Originally Posted by svalbard
A short action piece from the second book in my WIP. It is pretty raw and I would appreciate suggestions for it.
“Give me a good reason why I should not kill you?” The question was spoken without any emotion in the voice. It was that lack which frightened Greb Jordan. He stood in the center of the tavern drenched from the storm and had being been in the process of removing his cloak when the hooded man at the tavern’s counter spoke. Jordan knew that voice. He had heard it bawl out commands on the battlefield many times in the past. Ragnar ‘Toothless’ stepped away from the counter, pushing his hood back. Dark eyes bore into those of Jordan’s. Nitpicking, but actually it's a statement, not a question... And 'spoken with out any emotion' is enough without saying it's in the voice. Where else would it be? As it's an action piece, and you want bring out the tension, the fear, the fight, maybe consider dropping some of the other bits that could detract from it?
“Give me a good reason why I should not kill you”
Jordan knew that voice. He had heard it bawl out commands on the battlefield many times in the past. Ragnar ‘Toothless’ stepped away from the counter, pushing his hood back.
This way, the opening sentence tells us everything we need to know. It's a great opener and we'll all have a visceral reaction to the threat in it without having to hear about the lack of emotion etc. And Greb/Jordan taking his cloak off adds nothing IMHO.
“My Lord?” asked one of Jordan’s men. Greb looked about at the empty tavern. Ragnar was alone and he had ten men with him. He should have known that Ranald would send an assassin after him. The Earl did not lack courage, but he would be damned if he died in a duel with a Weapons-Master. Backing away from Ragnar he indicated for his men to step forward. Swords were drawn and Greb saw a flicker of a smile on Ragnar’s face. At that moment Greb felt his bowels loosen and the heady aroma of **** filled the tavern. Ragnar sniffed at the air and laughed.
See what I mean about Jordan/Greb? And I wasn't sure who the Earl was - I fully accept we'd know this from previous chapters, and I'm only going on what you've posted, but that's the third descriptive tag you've hung on him I'm not sure you need Jordan to look around - we all know he'd have done that the moment he entered, it's the most natural thing to do. And telling us the Earl did not lack courage is almost repetitious in the second part of the sentence. And I'm sorry, but beer and wine and cooking meat have heady aromas, poo has a foul smell. Aroma doesn't fit... Does he poo his pants from fear, or is he ill? I'd expect some shame if it was fear, when he's just ordered his men forward. Whatif:
“My Lord?” asked one of Jordan’s men. Ragnar was alone and he had ten men with him. He should have known that Ranald would send an assassin. He would be damned if he died in a duel with a Weapons-Master. Backing away he indicated for his men to step forward. Swords were drawn and Jordan saw a flicker of a smile on Ragnar’s face. Jordan was mortified to feel his bowels loosen and the foul smell of **** filled the tavern. Ragnar sniffed at the air and laughed.
I've cut a few more words, and I'm concerned that a man who has filled his pants would leap onto a horse , but it's life-or-death, I suppose.
“So many…” the Weapons-Master said, producing two long daggers from the folds of his cloak. “I much prefer these in confined spaces.”
Jordan was sweating now, the cold and wet of the night forgotten.That's much better than him removing the wet cloak earlier. A thought crept into his head, a brief regret for his betrayal of Prince Thrand. “Kill him!” the Earl suddenly you don't need 'suddenly' shouted. He had a glimpse of his men rushing forward and Ragnar falling into a fighting crouch, before he turned and fled.who turned and fled? Because he's now portrayed as a coward, it should be Jordan, but the last person you mentioned in the sentence was Ragnar... The wind screamed into his face as he burst out into the muddy courtyard. Turning left Delete turning left he bolted for the stables, a mere ten yards away. The doors were open and he found the two men he had left to care for the mounts. This is quite wordy, and 'a mere ten yards away' is almost conversational. Why not leave out the words that aren't action-like? So it would just be: The wind screamed into his face as he burst out into the muddy courtyard, and bolted for the stables.
We'll know there are horses and men, that's what we'd expect, and his roar confirms it.
“Saddle my horse, any horse!” he roared at the two men, the fear rising up to be replaced with hysteria.I think stop after 'roared at the two men'. He's crapped himself, left his men to deal with the weapon-master, I don't think fear rising up to be replaced with hysteria is necessary - it's actually telling, when his actions are showing so much better.
Mutely one of the men pointed to a horse that was still saddled. Jordan rushed for it.
“What the …” the other soldier said and Greb heard swords being drawn. He reached the horse and placed his hand on its back, ready to vault into the saddle. Screams echoed behind him and suddenly he was falling back from the horse. Searing pain engulfed him as he fell to the ground and the last thing he saw was the smiling face of Ragnar ‘Toothless’ leering down at him
Erm, are all the men on alert, or did they just arrive at the tavern to stay? Their commander's rushed out, they'd see his fear, smelling of poo and the soldiers reaction is 'what the..' I think it might be more realistic (unless they're used to his continual cowardice) if there's not just a startled exclamation of 'My lord!' then back into the action. I know you want to show us he's just reached the horse and the super-assassin is cutting through his men like butter, but him placing his hand on his back, ready to vault into the saddle sounds like he's stopped all movement. Summat like:
"My Lord!" Jordan heard swords being drawn. Screams echoed and he tried to vault onto the horse's back. Searing pain engulfed him as he fell to the ground and the last thing he saw was the smiling face of Ragnar ‘Toothless’ leering down at him