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SotA Community First Series entry: Hans goes beneath Neath

edited June 2015 in SotA Stories

SotA Community First Series entry: Hans goes beneath Neath


Hans often stopped and knelt at the Pool of Reflection as he went about his duties in the town of Neath. It wasn’t tiredness from shlepping the bundle of torches and relighting those that had burned out. He was not weary from the bending and lifting to remove the debris and rocks that had tumbled onto the pathways. He just liked to look at himself in the mirror of the pool. Sometimes his features were highlighted by the glow of the phosphorescent moss around the rim. Sometimes there was a pearly flash off the scales of one of the cavern’s blind carp. When the alignment was just right, daylight or a strong moon’s glow bounced off the cave’s crystals and reached the pool’s surface. If he leaned forward his reflection would be silhouetted by a crown of brilliant shafts of vari-coloured light.

Hans hoped that the folks who were coming to live in Neath would arrive soon. It would be exciting to show them all the fantastic nooks and crannies of the caverns. They would marvel at the odd and interesting creatures and plants he had discovered. He was quite content to be Neath’s caretaker. He felt thankful that Sir had found him and his mother and allowed them to live here. Still, it was a bit quiet down here. Each time his rounds took him up to the cave entrance at the surface of Novia, he scanned the horizon to see if anything was traveling in this direction. Well, he did at nightime anyway. He flinched a bit during the full day. The fierce light of the sun above brought back frightening memories of fire and flashes in the sky and rippling waves of pain. His mother, Bertha, didn’t like bright light either. She always said, “Candlelight is all a woman needs.” Thinking of how much she had to say on any subject, Hans admitted to himself that it wasn’t actually so quiet down here.
 
One morning when his round was done, he knelt and mused about the dragon bone monument that straddled the pool. Had it been set there by some dwellers in the far past? Or was it the dragon itself who had chosen this spot to remain for eternity?

The leviathan’s long neck and head thrust upwards as if gazing forevermore through the opening to the skies above. Its tail was oddly straight, pointing the way to the darkest part of the cavern. Hans shouldered his heap of fresh torches and patted his tunic pocket to be sure that the small box of fire beetles was there. They were tiny but voracious. Placing one on a torch meant snatching his hand away fast as they spit sparks into the pitch – making it flowing and edible for them as it burned.
 
Walking around the pool and hearing his mother’s mutters from up the road in their hut, Hans did not climb the pathway towards home. He headed along the bones of the dragon’s tail where the floor of the cavern declined ever more steeply. He felt a faint, warm breeze coming towards him. It had the sour smell of some chemical. No insects or plants were to be seen in this area. It was very dark. Usually he didn't need much to see his way. The glow from a mushroom, slime or moss. The reflection off the crystals. The sudden flash from a startled bug. To be sure of his footing, Hans lit a fresh torch.
 
Sir had asked him to search for possible crevices, not only to place warning signs, but because they might lead to a way down to the lava flows in the depths of Novia. These could be tapped to provide warmth for Neath and energy for the kilns, ovens and forges. As he reached the tip of the beast’s tail such a crevice became visible in the torch’s light. It was just possible to enter the split between the huge stones. Should he descend and investigate? He remembered his father, Bart, telling him witty stories of adventure and how he’d been taken along on the travels of many intrepid explorers. Yes, he would go down.
 
A wisp of a tale from olden days made him think he had better leave some marker for himself to find the way back. He grabbed his packet of bark bread and chewed a bit. Would a trail of crumbs do? Well, bark bread was dark and hard to see in the torchlight. Suddenly he remembered the salve the Doctor had given him for his bruises, made partly from the luminescent caterpillars in the cave. He pulled the phial out of his pocket and smeared a bit of the salve on the rock at head height. When he looked back he could see it glimmering, so he kept doing that at each turn as he carefully picked his way down. Narrow paths branched off but the main channel headed deeper below the town. The sound of water burbled here and the air grew warmer and more humid. He continued on so far beneath Neath, that he could no longer hear his mother’s incessant chatter.
 
He smelled something acrid rising with the draft from below. Sulfurous ash, he decided. After a sharp turn, surprise brought him to a halt. One wall fell away and he stood on a shelf of rock, staring into the dark, empty space in front of him. Hans lit a fresh torch and held both torches in extended arms as he carefully shuffled to the edge and peered over it. What did he see gleaming down there? It was not the glow from fluid lava. The torches showed rainbow-like sparkles from gems or crystals and flashes of reflected flame off strange, metallic shapes. Was it the dragon’s horde, or the remainders of an even deeper settlement than Neath, one long forgotten?





Comments

  • A masterful description of Neath, with an exciting conclusion! Your writing allowed me to easily picture myself there, and take in the surroundings.

    Now, some tentative suggestions:

    I did think that the following sentence was perhaps a bit long:
    When the alignment was just right and daylight or a
    strong moon’s glow filtered down and reached the pool’s surface, he was
    silhouetted by a crown of brilliant shafts of vari-coloured light bouncing off
    the cave’s crystals that brought the illumination right down to the bottom of
    the town.
    You might want to think about either simplifying it, or breaking it into two. Perhaps end it at "crystals"?

    Further down, in the line

    He shivered a bit during the full day

    the use of the word "shivered" immediately made me think that he was cold. Yes, the word has other meanings, but that is what many readers will immediately think, and then be forced to mentally shift gears as they read further. Perhaps consider using a different word? Flinched or recoiled maybe, or something like that?

    Those are minor points, and the overall text was deeply engrossing and highly descriptive.

    Excellent work!

  • Thank you, Womby.

    I hoped Caverns folk would like this piece... and you are quite right about that long sentence that wriggled its way towards the end of the first paragraph. The word 'shivered' bothered me, too. Your word 'flinched' is better - leaving Hans still strong, but with some reactions he cannot wholly master.

    I do not know how to redact the posted piece. I will go with
    When the alignment was just right and daylight or a strong moon’s glow filtered down and reached the pool’s surface, his reflection was silhouetted by a crown of brilliant shafts of vari-coloured light bouncing off
    the cave’s crystals.
  • edited June 2015
    If you move your cursor to the top right of your post (to the right of the title) and hover it over the little gear icon, a tooltip should appear that says "Options". If you click on the little gear icon and select "Edit" from the drop down menu, you can edit the work that you posted. (Yes, I know, the editing window is too small.) When finished editing, simply click the big red button marked Save Comment.

    I like your changes. I hope you will consider posting future writings here.

    Regarding formatting, I am aware that the site has some quirks. I have found that if I paste my text first into a simple ASCII text editor (one that does not support multinational character sets), then copy from there into the Round Table forum, problems are eliminated. Errant line breaks are usually a result of the different forum width causing line breaks in the original to appear at odd places.



  • Ok Lady Kate!  Thanks for this wonderful story!  I really like how this sets up Neath as a very interesting place!

    Here are some suggestions...

    Hans often stopped and knelt at the Pool of Reflection, as he went about his duties in the town of Neath.

    The comma is not needed.

    When the alignment was just right and daylight or a strong moon’s glow filtered down and reached the pool’s surface, he was silhouetted by a crown of brilliant shafts of vari-coloured light bouncing off the cave’s crystals that brought the illumination right down to the bottom of the town.

    I agree with Womby tha sentence is long. I like your change.  Commas are always good places for looking where you can break a sentence.  Here's a further suggestions: "Sometime daylight or the moon's glow was aligned just right to reach the surface.  Then his reflection would be silhouetted by a a crown of brilliant sharts of vari-coloured light bouncing off the cave's crystals."

    It would be exciting to show them all the fantastic nooks and crannies of Neath and the odd and interesting creatures and plants he had discovered.

    The three ands can confuse things, but it's not bad.  If you want you could use 'as well as" for the and after Neath to make it more clear.

    Still, it was a bit quiet down here and each time his rounds took him up to the cavern entrance at
    the surface of Novia, he scanned the horizon to see if anything was traveling in this direction.

    I think sometimes things are more effective if you split into more sentences.  So for example, you can take out the and, replace it with a period and it sounds quite nice.

    He shivered a bit during the full day – the fierce light of the sun above brought back frightening memories of fire and flashes in the sky and rippling waves of pain.

    Dashes are not really used for this, although technically you can get away with it.  A period works just as well.  The first part sets up the question in people's minds which you naturally answer in the following sentence. 

    She always said, ‘Candlelight is all a woman needs.’

    I think the standard even in British punctuation is to use double quotation marks: "...", not single.

    Thinking of how much she had to say on any subject, Hans thought, maybe it wasn’t always so quiet down here.

    I would only use the comma construction after thought if you were going to lead into a quote.  More typical would be to say, "Hand thought that maybe it wasn't..."  Also maybe instead of thought, remembered/mused/realized?  Such words tie it better to the introductory phrase.

    His adventure started one morning as he knelt there and mused about the Dragonbones monument that straddled the Pool.

    Using "his adventure" at the start makes it sound like something we should already know.  Not a real problem, but I'm wondering if there is a better way to introduce it.  This is also one of those areas where you don't want to have to tell the reader that there is an adventure here... the goal is to show them.  I would take it out actually and start with "One morning, Hans was kneeling by the pool and musing about..."

    or was it the dragon itself who had chosen this spot to remain for Eternity?

    The "or" should be capitalized and "Eternity" should not.

    The levaithan’s skeleton was frozen in an arc that had brought its head up to gaze forevermore through the channel to the skies above.

    Spelling of "leviathan".  I'm also not sure that "channel" is the right word here.  You're talking about the space in the rooks that leads up to the top of the cavern right?  Maybe shaft?  Thesaurus to the rescue!

    Placing one on a torch meant snatching his hand away fast as they spit sparks into the pitch – making it flowing and edible for them as it burned.

    Now this use of the dash is not bad.  Just keep them really rare!

    Walking around the pool, and hearing his mother’s mutters from up the road in their hut, Hans did not climb the pathway to the next level. He suddenly turned back down and walked along the bones of the dragon’s
    tail.


    The comma is not right before the and - only use a comma before a conjunction when joining two independent clauses.  I'm a little confused about Hans avoiding the hut.  Are "up the road" and "climbing the pathway to the next level" the same thing.  I think it would be clearer if you joined it with the following sentence: "... in their hut, Hans turned back down and walked along the bones of the dragon's tail."

    The floor was fairly even near the Pool, but rose then declined ever more steeply.

    Ok, but the phrase "rose then declined" is a little too brief.  Perhaps something like this, "The floor was fairly even near the Pool, but back a ways it rose for a bit before declining steeply."

    Usually all he needed was the glow from the mushrooms, slimes and mosses and the reflections off the crystals or the sudden glow from a startled bug to see his way.

    There is a group of light sources joined together awkwardly here.  What about something like: "Usually he didn't need much to see his way.  The glow from a mushroom, slime of moss.  The reflection off the crystals.  The sudden glow from a startled bug."  I know this is a poetic and not technically correct use of the period.  The problem is the series "mushroom, slime or moss" withing the larger series of "glow, reflection, glow".  To nest a collection within another you need semicolons, which is rarely done.  I think taking liberty with the period works better.

    But there was a faint, warm breeze coming up towards him and no insect or plants were to be seen.

    Ok you need to have the plural "insects" to match plants.  However, those aren't the only light sources you mentions so what about saying "him and none of these light sources around.."

    Those could be tapped to provide warmth for Neath and energy for the kilns and ovens and forges.

    Take out one and: "kilns, ovens and forges."

    As he reached the tip of the beast’s tail such a crevice became visible in the torch’s light.

    Another point about the previous paragraphs as a whole is to think about the light sources and why you bring them up.  You should probably discuss the lack of light first, then Hans and his torches with the bit about the fire beetle.  You never mentioned prior to this sentence that Hans lit a torch!

    It was just possible to enter the split between the huge stones.

    Nothing wrong with the sentence, but should this be a new paragraph?  Paragraphs start new thoughts or actions and this connects with the previous.  However, there are no hard and fast rules.

    He pulled the phial out of his pocket and smeared a bit of the salve on the rock at head height – and kept doing that at each turn as he carefully picked his way down.

    I don't think the dash is the right choice here.  Either use that to break it into a new sentence or just take it out.

    He was so far beneath Neath, that he could no longer hear his mother’s continual chatter.

    I love that you said beneath Neath!  However, this sentence seems too abrupt as there really wasn't any indication he was make his way downward.  Something like, "He continued until he was so far beneath Neath that.." 

    Just one more turn and he thought he’d better get a new beetle and torch out; this one was getting dim.

    "this" is a pronoun that really looks for something to refer to... since you hadn't mention the torch in a while.  I would rework it to take it out.  You also indicate the torch has been lit in the next sentences, so maybe just say, "He had gone so far that he had to light a fresh torch."?  Or something similar...

    He raised the fresh torch and looked out over a shelf of rock that ended in what must be a steep
    drop into the dark. He carefully peered over the edge.

    You say in the first sentence that he looked out over a shelf of rock and then in the second, peered over the edge.  Those actions could be similar.  What about "He came to a halt at a shelf of rock that ended in darkness.  He carefully peered over the edge."

    What was gleaming down there?

    This question is about discovering something new that wasn't indicated before so it seems to break the perspective of Hans.  Could you try something like.  "Down below, he saw a gleam. It took him a while to recognize it."

    Once you get a second draft done, I will be happy to take another pass.  Sorry for the absence, I will be back at it this coming week...
  • Thank you so much, Vyrin.

    This whole text will be copied now and I will make a new draft. You'll see it appear here soon. Womby explained how to edit the text on this site, but I'd rather polish it in a few passes, then change the original post.
  • Wonderful story!!  :D
  • The story above is now the second draft.

    "I think sometimes things are more effective if you split into more
    sentences."

    "Now this
    use of the dash is not bad.  Just keep them really rare!"

    I shall keep these as mantras, Vyrin.

    The spelling of "leviathan" is in Webster’s, an edition from
    1990. 

    The changes sparked by your very professional comments made me swap many
    phrases around and create a few new ones. I’m not sure what Womby meant by
    saving the text in another format before copying it. I tried. I copied it to an
    email, then re-copied that onto the site. It has even more interesting breaks
    in the text now.

    Thank you, Sophi, from me and from Hans.


  • I hand-corrected the odd gaps that appeared when I copied the text into the edit window. Hopefully it will stay looking like this. Perhaps the program expects me to be writing a poem!

  • edited June 2015
    One day we'll have to look at ways that we might improve the user experience with this web site.
    There are a few problems. As I see it, the main ones are:
    - quirky formatting
    - the edit box is too small
    - there is no facility for private feedback before going public - not everyone wants to show their imperfections to the world (something like starting a conversation on the SotA forums)

    Regarding the word "leviathan", you in fact wrote "levaithan" - the 'a' and 'i' are transposed:

    "The levaithan’s skeleton was frozen in an arc"


  • I agree with Womby on the changes we should try to make.  I went it and fixed the text some more - there is a code option on the far right that shows all the things brought in by whatever text program you use.  Don't worry about formatting... I'm happy to go in and clean it up.

    Here is a second round - I may not catch everything in the first pass, but most of these should be based on your edits.  I edit my own work in many rounds - so I hope this is not fatiguing for you!

    When
    the alignment was just right daylight or a strong moon’s glow bounced
    off the cave’s crystals and reached the pool’s surface.


    For a long introductory phrase, you need a comma.  Here after "right".

    Hans
    hoped that the folks who were coming to live in Neath would arrive
    soon. It would be exciting to show them all the fantastic nooks and
    crannies of Neath


    I think the two uses of Neath are close together.  The second should be replaced by a pronoun or something else.  e.g. "of the town" "of the caves" "here".

    One morning when his round was done he knelt and mused about the Dragonbones monument that straddled the Pool.

    Also here the introductory phrase needs a comma after "done".  Pool should not be capitalized here since you are using the general term.  Dragonbones is not really a word so we have to see what we can do with it.  Probably the best way to use it would be to say, "the monument of dragon bones."  However, you might also get away with "dragon bone monument".

    The
    levaithan’s skeleton was frozen in an arc that had brought its head up
    to gaze forevermore through the opening to the skies above


    Saying "had brought it's head up" sounds a little off.  I'm trying to picture the arc too.  It would be an inverted one if his head is up, and I'm assuming the tail would be too.  Does this still capture what you want to say? "The leviathan's long neck and head pointed upward so that it gazed forevermore through the opening to the skies above." 

    Also, this sentence belongs with the previous paragraph.  You change subjects in the next sentence.

    He felt a faint, warm breeze coming towards him but no insects or plants were to be seen.

    This is a place where you do need a comma before the conjunction "but" since it joins two independent clauses.  However, I wonder if you really want to use "but" here since it indicates that what is to follow contradicts or changes what comes before.  I'm wondering how the lack of insects of plants relates to the breeze.  Maybe it does but if so, it needs more explanation.  Since they are independent clauses, they can be split into two sentences. Another problem is that you can take this sentence out and the paragraph reads fine.  That's not a good sign as to what is going on and you need to ask yourself why it's here.

    To be sure of his footing Hans lit a fresh torch.

    Same comment about introductory phrases... comma after "footing".

    Those could be tapped to provide warmth for Neath and energy for the kilns, ovens and forges.

    Although not a hard and fast rule, I think "these" sounds better since you are referring more to the topic at hand, rather than trying to point to the actual lava flows themselves.

    He was so far beneath Neath, that he could no longer hear his mother’s continual chatter.

    Using "was" is ok, but should always be replaced by a more active word if possible.  This would make it fit better too with what comes before.  Use "traveled", "journeyed", "continued on"?

    And I have one last question I am wondering about...

    The start of the tale with Hans' desire to see his reflection is quite interesting.  However, the introductory matter should set a tone, or relate somehow to the whole story.  Perhaps Hans is looking at his reflection because he's trying to figure himself out?  Because he's lonely?  Because he finds it one of the most beautiful parts of Neath, which is why he loves being there, and loves to explore?

    I don't know - think about it.  But think about setting the tone for your story.  You don't have to make a lot of changes to indicate this.  But first figure it out for yourself...



  • When I try pin down the tone for Hans's story it is more like he is a bit bored just doing the rounds down in Neath and listening to his mother talking all the time. He knows folks will come to live there eventually but there is not much for him to do right now except force me to write down all the things he sees and some of the things he thinks. :-)

    Thank you, Womby and Vyrin, for the comments and hard work to polish this up until it is fit for general SotA consumption. I shall transport those again to my word processor and make another pass at this story.



  • Oh no! I had taken out some of the commas now going back in.
    LOL

    I do want the sour-smelling breeze and the lack of plant
    life and absence of critters in that area to be connected because it might be
    sufurous ash, dragon breath or pollution from a buried steampunk city down
    below. I do not really know what is down there yet. It would tie in with the
    acrid smell he notices when he gets further down.

    You cannot make a silk purse from a sow’s ear, but I am
    enjoying the transformation of how I look at these written words. Thank you all
    again!

  • Don't feel discouraged when Vyrin inevitably finds problems. He does that with my stuff all the time.  :)

    I love your story, and hope to see more of your work.

  • My involvement in anything usually leads to a general level of discouragement haha! 

    Never doubt that this is a worthy piece of work and we just want to ask and review and repeat until it shines forth your creativity in the best light!
  • Going through this process with you folks is a priviledge - even if I sweat over the process.
    Right now I am agonizing over:

    dark empty space OR dark, empty space
    strange metallic shapes OR strange,metallic shapes

    Thanks, guys!
  • I think you use a comma with both...

    Here's the reason.  When you have multiple adjectives modifying the same noun you use a comma if they are coordinate.  How do you tell if they are coordinate?  It has to pass two tests... 1) you can switch the order and it still sounds right, 2) you can insert and AND between the two and it still sounds right. 

    Your phrases there both pass as coordinate adjectives, hence yes on the commas.
  • Thank you, Vyrin.

    I added both commas and read it through one more time.

    So, shall I take the plunge and post it ? I just looked at the other stories/poems on
    https://www.shroudoftheavatar.com/forum/index.php?threads/the-sota-community-first-series-submission-thread.29891/

    It is not as adventurous or exciting as other works, but it is the only one giving a view of living in an underground biome, which is a valid marker of these times in SotA.

    If I counted correctly it would be the thirteenth entry. :)

  • Yes!  I'm ready to post mine too - it's on here if you want to read it.
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