An Introduction, basically
So, I've been reinterested in one of my older stories, and I decided to rewrite the introduction/first chapter. (In the original document, it's not titled, because I was freewriting at the point I wrote it, but the scene after starts Chapter One, so...)
Anyway, I shortened it way down from the original version, but it's also not my usual writing style, so I was wondering, 1) if it's cohesive? and 2) how descriptive you feel it is? Both in terms of the environment/people and the world. In the original version, there's an info dump every other paragraph which gives a lot of detail on the world and characters, but makes the piece confusing, so I decided to make things more subtle and hopefully less/not confusing?
Anyway, I know you don't have anything to compare it to, but I was just looking for some general opinions if you have time :)
Smoke hazed The Timid Lion Inn, a tavern filled with the sounds of drunken patrons and a poorly trained bard. The smell was strange to the nose of one unaccustomed to Wakegloom’s true nightlife: smells of fresh cut grass, smells of something burning, smells of sweat. Most of the scents came from the odd drinks rather than the comparatively mundane food. Crumbs and droplets from spilled drinks covered the tables and floors.
Behind the bar stood the master drink maker Falcon, who was missing a finger on his right hand and his left ear. No one knew what happened-- outside of the sarcastic or cynical remark here or there, he didn’t speak much-- but the appendages were clearly cut off by men, not monsters.
A woman approached his bar. She had wavy, strawberry-blonde hair and fair skin.
Her dress was fashionable: baby-blue, it accentuated her hips and waist; her shoulders were bare and her chest barely covered, so that everyone could see the tattoo revealing her married status. She wore black boots, tall enough to avoid the muck of the streets, and matching earrings. A small, oval shaped orange gem hung on her neck. Tied on the green sash around her waist, a grey mask with pluming green feathers.
“Hello, Falcon,” she said, leaning on the counter. “Could you help a girl out?”
“I’ve no time for your games, Ceamath.”
Ceamath huffed, standing straight. She lifted up her purse, grabbing a few coin. “I need an Amethyst.”
“That’s more like it.” Falcon accepted her payment-- generous tip included-- and set about making her drink.
Ceamath glanced over her shoulder. Her date was still speaking to the man who had unceremoniously approached their table and interrupted their flirtation. Oh, well. With the extra time, she could grab the Amethyst, dump some poison in, and slide it over to him. Tonight, he would suffer miserable chest pain, to the point that when he finally died by late morning tomorrow, he would be grateful for the rest.
She opened the small vial of carmaleon poison. A sickly sweet scent wafted up to her nose. Falcon pushed the Amethyst across the counter to her, and she dumped the pale brown liquid in. Her date had never even seen it before; he wouldn’t know that the brown splotches weren’t meant to float around the island of ice cream alongside the red swirls. Falcon watched her a second, then shook his head, muttering under his breath as he walked to the other side of the bar.
Ceamath picked up the perspiring drink and turned to return to her date, nearly colliding with Arial.
Arial merely nodded at the glass. “What drink do you have, there?”
“Ah, an Amethyst. Would you like to try it, love?”
Arial chuckled. “Buy me a drink later and I won’t arrest you, how’s that?”
Ceamath smirked. “I’m certainly not giving you a cut of the profits.”
Arial nodded. “Fair enough. I’ll tell Falcon to put it on your tab.”
Ceamath left the other woman, and Arial sat at the bar. Coming straight from the city jails, she still wore the flexible green dress of the city guard. Her springy, dark red curls were pulled out of her brown eyes by a green band. She was short and stocky, and her lip twitched incessantly. Before Falcon could approach her and ask for her drink, a man collapsed onto the stool at her side.
William was tall, and his skin an ashen color. He wore modest clothes, wearing a long jacket in a weak attempt to hide the dagger on his left hip. On the backs of his hands and the insides of his wrists, the swirling tattoo that told how he followed the Goddess of Luck, Adaer. The important part consisted of a bird flying from a sliver of moon. Surrounding it, charms to invoke luck and safety from evil.
Arial couldn’t help but roll her eyes, glancing sidelong at the man who always managed to talk her out of cutting a hand-- or hands-- off of. “I would’ve thought that you’d be enjoying the masquerade.”
“Ah, well,” he said, leaning on the bar to look at her. “I was rather hoping to catch you here instead. See, I was thinking--”
“Thinking?” Arial widened her eyes, putting her hand against her mouth. “Skies above, you can do such a thing?”
“Haha,” William said flatly. “Anyhow, every hard working guard like you deserves Maim’s days off. Tomorrow, how about I work the wall for you?”
Arial raised an eyebrow. “How do you know I’m working the wall?”
William shrugged. “You hate the jails.”
She looked hard at him, but he didn’t flinch. At last, she said, “You’re right, I do. Alright, Mr. Adaer. You want so badly to skip out on Maim’s day, I’ll give you a week of protection.”
“Two. Two weeks.”
Arial shook her head. “You’ll get ten days of protection.”
“Deal.” William extended his hand, spindly fingers splayed.
Arial grabbed it firmly and shook.
Falcon interrupted: “I assume you want a Grass-Cut, Liam?”
William sprung up. “Naturally, love.”
A cold arm wrapped around the shoulders of William and Arial. Making eye contact with each of them first, she said with sarcastic undertones, “Look who’s here, it’s my two favorite people in the world!”
“So,” Arial said, “who are you trying to kill?”
Ceamath shrugged her pale shoulders lightly, then shifted so she only had an arm around Arial. “Ask Will here, darling. I hired him to put blood on his pretty dagger.”
In a loud whisper, she continued, “The two benefits, are that he’s the one arrested for murder, and I can make him pay me to keep silent about it.”
Arial raised an eyebrow at her. “Is this so?”
William raised the glass given to him by Falcon. “If you need a death warrant, love, all you need to do is ask. I’m free for the whole next week.”
“Why, perfect! I do have another job; I’ll tell you in an hour when my darling has gone to bed so we don’t have to split the check.”
“Oh, love, that’s much too late for me.” William took a gulp of his drink. It smelled distinctly like freshly cut grass, for which it earned its name, but tasted a bit like hot cocoa spiked with strong liquor. Unfortunately, there were risks associated with the yellowish-orange drink. If one had too much, or if one’s constitution was too weak, then they might, temporarily, lose their sense of taste.
“You’re still buying me a drink, Ceamath,” Arial announced, lifting a finger so Falcon knew she was ready to order when he was.
Ceamath nodded. “I suppose a deal is a deal.”
A woman beside William, with a foreign accent, captured Falcon’s attention first. “I’ll have an Amber Champagne, sir.”
The trio turned to face her in surprise. The pricy Amber Champagne was hardly champagne, or anything worth drinking: it smelled like curdled milk. Having aged for at least three years to reach ripeness, it was indeed bubbly, but it had a sourish flavor. A stick of cinnamon was stuck into the side for some freshness. But the drink-- the drink smelled like curdled milk. Few were strong enough to withstand the smell and take an actual swallow of the drink.
The young lady, in her late teens or early twenties, was very much foreign. She had a small nose, thin lips, olive skin, and black hair resting atop her head. Her billowy dress was broken into two distinct sections: the red top, which left her arms bare but her chest, shoulders, and back covered, and the violet skirt, separated from the top by a sash. The only thing tied to her sash was a purse; she had no mask.
Falcon gave her the foul smelling drink. Her eyebrows shot up and her nose wrinkled. She turned to William. “Not very pleasant to smell, is it?”
“I’ve never had it,” he said, as though he couldn’t smell it where he sat. “I’m not one for cinnamon.”
The door opened and he craned his neck to try and spot who had entered.
The woman took a nervous sip of the drink, then a longer sip.
William lowered his head. “Well, love? Does it taste well?” He took a drink of the Grass-Cut.
“My name is F’lile,” she said harshly. “And yes. It reminds me of drinks in the South.”
Arial laughed. Discreetly, to Ceamath, she said, “That means it’s utterly disgusting.” She shook her head. Louder, to F’lile, she said, “Where are you from, a name like that?”
“A small country off the coast of Puclad,” she said. As though to insure tensions didn’t escalate, she emphasized herself: “Again, country.” She stirred the stick of cinnamon around her cup. “The countryside around Wakegloom reminds me of the island, but it’s not quite as beautiful, I don’t think.”
William chuckled, shaking his drink in his hand so it stirred gently. “I think you might be influenced by personal bias, love.”
“I told you, my name is F’lile,” she snapped, then paused. That was an unusual ring he had on his finger. The next thing she noticed was the tattoos of Adaer. “Or is this how Adaer would act to strangers?”
William shrugged, chugging the rest of his drink. “I wouldn’t know. I never got a good enough review to meet her.”
“You keep playing right into Falthif’s rules and he twists your quest so it looks worthless,” Ceamath explained. “If you tried harder, you might meet your warrior woman.”
William glanced at the door. He shrugged again. “Perhaps.” He faced Arial and said, “I ought to be leaving now. What time is your shift tomorrow, love?”
“Dawn to dusk,” Arial said, sipping her drink. “You get to miss all the partying and drinking.”
“Perfect.” He got to his feet and ran a hand through his hair. “Make sure my love is here tomorrow, Ceamath, dear.”
She bit her thumb at him.
He laughed, turning on his heel and walking to the door.
Ceamath sat in his warm seat. “He took your shift and only got a week?”
“Ten days,” Arial corrected, her voice rising to be heard over the drinking song that someone had started.
Ceamath handed Arial a few coins to buy herself a drink and stood up again. She started untying her mask, looking at F’lile. “I tell you, dawn to dusk, he won’t be here tomorrow, but the day after that, I bet he’ll be here. Be sure to have a list of what he took.” She laughed heartily, putting the mask on her face and making her way to the exit. She opened the door and breathed in the smell of rain. Despite the weather, paraders had already taken to the streets.
F’lile looked at Arial, who had pocketed the change. “What does she mean?”
Arial got to her feet. “Oh, nothing much. Only that you sat next to our resident pickpocket in reform.”
Your dialogue really makes me happy, I'll have you know. It's just so fluid. It's refreshing. ^.^
As for what you want to know... In my opinion, it is perfectly cohesive and it's descriptive enough. You are much more descriptive of the people than the environment and that's perfectly fine by me. You know that saying 'you've seen one you've seen them all'? It is my firm belief that it should apply to places such as Inns unless there is something particularly special about them. I don't personally need to be walked through the details of the environment if it's something I can form a mental image of on my own, I'd much rather keep my focus on the characters and what they're saying/doing.
Also, that drink should not exist and why is that a thing that exists? It sounds disgusting as hell. :/
I'm always hyper-aware of my dialogue because I feel like all the characters always have the same voices (even though you're not supposed to worry about that until editing, or so I've heard), so your comment has made my day! ^_^
XD I guess the southerners like to drink it? In the original version, it didn't really have a flavor description, and I was like, "Nope, not working for me" so I threw a random flavor on it. But my favorite part of this tavern is that none of the drinks make sense, so it remains. (Also, Falcon still gets paid whether it's disgusting as hell or not, since nobody knows until they order it.)
I think it's just plain cruel that Amber Champagne sounds so delicious and it tasted like... ugh... It's evil and I love it. :P
That'd also be a great stripper name, but I digress.
@blackbird It's at this point I know I need more sleep in my life because somehow your entire post was hilarious and cracked me up.
Double amusement points because that description of the Amber Champagne is a couple of the characters that are introduced positively and end up either being with the designated Bad Guys or in some other way turn out to be morally questionable (if they're only around briefly.)