Title: The Last Wyvern Good start. I want to know what he saw as well, so I would keep reading.
Short Pitch: To remove a 200-year-old curse, a woman must rise as champion and sacrifice everything to save humanity from forces not even the gods can control.
Link: A.E. Ross, http://www.authonomy.com/books/44286/the-last-wyvern/
“You need to leave the temple. Tonight.” Alasdair’s voice carried across the prayer chamber, the familiar voice laden with determination. Calias sat on her knees, facing the altar ahead of her, eyes closed, breathing in the sickly-sweet incense. “Calias, are you listening to me?”
“What?” She glanced at him, and her face fell. In the glow of candles, his face looked drained. Lines of strain tightened his mouth, the shine in his eyes seemed duller, his dark hair disheveled—as if one sleepless night had added years to his appearance. Panic twisted in her belly. “Alasdair, what’s wrong?”
He kneeled beside her. “Do you trust me?”
She stared at him, speechless. For a few moments, all she could do was reach and clutch his hands. The simple silver wedding band gleamed in the light. “Husband,” Calias searched his face. “I trust you, but—” She grasped the pendant of the black Great Eye that hung around his neck, the metal biting into her palm. “Your dreams…” Shutting her eyes, she murmured a prayer to the Great Mother—Mi’than—keeper of humanity, bringer of dreams. What have you shown him, Great Mother? “What must we do…?”
He wrapped his arms around her, surrounding her with the scents of incense, wood smoke and apples. “You must leave the temple.”
Calias opened her eyes, pulled back to look at him. “Why?”
When he didn’t answer, wouldn’t meet her eyes, true fright settled in, like a weight on her heart. “For your own safety.”
Dread pierced her like a hot knife. “What has the Great Mother shown you?”
“This temple…” Alasdair trailed off, his face tightening in pain. “Oh, Calias…” He clutched her to him. “No woman should know of such horrors.”
“What has she shown you?” When he didn’t reply, she took the pendant from around his neck and stood, rushing down another series of twisting halls. She could hear Alasdair call after her, his sandaled feet slapping the marble floor.
I have to find out what you Saw. If this is the only way… Calias paused in front of a great iron door with a lock in the shape of an eye. Pressing the pendant into the lock, she turned it to the right, hearing hinges creak, ancient wheels turning to unlock the door, that led to the Seeing chamber beyond. She shoved them open and took back the key, to reveal a great chamber, decorated with tapestries, a skylight pouring moonlight onto a pedestal set on a dais. A lit torch hung on one wall and below it, a wide strip of ledge ran along the wall, surrounding the room like a border. The entire length of it, from one side of the doorframe to the other, had been hollowed out to create a thin fissure, which had been filled with oil. She dipped the torch into the oil. The oil caught fire, and flames raced around the stone shelf, leaping up in guttering spurts. In a moment, flames shaped the wall with a border of orange that cast the chamber in brilliant light.
Stepping up to the dais, Calias looked at the pedestal where a bowl of water sat, its surface smooth as glass. Calling up her magic, the fire within her mind blooming like a flower, she placed her hands on either side of the bowl, calling up a thread of power. The water trembled, the fire’s reflection shimmering on the surface. Calias squinted her eyes as the vision took shape, colors mixing into indistinguishable shapes. “What did you See in your visions?”
What follows is strictly pedantic nit picky stuff that I think might help the reader get a little closer to your mc and tighten up this opening.
Part of me thinks you should start with your mc. "Calias sat on her knees, facing the altar ahead of her, eyes closed, breathing in the sickly-sweet incense." That way we are somewhat grounded in her point of view before the dialogue starts.
“You need to leave the temple. Tonight.” I'm wondering why this is split into two sentences. The pause is fine, but something about starting a story with dialogue makes me prefer a single line and no pause. I think it is because I want the dialogue attached to a character a soon as possible.
You could show the pause by describing the tone of first sentence and then returning with the second sentence.
“You need to leave the temple." Alasdair’s voice carried across the prayer chamber. "Tonight," he said, his voice laden with determination. Note, I deleted the mention of the familiar voice because I thought that the fact that she could identify him by name and recognize the determination in his voice, showed her familiarity with him.
"She glanced at him, and her face fell." The literalists may come down on you and asked where her face fell to. Some may also question putting the reaction(her face falling) before the cause. I would agree. I want to be tight to her point of view at this stage and that means I want to see what she does when she does.
"the shine in his eyes seemed duller" This is a little pet peeve of mine but I don't like to see the word "seem" to often. It's like a weed and keeps popping up. My logic is this.... It's a wishy washy word. In the words of that great sage Yoda... Do or do not. When I see seemed, it makes me less confident in the narrator, as if they are unsure. I want assurance, especially in the beginning of a story. That said, this use isn't bothering me as much as many of them do.
"as if one sleepless night had added years to his appearance." I had a moment of hesitation as I decided that you meant last night as opposed to a sleepless night two days ago. Stupid, nit picky, but a simple "this" before one would have cleared up all temporal doubt.
"When he didn’t reply, she took the pendant from around his neck and stood, rushing down another series of twisting halls."
You are getting ahead of yourself here I think. I had a hard enough time imagining how she removed the pendant from his neck so gracefully, then she stood, then she is rushing.... down "another" (where were the first series?) of halls? Wo! slow down. This is a good scene. The simple act of slipping the pendant from his neck could be a chance for characterization. You have us all night long, no need to rush.
"She could hear Alasdair call after her, his sandaled feet slapping the marble floor." Assuming we are in her point of view, there is no need to mention that "she could hear." Just say.... He called after her. This puts us closer to her point of view without the filter.
"hearing hinges creak, ancient wheels turning to unlock the door," same thing here. Drop the "hearing" part and just describe the sound from her perspective.
Posted: 20/05/2012 19:06:13