Time for another preview.

I’m including the first scene again because it has been revised slightly to make the first paragraph (hopefully) a stronger hook.

My frustration with the second scene is that I was sorely tempted over and over again to rush through the dialog, because that’s the meat of the story. Yet each time I read it I find it lacking details; what are these guys wearing? Where are they? What are they doing? What time of day is it?

And every time I try to include those details, I feel that the pacing is becoming horribly bogged down. Maybe you guys can help.


The first sign of war was a single rider approaching Mekli’s camp, kicking up clouds of dust in its wake. Children paused to watch, while most of the adults feigned disinterest. Hundreds of tents huddled against the desert floor, dying campfires serving as loci for several families, casting large shadows in the failing light. Pots and clothes hung from lines stretched across the open.

Mekli walked beyond the boundary of his camp, duty-bound to receive the rider first and anxious to keep his conversation private. Good news was never delivered with urgency; this rider’s haste was an ill omen.

The rider arrived and dismounted smoothly. If his garments had once held color, it had faded in the sand and sun. He approached Mekli with a sure step despite his long ride. Mekli envied his youth.

“Honored Father,” the rider said with a bow, which Mekli returned.

“Tell me your name, messenger,” Mekli invited.

“I am called Viktin, of the Tektimti tribe.”

“You are welcomed here, Viktin. May our fires be home to you. But you did not come here to exchange formalities with an old man.”

“No,” Viktin admitted. “The Asoki prepare for war.”

“The Asoki always war,” Mekli said dismissively.

“No, Honored Father. Their tribes are united now. They mean to conquer us next.”

Mekli chewed the inside of his lip, considering. It was hard to imagine Asoko unified.

“Tell me everything,” he said.


As usual, Azai’s mind was impossible to read. Damek strained to perceive his brother’s thoughts, but the effort was futile.

“Give it up,” Azai advised. “You aren’t strong enough and you never will be.”

Azai was probably right. But Damek didn’t need the Sight to know his elder brother was excited.

“Something’s on your mind,” Damek said. “Even if I can’t tell what.”

Azai face lit with a grin, and he gave his white headband an unconscious tug.

“Honor and glory, little brother. We’re about to take our true place in the world.” He stopped pacing and sat across the campfire from Damek.

“Our true place?”

“As heroes,” Azai clarified, turning abruptly serious.

Damek snorted. “Heroes?”

“That’s right. The Asoki finally mean to conquer us.”

“I’ve heard the rumors,” Damek said. “I suppose you plan to become a great warrior?”

“Better,” Azai said. “You and I are going to stop their whole army.”

“A poor joke, Azai.”

“Little brother,” Azai said, “I have never been more serious in my life.”

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