Though the (in)famous Bulwer-Lytton (stolen by Snoopy!) line is cliched, starting on a dark and stormy night does work well sometimes… 🙂 Here’s a YA project that uses that image!
Rain pelted the window. Summer storms were common in the mountains and Vhalla had no fear of the thunder which rattled the glass against her shoulder. She adjusted her apprentice robes around her, situating the book on her knees.
She had finished work early. Rather than going to the Master of Tome and letting him know she could do more Vhalla chose to round out the last few hours by reading on her favorite window seat. No one would be interested in coming to the library in this weather anyways.
Sometimes, it was the kind of quiet that could make your ears ring. The thick masonry and plush carpeting muffled even the closest cracks of lightening. In her favorite perch she could normally see the capital city which spilled out from the palace beyond. Today, it was cast in shadow blurred by the downpour.
Vhalla flipped the page, looking away from the foul weather. The low cry of a horn reverberating through the din of the storm called her attention. It echoed through the city, followed by another, and another. Placing her bookmark between the pages Vhalla turned her attention past the water beaded glass.
Horns could only mean one thing. Vhalla squinted her eyes. The notes were now being sounded on the palace wall. Far below her the Imperial gate was being opened. She shifted onto her knees.
It was a military party. Soldiers home from the front. Her heart began to race. Had they won? Was the war over?
Her breath fogged the glass and Vhalla wiped it away with her sleeve. It was by the intermittent flashes of lightning that she could make out the horsemen. There were only about twenty riders.
Victory rode through the city in full force with sunlit pennons fluttering in the wind. Victory waited until better weather for their parades. Something was wrong. This was a messenger party, a delivery, an escort, a –
Vhalla’s mind went blank.
The haunches of two horses were white from the capes their riders wore. The princes had returned. Torchlight from the palace servants finally gave her enough light to see by.
One prince helped the other from the saddle, gripping slumped shoulders and pulling the body off limply. She couldn’t hear the words that were being shouted over the storm but she could tell by the body language that they were frantic and angry. The man was finally frustrated enough to throw off his helmet.
Golden hair, a large enough build to hoist a man over his shoulder, Prince Baldair carried his elder brother out of Vhalla’s field of vision. Her heartbeat filled her ears. Prince Aldrik was injured. Their crown prince and future emperor was injured. With haste Vhalla was on her feet. Sprinting through large bookcases and dodging rolling ladders toward the main aisle of the library.
First Page Feedback from Mary-Theresa Hussey
There seems to be a hint of Norse mythology in the names Vhalla and Baldair, which is great. The names are unusual, but also accessible to readers which is helpful when creating a world and not wanting to alarm newbies.
Some exciting story elements are given to us–she’s an apprentice, there is magic, the country is at war, a prince is injured. And even the weather and season come in on the first page!
But I’m not too sure that the opening paragraphs are quite as compelling as they could be–or should be. It just feels as though it’s a rather quiet opening for an exciting story–but perhaps that will change as things move along. And did the heroine finish her work, her homework, her assignment early? There are different connotations to her not letting her master know.
Minor point–no “e” in lightning! Once was correct, once was wrong. And usually the thunder has the cracks as the lightning the flash. 🙂
Thanks for sharing this and good luck!