Confidently spinning a massive, double-bladed broadaxe along its hardwood handle axis, the Stradix warrior strode toward its quarry, a seeming rotund, little man squatting beside a shallow brook in the rocky terrain, filling his water flask. Moving surprisingly quickly and quietly for one of such incredible bulk, it swiftly swung the weapon over its head and delivered the blow with so much force the blade cleaved through the small man's skull and all the way down his body, to lodge itself in the hip bone.
Expecting a gushing torrent of blood and guts, the warrior could only stare, stupefied, as the parts of the man it had just struck a dead blow on fused back together, in a flash of emerald light, killing the self-satisfied smirk on its hideous face.
Its fingers let go of the axe, and the victim was whole again before the strike was completed.
The crouching man turned slowly to face his attacker, calmly picked up the would-be killer's axe where it had clattered to the ground, and quickly sliced through his enemy's knees with a fore swing, and as the creature rocked on the bleeding stubs where its feet had been, the last thing it saw was the arcing swing of the blade just before the back swing sliced through its neck, killing it instantly.
First, a word on genre. If you'll notice, our sword & sorcery tends to have some overarching theme. It makes a statement -- something well illustrated by the S&S genre. Now I like me some magic and swords (as Lesley will no doubt point out, I like them wielded by hot, bare-chested guys). However, Electric Spec might not be the best market for your basic, all-action, no theme S&S. (It's too early to judge theme is in this piece, so that's a statement on genre, not on this story.) There's that nasty "subjective" issue rearing its ugly head again, but what's an editor to do?
Now onto the page itself.
I did a quick count of 10 adverbs--about 5% of the words. In fact, the story even starts with an adverb. I'm not sure why this writer is so dependent upon adverbs, because the verb usage is strong in this piece
Adverbs do two things: they tell and they clutter. My advice is to write with no adverbs at all and then go back and add them if you really can't think of a better way to express it. (I actually removed the adverbs from this piece as an experiment and it felt much stronger.) Granted, some people may lurve them some adverbs. This editor is not one of those people.
Also, writing-wise, we got some long sentences. The last sentence on this page is a whopping 72 words. Break those puppies up! I also see some word echo and choreography issues, but those are minor fixes.
Dude. I have no idea where I am! Assuming your world is unlike any other--and it had better be if you want to sell the story--consider me lost. The first page can be a roadmap into your world. Setting details are like landmarks. Give us the name of the place, maybe, and some distinct, unusual details. Re: the brook in rocky terrain. I live near the mountains in Colorado. I see brooks in rocky terrain all the time. Shoot. That could be my neighbor's back yard water feature. Give me the most important setting detail(s) about your world as soon as you can.
I like that the guy is cleaved in half and comes back to life. That's an interesting take in a violent scene. But I need to care, and to do that, I need to know who the players are. So, along with putting your reader in place, tell me who the story is about. I don't know these folks like you do. Take the earliest opportunity to personalize your characters so your reader has a reason to care about them. For instance, this piece started with the Stradix Warrior, with a brief foray into his POV--the last thing it saw was the arcing swing of the blade--and then he promptly dies. Oh no! I'm lost, and now my tour guide is dead!
Pet peeves aside (POV characters dying onscreen), I'm wondering who this story is about. The little rotund man? If so, then we should be in his head, or at least in the head of some other lug who's hanging around.
Finally, what's the story problem? The best advice I ever got about the short form is that the story problem can appear on page one and can be wrapped up on the last page. Deceptively simple, eh? Consider that short stories (and especially first pages) should rest on a three-legged stool of plot, character, and setting. You'll notice I had concerns with all three in this piece.
Unfortunately, based on these issues, I doubt I'd keep reading.
Thanks so much for having the courage to put your stuff out there! I hope this helps you and other writers. Part of Electric Spec's mission is to give a voice, make a place, for unpublished and newly published writers. This game is part of realizing that mission, but just like how the magazine can't work without our slush, the game can't work without you. Keep 'em coming!
addendum: I agree with Lesley in comments. I think I am harsh in this critique. I want to explain my method because I do A LOT of critique through various places and I don't usually hurt feelings. Hopefully I didn't do that here. But in this game I'm also trying to think it through as an editor, as well as show our authors and participants what is going through editors' heads as they read slush. I also am always happy within the game to take a look at rewrites, if anyone's interested.