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First Page: Working Title: Healer and Protector

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Calia lifted a wide leather belt from the drawer and traced her hand over the intricately carved patterns.  Four months had passed since the death of her bondmate, and she was still only slowly packing his things into baskets to be stored in the cellar.  She stared at his ceremonial belt and tried to picture him standing tall beside her, rather than seeing his body lying a hundred feet below the mountain pass where the search party, including her, had found him.  They had been too late.  She was a powerful Healer, but not even she could heal the dead.

A soft knock and the voice of her Protector interrupted her memories.  “Calia, you are needed.”

She laid the belt aside with a sigh and opened the front door.  “What is it, Tenal?”

“A messenger has arrived from the Plains.  He asked to speak with you.  A plague has attacked the city.”

Her green eyes widened and brightened as she instinctively touched the power within her.  She took off her apron, and smoothed her long, black hair as she stepped out of the house.  “Take me to him.”

Tenal stayed close by her side as they walked the road toward the center of the village.  “What kind of plague?” she asked.

“I don’t know.  As soon as he asked for you, I came to get you.  The Elder was going to take him to the meeting hall.”

They reached the central lodge, and Calia felt the tingling of Tenal’s shield encircle her.  His suspicion and mistrust of strangers were as much an innate part of him as were his raven hair and ice blue eyes.  As she was born to heal the bodies and minds of the Llyrian race, he was born to augment her abilities and to protect her from harm.

The Elder was standing inside the doorway of the meeting hall, and the visitor was seated at a table, drinking greedily from a glass of water.  He rose to his feet and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand when Tenal and Calia approached him.

“Healer, thank you for agreeing to see me,” the man said.

“Please sit down and finish your drink.  You may call me Calia.”

The stranger sat down and eyed Calia closely, then glanced nervously at Tenal, no doubt intimidated by the Protector’s size at several inches taller and broader than any other male of their race.  Looking back to her, the man introduced himself.  “I’m Bren of the Plains Circle.”

Calia sat down across from Bren, but Tenal continued to stand beside her, ever ready for any threat to her safety.  Calia said, “Tenal tells me you have traveled to our Forest Circle because of a plague in the city.  Your people still do not have a Healer?”

“No,” Bren answered.  “One has not been born to the Plains in almost a century.  I’ve come here at the request of the governor to ask for your help.  We’ve lost almost a hundred people already, and more grow sick every day.  We have physicians, but nothing they’ve done has made any difference.  Men, women, and children are all dying.”

His voice caught on the last word, and he bowed his head.  “Please, we’re overwhelmed.  We don’t know what to do but ask for your help.”

Calia laid a comforting hand over his and detected through her touch that Bren was free of the sickness.  “I will go to the city, but Tenal and I need time to pack supplies and ready for travel.  You can stay here tonight, and we’ll leave tomorrow morning.”

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

10 Comments

  1. SAO
    Mar 15, 2014 @ 04:34:45

    I thought you did a better job than most at weaving world-building in without an info dump.

    On the other hand, you could have made the scene more dramatic.
    1) You had the messenger tell us, rather than having a scene show us the need for C’s services.
    2) There appeared to be no concern that he’d brought the plague with him, although if everyone was dying, it had to be contagious and if he didn’t know what it was, he didn’t know how it was transmitted or the incubation period.
    3) Not much happened. This was a conflict-free intro scene, where you told us what will happen, rather than actually starting your story. We didn’t learn anything about the character of your chars.

    Both of these issues could be solved by starting with C. entering the city and seeing dead bodies/sick people herself. Or just plain old starting somewhere else.

    (Sorry I can’t use C’s name. I just got off a Russian medical site and Kala/Kalle/Kali is means feces. Russian words have many different endings. It’s not a word I come across frequently and I read Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Kalle Blomqvist without making any negative associations).

  2. Kate Sherwood
    Mar 15, 2014 @ 06:03:08

    And once again I mostly agree with SAO. I think this is well-written and completely acceptable as is – if I’d been intrigued by the blurb, I would read on past this first page. Good work.

    But if you’re looking for a Wow! opening, I don’t think you’ve found it. The world building is good, but it’s not exactly a unique world. The action is clear, but it hasn’t happened yet. The drama is there, but it’s removed.

    We don’t have a genre shown for this, so I don’t know if the main conflict is going to be romance or something else… and even after reading this opening I still don’t know.

    I don’t think every story has to start with a bang. But I do wonder if there isn’t a more dramatic place to start this story.

  3. Carol McKenzie
    Mar 15, 2014 @ 08:41:53

    This is interesting, but I agree with SAO and Kate. It’s not quite where your story starts. Her bondmate is dead; that’s an event that’s already happened. Even though she’s still affected, it’s a muffled emotional scene, IMO. Her healing of the plague victims is an event in the future. This scene falls between the two.

    Also, depending on how you handled the next few scenes, we could have her getting ready to travel, then the traveling, then the arriving. While that does move things forward, unless there’s events in those scenes to hook me in, the pace of this story might be a little on the slow side.

    As far as the messenger, you lost me the minute he was allowed into their midst. He’s a potential carrier. If it takes her touch to recognize whether or not he’s infected, then why is he sitting in their meeting hall. Unless her powers as a healer are so great that even if he was infected, she could heal him and everyone else, that part was a little unbelievable.

    I think you have a subtle break in POV: “…then glanced nervously at Tenal, no doubt intimidated by the Protector’s size at several inches taller…”

    “no doubt” leads me to read that as Bren’s POV, not Calia’s. Maybe that’s just me and a really hypercritical sense of POV, but it made me hesitate for just a moment. My mind wants a word such as apparently or possibly, or “looked intimidated”…

    But the world-building is lovely, and as above, it’s not a big info dump sort of opening. It’s smooth and well-written, but not where your story starts.

    It would be interesting to read a blurb and know what type of story this is.

    Thanks, Author, for posting your work. I’ve enjoyed reading it.

  4. CG
    Mar 15, 2014 @ 09:10:05

    In this case, I disagree that you need to start with more action. For me, there’s enough in the world building and news of plague to pull me in and keep me turning the pages.

    I do agree that it’s odd that a potential plague carrier is allowed contact with others and not quarantined.

  5. wikkidsexycool
    Mar 15, 2014 @ 09:26:47

    Hello Author,

    Thanks for having the courage to submit this. Like the other posters, I think this is well written. What I find missing is a distinction between the voices of your characters. They read similar to me, and even the messenger reads as if he’s of their village, when comparing his dialogue to the other characters, Especially with some of the dialogue in short, sentences (a few examples):

    “Calia, you are needed.”
    “What is it, Tenal?”
    “What kind of plague?”
    “I’m Bren of the Plains Circle.”

    I also have to agree with Carol McKenzie regarding Calia’s muffled emotional response, but I thought perhaps your title gives a clue, Healer and Protector. Who will heal the healer? She’s still mourning, and perhaps her protector will be not only her loyal guard, but her new love interest, which could make for an interesting dynamic as she slowly opens her heart to him.

    Can her protector still do his job effectively if his emotions get in the way? I think that’s why I’d read on.

    My only real peeve (and this is a personal issue of mine) is when I read “her green eyes widened” and “smoothed her long black hair” and “his raven hair and ice blue eyes” it pulled me out of the story, because they read a bit cliche. Also the glass of water pulled me out, because it felt like a jarring modern touch even in this fantasy world. Since the question of the messenger being a carrier was already brought up, I’ll just end with I second the suggestion of a short blurb on the premise, and I wish you the best with this.

  6. Author
    Mar 15, 2014 @ 10:41:03

    Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read and comment so far. A little more info that may help: this manuscript is a fantasy erotic romance. I chose to start with this scene because a couple of important events must happen before the Healer Calia and her Protector Tenal reach the city. I will re-evaluate the way I handled this opening scene, though. Over the next couple of pages, there is a conflict scene between Calia and Tenal that advances both the romantic element and more explanation of the Healer’s and Protector’s powers.

    I hadn’t thought of Bren being brought into the village as a problem precisely because of Calia the Healer. Now that you have pointed it out, I can see that the reader doesn’t have enough information at this point to just accept his presence with no concern. I will definitely find a way to address that better.

    In summary, Calia and Tenal are gifted with powers as the Healer and her Protector of the Llyrian race. A peaceful people isolated on an island continent, the Llyrians are driven by an irresistible urge to take a bondmate for life. When Calia is summoned by the Plains Circle to heal a plague, she asks Tenal to become her new mate. Tenal loves her but had given up hope of being with her when she had chosen his best friend six years before. Now, Tenal’s ability to ensure she is not taken and bound against her will lies not in his power to shield her as her Protector, but in his power to claim her as a man of their people.

    As Calia and Tenal ready themselves to enter the city and perform her most powerful Healing yet, a new threat looms as the army of the Llyrians’ ancient enemy is spotted marching toward the Plains. With the island nation’s defense force centered in the plagued city, Calia and Tenal must reach the Plains, heal the people, and get Calia out before the attacks begin. They discover that the illness is not natural, but a poison introduced into the water source by their enemies, the Harn, to weaken the defenses before the army’s arrival. Only her bond with her Protector will give Calia the strength to eradicate the poison by Healing the river itself before their peaceful nation falls to enemy tyranny.

  7. Carol McKenzie
    Mar 15, 2014 @ 12:55:04

    Hi Author,

    Is there any romantic conflict that pulls Tenal and Calia apart, or keeps them apart? I like the world and the story, but I’m not seeing much of the romance in the romance.

  8. Author
    Mar 15, 2014 @ 13:18:24

    @Carol McKenzie: There is conflict between Calia and Tenal in two ways. One is Tenal struggling with balancing his role as her Protector and as her bondmate. Another is that, yes, eventually they are forced to separate along the journey back from the city in order to keep Calia from being taken by the enemy force.

    I hope that gives you enough info without giving too much of the story away. I’ll answer any questions you have, though. :)

  9. hapax
    Mar 16, 2014 @ 13:16:09

    I will be honest.

    I immediately stopped caring the minute Calia’s eyes “brightened” at the news of a plague. Unless you mean her to be a cold, callous sort who cares more about using her power than about the probable suffering of those she hasn’t yet had a chance to heal, I’d think about re-phrasing that.

  10. Author
    Mar 16, 2014 @ 14:14:20

    @hapax: The brightening of her eyes happens when she connects with her powers, meaning the color of her eyes changes and brightens. Perhaps that is not clear enough. Thank you.

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