Author Topic: Dragonsteel  (Read 35203 times)

EUOL

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Re: Dragonsteel
« Reply #45 on: March 11, 2007, 02:06:55 AM »
Thanks, Parker! 

All, here's an experimental change I'm considering for the Theus chapters (and note the new Midius chapter at the bottom of the previous page.)  I think this may soften the brutality somewhat, even though it's all still there.  It will make for a drastic change in feel for the king as a character, but I'm very tempted to do this instead.  Reactions?

NEW CHAPTER TWO BEGINNING

      It’s a bad day to kill, Theusa thought.  Too cloudy.  A man should be able to see the sun when he dies, feel the warmth on his skin one last time.
   She marched down the dusty path, crops to her right and left, guards behind her.  The men of her personal guard wore woolen cloaks over bronze breastplates.  Bronze.  So expensive.  What farming supplies could she have traded for instead of the valuable metal armor?
   And yet, she really had no choice.  The armor meant something.  Strength.  Power.  She needed to show both.
   Several of the soldiers pulled their cloaks tight against the morning’s spring chill.  Theusa herself wore a woolen dress and shawl, the copper crown on her head the only real indication of her station.  King.  It had been twenty-some years since anyone had dared question her right to that title.  In the open, at least. 
   Her breath puffed in front of her, and she pulled her shawl close.  I’m getting old, she thought with annoyance.   
   Behind her towered the grand city state of Partinel, circled entirely--lake and all--by a rough stone wall reaching some fifteen feet high.  The wall had been commissioned, then finished, by Yornes the grand, her father-in-law.  She’d married his son, Didarion, in her twenty-third year of life.
   Didarion been a short time later.  That had been almost thirty years ago, now. 
   Old indeed, Theusa thought, passing out of the ring of crops.  Partinel’s trune ring was one of the largest in the Cluster, but it still provided a relatively small area in which to grow food.  They grew right up to the edge of the city wall in a full circle around the city.  Running in a loop around them was a narrow, earthen road.  Beyond that, a wide patch of carefully-watched and cultivated walnut trees ran around the city.  Her people cut down one group of trees every year and planted a new patch.  It was a good system, giving them both hardwood for trade and nuts for food.  In the Cluster, no land could be wasted.
   Because beyond the trees, the land became white.  The walnuts stands marked the border, the edge of Partinel’s trune ring and the beginning of fainlands. 
   Theusa could see the fain forest through a patch of walnut saplings.  She paused, looking out at the hostile, bleached landscape.  Bone white trees, with colorless undergrowth twisting and creeping around the trunks.  White leaves fluttered in the breeze, sometimes passing into the trune ring, dusted with a prickly white fungus. 
   Skullmoss, the herald of all fain life.  Her soldiers and workers gathered the leaves anyway and burned them, though it wasn’t really nessissary.  Though eating something fain--animal or plant--was deadly to a human, simple interaction with it was not.  Besides, fain life, even the skullmoss, could not live inside of a trune ring.
   That’s how it had always been.  White trees beyond the border, trune life within.  People could go out into the fainlands--there was no real danger, for skullmoss couldn’t corrupt a living creature.  Some brave cities even used fain trees for lumber, though Theusa had never dared.
   She shivered, turning away from the fain forest and turning to where a group of soldiers--with leather vests and skirts--stood guarding a few huddled people.  The prisoners included one man, his wife, and two children.  All knelt in the dirt, wearing linen smocks tied with sashes. 
   The father looked up as Theusa approached, and his eyes widened.  Her reputation preceded her.  The Bear of Partinel, some called her: a stocky, square-faced woman with graying hair.  Theusa walked up to the kneeling father, then bent down on one knee, regarding the man.
   The peasant had a face covered in dirt, but his sandaled feet were a dusty white.  Skullmoss.  Theusa avoided touching the dust, though it should be unable to infect anything within a trune ring.  She studied the man for a time, reading the pain and fear in his face.  He lowered his eyes beneath the scruitiny.
   “Everyone has a place, young man,” she finally said. 
   The outsider glanced back up.
   “The people of this city,” Theusa continued, “they belong here.  They work these crops, hauling water from the stormsea to the troughs.  Their fathers bled to build and defend that wall.  They were born here.  They will die here.  They are mine.”
   “I can work, lady,” the man whispered.  “I can grow food, build walls, and fight.”
   Theusa shook her head.  “That’s not your place, I’m afraid.  Our men wait upon drawn lots for the right to work the fields and gain a little extra for their families.  There is no room for you.  You know this.”
   “Please,” the man said.  He tried to move forward, but one of the soldiers had his hand on the man’s shoulder, holding him down.
   Theusa stood.  Jend, faithful as always, waited at the head of her soldiers.  He handed Theusa a small sack.  She judged the weight, feeling the kernels of grain through the canvas, then tossed it to the ground before the outsider.  The man looked confused.
   “Take it,” Theusa said.  “Go find a spot of ground that the fainlands have relinquished, try to live there as a chance cropper.”
   “The moss is everywhere lately,” the man said.  “If clearings open up, they are gone before the next season begins.”
   “Then boil the grain and use it to sustain you as you find your way to Rens,” Theusa said.  “They take in outsiders.  I don’t care.  Just take the sack and go.”
   The man reached out a careful hand, accepting the grain.  His family watched, silent, yet obviously confused.  This was the Bear of Partinel?  A woman who would give free grain to those who tried to sneak into her city?  What of the rumors?
   “Thank you, lady,” the man whispered.
   Theusa nodded, then looked to Jend.  “Kill the woman.”
   “Wha--” the outsider got halfway through the word before Jend unsheathed his bronze gladius and rammed it into the stomach of the kneeling outsider woman.  She gasped in shock, and her husband screamed, trying to get to her.  The guards held him firmly as Jend pulled the sword free, then he cut at the woman’s neck.  The weapon got lodged in the vertebrae, and it took him three hacks to get the head free.  Even so, the execution was over in just a few heartbeats.
   The outsider continued to scream.  Theusa stooped down again--just out of the man’s reach--blood trickling across the packed earth in front of her.  One of the guards slapped the outsider, interrupting his yells.
   “I am sorry to do this,” Theusa said.  “Though I doubt you care how I feel.  You must understand, however.  Everyone has a place.  The people of this city, they are mine--and my place is to look after them.”
   The outsider hissed curses at her.  His children--the boy a young teen, the girl perhaps a few years younger--were sobbing at the sight of their mother’s death.
   “You knew the penalty for trying to sneak into my city,” Theusa said softly.  “Everyone does.  Try it again, and my men will find the rest of your family--wherever you’ve left them--and kill them.”
   Then, she stood, leaving the screaming peasant behind to yell himself ragged.  Theusa’s personal guards moved behind her as she returned to the corridor through the wheat, Jend cleaning his gladius and sheathing it.  Over the tops of the green spring plants, Theusa could see a man waiting for her before the city.

(Edit, cleaned up language.)
« Last Edit: March 11, 2007, 08:43:52 AM by EUOL »
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dawncawley

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Re: Dragonsteel
« Reply #46 on: March 11, 2007, 07:22:21 AM »
I am not sure that changes the brutality, in fact it may even make it seem more brutal coming from a woman. And obviously a woman used to killing those who question her authority, or her right to have it rather. At least that is the way she sounds. It may take a time or two to read it to kind of get used to the new feel of it, but I think it could work. So far though, I like the male version better. Like I said though, maybe after I read it a time or two it will grow on me, it isn't awful or anything. Just something that is making me re-think the chapters I have already in my mind, and change him to a her, and try to see what she would do differently. Do you have any more of the book written with this character instead of Theus? It may help the adjustment a bit ;)

digitalbias

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Re: Dragonsteel
« Reply #47 on: March 11, 2007, 08:09:52 AM »
I think the previous chapter 1 was better if only for the reason that I was hooked much earlier in it than I was with this version of chapter 1.  I can understand why the changes based on the other comments about the previous version of chapter 1: character motivation and getting to know Midius better, however this chapter felt forced and there are a couple of times where I feel like I'm being told stuff:

"He had left behind an inferior successor in Midius."

"The corpse didn’t respond, of course."

"Again, no response from the corpse.  That was one of the more frustrating things about them."

"This was no regular corpse.  It was the corpse of, perhaps, the greatest man who had ever lived.  And he had died, virtually forgotten and alone, in the middle of the fain forest. "

I do like the whole talking with the corpse thing, and it appears you are trying to show us more of Midius' motivations, however if feels awkward. I really had to force myself to read through the chapter and not skim it. For what it's worth, my suggestion would be to take some of the above and show me with dialog instead.

Anyway, that's my two cents.

EUOL

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Re: Dragonsteel
« Reply #48 on: March 11, 2007, 09:00:10 AM »
Thanks for the comments, folks.  A new version has been uploaded, mostly making minor tweaks as suggested by db.  Some good points, and the prose needed streamlining. 

Dawn:
For some reason, this just feels less brutal to me.  Theusa's language is softer than Theus's had been, and I think more reasonable.  Still brutal, yet somehow it works better for me.  That might just be because I've seen (and written) too many characters that feel like Theus, and changing the character to a female (who's a bit older, and who is arguably the legitimate ruler of the city) makes them feel a lot more exciting to write. 

Gruff, Gritty, Male solder king: Feels overdone.
Gruff, gritty, grandmother king: Not so much.

I know it's more about how well the character is done, and less about whether it's been done before or not.  However, excitement on my part seems to make for a better story over-all.  So, I'm wondering if this character will be more exciting for me this way, or just much more trouble.  (I'll have to think of what to do for the next Theus chapter, for instance.  I really liked the fight there, and I can't really put Theusa in the same role.)
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Alankria

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Re: Dragonsteel
« Reply #49 on: March 11, 2007, 12:24:52 PM »
Some line-edit stuff for Chapter 1:

"Tendrils of  black poison lay like a network black vines beneath the old man’s skin." -- I don't think you need the "Tendrils of" at the beginning.  Considering the later description, it feels rather redundant, and I think the sentence is stronger without it. 

"He found them to be good listeners." -- This sentence feels too weak.  Also, it's one of three sentences in a row beginning with "He".  I can't think right now of a way to reword, but thought I'd flag it up for you.

"It one  that Midius himself had read time and time again. " -- Need to insert "was" between "It" and "one".

"After all, they sent an assassin after you.” " -- Repetition of "after" in that sentence.  Perhaps say: "After all, they sent an assassin for you.”

Also: near the beginning, when Midius is wondering who will save them now, he thinks You must.  Meaning himself, right?.  But when I originally read that, I thought the body was somehow talking to him.  And if it is just Midus' thought, it feels a little odd for him to refer to himself in the second person.

More generally, I think you have a strong opening chapter with a strong character.  It really drew me in and made me want to read more.  At the moment I can think of any general criticisms, but I'll let you know if any come to mind.
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42

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Re: Dragonsteel
« Reply #50 on: March 11, 2007, 04:12:15 PM »
I prefer the male version of Theus too. Yes, the language is softer with the female version, but soft language with brutal acts makes it seem all the more cruel (actions speak louder than words, etc...). I've been thinking about it some and I feel that the rationalization for the violence is tenuous which is what makes it so brutal. I want to post more about this later, but I need to do some thinking first.

Also, I liked the first version of chapter one more than the second version. Mostly, it was discussion with the corpse that I disliked. It seemed unnecessarily unsettling. Otherwise there is some imagery in the second version I like better, like the shaving scene.
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Re: Dragonsteel
« Reply #51 on: March 11, 2007, 09:12:17 PM »
I liked the rewrite of chapter one.  It makes Midius seem more evil  (he's used to talking with corpses) but also gives him a valid reason for going to Partinel.  The first version made me wonder why he went, but this one is like . . . well, he reminds me of Jean ValJean, who does so much good because of how the priest changed him.

As for the rewrite of chapter 2, I like the thought of a female leader.  She'll be annoyed when Yunmi comes, but probably also a little jealous of her youth and strength.  I look forward to her perspective.  As for how brutal it felt, they seemed the same to me.
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Alankria

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Re: Dragonsteel
« Reply #52 on: March 11, 2007, 09:29:17 PM »
And some comments for the Chapter 2 posted above:  (and, of course, these are my opinion, feel free to take 'em or leave 'em)

The juxtaposition of "It had been twenty-some years" and not much later "by a rough stone wall reaching some fifteen feet high" is a little too repetitive.  I think the 'some' works better in the first instance, and suggest dropping the latter one.  Chances are, as king, she knows the height, so it's not unrealistic to drop the estimative tone to that part of the narration. 

"Didarion been a short time later." -- Missing a word here, I think.

"They grew right up to the edge of the city wall in a full circle around the city." -- Repetition of 'city'.  You could drop either, but my inclination would be to say: "They grew right up to the edge of the city in a full circle around it/the wall."

"Bone white trees, with colorless undergrowth twisting and creeping around the trunks."  -- Could be personal preference, but I would drop the 'with'.  Gives the sentence a more fragmentary feel, which in this instance works. 

"the outsider got halfway through the word before Jend unsheathed his bronze gladius and rammed it into the stomach of the kneeling outsider woman."  -- You need a capital 'T' at the beginning of this.  Also, the word 'got' doesn't flow as well as the rest of the sentence.  Perhaps reword it to: "The outsider managed half the word before....[rest of sentence]"

"The guards held him firmly as Jend pulled the sword free, then he cut at the woman’s neck.  The weapon got lodged in the vertebrae, and it took him three hacks to get the head free." -- A few more flow issues here.  I suggest a handful of small changes: "The guards held him firmly as Jend pulled the sword free and cut at the woman’s neck.  The weapon lodged in the vertebrae, and it took him three hacks to get the head free."

"wherever you’ve left them--and kill them.” -- Repetitiveness of two clauses ending in 'them'.  How about adding 'too' to the end of it, making "--and kill them too."

"The outsider hissed curses at her." -- I think he's more likely to be spitting curses at her.  Hissing sounds a little too passive, too resigned, in my opinion.

"Then, she stood, leaving the screaming peasant behind to yell himself ragged." -- I suggest dropping the word 'screaming', both because you used 'scream' a few paragraphs back and because you say 'yell' later in the sentence, so it's clear that he's being loudly vocal.

More generally, my only criticism is that the opening part of this chapter is a little too infodumpy.  I think you can lose the part about her father-in-law and husband, and perhaps trim the other royal-background stuff.  It's not necessary for readers to understand this chapter, and so soon in the book is a bad place for un-necessary infodumping.   However, the info about the fainlands is good, and can stay as it is. 

Looks like I'll be going against what the others here have said by saying that I like Theusa as a woman.  Granted, I didn't read the version where she was a man, so this is my opinion coming fresh to the story.  But she works.  I'm already very interested in her -- looks like you've a set a strong character here already. 

I'm pretty immune to fictional brutality so that scene didn't make me bat an eyelid, as the saying goes.  Critically speaking, you didn't overplay it; it worked well, for what it is. 

Also, a point about Chapter 1, and again I'm going against the grain by saying that I liked Midius talking to the dead guy.  Perhaps tone it down a little as someone suggested, though to be honest it worked fine for me. 

And now I want to read more!  You've got the start to a good book here. 
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dawncawley

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Re: Dragonsteel
« Reply #53 on: March 12, 2007, 12:07:09 AM »
EUOL- I think it could work with Theusa vs. Theus, but having read the first part it took me a minute to move past the changes. As I re-read it today I found myself wondering more about her and the way she would deal with Midius, the other diplomats and, of course, the young, vigorous Yunmi.

So, since I did say in my previous post that I just might need some time and a fresh look at it, that is what I took away the second time. I still think the brutality is high level, and seems more so from a female, but I think that it may work for you very well later in the book.

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Re: Dragonsteel
« Reply #54 on: March 12, 2007, 12:19:48 AM »
I really like the female version of Theus better than the male version, even though Theusa would be more limited as to fighting scenes.  The balance between the "goodness" and "cruelty" of the harsh methods used to ensure the survival of Partinel's people seem more believable this way.  With the male Theus, he could compartmentalize his care for his citizens and cruelty for outsiders.  With Theusa as a woman, a desire to protect her citizens at all costs and by all methods makes more sense.   

One thing that bothers me, though, is that the names "Theus/Theusa" make me think of "Zeus."

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Re: Dragonsteel
« Reply #55 on: March 12, 2007, 10:23:03 PM »
Twelve other unpublished novels, U-boat.  Mistborn was my fourteenth book, Elantris my sixth.  One, named Dragonsteel, was my seventh and a number of the people on my forums knew me when I started writing it.  It was, in a way, the book that 'made me famous' among my group of friends.  So, many of them are excited to hear that I'm reworking the setting and planning to do the book for the big leagues. 


The following is a complete Brandon Sanderson Bibliography, published and unpublished. 

I just want to say that I'm a personal fan of Sixth incarnation of Pandora, and wonder if I still have a copy on my dead laptop somewhere. And that the promise of Dragonsteel was enough to get me out of lurkdom.  Well done.

I'll give it a read and see what I come up with.
« Last Edit: March 12, 2007, 10:29:38 PM by fuzzyoctopus »
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Re: Dragonsteel
« Reply #56 on: March 13, 2007, 12:33:11 AM »
Ok, the only thing that stands out to me that I didn't see mentioned is that I dislike "The Bear of Partinel", which I kept reading as "Bearer".  I think it's because my brain believes it should be a two syllable title. Also, I don't see bears as as savage as Theus is painted.   Lion of Partinel would sound better to me, but maybe you feel that's overdone.  Savage of Partinel.  Giant of Partinel.  Bears are fuzzy, and don't tend to kill so indiscrimiately.

Don't like him as a woman.  I like the harsh brutality of Theus juxtaposed with bubbly Yunmi, or whatever her name is. 

Do they keep a census?  Does Theus know how many people are in his city with the strict pop control? It would help me visualize the city better if I knew how many people were in it.  Is it over-crowded at 10,000 people or over-crowded at 50,000 people?
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DavidB

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Re: Dragonsteel
« Reply #57 on: March 13, 2007, 03:44:59 AM »
The new chapter one does certainly seem more consistent with how Midius's character and abilities are portrayed in the rest of the sample chapters you posted. But I think that this chapter could be a lot better. My complaint, basically, is that I don't think this chapter one is a very good hook: there's not much action in it, and I don't really like or sympathize with Midius at the end (though I don't dislike him, either).

Midius just seems awfully impersonal in this chapter. For example, he describes Hoid as the greatest man who had ever lived, and not as, say my best, only friend. His reasons for going to Partinel seem similarly impersonal and general -- and therefore weak. (Midius thinks Hoid thinks it's important -- but not urgent, obviously, since he can afford to spend his time just sitting in his cabin and staring at old scrolls -- to find some kind of secret to save Partinel...and so Midius suddenly decides to go dashing off to the city, putting his life at risk, to, uh, poke around randomly? Huh?)

It might work better, for example, to have Midius go to Partinel to find out who had Hoid killed, and why. He could then be given to understand that Theus(a) thought that Hoid knew how to help save the city, but was refusing to do so; Midius might then agree to try to save the city just to get himself out of prison (but he'd be troubled by trying to understand why Hoid didn't save the city -- or is Theus lying?). In the long run, though I think it would be important to make Midius more human by giving him something that he cares passionately and personally about.

Some off-the-cuff ideas about how this scene could play out to give it more action:
  • Midius is off in the fain forest practicing his newly-learned lightweaving abilities (and having trouble because he's not that good yet). Theus's (mounted) assassin encounters Midius, and Midius, thinking that he's bringing supplies or information that Hoid has ordered, directs him to Hoid's cottage. Shortly afterward, Midius hears shouts from the direction of the cottage, and rushes back. But he's to late -- the cottage comes in sight just in time for Midius to see  Hoid and the assassin kill each other; in the process, they knock over a candle, which lights the cottage on fire. Midius rescues the coat and dagger from the burning building, and then sets out to Partinel to find out why Hoid was killed.
  • Or, you could start the story with Midius arriving at the city. He remembers how he's just lost his home and his mentor; he needs a new place to live, and thinks he can do a lot to help the people of Partinel. He expects to be welcomed, because he doesn't know that jesks aren't allowed in the city. He gets into an argument with the gate guards, who don't want to let him in, until he demonstrates his lightweaving powers. Then the guards stop arguing and just knock him out. Well, he thinks as he loses consciousness, that could have gone better....

In the second case, of course, either Theus's chapter would come first, or else the existing chapters would have to be broken up somewhat. The most straightforward thing to do, of course, would be to have chapter three be only about Midius's conversation with the cooper.

Also, it occurs to me that if the fain forest is poisonous, the pollen and dust there ought to be at least mildly toxic. It might make more sense -- and provide a nice visual image -- if everyone who went into the fain forest for any length of time had to wear some kind of breath mask. Just a scarf wrapped around your head would do, but people who spent a lot of time in the forest might have something more elaborate.

EUOL

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Re: Dragonsteel
« Reply #58 on: March 13, 2007, 04:08:50 AM »
DavidB

There are, unfortunately, reasons why I have to start the book where I did.  I can't get into it without major spoilers.  You are perfectly right about this chapter lacking a hook, which is why I decided from the get-go that I'd need to start with a scene from the middle of the book, then jump back. 

So, this chapter should be considered the SECOND, and not the one that introduces Midius's character. 

My goal is to try some new things with this book.  Who knows if it will work, but they will present narrative challenges for me, because even when we flash back, we're starting in the middle of a story, with Hoid already dead.
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DavidB

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Re: Dragonsteel
« Reply #59 on: March 13, 2007, 04:13:18 AM »
Regarding Theus's gender-switch....

On balance, I think I don't really like it. It seems to me that there are things you could do with tough-guy Theus that just don't work with old-lady Theusa. The sword-fighting scene is an obvious example. Making Theus male provides maximum contrast between him and Yunmi, the story's other aetherlin. It also allows him to underestimate Yunmi because she's a girl. (Obviously, there is no gender equality in Partinel society if the distinguishing characteristic of a warrior involves beards.) Also, Theus could have a scene with his wife, which would reveal a lot about his character, while Theusa's husband is dead.

I agree with 42 (if s/he's talking about what I think s/he is) about "the rationalization for the violence [being] tenuous": Theus's (and Theusa's) attitude towards their citizens reminds me of those parents who think that they should beat and/or neglect their children "for their own good". One reason I was interested in seeing Theus's wife was because I wanted to see if he also held this attitude in his own family. (Or is it just the "unwashed masses" that he has no faith in? Or is he using this "for their own good" thing as an excuse to be brutal and tyrannical, a la Stalin/Robespierre?)

On the other hand, I was half expecting Theus's wife to be a Lady Macbeth-esque  dragon who pushes her husband into greater acts of brutality and violence.

Of course, if you find Theusa easier to get into and write for than Theus, then by all means, ignore us and keep the gender-switch! (Though if you do, consider a name change. I'm not really sure how to pronounce "Theusa", and it seems kind of awkward for some reason; something like "Tessa" might be better.)

Oh yeah -- also, the custom for warriors to shave their beards seems kind of weird. If people are used to most men wearing beards, then from a distance, a warrior would look like a woman or child!