#writephoto: On the borderline

I wrote this piece in prevision of a scene that’s coming up in the WIP and then got bogged down in the writing of it and never got round to posting.

For Sue Vincent’s #writephoto prompt

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Halli slumped against the trunk of a birch tree, among the golden pennies of its fallen leaves. The breeze was chill at evening now and the sun set early. Jon shuddered at the idea of being stuck in this place, that was as much a limbo as the Mistlands, when the winter came and the real cold set in. Halli picked up a handful of birch leaves and shredded them moodily.

“We can’t stop here and we can’t go back. They said… the stories said…everybody said this was a good place if you could get in. Well, we got in…”

“I know, and it’s as big a pile of shite as the place we got run out of.” Jon meant what he said, but somehow, he wasn’t as pessimistic as Halli. “The stories are just a bunch of lies that chiefs like Ragnar and my dad encourage because it suits them. But what if one of the stories is true? I mean, they all believe in the Mistlands and the Ebbtide combat. Both sides respect the outcome, beat it into the kids that their lives depend on them following the rules to the letter, the sacrifice and all that. But they don’t talk much about the Heartlands do they?” He turned to Jussi. “Have you ever even seen the Tidelands?” Jussi shook his head. “Do they tell you it’s full of bogey men to stop you going to have a look?”

“They don’t talk about it. The Tidelands is just the edge of the ocean. Why would anybody want to go there? And the Heartlands is just a story. Nobody believes it’s really there.”

“See?” Jon was triumphant.

Halli threw the shredded leaves on the ground. “See what?”

“If they don’t spread stories about the Tidelands and the Heartlands, it’s because they want people to forget they’re there.” He gazed across the darkening valley to the west, wondering how far the forest stretched, how far until the trees ended at crashing cliffs and the heaving ocean, wondering how far from the cliffs across the waves lay the Heartlands and the end of his journey.

As he watched, a cloud rose from the forest eaves and swirled through the red light of the sunset like ink in a glass of bloody water. Even at such a distance the shrill bird-cries were audible. The flock of birds swirled, a tatterered black cloak, darkening the sky, a cloud that swirled about itself then streaked away westwards, towards the ocean. He watched until he could see no more, until the cloud became a smut on the bright backcloth of evening and dropped beneath the horizon, heading out to sea.

“The birds know. They’re going to the Heartlands,” he murmured. “If they can, so can we.”

 

 

WIP update

Just an update on my writing activity—In Paradisio is almost finished. I had imagined a first draught of around 65k as I tend to add on another 10-15% during edits. I know, editing’s supposed to make the ms shorter, but it never seems to work out that way for me.

Anyway, it’s closer to 75k so far and I’m taking my time over the last chapters as I want this series to go out in a blaze of glory, and writing blazes of glory is so much fun!

Here’s another short extract from the beginning.

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Tully didn’t seem to be paying any attention to what Hanael was saying. His face was glowing. He was staring at the wall that was more like an optical illusion than solid stone.

“I can see it,” he whispered. “I can see Paradisio.”

“They won’t let your dad in.” Carla nudged him.

Tully turned to her, his eyes full of stars. “It’s fantastic!”

“They won’t let your dad in,” she repeated angrily. “Or my mum and dad either. Are you going to tell him or shall I?”

“Tell who what?” Tully appeared genuinely confused. “You’ll be okay, won’t you Dad? We’ll just have a look around and be right back.” He stared at Carla. “What’s the matter?”

Carla didn’t answer. She planted her spear in the ground and jabbed a finger at Hanael. “Either we all go in, or we all stay out. So? What’s it to be?”

“Wait, wait, wait,” Erelah fussed. “There’s no need to start a war.”

“There’s no need to let ourselves be bullied either.” Carla’s chin jutted. “You go in if you want. The rest of us will have a little discussion first, about whether this place is all it’s cracked up to be.”

“Hang on,” Jack said. “If Paradisio is on the other side of that wall, what’s this?” He made a sweeping gesture with his hand to encompass the misty landscape, the half-seen buildings and shadowy figures. “It doesn’t look real!”

Hanael gave a dismissive shrug. “It’s as real as those who inhabit it. Soon, perhaps, it will no longer be…necessary.”

Carla felt cold. This was not what she had been expecting. She reached out tentatively to the sky above, thinking to walk among the stars, perhaps find the dreams of the elusive inhabitants of this place that was somewhere between real and unreal. Her thoughts raced higher, through the misty light, high enough to be beyond the pull of the world below. But there were no stars above. She met a smooth, glittering wall, opaque but full as an opal of glinting colours. There were no paths to walk, no stars to guide, no dreams to hear. The air was silent.

She dropped back to the ground, into the mists that veiled buildings and hills and reached for Tully’s hand. He was drifting. She wanted to feel him physically close, to draw him back from wherever it was she sensed him floating towards. He sighed, as if he was waking from a beautiful dream that had nothing to do with the strange unreality of the misty country.

“Okay. All for one, and one for all.” He lifted the bronze trumpet to his lips again and Carla held her breath. He took a deep breath and blew. The sound billowed and expanded, loud and incredibly sweet. Like birdsong and thunder at the same time. The melody rose higher and higher and like veils of mist falling away one by one, a wide door appeared in the wall. The music faded.

“I think that settles the argument,” Tully said, and strode into the second circle of Paradisio.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Promote Yourself: Lesleigh Nahay

My guest this weekend is author Lesleigh Nahay who would like to present her novel, Red Moonglow on Snow, that Lesleigh describes as “a fiction fantasy novel about the unyielding strength of a woman who thinks she’s broken.”

Here’s the synopsis

Lira is the daughter of Elaar, who is the daughter of dragons. Today, Lira’s long-ago love has brought her back to her parents’ birthplace and dropped her at the feet of Soldiers, knowing they’ll kill her for being her mother’s daughter. It is punishment for letting Others steal theirs. Isolated, alone, and shattered, she does not accept the arrangement. The unforeseen rescue isn’t appreciated, either. And He has a lot to answer for.

Red Moonglow on Snow is the beginning of my saga about mothers and daughters, righting wrongs, and granting yourself the right to be healed after everything went wrong. Weaving through its core, though, is a love story that defies everything, even the lies Lira holds onto regarding the night the moon turned red and made the snow under His and her bodies glow.

Soothe the man-hating unicorn and read the rest (he hates that part of the story). Red Moonglow on Snow is available as an ebook on Smashwords, iBooks, Kindle, and Barnes and Noble. It is also available as a paperback on Amazon.

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Excerpt:

Back-slam-forth, a jagged rocking that pauses when back passes through nothingness and slams into solid. Back-slam-forth. This physical pain I can cause myself soothes the deadness, numbs, for a brief respite, the burning in my shoulder, the horror in my soul.

“Did you feel that, Lira? Do you remember feeling that with Him? He crawled into your skin and produced your daughter. Remember that feeling, Lira. Draw upon it.

“I knew where you were going that night. I knew who you would find. I wished I could have given you the Preparation I’d been given. I didn’t want you to be afraid. But He was supposed to take you Home that night.

“You have four brothers, Lira. You almost had a sister.” I stop rocking. She keeps talking. “I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t know what to do with this body I even now feel so trapped in. It’s wrong. It’s all wrong. This isn’t who I am. It’s dangerous to be in this human, female body-

“Something kept driving me into willing arms and even at the last one I couldn’t understand how a human child grew and then came out of my body. The oldest two are twins. And then another boy, and another. Mihn was so furious with me through those years, but we were both still merely children. He wouldn’t speak to me for weeks each time I became obviously pregnant, nor for days after each one was born. But he always did as I asked and found someone from the fathers’ family to take the babies.

“And then-

“Mihn’s aunt was sick and I went to care for her. When it came time for me to leave, Mihn became nearly irate. I’d never seen him like that. I should have taken him up on his offer- I ran away instead, to prove him wrong, to ignore the other things he’d shouted at me. I knew I should’ve called for one of my siblings to carry me back home. I was due soon, but I was confused and I was angry. I was going to walk all the way to the mountains. But I ran into a unicorn who’d gotten lost in the woods, and when it charged I killed it. I turned and there was The Nightmare, the unicorn god. He just stared at me, sucking the life out of me and the baby. I ran until Mihn found me and carried me to Kholsari. And she was born, and she was dead.

“I’d never known grief until then. Regret. Fear. Cold. She was so small, so quiet, so still. I’d held the others after they were born, but I never felt like a mother. I never associated the act of making them, my growing body, or the pain of delivery to their irrevocable tie to me. They were human babies. Human babies who were going to go back to the human fathers who made them. I am not human. I could not be their mother.

“Holding her was different. She wasn’t warm, she didn’t move, didn’t search for me, didn’t make any sound. She’d come from my body. She’d moved inside me, shared every meal I ate. A human baby girl came from my body but she didn’t move. In that instant, I was aware of myself, that I was not born from nor would I ever become a dragon.

“Aril cleaned her and wrapped her in a blanket and tied it with this thin pink ribbon, but her lips were blue. She was so small, so beautiful. She had red hair like mine. I couldn’t accept that she was dead.

“The thought of cremating her in the dragons’ way horrified me. I begged and pleaded with Mihn not to let it happen. So he took she and I into his arms and carried us away. He buried her beneath a large old tree near his old village. He use to climb that tree as a child with his brothers. He assured me she’d be a star in the sky, surrounded and watched after by his family.

“She comes to me in dreams. She looks like me. I still talk to her. She sees you, watches you, knows you as her sister. I think of the boys a lot. Being here makes everything final. Knowing I’ll never see them has lodged into me with a menacing finality. If able to do things differently, would I have?

“I dream about the boys, too. I see them grown. I see them with families of their own. I wonder if they were ever told about me, that they came from my blood, that for a time we shared the same body. Would they know me if they ever saw me? Would they care about the woman who handed them away without any regret or any feeling? I hope the Soldiers never found them. I hope the Soldiers never found them. I hope the Soldiers never found them. I hope……”

I blink. Breathe.

“They were all born in my parents’ cave. Except for the girl. She was born in my room at Kholsari. That’s where Mihn brought the fathers’ representative, in the little ante-room with the crib set up in the middle. Mihn always stood stiffly in the shadows. So angry. So upset with me. I never asked why the fathers didn’t come themselves.

“Mihn, my Mihn, was there for her birth. He held me, cradled me against him. It was much later that I remembered how safe I had felt, how he’d molded himself around me. I never felt that before- so much comfort from a human body. I never acknowledged what I felt around him, and then when I did……

“It would have been like that with you, Lira. He’d have been with us through every moment. His would have been the first hands to touch you, to take hold of you and begin you in a life outside me. His would have been the first face you saw, the second heart you’d have heard beat, and his would have been the first kiss you received.”

Mihn smiles sadly from the corner, streaks of tears lining his cheeks. His was the first face I saw, the first kiss I received. Though he was killed before I was born, his was still the second heart I heard beat.

“I wish I could’ve given that to him……”

Then my father is kneeling before me, eyes intense, inches from mine. The vibrant feel of his hands on my knees stops my shivering, my rocking. The only other time I physically felt him was when he was trying to stop the bleeding. Mom is still talking— low and soft— but my eyes are held locked with my father’s as he signs to me:

Live. Fight. Don’t give in. Talyn is not dead, is not lost for good. Daughter, my other love, do you hear me? Come out of this. Come out of this. He was deaf when he was alive, and while death has given him the ability to walk through walls and vanish into the air, he regards speaking as useless.

I stare into his silvery eyes, swirling like a tornado, not blinking, not breathing, the trembling in my lip the only movement to betray me. I am lost. Do not find me. I can’t be saved without her. I don’t want to be.

He grabs hold of my face in his hands and holds me in the present for what feels like too long, and too short. He releases me to sign again: How can you be lost? I’m looking right at you.

I’m lost. I’m lost.

“I never told you that prophecy. I didn’t want you to think that your life was predetermined, because it’s not, no matter what words are spoken or however they seem to be true. Hearing it now, I want you to see that nothing has ended. Life has more to give you. Has good it owes you.”

My eyes shift back to the window, searching, waiting, and I feel the blow when my back slams once again into the wall, and I hear the wall splinter and crack.

 

Visit Lesleigh’s blog at Of Words and Writing!

You can also visit her publisher website, which offers more-detailed information about Red Moonglow on Snow (book trailer, blog, insights, and social media links).

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And you can purchase Red Moonglow on snow here

Amazon.com: Red Moonglow on Snow (Ravery’s Daughters Book 1) eBook: L. Nahay: Kindle Store