Tuesday, October 22, 2013

1st 5 Pages October Workshop - Awe Rev 2

Chris Awe
MG/ YA historical fiction
Goliath: Deus Ex Machina (Rev. 2)

-Chapter 1-

Well hidden from the guards’ prying eyes, in a place most unlikely, a little boy of very peculiar nature and fashion hunkered in the thick shadow behind a balustrade.

There were whole bunches of little slave boys almost quite like him hustling and bustling through the corridors day in day out and thus he would have been nearly a common sight, if not at this most unreasonable hour and in this perilous place.

Breathing noisily he pressed his back flat against the cold, hard, marble stones.

‘Shuesh.’ gasped he when the night dew soaked through the thin layers of his tattered clothes and added to the sweat already coursing down his back.

Ignoring the unpleasant shudder that crept down his spine he closed his eyes.

‘One ... two ... three.’ Taking another rasping breath he inched himself up the wall and peered over its edge.

‘Blood and guts!’ A broad grin showed on his face.

Beyond the southern wall a blaze was roaring through the mazy alleys of the Jewish quarter, sending up thrashing sheets of flames and sparks, and the silhouettes of the legionaries swarming the battlements loomed dimly against its red glow, radiating into the vastness of the night’s sky.

Thick black gouts of smoke billowed off the Macedonian barracks, paling stars and moon and the charred skeletons of the colossal siege towers outside the gates gave silent witness to the unspeakable violence of the earlier hours that had turned Alexandria into a smouldering heap of rubble and ash. The foul odour of singed wood and flesh clung to the air like a bad memory of the night’s atrocities and the boy almost choked when another gust intensified the stench.

Legionaries rushed to and fro the battlements. Dodging some scattered arrows that still came whistling aimlessly over the wall, the rattling of their armour resounded across the palace square and every now and again a heavy war-drum-beat throbbed and rolled. Far away, in the labyrinthine alleys of the Greek quarter where the Alexandrians had taken cover, there came battle cries and horn-calls, but beneath his feet, geared to one another like a well oiled engine, the Romans had already begun to repair the damaged parts of the fortifications. Watching them placing more ballista and catapults on towers and walls and reinforcing their positions with battering rams and trenches, his face turned into a hateful mask. He had missed the battle. Eli and Festus had succeeded after all.

‘I knew it!’ he muttered crossly to himself. ‘Seth curse them both. Yes, curse them and chop them into pieces. These horse-asses just don’t care,’ he ranted on grinding his teeth. ‘That’s their problem. They don’t care about anything at all.’

All the effort to find this spot for naught. Waiting for the Queen to be taken to a secure place somewhere in the catacombs, pointless. Risking his life dodging the guards and stealthily sliding past Pothinus into her chamber, in vain.

Sulking he glanced around again.

‘If only she wouldn‘t return anytime soon.’ he thought. For if she did, he would be in trouble, and this time real big trouble. Nothing compared to the usual whipping and beating. No, this time it would certainly lead to trouble of the hands cut off, your tongue ripped out and feet burned to charcoal kind.

At this thought panic rose in his throat and he dipped back down to cast a reassuring glance at the balcony door.

Nothing stirred! Just the panicky rattle of his own breath and the silken curtains flapping in the breeze. Bit by bit the thumping in his heart slowed. He fished in his pouch, pulled a handful of dried dates he had sneaked from the kitchen and shoved them into his mouth.

‘Now pull yourself together you coward and calm down!’ he grunted gulping down the sticky lump in whole. ‘You’ll be fine.’ He shook off the little worry that had begun to niggle at the back of his mind, got up and peeped over the balustrade again.

The temple of Isis was to his left. Its wide marble steps, the massive pillars and the magnificent colourful statues never failed to leave him awestruck. Across the vast square, behind the royal garden there loomed the mighty wall, where the ferocious onslaught of the Egyptian troops had been cut to pieces, and to his right there was the Portus Magnus. Like gargantuan sea beast resting after a long voyage the dark shadows of the Rhodian warships rolled gently in the greenish glow of the water.

Left of the harbour’s entrance, the majestic black shadow of the lighthouse, by far the most impressive building in Alexandria and probably in the entire world, rose from the shadowy twilight like a teacherish finger and sent its light across the leaden sea. Braced on top, a colossal golden statue of Poseidon towered, trident in hand, keeping his watchful eye fixed on the horizon.

Further left a long chain of flickering lights marked the Heptastadion. The boy’s gaze followed the great mole that connected the small island to the mainland. He tried to spot his favourite place, the colossal building of the great library, but darkness still veiled this part of the city. Oh, how he missed the library. Before the war, he had stolen away from his duties whenever possible and hurried to this fantastic building, where seemingly endless rows of old scroll awaited him.

When he returned late at night, people always wondered where he had been, but he wouldn’t tell. This was his secret and he was guarding it no matter what. Especially Eli and Festus always tried to squeeze out where he disappeared to, but he had sworn an oath not to tell, and an oath was not to be broken, everybody knew that, right?

The library really was a splendid place. The Ptolemies hadn’t spared any expenses and collected over 600.000 manuscripts from every corner of the civilised world. Made of long-lasting papyrus, they were neatly rolled and meticulously stored in the endless shelves. The boy just loved the dusty old smell and the leathery touch of the ancient parchment, the light crackle when he carefully rolled it out and the mysterious secrets they harboured.

And he loved Aineas. The old man was the Museion’s curator, his mentor and his best, well, to tell the sad truth, his only true friend. Aineas also was appointed keeper of the Archimedean manuscripts and had access to whatever information one desired. Tucked away deep down below the main halls, in the cavernous underground vaults of the Museion, the archive encompassed the most wondrous manuscripts so elaborate and complicated, nobody except for Aineas was able to read, let alone understand them.

Before the war they had often sat together until deep into the night, absorbed in studying the ancient writings. Well, to tell another truth, in the beginning the boy had not been keen on being absorbed in studying so much, who liked studying anyway, but little by little all kinds of questions had popped up inside his head and he had started to ask all kinds of questions. At first the old man had patiently tried to answer each and every one of them, but then, after a few weeks of constant queries, Aineas had grown tired and begun to teach him the secrets of his trade.


  1. Okay. It's beautiful writing and I'm glad you are thinking on the age group. Now I have one last challenge that you may or may not want to take on. I'd like it to be more accessible to younger kids, SO, I want to feel more of the CHARACTER's voice than the authors in the narrative. It's tough especially when yours is so nice, but I really think it will make a big difference if you can slip in more info filtered through his mind. How would he see it or say it? My two cents. But beautiful and much better.

  2. I agree that it's better. One nit picky: "gasped he" should be changed, it's too awkward. Why not just say, he gasped? Nice revision.

  3. This revision is much more focused and I can really see the work you've put into it. I agree with the previous comment in that the one piece of the puzzle that is still missing is the main character's voice. Right now, I get a sense of your voice, rather than his. I would also go through it with a fine-toothed comb in a copy/line edit. Like this line: "'Shuesh.’ gasped he when the night dew..." The typos made it a little distracting so I think fixing those will help it read even smoother.

  4. Thanks a lot all of you. It has been a pleasure profiting from your expertise ;-). Hope my comments were helpful as well. Looking forward to reading your books soon. Chris

  5. Wonderful descriptions!

    The world building is top notch... but for me... somehow the boy gets lost in all of it. It's almost like I come out of it absolutely SWOONING for the setting and time and have no idea *who* the boy is or what he wants. HIS voice doesn't come through for me. And I realize this is the last revision round... but it just struck me.

    Hope that's helpful