawn in when she got over to the doors, and you have some great descriptive language. That said, I think this would really benefit from a lot of chopping, to get to the action quicker. I love the dark feel of this, but I keep getting bogged down in excess wordage. :)
    Nice first draft, though!

  5. I agree with the others. Too much backstory. You have the ability to weave a great story. Less is more.

  6. I agree with the others, too. Perhaps weaving in the backstory later. Showing instead of telling. Great start, though.

  7. You have a very vivid imagination which comes through very strongly.
    I do agree with the others that you need to drop the big chunks of backstory and weave it into the story as you go along. Brevity is everything! :D Likewise, the descriptive stuff. You can cut a fair bit and still get the feel across.
    Keep at it!

  8. You've got to keep an eye out for infodump and backstory. You start with action, then backtrack for several paragraphs into things we don't need. Also finding some passive constructions here. Stick with the active - "Her nose wrinkled in disgust" - as opposed to the passive - "the smell caused her nose to wrinkle."

    You're overwriting and it's getting in the way of the story. You might have something here, but getting the superfluous words out of the way will make it shine.

  9. Intriguing, but wordy. This is way too long for a teaser. I didn't read it all, but I did read enough to agree with those saying the backstory is a bit much. But some throat-clearing is necessary when writing because it helps the writer get to know his or her characters and story. You just have to learn to cut it back in final edits and before posting for public viewing. Keep working on it!

  10. Ah, a day late and it's all pretty well been said. I found myself skimming looking for the action, so yes, a bit too much infodump on the front side.

  11. This is very interesting. There's a good bit of backstory and I think this will really shine without it.