Wednesday, March 27, 2013

March Secret Agent #32

TITLE: The Watched Men
GENRE: Fantasy

A woman hunched over the ground in front of the gates,‎ ‏shaking,‭ ‬leaning on her shovel for support.‭ ‬Black scarf tied around her neck,‭ ‬pulled up to cover her mouth.‭ ‬Dark hair with streaks of grey flowed down her shoulders and pooled on her chest,‭ ‬covering her broken heart.

She sobbed as she worked.

Her shovel cut into the hard-packed earth, loosening, turning over the burgundy path, deeply stained from so much blood. All of his blood.

It had always been that way, when a body was found outside the city gates. Not a drop of blood was left in them, but no wound had ever been found on any of the dead to explain how this was possible. Only a twisted look, desperation preserved on their stiff faces, and all of their blood spilled on the ground where they lay.

This was the power of the Nagiris Lion.

The Old Ones called it the Iliagrinnos, the Silent One. Most others dared not speak a name, lest it should hear and come for them. The blood belonged to her husband, whose body had been burned the night before, as was their way. Now it was her duty to cover the blood since no one else could touch it.

Arnot watched through a hole in the palisade wall, heart aching for this woman he didn't even know. He wanted to go and help her, to do the job for her so that she could rest, and grieve.

But it was forbidden.


  1. There are several things here that pique my interest: How are these bodies being drained of all their blood with no visible wounds? Why are family (that's what I'm assuming, anyway) the only ones who can touch the blood and/or bury it (and can others touch the body, to burn it?)? How many bodies have been found this way? And what is the Nagiris Lion and the tale behind it?

    Great set-up to make me wonder all these questions - and definitely enough to make me want to turn the page, to find out.

    Best of luck in the contest - I thought this was a solid submit.

  2. Hmmm... interesting! I would read on. Although, there could be a little more showing vs telling. Like, don't tell us she sobbed, show us what the crying is physically doing to her. Also, I'd cut the part that says "covering her broken heart." Her shaking and crying is enough to show us her heart is broken.

    Other than that, sounds good!

  3. I also found the premise interesting, and though this excerpt has a lot of exposition, it didn't feel weighed down by it.

    The last two paragraphs did make me wonder, though, who the POV character is here. If this is all supposed to be from Arnot's point of view, perhaps that should be made clear in the first paragraph. For example, "Through a hole in the palisade wall, Arnot watched the woman hunched in front of the gates..."

    If the POV were cleaned up, I think the rest of it would work fine.

  4. I liked this a lot. The atmosphere of mystery and dread was very well done. My one concern was that I felt distant from the woman, not knowing her name. At the end, I see that the reason for this is that she isn't the protagonist, but is watched by him. Like Erin, I would like to have this context from the beginning."

    But overall, very well done. I would love to keep reading.

  5. I agree with Rebecca and Abbe - I wanted to know who the protagonist was earlier on. Anchor us in someone's head, and the scene will have more emotional impact. Beautiful writing though! Good luck!

  6. I wasn't wild about the sentence structure in the two opening lines but I really liked the third one. Like the others, I would have liked to be anchored in Arnot's pov earlier as I thought the woman was the pov character. The lion and the myterious blood loss are interesting enough to keep me reading further.

  7. This left me with more questions than answers and, since I'm curious to a fault, I would definitely keep reading.

  8. An intriguing start! You lay a lot of groundwork for what seems like an interesting mystery. My interest is especially piqued by the Old Ones. Seems like we'll get a lot of world building, which is always fun. Although I like the broken heart bit, and it kills me to say this, I think you should lose it. The pov issue might not be such an issue if you solely describe the woman externally and give facts Arnot would know, instead of being in the woman's head. Great job!

  9. I think this is an intriguing opening. But I did find the perspective switch a little distracting. I thought this would be some kind of prologue, showing us the woman to introduce the conflict. But we're a little too deep in her POV (the broken heart line, which I love, as well as the fact that the victim was her husband and they burned his body the day before) to suddenly switch to Arnot.

    I'm also not crazy about the term "Nagiris Lion." Without a cultural context, it just reads a little awkwardly to me. It's always really hard to get the right names on things in fantasy, so think carefully about what you choose.

    Promising start!