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The Stranger - A WIP Novel in need of feedback!


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So, I've had a story idea floating around in my head for years, blah, blah, blah... [insert typical aspiring author's sob story here]

I need help. I've been mulling over this story so long, rewriting this, that and the other, that I no longer can look at a chapter and objectively say, "Yes, this gives enough info that the reader isn't totally lost," or, "No, I need to add more stuff to help the reader out."

How can you help me figure this out? By asking questions and making wild speculations about what may happen next. I try to write so you, as the reader, are left with certain questions at the end of a chapter, and the hope that it may be answered in the next one keeps you reading. But if you're asking questions that I should have answered by that point of the story, then I know I've done something wrong. And if you're so confused you want to quit in frustration, then I've majorly screwed up...

Make sense? I hope so, cause here's the Prologue!

Kore gazed out at the snowy marsh, taking a deep cleansing breath. He was almost glad for the meager allotment of food he received as a cureen, an outcast, for it gave him a reason to hunt. It always felt good to get away from the condemning glares and pitying glances. He shifted his spear to rest more comfortably against his shoulder. Despite the layers of fur he wore to ward off the cold, he could still feel the shaft digging into his muscles.

Pausing a moment longer, Kore gripped the talisman that hung from a cord around his neck and silently thanked Aske, the Lifebringer, for another chance to hunt. Though his pride would never let him admit it, he knew that his hunting days would soon be drawing to an end. Asketa, his wife, even hinted at it this morning while he sharpened his spear.

"Kore, shouldn't you take a rest? The traps can wait until tomorrow."

He looked up to see her worried face mere inches from his. "Stop worrying. I'm fine," he growled, bending over his spear protectively as if he were afraid she would snatch it away.

She turned away with a quiet sigh, and he resumed sharpening the spearhead, trying to ignore the aches that a full night of rest could not get rid of anymore.

Shaking his head to clear away the memory, Kore stepped onto the snow-covered ice, muttering, "There I go daydreaming again! People'll think I'm crazy soon enough..."

The first trap he checked, a snare set across a rabbit track, contained a fat snow-white rabbit. A cursory check of the fur revealed a thicker coat than he had ever seen on an animal so early into winter. "Guess we're in for a long, cold winter," he remarked with a smile, tucking the rabbit into a leather bag.

A long winter meant a dry hut for Asketa and him, for as cureen, they were banished to the very outskirts of the camp, usually on the edge where dry land meets the marsh. They made do with a floor of wooden planks Kore got in the nearby town in exchange for several furs. Through shrewd bargaining, he ended up with enough to also make a floor for the fellow cureen, Cheketian. To this day, he was never quite sure if she realized that the floor hadn't just appeared underneath her one day, but she always stopped by with herbs to season the stews Asketa made. Kore figured it was the only way the mad former medicine-woman could show her gratitude, since she was prouder than a buck with its first set of antlers.

Smiling at the thought of the stubborn woman they called neighbor, he checked the next two traps, which yielded a fox and a muskrat. He put the fox in with the rabbit, but the muskrat he quickly skinned and cleaned before its odor could spoil the meat. The pelt he hung on his belt to air out, and the meat went into a smaller leather bag. Blood could ruin the finest pelt and all the scrubbing in the world would never get it back to its former condition.

He was checking his last trap, a water basket set under some thin ice, when he heard something jump. He turned around to see a doe barreling down on him, eyes rolling in terror. A flash of light by the doe's muzzle caught his eye, then it was upon him. He threw his spear up instinctively, gritting his teeth as the deer fell on top of him.

Clearing the blood from his face, he heaved the deer to the side and inspected its face. Wrapped around its muzzle was a silver chain with a shard of crystal dangling from it. "Musta been what spooked ya," he said, carefully unravelling the chain and placing it in a pocket. "Wonder where it came from."

He slowly got to his feet, grunting as his leg muscles protested. He followed the clear path the doe had made through the frozen grass, and found himself staring at a black-haired girl lying on her side on the snow, facing away from him. "Hey! You ok?" he asked. The girl did not answer. He carefully knelt down, ignoring the pain in his knees, and rolled the girl onto her back. Her eyes were shut, her face pale, her lips blue. He tore off his gloves and grabbed a hand. It was ice cold. "You'd better not be dead," he growled, putting his cheek close to her mouth. He felt the slightest breath of warm air as she breathed out.

He ripped off his beaver coat and threw it over the thin, ripped blue dress she wore. "You're gonna be ok," he said as he lifted her up, cradling her in his arms. "Man, you're light! Asketa will take care of that, though, I'm sure!" he quipped, not caring if she could hear him. "We've just gotta get home, and everything will be alright." He started running towards the camp, not worrying about the game bags or the deer he left behind. He just hoped Cheketian was sane enough to treat the girl in his arms. Without her help, he wasn't sure if the child would last the night.

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