robochelle (robochelle) wrote in critiquthecrits,
robochelle
robochelle
critiquthecrits

Fantasy Chapter to Critique

Name: Étaín
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: PG13
Title: Croth Rebellion - The Beginning

What elements I want the critiques to focus upon: first impressions and second impressions, unanswered questions, "Wouldn't it be cool if"s, and anything else you spot that is in your comfort-zone to comment on.

Teaser: Ethan Croth is a stereotype farmer-turned-hero, fighting a stereotypical sadistic lord, but he is also fighting the weather and doesn't know who his allies are or how they're manipulating him.  This is part of chapter one, I have a bit more of the story written and you can find the links here

Ethan looked up from his examination of the flax crop, "Father will be happy." He smiled broadly at the hot sun, "with drought withering the plants of our neighbours and us harvesting early, we will wipe the leering face right off that tax collector and have enough left over to buy supplies for the winter." It was a habit he enjoyed, talking to himself during his chores, it made him feel like he wasn't alone. He lifted his foot to look at the leather sole of his threadbare boots, the heel was completely worn away and the toe had burst. "A good thing, too, I won't last another winter without warmer clothes. I was lucky enough to make it through last year." The thought of new garments put a bounce in his step for the rest of his tasks, this combined with his own stimulating conversation made the day disappear quickly.

"Ethan," the distant voice of his father broke his rhythm tying sheaves that would provide dual income -through both the seeds and the fibrous stalks. He started gathering his tools to head for supper, "Leave it, there's a storm approaching." Ethan bit his lip, the flax he had harvested was half way to a pair of new shoes and he was loath to give it to the wind a storm would naturally produce. Greg was always thinking to the immediate safety of the family, never looking ahead to our financial future. Father can be angry with me, he decided, I'm taking it anyway. I am 17 summers and the oldest son, even if I don't look it. I have as much duty to the family as he, and I don't need his 'protection'.  Before his thought was finished, he had already scooped up as many sheaves as he could carry. Thunder rolled ominously over the clear-cut forest that bordered the family field. He looked to the forest's edge for an estimate of when the storm would be here and swore he saw a dark man silhouetted in the shadows of the trees. "Hail, stranger, there is a storm closing in. Come with me, our house is the closest refuge." When he looked again, it was gone. "Oh well, I must be seeing things. Better hurry before Father turns around to drag me home by the collar," Ethan jogged after his father's retreating form.

The wind had been absent in the unnatural heat of the autumn day, on his way home it had picked up to a fury's pace. Ahead of him, his father opened the door to their farmhouse. Greg Croth was from a long line of hardy human farmers and was certainly not a frail figure, regardless of this; Ethan’s father was flung into the wall of the small cottage when the wind swept the door the rest of the way open. That same gust tore at Ethan's precious flax, forcing him to veer from his path.
"Let it go, Ethan! It's not worth it." His father's voice drowned in the wind. Ethan set his feet and refused to let it tear the prize from his grasp.


Lightning lit the darkening sky back to daylight for an instant and Ethan kept a silent count. He barely started when the boom of thunder shook his head. There were two more successive flashes and booms, with no perceptible difference in time between them. It must be almost on top of us, it is moving far too quickly! Air beat upon him with Tellen's wrath, trying to push him over or pry the flax from his unyielding grip. When he finally stumbled through the door and dropped the sheaves his fingers refused to straighten fully, his hand cramped from the clutching. The door closed behind him and he flexed his aching hand to work out the cramp. His father's fist hit him squarely in the back, the sheaves of flax scattering when he stumbled over them to keep his feet.
"Greg!" His mother's warning sounded at the same moment. As a grey elf, Ethelain could sense the intentions of others. This had gotten Ethan in trouble more than once, often before the scheme had even begun. She was, however, always a step too late in interpreting her husband's actions and Ethan thought he could sense that she waited on purpose. Frustratingly, when it came to the useful elven talent of sensing intentions, he had no empathic ability to speak of. He had inherited only the slow physical development and angular -almost feminine- features from his mother. His two brothers and four sisters, who looked almost human and aged faster than he, had the benefit of minor empathic abilities. It was frustrating to watch his siblings show interest in the opposite sex, and because of their empathic edge, successfully attract the desired attention. Greg had no troubles considering them as equals.


"Fool boy," his father ranted, "You don't risk your life for a handful of crop!" Ethan's partly tilted eyes narrowed and he got to his feet. I will show you I am not a boy...
"Ethan," his mother scolded, exasperated.
"If you stood up to the tax man, I wouldn't have to!" This time, Ethan expected the punch and delivered his own with faster reflexes and a younger body.
"Mommy," young Jenna, only five summers old, asked in a loud singsong voice, "Why does the forest glow when it's orange?" She had been the only one looking out the cabin's solitary window and when Ethelain looked where the girl pointed, she paled.


"Forest fire! Grab the children and run!" She scooped Jenna and her twin sister, Alaina, in each arm and rushed to the door. The other family members followed, abandoning everything but family and the clothes on their backs. Ethan stubbornly crouched down and swept as many sheaves of flax into a pile as he could. Before he could pick them up, however, his father grabbed him by the cuff of his neck and hauled him outside. He glanced at the forest and saw the orange light grow brighter and brighter, the fire almost to the edge of the forest.
"The flax," Ethan protested. There must be enough time to fetch it! It will be all we have to pay the land-tithe. It will be all but impossible to pay the rent and trade taxes as it is.
"Your LIFE!" his father's tone demanded Ethan to follow or continue to be dragged. The Croth family rushed away as fast as they could, older children carrying the younger to increase the pace. The fire overtook them still, sliding up each side of the gravel road. Ethan looked back once he realized they would not outrun the fire, just in time to see the shell of his house collapse. As soon as the last timber hit the ground rain rushed from the clouds in a downpour, soaking them all to the bone and immediately dousing the grassfire surrounding them. Ethan instinctively knew that a sentient source had controlled the storm specifically for that purpose.


"Curse Siberlee!" Ethan shouted through the dense rainwater, with the heat lingering on his clothes steaming the water that landed on him. "That fire destroyed everything we have and now the rain falls, minutes too late!" The rain seemed to freeze mid-air with his words and hail the size of little Jenna's fist fell on the vulnerable skin of the beleaguered family. Greg moved to shelter the youngest children with his own body, shouting over the noise,
"Do not speak ill of her! Look what you've done," he finished speaking just in time for a particularly large piece to split open Ethan's forehead. The world spun and more hail -the largest he had ever seen- sent him to the Land of Dreams.

***

Ethan woke to the sound of his mother crying. He was in the state between sleep and wakefulness where the mind was alert and the body oblivious. Whatever field he lay in, it was not his own; he had seen his burn and the grassland he felt underneath him was alive and no longer parched; soft and wet from the rain still drizzling on his battered face. No storm could soften parched earth on its own, the water would drain away before enough was absorbed. It took a day or more of steady rain for the type of soil he felt beneath him. Where am I, how long have I been out?


Greg was shouting a fair distance away, the anger so intense his words were unclear. In contrast the Overlord and owner of the Croth farmland, Lord Vaarsak, spoke his words crystal clear, the meaning of them not lost on Ethan.
"...with the crop in ashes and the house unusable, there is no other way for you to pay." Greg let out a howl of savage rage, guards' shouts to restrain him adding to the mix. He must have tried to attack the Overlord. No amount of money could be unreasonable enough for my meek father to try that!   Despite the thought that it was uncharacteristic and reckless, Ethan felt proud of his father's newfound courage.


Booted footsteps vibrated the ground, his head screaming in response. His mother pressed her body over his,
"He's terribly hurt. Please, wait for him to wake." He felt the slap against his mother's face, her entire body collapsing atop him.
"Slaves have no right to speak to their keepers."


Slave; a single word that justified his parents' reactions. Fear and anger filled him as well, crying out against his unresponsive body. Why won't you move? he asked it. The guard tore his mother from him, her hand found his at the last moment and gripped it tightly. He felt himself roll face down from the pull of her hand, his nose filling with mud as he was dragged along the ground.


Another guard pried his hand from hers and flipped him over with the toe of his boot.
"Get up, boy. We haven't got all day, the caravan is leaving soon." Ethan tried his best, even managing to move his arm, but it was not good enough for the guard. The hard metal of an armoured boot struck him in the side and he was unable to curl up in defense. "You're not faking? You really are hurt. Why do I always get the crippled ones?" Strong arms lifted him to his feet and supported his weight, "try to walk, boy, or I'll put you out of your misery right now." He dragged his feet forward at the guard's slowed pace and gradually his body began to work again.


At the caravan, his father watched blank faced as each of his children were taken from their mother to be chained to a wagon. Ethan, now fully recovered, shook his arm free of his guard, and stalked toward where his father was standing.. "You!" he pointed at Greg, "are a disgrace of a father!" The guards behind him were holding a low conversation,
"No let the boy alone,” his guard answered the question of if they should do something about Ethan approaching his father, “it should be fun to watch. Besides, He couldn't run away if he wanted to." Distracted but still minding the soldiers reactions, Ethan kept this guard's lax attitude in mind for later.
"Son," pleaded Greg, "I did all I could-"
"YOU DID NOT!!!" He let the statement sink in to his father's mind, then "I almost had the flax in my grasp, and you pulled me away."
"The flax wouldn't have been enough,"
"Not enough for you!  You didn't care to keep the rest of us free, did you."
"It wouldn't have mattered." Ethan's fist connected with his father's face and Greg held his wrists to fend off further attack. They grappled viciously, thrashing with legs, heads, even teeth. Their struggle became mobile, breaking away from each other and moving back in. The guards gradually gave them more and more room until they were spread too thin. Greg pulled back and fell to his knees,
"Ethan, I am sorry."


Ethan heard it with his back turned, he had seen the vulnerability of the circle and sprinted through it to freedom.
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