[NaNoWriMo] Chapter 1 (Draft)
Got most of chapter one done, for now anyway–i need to move on and get more broad strokes filled in or I’ll spend all of NaNo tweaking this one scene. As such, I figured that I would put it up so people who were curious about what I was writing this time ’round could get a taste.
This is a story I’ve been “writing” for years now. I’ve got snippets all over the narrative in various states of draft. In keeping with the NaNo spirit, I’m only using them as notes and re-writing the lot of them. This time though, I’m gonna get it all down. Get all of it written–even if it kills me 😀
When we first started North, I didn’t think that my life would take the dramatic turn it was about to. Granted, yes, things had already begun to change, year’s end was coming after all. The solstice brought with it the first signs of life’s return. Already the nights were growing shorter and the days warmer, the snow around Magian was melting, and the Silver river was nearing it’s banks.
Sadly, not everything was sharing in the rebirth. A week ago, just before the solstice, my mother fell ill. Nothing we did could stop the infection’s spread. Not even Lysander’s mother, one of the greatest practitioners of healing magic, could reverse the damage. Sadly, my mother passed on the longest night, surrounded by friends and family. In a way it was fitting that she depart with the winter, but that didn’t lessen the grief.
Father was a mess. His once vibrant visage was now pale and pallid. His green eyes, which used to shimmer with determination, were now lifeless. In the days before the funeral, he tread the halls of the citadel with lidded eyes and would lash out at anyone who tried to talk with him.
I suppose then that it wasn’t all that surprising that I found myself filling in both of their roles, but I never believed the Council to pick me as the next High Mage. When they approached me about it, I was furious. How could they expect me to sit in Mother’s place so soon after she had departed? Instead of answering them however, I had spent the last few days on a horse as part of the caravan to commit Mother’s remains to the catacombs in the Wystic capital of Enthi.
I found myself riding more or less near the middle of the caravan. Lysander was to my left, Silvia slightly ahead to the right. Lorsalla was riding with Brielle further back. It was a formation we had used so many times now that it was unconscious for the five of us.
We were half a day out from Magian, approaching the foothills of North End, when the question I had been trying to stifle in my head bubbled to the surface. It was a question I had asked a number of times since my appointment after Mother’s funeral.
“What I don’t get though is, why me?”
I said it as much to myself as those around me. To an extent, it was actual curiosity, but not enough to really follow up on, at least not while my emotions were a wreck. I might very well take both the council and the citadel apart with my reaction.
No, for the most part, it was all part of a ruse to dodge the condolences of those who had just joined up with the caravan. I’d found that the appearance of being wrapped up in a conversation with someone who looked like they should be one of my advisers was enough to convince people to leave me alone. Which, after the funeral, was all I wanted. I was tired of being told that death was something I would get used to. Tired of being told how great a mage my mother was. Or how much she would be missed. Or that people were behind me, that they supported me over Gar-Neil of the Neilan Lohs.
As with the last time I had asked this question, only some hours ago, Lysander responded with a snap more than an answer.
“Like I say every time: the council picked you. If you’re really curious, ask them. Otherwise, just…shut up about it!”
Glancing over at him from under the hem of my hood, I gauged his mood. The two of us had been friends for years and, between his easy going nature and expressive face, I could read him like a book. For now though, there wasn’t much of him to see, only his dark eyes and the copper colored skin that clung to the bridge of his nose. With his long frame crammed into a series of right angles by the saddle and stirrups, he looked more like a tower of cloth settled on a horse than a man riding. The image was not helped by how the heavy wool cap he was wearing was pulled down so far over his face that it almost covered his eyes and that a broad scarf obscured everything below the bridge of his stout nose. Further, every button on his tar smeared sea coat was done up and the collar was turned up against the soft winter wind. His arms were folded over his front, the reins dribbling out from the folds of one arm. His hands, hidden by the folds of canvas, held them just tight enough to keep his horse pointed in the right direction. There was literally none of him showing.
“I mean, there are plenty of others who are just as strong in magic as I am.” I continued on as if he hadn’t responded.
He let out a long breath, one that steamed through the scarf, before he spoke. “They want someone from our generation, Rex,” Lysander said in an airy tone, much of his practiced irritation melting in spite of himself. “Someone with new ideas.”
“Then why not your cousin or one of the Dranan Clan girls?” I said quickly, making sure my voice carried.
Lysander turned as best he could without exposing extra skin and gave me a look reminiscent of the time I suggested we jump on a dragon. “Do you really want her in charge of the continent?” he said with a nod towards Silvia.
A silvery laugh echoed back to us, as Silvia caught wind of our conversation. “Talking about me behind my back, Ly?”
Silvia slowed her pace, letting her horse drop back to where we were in the caravan. Unlike Lysander, who was buttoned to the chin against the cold, her cloak hung open and her hood was tossed back. The tips of her short and deliberately erratic locks ruffled in the breeze against a twill scarf that was draped around her neck once and then tucked down into a densely knit tunic. Fur lined boots came up to her knees and her leather breeches were tucked into the tops. Her hands were clad, as always, in her scared leather gauntlets. Her honey complexion shimmered in the sun and amber eyes danced with mischief as she met both of our eyes in turn.
As they lingered on mine, I knew she still had feelings for me—I certainly had them for her. Being around her again like this drug up all kinds of emotions, which was slowly creating an awkward situation. One complicated by the way she had made every effort to be with me when she and Uncle had arrived in Magian the day before last.
I had concluded then, with a rather large mental sigh, that things would follow the same arc as the last time our paths crossed. We would get remember how close we used to be. We’d be drawn to each other, wanting to feel that connection again. We would have a moment, a night for just us. That last part might just be once or go on for weeks, but then, for no real reason, she would push me away. I didn’t understand why. It was just how things with her had become and, knowing her, was how they would continue.
“Would I do that?” Lysander asked in a hurt tone, my mind picturing that toothy grin he always used for such retorts. He turned to me, keeping up in his innocent act. “Would I do that, Rex?”
I rolled my eyes and smiled, if only for his benefit. I knew this was his way of trying to make me feel better. It was the only reason he was being so incorrigible. In a way, it worked. The banter made it feel like old times, times before the war. When all we had to worry about was the year’s Fel-ah circuit. The mix of nostalgia and Silvia’s intoxicating presence began to get overbearing. I could feel my aura stir as my heart beat increased step by step. Shaking my head, trying to clear it, I excused myself and headed back to check on things.
<introduce Lorsalla and Brielle>