Comparative Nonsense

There's been an art meme going around for a while that has artists redrawing old projects to see how much they've improved. I had thought this was just one more reason to envy visual artists (there are so many) and it only just occurred to me that I could do the same thing with writing. Once I got past the CRINGING and started reworking it, it actually turned out to be a bit of a confidence boost. Also, I'm a little too round the bend to do actually anything productive tonight.

I've cut the first 800ish words below. First up is the original version, written in 2010. It's Dragon Age fanfiction, which was my jam at the time. Who am I kidding? It's still my jam. But this was the height of the 'good old' fandom days, when I was actively taking prompts and churning out shorts. Such good writing practice. Sexy, sexy practice. Ahem.

Dragon Age and its characters belong to Bioware and EA.

The second section is the reworked version from tonight, with characters and situations changed. In the original, the fight scene leads into steamy forest sex (as they do). Not sure what I'm going to do with it from here, if anything. But it's been a fun exercise. Definitely lots of technical improvement. Better rhythm, more variation, less reliance on clunky archaic phrasing. Huzzah!

I should challenge other writers to give this a try with an old piece. Not that I'd intrude on your time or tell you what to do. Gotta give it the thumbs up, though.


2010

She crouched atop the ridge, shading her eyes to stare out across the wood. Even beneath the canopy, noon came glaring, breaking round her as she rose. There was grace there, a calming patience… perhaps even something like peace.

She turned at his snort. “What?”

“Nothing. You simply look…”

There was a sway behind her steps as she moved down the hill toward him, her boots finding easy purchase in the slick earth. Smirking now, she lay a hand across his arm. “You’re bored.”

“I would not call it bored, per se.”

Lyna laughed, moving past him. “Zev. It’s okay. I just thought… with what you told me of your mother, you might want to…”

“Embrace my Dalish nature?” He smirked. “Shall we frolic in a meadow? Climb a tree? Commune with woodland creatures in song?”

He had meant it as a jest, but she stiffened, holding up a warning hand. “Do you hear that?” Her attention was turned to something beyond the trees, blades already slipping from their place at her back.

Zevran mirrored her but, beyond the soft hiss of steel, he heard only the breeze in the leaves above, the twitter of some distant bird. Ambient noises, forest noises, the strangeness of them setting his skin to prickling. What he wouldn’t trade for a simple blade in a darkened street.

It burst through the underbrush, the bleating cry giving them only the briefest of warnings. Lyna slipped aside with enviable grace, leaving him to dive back toward the hill. One of the large white deer – a halla – it reared massive, throwing its head against the pair of wolves gnashing at its flanks.

She hesitated only a moment, darting near, blade slicing quick across one of the wolves’ ankles. It turned on her, her daggers spinning upward to meet its jaws. Zevran, too, was moving, slipping wary round the maddened halla to take the other wolf from behind. It sensed him too late, his blade plunging easy between its shoulder blades. The halla fell heavy, its cries keening.

Lyna’s wolf was still on its feet. She had backed away, crouching low and circling, daggers seeming to twitch restless in her hands. There was a smile there beneath those still calm eyes, the echoed growl almost imperceptible.

It lunged quick, but she was quicker, blades swinging up to find its belly in midleap. The force of it carried them both backward, her cry turning to surprise. But those jaws were still before they fell across her.

Rolling the beast aside, she propped herself on an elbow and smiled up at Zevran’s offered arm.

“So this is Dalish hunting?”

“Not exactly.” She let him pull her to her feet. “Don’t tell me you’re not impressed.”

“Indeed I am. But it does seem… rather inefficient, does it not? An unnecessary risk.”

“But an enjoyable one.” Her smirk softened then, eyes straying to the halla. Still it stirred, trying to raise its head, the cries mumbled now. She moved quick, pausing only to stare down at the second wolf, the pity there undiminished.

Kneeling beside the great beast, she raised her hands in careful supplication. Once, twice it bucked before allowing her to lay a gentle hand across its nose. The words came whispered as she leaned close, strange and soft and soothing.

Zevran kept his distance, crouching to rest elbows on his knees. He knew only a few words in the Dalish tongue, a handful of choice phrases taught to him by Lyna herself – though, he had to admit, even their curses sounded beautiful. This, though, was something new. She leaned closer still, resting her head against the halla’s own, her smile soft and sad and surprising.

“Zev?”

“Mmm?”

“I need your help.”

“If it is all the same to you, I would truly rather not.”

Something of that hardness returned. “Please.”

He rose slow, blinking down at her, at the halla. Its eyes were wide, panicked still, black and deep as all the shadows of the wood. It started at his approach, but her arm was round its neck now, her whispers close against its ear. Its chest was torn half away, clawed and bitten, the wound cross its gut already spreading a pool across the grass. This was a poor death, a slow death.

“You want me to show it mercy.”

“Surely you’ve done this before.”

“This? No.” He snorted. “And I generally was not paid for mercy. It pays quite a bit less, from what I hear.”

“Zev.”

“Yes, yes.” Again he drew his blade, crouching low. The halla struggled wild, knowing enough to sense its end, knowing enough not to welcome it, pain or no. He found himself turning away as the blade slipped cross its neck.

Lyna moved with it as it bucked its last, unknotting from that strange embrace only when it fell still. She sat back on her heels a moment, sighing deep as she let her eyes stray to the canopy above. When finally she looked to him, the familiar half-smile had returned. “Hmm. You should have moved."

 


2017

The hunter crouched atop the ridge, shading her eyes to stare out across the wood. Even beneath the canopy, the noonday sun was glaring, limning her with light as she rose. There was grace there, a stoic patience… perhaps even something like peace.

She turned at his derisive snort. “What?”

“Nothing. You simply look…”

Lyna moved down the hill toward him, balancing deftly, her boots finding easy purchase in the slick earth. Leaping into the mud beside him, she smirked. “You’re bored.”

“I would not call it bored, per se.”

She laughed, driving an elbow into his ribs as she strode past him. “The city has softened you, Lucian. Ten years away from your people. Ten years amongst the humans. If you truly wish to return, perhaps it’s time to—”

“Embrace my Elven nature?” He smirked. “Shall we frolic in a meadow? Climb a tree? Commune with woodland creatures in song?”

He had meant it as a jest, but she stiffened and pressed a warning finger to his lips. “Shush. Listen.” Her attention was turned to something beyond the trees, her blades already slipping from their place at her back.

Lucian mirrored her but, beyond the soft hiss of steel, he heard only the breeze in the leaves above, the twitter of some distant bird. Ambient noises, forest noises, the strangeness of them setting his skin to prickling. What he wouldn’t trade for a simple blade in a darkened street.

It burst through the underbrush, its bleating cry giving them only the briefest of warnings. Lyna slipped aside with enviable grace, leaving him to dive back toward the ridge. One of the great elks that roamed these lands, it reared above the elves, throwing its head against the pair of wolves gnashing at its flanks.

She hesitated only a moment before darting near, her blade slicing quick behind the leg of the nearest wolf. It turned on her, her daggers spinning upward to meet its jaws. Lucian, too, was moving, slipping warily around the maddened elf to take the other wolf from behind. It sensed him too late, his blade plunging between its shoulder blades. The elk fell heavily, its cries keening.

Lyna’s wolf was still on its feet. She had backed away, crouching low and circling, her daggers twitching in her hands. Still her eyes were calm and cool, her echoed growl almost imperceptible.

It lunged quick, but she was quicker, her blades swinging up to meet its belly in midleap. The force of it carried them both backward, her cry turning to one of surprise. But the wolf’s jaws were still before they fell against her.

Rolling the beast aside, she propped herself on an elbow and smiled up at Lucian’s proffered arm.

“So this is what passes for hunting these days?”

“Not exactly.” She let him pull her to her feet. “Don’t tell me you’re not impressed.”

“Indeed, I am. But it does seem rather inefficient, does it not? An unnecessary risk.”

“But an enjoyable one.” Her smirk softened then, her eyes straying to the wounded elk. Still it stirred, trying to raise its head, its cries weak and breathless. Lyna moved to its side, pausing briefly to stare down at the second wolf, the pity in her eyes undiminished.

Kneeling beside the great beast, she raised her hands in careful supplication. Twice it bucked before allowing her to lay a gentle hand across its nose. The words came whispered as she leaned close, strange and soft and soothing.

Lucian kept his distance, crouching with his elbows on his knees. His Elvish was rusty, though he had to admit, even the curses sounded beautiful. Lyna herself had reminded him of a few choice phrases. This, though, was something new. She leaned closer still, resting her head against the elk’s own, her whispered song soft and sweet.

“Lucian?”

“Hm?”

“I need your help.”

“If it’s is all the same to you, I would rather not.”

Her expression hardened, the steel of the huntress returning. “Please.”

He rose slowly, blinking down at her, at the elk. Its eyes were wide, panicked still, black and deep as all the shadows of the wood. It flinched at his approach, but her arm was around its neck, her whispers close against its ear. Its chest was torn half away, clawed and bitten, the slash across its belly spreading a bloody pool across the grass. This was a poor death, a slow death.

“You want me to show it mercy.”

“Surely, you’ve done this before.”

“This? No.” He snorted. “And my work… I generally was not paid for mercy. It pays quite a bit less, from what I hear.”

Lucian.”

“Yes, yes.” Again, he drew his blade. The elk struggled limply, knowing enough to sense its end, knowing enough not to welcome it, pain or no. He found himself turning his face away as he crouched and drew the blade across its neck. 

Lyna moved with it as it bucked its last, unknotting from the strange embrace only when it fell still. She sat back on her heels for a moment, letting her eyes stray to the canopy above. When finally she looked at him, the familiar half-smile had returned. “Hmm. You still move quick enough. Maybe you’re not hopeless after all.”

 


Huh. What d'ya know? Suddenly I do feel like being productive. Back to the weird science!

 

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