It’s Feedback Friday again! I’m super excited to share this week’s piece with you. It’s a riot of a good time!
What is Feedback Friday, you say? Thank you for asking, and welcome to the blog, I reply! Every week, we post writing prompts on Wednesdays. Every Friday, we select a submission from the Wednesday prompts and provide feedback!
It’s a great way to get another set of eyes to go over your work and we’re pretty liberal with what counts as related to the prompts. Take the prompt and do some free writing, put together a piece of flash fiction, use it to inspire a scene in your current WIP, just about anything will work. Give it a try! We’re always looking for new voices. Send your piece to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Agrestic: adj; rural or rustic
No Harm or Muss
by Stacey Edgars.
Tollard stepped onto the road, lifting his crossbow and demanding, “Halt!”
The carriage driver ducked his head and urged his horses faster. “Then die,” Tollard muttered, loosing his crossbow.
His bolt struck the driver’s eye. Lodged there, no clean through. The driver fell from his high seat, cloak catching on an iron joint, and dangled above his horses, tangling reins and limbs. The bolt clunked against the wood. The carriage veered nearly off the road, wheels jumping ruts.
The driver’s body smacked against the rump of the left horse. The beast screeched, spooking the other. Both reared, legs clawing into the glom. One dropped to the road sooner than its companion, pulling the carriage along on a hard left. The other horse tumbled along, running on three legs a few strides before tripping and spilling over.
Tollard howled, spooking the horses. Waving a torch and his arms, howls deepening into growls, he chased them from the left, forcing the running horse farther from the road. The horse plunged into a brush-filled ditched. For a long moment, his head disappeared. Then he began to scream and flounder. Dead leaves and trapped water and reeking ash flew as the horse struggled for footing.
The carriage teetered, and inside, a woman screamed. The injured horse rose on three legs, huffing, its froth adding to the smoke. It struggled a step, towards the road, and fell backwards into the carriage, pushing the contraption into the rut atop the panicked horse.
The horse grunted, kicked once, jouncing a corner of the carriage before succumbing. The carriage sunk into the muck. From inside there was pounding on the wood.
Tollard flung himself over the carriage doorway. Holding back the escape of the carriage occupants.
“Let ‘em out!” Anne yelled. “They can be robbed just as well alive.”
“Damage done to the horses and carriage. They’ll die in these woods anyway.”
“Leave their fate to the forest, then. Don’t put it on your tally.” Leiden scrambled up the carriage, Anne on his tail. He grabbed Tollard, pulled him away from the door and Anne scrambled for the latch.
Tollard slammed his heel onto Anne’s hand. Yelping, Anne lost hold. Slipped along the carriage wall. As she scrambled back, Leiden bear hugged Tollard, pushing with all his weight to bring him down.
The smacking from within the carriage now waterlogged. Anne reached for the door latch, having to worm her hand beneath Tollard and Leiden and seized the handle just as hands seized her ankles. She was pulled from the carriage by Ignacia and Ghisola. Dropped into the muck, and clambered over as they rushed to Tollard.
Ignacia screamed, and Anne knew, as she fought out of the muck, that Ghisola’s silence meant Leiden was being bit. She heaved herself, shaking and coughing after either of them, and her wet weight pushed the carriage deeper into the muck.
Everyone fell, sliding or smashing through the carriage walls. “Fool cow,” Ignacia sprang after Anne. Water and ash and blood made the wood slick. Ignacia slipped, slid backwards into Leiden, Tollard and the biting Ghisola.
She drew a needle dagger, and crawled towards Anne. “We’ll kill you too.”
This is so much intense fun! It was great to read some action. It pulled me in and I really wanted to know what happened next. I think the scene is paced well overall, but some editing could make it run more smoothly.
There are a few instances where I wasn’t sure what was going on with the horses and had to go back, to see where they were. It might just be me, but it took several reads to realize that the horse that “hit the road” first, hit the road with its hooves, not its body. Thinking there was one running horse and one down, tangled within the reigns and the body of the driver, made some of the action not read as cleanly as it otherwise would.
I’m not sure if this is an excerpt from an existing work, but as it stands, there are a LOT of people thrown at us in a very short period of time. I count seven characters within this piece. Most of which arrive in the final third.
I would like to know more about Tollard’s intentions from the beginning. At least a hint as to what he’s doing or why. Is this his usual robbery spot? Is this a contract? I would assume it’s much harder to loot a carriage that’s buried in a bog, yet it seems like he worked hard to get them in there. Does he usually kill people? Does he usually work with Anne and the rest? Has this conflict come up before? He doesn’t seem surprised that they all arrive, but he also seems to have no feelings or thoughts about anything that’s going on.
Perhaps it’s a perspective choice, I’ve not read a lot of stories where the POV shifts from one person to another in a single scene, but we definitely slip from Tollard over to Anne at the end here. If it’s intentional, make it more obvious.
This is excellent work. The language is compelling and engaging. There’s enough specificity to give the reader an immersive sense of space. The action is so well done that I am very concerned for the plight of the horses! You have a lot of interesting things happening here.
I want to know more about Tollard and his band of thieves! If this is a part of a larger story, please let me see it when it’s done. Keep up the great work!