Excerpt – encountering a new people

So, this is an excerpt of about 1000 words set near the mid-point of the novel. Remember those creatures from the last excerpt I posted? Well, this passage is told from their point of view, on their own world.

These particular characters are outlaws, looking for a camp of other outlaws who they hope will help them. The point-of-view character is a slave named Scint who feels the presence of magic or otherworldly power as a heating and/or knotting in his gut. Scint’s master is Misha. Their other companion is Thrasgild, a magician (or “Gantra”). Haumai are golem-like creatures. I think the rest is fairly self-explanatory. After the passage, I’ll have a few specific questions.

When they finally dipped into a shallow valley among the foothills, they emerged into a camp in the midst of a hasty strike. Tents lay half-dismantled and hauma-carts were being filled with various kinds of cargo. Disposables were being tossed into firepits. A few haumai shaped like people assisted the workers, just as he’d seen at the guild encampment. But not nearly enough to explain the feelings in his gut.

Thrasgild led them right into the midst of the activity, to one of the few tents that still stood erect. Along the way, a few of the workers stood and waved or called to her in acknowledgment. She always replied in kind, but never slowed her pace, and Scint found himself huffing as he tried to keep up with her. A broad-shouldered woman wearing a leather vest and a sword on a belt stood at the entrance of the tent. A bandage bound a wound on her lower arm, and she carried a long, narrow tube of metal with a mechanism at one end, and a wooden club at the base of the mechanism. It looked like neither tool nor weapon, and he wondered what Misha would make of it. As they approached, she glanced at Scint and Misha, then looked to Thrasgild. Thrasgild said, “They’re with me,” and the guard nodded, then held the tent-flap open for them.

As soon as he stepped inside, that something-else grabbed at his gut and pulled. He looked around for the source of that power. It was a large tent, with a table in the center and room for a dozen people to gather around it. Only a few people actually were leaning at the table: two men and a woman, all without sashes or ribbons, but each crowned with enough braids to establish their authority. No haumai. Nothing else that looked like it could contain the kind of power he felt. A small pile of bags and satchels on one side, an open wooden chest full of scrolls, a small brazier with a tea kettle on it…

And in the far corner, a pair of creatures whose like he’d never seen before.

They were shaped like people, with arms and legs, and neatly braided hair on their heads. But their bodies were covered with cloth jackets like those used for venturing out in winter storms, and their legs were wrapped in sleeves of the same material. They had leather boots on their feet. And their hands and faces, which was all that remained uncovered by their clothes, showed no signs of hair.

They were smallish. One was about the size of a child on the cusp of adolescence, and the other looked like a stunted toddler. Their features all were so exaggerated, they looked like a parody of normal people: hair too bright an orange, eyes and noses too large, mouths bright pink in contrast to their pallid, spotted skin, ears too small and smashed against the sides of their heads, palms too large and fingers too stumpy for proper hands. The larger one, judging from the shape of the hips, was female; but she had some kind of growth on her chest that pushed her tunic out of shape. The smaller one looked malnourished: its clothes hung loosely off its limbs, and it had no belly to speak of.

A mother and child. Clearly people, clearly intelligent, but not from any nation he’d seen. Or heard of. They reminded him of the hairless magical imps that inhabited children’s stories. But these had no tails or wings.

And yet.

They were clearly the source of the power he’d felt.

He stared at them, though they both ignored him, apparently preoccupied with selecting scrolls to go into a small chest of their own. The larger one unrolled each one for the smaller one to read, and they whispered to one another. One she set aside. Another she slipped into the chest. Just a mother and child, packing for a journey.

Misha jerked his arm hair. “Scint!”

He blinked. Thrasgild and the others all were staring at him, and Misha’s face was flushed. “Sorry, sincha. I was distracted.”

Thrasgild glanced over at the pair of imps, then back to Scint and Misha. “It’s all right. But we should hurry. The merchant who discovered you is likely connected to these two aspirants.” She looked Scint in the eye. “I need to know if you’ll hold us back, if those—” she glanced down at his hands— “will be a problem. Can you make it through rough country.”

Misha nodded, but Scint’s gaze drifted back to the imps in the corner, discussing a final scroll to fit into the box. The child clung to two scrolls, his voice almost loud enough to carry across the tent. But the mother pointed to the already-tightly-packed chest, keeping her voice low and soothing.

“Sinchi?”

Thrasgild took a step closer to them. “Scint?”

“With permission, sinchi, who are they?”

Misha followed his look, and his eyes widened. Maybe he hadn’t noticed the imps before now.

Thrasgild smiled with half her mouth. “For now, all you need know is that they are Gantra.”

“Will they be coming with us?” He could not take his eyes off them, especially off the child. He almost forgot to add her honorific, “Sinchi?”

“Yes. Let’s say that they are as much refugees from the Conveneum as you two are. So you’ll flee together.”

Misha gawked at them. “Are they… imps?”

Thrasgild chuckled. “They would not take it kindly if you called them that. I suggest you avoid them, for the present.”

Now that he had seen them, they captured Misha’s full attention, but it looked like the same kind of attention he gave to the exotic plants or animals they had seen in their travels. To him, they were simply something new. But to Scint, they called to him. The feeling in his gut—so similar to the burn of the dynati, but also so different: stronger, but less sharp, less a heat than a warmth, less a twisting than an opening, a making of great space within him, and a desire to fill it.

“Sinchi,” he asked, without taking his eyes off the child, “what do they call themselves?”

“They have many words for themselves, but they usually use a word that means, in their language, dirt people. They pronounce it, human.”

So, keeping in mind the guidelines, here are my questions:

  1. Generally, were the descriptions, action, and dialogue clear? Were there parts that confused you or left you wondering what was going on?
  2. At what point did you realize that Scint was looking at humans? What details helped you? Were any of the descriptions too obvious or forced?
  3. What did Scint’s experience of the humans tell you about Scint and the kind of creature he is?

Thanks for your help!

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