Wednesday, February 11, 2009

24 Secret Agent

TITLE: The Corn Maiden
GENRE: Fantasy


Kavio glimpsed a solitary dancer, graceful and pale as new maize. She danced in honeyed light filtered though sequoias soaring up from languorous, bear-sized roots. Who was she, and why did she dance secluded and all alone, far from the kiva and tor? Never had he seen a style quite like hers. She wore no ritual costume – neither wooden mask, nor cornhusk cape – only white doeskin hemmed with a maze of rainbow beads. Her hair waved about her, unbraided and wild. Though her aura showed no light, he had the odd sense she sparkled, shimmered, with some power deep, some power bright, which warmed the cool December wood with hint of hidden Mays.

She circled a fir tree stump, as if it were her partner in a fertility dance. Kavio debated himself briefly. His mischief won. He crept up behind her. Then, in rhythm with her sways, he placed his hands about her waist and lifted her into a spin, above his head and down again. She responded as if she had expected him, and followed his lead into the next exultant sequence, toss and twirl, shimmy and turn. Fancy foot work followed on, sweetly easy. They flowed together like partners who had practiced days in each other’s arms. She amazed him.

He dipped her back, and only then saw her face.

“Dindi!” He choked on his dismay.

She had been tested during Initiation, he knew, and proven without magic. For her to dance was taboo – so decreed the ancient ways. The law left him no choice.

He must kill her.

21 comments:

Justinai said...

"She circled a fir tree stump, as if it were her partner in a fertility dance. Kavio debated himself briefly. His mischief won. He crept up behind her. Then, in rhythm with her sways, he placed his hands about her waist and lifted her into a spin, above his head and down again. She responded as if she had expected him, and followed his lead into the next exultant sequence, toss and twirl, shimmy and turn. Fancy foot work followed on, sweetly easy. They flowed together like partners who had practiced days in each other’s arms. She amazed him."


This paragraph felt a bit rushed to me. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's because he sneaks up on her and then they are supposed to be doing this intricate dance. I think this might better work as two paragraphs, one with him sneaking up on her, the next with them dancing.

sraasch said...

It was a bit rushed -- slow down the dance, and it'll be much stronger. I like the premise though -- will he kill her? Why is it so forbidden? I'd read on!

The Screaming Guppy said...

I agree that the lead up seems a little rushed, but the hook is great.

It's mildly confusing that you mention the tree as her dance partner, and then Kavio becomes her dance partner in the same paragraph. Perhaps you can add some more space between the refrence to the tree - which I like - and when he takes the tree's place.

Is Dindi the girl's name? Or an expression? If it's her name, I would repeat it again somewhere in the last paragraph.

Nice start. Good luck!

RK said...

The ending hook is great. I enjoyed the dance too. However, I wasn't too crazy about all the corn references, but given the title...maybe there's a reason.

ChristaCarol said...

I agree with what's been said. Maybe, "Dindi!" he choked on her name in dismay.

Or something like that/ I love the descriptives, puts me right there visually, very nice! Great hook on if he'll kill her.

Mariel Ren said...

I really liked this. I would read on without question.

Trish said...

Great hook at the end. I'de read on too.

Megan M. said...

I’m intrigued, and I’d read on. I want to know why Dindi would risk dancing if it’s such a taboo that she could die for doing it. It would be great if there was some deeper reason she was risking her life (beyond the simple pleasure and thrill of the dance) – otherwise you may lose some reader sympathy for a heroine who acts so brashly.

Janet said...

Wow, didn't see that coming. Good job. And I would so turn the page.

Like the others, I would like to see you expand the dance into a paragraph by itself. Set it up as a beautiful thing for Kavio - makes his dismay (and his job of killing her) much more startling.

Good job - nice writing.

Lori said...

Ooh, I like that. Good world building and I like the tribal heritage thing you've woven in without hitting us over the head with it. And good hook at the end. I'd definitely read on!

Anja said...

I guess I'm more used to fast pace YA, so I had no problem with the speed of this. However, I don't read adult fantasy, so it's hard for me to judge.

You definitely have me hooked. Good luck!

Luc2 said...

It's easy to imagine the scene, the writing is good and I love the worldbuilding which is outside the standard fantasy conventions. Somehow, it didn't truly grab me yet, and I'm sorry I can't pinpoint why.
But I would read on because I want to be grabbed by it, and feel that I could be.

jmd said...

I am hooked. The writing is strong, lyrical and full of lovely descriptive phrases. I think the pace works well too. I like how the style mimics the dreamlike state in the character; the first two paragraphs lead very gently to the abrupt realization in the end.

Yeah, the end makes me want to read more.

My only small comment for improvement were the couple of adverbs that distract - "briefly" and "sweetly."

Melinda said...

The first paragraph seems a little too description/adjective heavy, but the rest hooked me. I'd definitely read on.

Sheila said...

The picture of two people dancing in the woods seemed a little, ah, different to me. I liked the line, "His mischief won," but I had a hard time believing that with all that toss and twirl, shimmy and turn he never saw her face. That last line is compelling. I'd read on.

Miss Swan said...

I really like this, but I stumbled over a couple things.

Kavio glimpsed a solitary dancer, graceful and pale as new maize.
--I think I'd like the flow of this sentence better if you replaced 'solitary' with 'lone'.

She danced in honeyed light filtered though sequoias soaring up from languorous, bear-sized roots.
--This sentence just seems a bit overloaded with description. Maybe 'She danced in the honeyed light that filtered through the branches of the vast/giant sequoias.' That's just an example-- there's probably a better way to put it that's less wordy.

Never had he seen a style quite like hers.
--I think this should be the beginning of a new paragraph.

Her hair waved about her, unbraided and wild.
--I'm not sure if 'waved' is the best word... maybe 'flew'?

Though her aura showed no light, he had the odd sense she sparkled, shimmered, with some power deep, some power bright, which warmed the cool December wood with hint of hidden Mays.
--This sentence was a bit wordy. Maybe 'Though there was no light in her aura, he had the sense that she shimmered with some deep, bright power, a power that warmed the cool, December wood.'

She circled a fir tree stump, as if it were her partner in a fertility dance.
--I think the beginning of this sentence would flow better 'She circled the stump of a fir tree as if…'

Kavio debated himself briefly. His mischief won.
--Should it be 'Kavio debated with/within himself briefly'? I'm not sure that 'His mischief won' is correct grammar-- 'His mischievous side won'?

He crept up behind her. Then, in rhythm with her sways, he placed his hands about her waist and lifted her into a spin, above his head and down again.
--I think it'd flow better as one sentence, like 'He crept up behind her and, in rhythm with her sways, he placed his hands about her waist, lifting her into a spin- up above his head and down again.'

She responded as if she had expected him, and followed his lead into the next exultant sequence, toss and twirl, shimmy and turn.
--I don't think the first comma is needed, and it might just be me, but the word 'shimmy' kind of interrupted the elegance of the sentence for me.

Fancy foot work followed on, sweetly easy.
--'Footwork' is one word, and I think 'continued' would work better than 'followed'. I like 'lyrically easy', 'beautifully easy', or 'pleasantly easy' better than 'sweetly easy', but that could just be me. =)

“Dindi!” He choked on his dismay.
--Like others before me, I'd like to know if this is a name or a curse. I agree with ChristaCarol, '"Dindi!" he choked on her name in dismay.' would clear things up nicely if it's her name.

I know I had a lot of things to say, but they were little, nit-picky things, which I wouldn't have pointed out if I didn't like this so much. Overall, your writing is very good, and you can consider me enchanted as well as hooked-- I'm a sucker for skilled descriptions of dancing. ^_^ Great job, and good luck! I'd definitely read on!

Secret Agent said...

Not hooked. Sorry. I felt like there was a lot of overwriting in the first two paragraphs.

"languoruous, bear-sized roots"

"Kavio debated himself briefly"

And then the wrap up that he must kill her becuase she's dancing without magic just seemed too out of the blue for me to take seriously.

If he knows about this law, then he would be immediately on edge when seeing a secret dancer, correct? The scene would need to be written completely differently if that is the case.

Sarah Jensen said...

I like it. I agree that it felt rushed and was over written in places, but I'd read on.
Clean it up a bit, and I think you've got a great story here.

Blodwyn said...

I agree that in places it feels over-written, but I was hooked by the last line and curious to see what is going to happen.

lilianamama said...

The first paragraph is overdone. At least separate honeyed light, the sequoias and the bear-sized roots. That said, I enjoyed this and really appreciate the attempt at using a different mythos for your world. I've read too much fantasy set in Euro-land.

I'd like to see more of his reaction to an unknown person dancing if it's so important he has to kill her now. Mischief is probably the wrong word. Maybe if he goes in to try and stop the dance and instead gets dragged in by her enthusiasm?

Janet said...

Very nice and intriguing.

I would agree that it's a little bit overwritten. Tone down the adjectives and fancy word order just a bit. You want it to be poetic, and I have no argument with that, but a beautiful girl is not made more beautiful by an excess of jewelry. Remove a few pieces, and let the underlying beauty shine through.

Is this the first time the prohibition against non-magical people dancing has been mentioned? It seems a wee bit clunky to explain it here and decreases the tension. I'd suggest working that information into the story at an earlier point, so as not to dilute his shock here with explanations.