Hello! Thank you in advance for reading this. It would be the first scene in a very long book/series of books, and am looking for any feedback! I would especially appreciate answers to any of the following questions:
Am I setting the right tone? Does it evoke any feelings of anxiety (is it a butt-clenching scene)?
Does this make you want to keep reading the story? Are you interested at all? Or is this a little "meh"?Any feedback at all related to style and tempo would also be appreciated, as those are by far my biggest weaknesses.
She thought back to the campfire in the clearing. She had been so careful. She had only gathered the driest firewood. She had not spoken a word aloud; she had only stepped on moss and patches of soft grass and dirt. She had left the child behind. She had run so far, knowing that the child’s small legs could not have carried it here. She had headed directly into the most ancient parts of this ancient forest, knowing that no other soul had maneuvered through its twisting and mangled roots for years. She had run into the densest section, where oak trees wider than the length of her body were the norm, and where no breeze could penetrate. Where the hot smell of decay filled her nostrils and mouth. Where the canopy blocked out all light, where she was forced to fumble blindly through the trees with one hand outstretched and one foot slowly stabbing out farther forward in a bid to find solid footing through the treacherous and interwoven roots of the massive trees. She had walked like this for hours, growing more confident with each passing minute that the cursed child could not have followed her. That she was finally safe from whatever demons had been hunting the child, and by extension, her.
She thought back to those few blissful hours as her feet pounded heavily on the dry dirt. As her lungs filled sharply and painfully with the cold autumnal air. As she stumbled through the sparsely populated outer edges of this ancient forest. As her heart filled with loathing and hatred for the small child that ran beside her, somehow keeping stride with the much older and taller woman.
They were closing in.
Eir could feel them. She could feel their hatred in the air, their disdain for her life in the howling of the wind. They needed her dead. And so she ran. But she knew she could not keep this up forever.
They had been more than a hundred paces away. Now they were less than twenty. And with their increased proximity came her mounting anxiety. She could feel her skin prickle as their putrid energy washed over her in waves. She could hear her breathing hitch more than necessary, more than her physical exertion required. The deep, ragged breaths she had been taking became more and more shallow as her anxiety overtook her mind. She had only looked back at her pursuers once, to gauge their distance. And she had seen the black stain. Where the stain touched, nothing was visible, nothing seemed to exist. The black was marked throughout with a dark purple, swirling constantly, almost mesmerizingly. Whether the black stain was hiding her pursuers, or whether the stain itself sought to engulf her, she did not know.
Her thoughts turned desperate. And in her desperation, she considered the child running alongside her. Surely the stain did not want her? She was nothing. No one. She had lived through fifty years of her life without attracting the ire of any otherworldly creatures. The stain must want the child. The stain would leave her alone if she gave it the child. All she had to do was reach out, and push the child out. The child would trip, or stumble, or run head first into a tree. And the stunned child would not be able to recover in time. The stain was less than ten paces away. It would swallow the child, and Eir would be able to get away. She would be rid of this terrible burden, a burden that was not of her blood or tribe.
The stain was five paces away. Eir had no choice. She wasn’t a part of this. She had nothing to do with the child. She didn’t see why she had to die too. Her panic turned to certainty, and she started to reach out with one hand. Towards the child. Her fingers fumbled about the collar of the child’s loose shirt. And just as she was about to tug outwards, just as she was about to condemn this young child to what she was sure was a terrible death, the tree directly to her right exploded violently.
A crack had first appeared down the length of the tree. A crack that emitted such dazzling light in the darkness, Eir’s eyes had been immediately drawn to it. And just as her eyes had settled on this beacon of light, the tree could no longer contain the light, and it came bursting forth, splintering the tree in the process. The splinters were small, no larger than the smallest finger on Eir’s hand. But in the second after the explosion, every splinter from that small tree oriented itself, point first, to seemingly stare at Eir. And then they flew forward with the original force of the explosion, every single one embedding itself in her skin, and every single one missing the child right next to her. She had been quick enough to lift her hand off the child’s collar and protect her face. But every square inch of her body below the neck was mutilated by the shards.
Eir cried out and fell to her knees, driving the shards in her shins and feet deeper into the flesh. In her pain she had forgotten her fear, her desperation. But all those thoughts quickly returned, and she whipped around, expecting to see the stain engulf her. But all she saw was forest. The stain was gone. She whimpered quietly, and turned to look at the child. The child stood only two feet away, barely three feet tall. The child’s dark green eyes were filled with an intelligence that frightened Eir down to her core. The child knew what Eir had considered. What she had been so close to executing. Eir opened her mouth defiantly to try to explain, to try to justify her actions. But her defiance gave way to shame, and instead she wept openly into her mangled hands.