A good opening creates an intriguing scene that makes the reader crave to read more. This contest was especially for self-published authors and aspiring writers with works-in-progress. Today I’m publishing the first 5 runners up in no particular order. Enjoy the first 690 words of Lichen Craig’s WIP!
Late summer, 642 A.D.
Strong men are the bane of their children’s lives. Their deeds are carried on winds that blow through years and lifetimes, long after these men are gone from the world. The whims of such a man’s will – whether to do right or wrong – reach out like tentacles into the world as his heart thunders, and everything changes for even the smallest of us. This man shakes his fist and the gods take heed and rearrange the world to fall in step. He shouts and the sky darkens, stags flee through the forest, cattle stampede, and rivers roar faster through their beds. He laughs, and ravens cry and rise from their roosts as the winds blow, and the smallest of foxes pauses from his hunt, and perks his ear to catch the sound. I, Kinnebur, as a small girl-child, believed that the great god Woden who watched us from the otherworlds consulted my father, the pagan warlord Penda, before lifting his finger to change the course of a battle, a life, or a day.
My brother Peyda believed it too, as he sat perched within a canopy of oak below a high bluff, waiting anxiously for he knew not what. He had been allowed to witness his first battle, so had traveled with my father; I, being younger and a girl, had been left behind. But my brother would tell me everything he saw that day. The bay gelding under him, a gift from my father the year before, stirred with impatience as the first faint smell of blood filled the air. The boy’s weight on the animal’s back was but an afterthought, his legs not reaching even to the bottom of its ribs. A half-mile away, across the valley that spread out before them, two armies made a running crash into one another, shields bashing against metal, blades flashing in the warm summer sun, to make the final point of a years-long argument with sword and spear. Peyda shooed a fly away from his nose and scratched his ear, and watched a rain of spears fly from our father’s troops and mix with those flying toward them from the other side of the shield wall, forming a brown cloud of movement in the air between the two armies. Occasionally, he could just hear the bellowed command of a wall-leader and the line would move as one, a few steps back or forward. He had watched his father’s fighting men practice the shield wall for hours on many a day, but only now began to understand its purpose. He wondered which man he could ask to make him a spear, so he could practice throwing as far as those were flying. He hoped he would grow as tall as our father so that he could hope to throw farther than any other man in battle.
Alongside my brother, where they all stood hidden under cover of a scrubby grove of trees, were two of Penda’s trusted men. Experienced warriors, they might have resented being left to mind a seven-year-old boy, to watch their companions in arms wage the fight without them. But they didn’t. It was an honor to be entrusted with the welfare of their king’s small son – who might well be their lord one day – and they sat up tall on their saddles, occasionally offering a word of comment or explanation to the child as they watched the spectacle.
Looking away from the battle, Peyda watched Eadwine’s hand as the rough, thick fingers rubbed across the stone amulet he grasped – the figure of a stag with the head of a man. The warrior often wore it around his neck, tied with a leather cord. Along the side of the man’s handsome face was a deep scar, which had always fascinated the boy as he imagined the blade that had made it, and how battle-seasoned the fighter must be. “How old were you when you had your first battle?” Peyda ventured respectfully.
“Look,” Aelfgar smiled and pointed, ignoring the question and redirecting the boy’s attention, “your father’s banner . . .
Thanks so much to all who entered.
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