Sunday, November 10, 2019

1st 5 Pages Nov Workshop - Williams Rev 1

Name: Judith Williams
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Title: Midsummer Chronicles

The last remnant of magic swept over the warm beach and into the forest that grew across the island, searching for a boy whose time had come. A boy whose time had long since passed.

The wind ruffled the dark curls at the nape of Reyne’s neck, sending a tingling surge along his spine. He shivered and rubbed the arms of his pale green tunic, peering into the thick canopy of leaves that shadowed his home. Not a single giggle or sparkle of light. No faeries in sight. Strange, he thought, brushing the back of his neck.

Reyne adjusted the basket on his hip and stepped out of his one-room cottage nestled into the side of a tree. Many trees dotted the island, but only this one had been crafted into a dwelling. It sat alone atop a hill, against the rocky bluffs that surrounded most of the island.

Reyne set the basket down, shut the door, and then opened and closed it again, repeating this process several times and counting to three as he did so. The faeries knew when he skipped this part, and he didn’t want to be confined to his room again as their sense of time seemed to differ from his own.

Lifting the basket, he walked down the hill toward the beach, stopping at every seventh stepping stone, as demanded by the ritual, to pick the deep red berries from the bushes along the path. Reyne paused before the tall grasses that separated the island from the sandy shore. He tilted his head, listening for movement, and stepped through.

Seymour waited.

Reyne sighed.

The faerie’s wings fluttered rapidly. “Finally,” the small faerie snarled.

“But I’m exactly on time,” Reyne muttered.

Seymour circled the air above Reyne several times and swooped down to hover in Reyne’s face. “Are you questioning me?” The faerie narrowed his eyes and ran his fingers through his hair. Golden highlights glinted over the spikes in the early morning light.

Reyne shuffled his feet in the sand.

Seymour snickered. “What a disgrace.”

Heat rushed to Reyne’s face.

“Get the ritual set up before I get back.” Seymour flew off toward the white tower that loomed over the island from the top of the bluffs.

A weight settled on Reyne, heavy and suffocating. How he despised the faeries. They always played tricks and carried themselves with their nose in the air. He never wanted to be a faerie. One day he would escape this place.

Reyne strolled toward the center of the beach and tossed his basket to the ground. The ocean waves rose and fell, sparkling in the early morning light. Freedom. It couldn’t be ocean forever. There had to be another island out there. Reyne inhaled as the salty sea air caressed his face. The rise and fall of the waves captivated him and a longing stirred deep within. He’d been forbidden from entering the ocean. The Faerie Queen had made it clear the punishment would be severe if he put even a toe in the water.

Seymour’s smug face flashed before him. Reyne clenched his fist, digging his nails into his palm. He gazed at the sea, and his pulse raced. A chill wind blew through his hair and goosebumps prickled along his skin. They don’t control me.

Reyne glanced over his shoulder, pulled off his shoes, and ran across the sand, stopping just before the waves reached his bare feet. He half-turned toward the tall grasses, watching for any sign of faeries. With a sigh, he stepped forward into the sun-kissed water.

The waves sloshed over Reyne’s feet, and he wiggled his toes. Pleasure ignited his body, a smile touched his lips, and the wind picked up, a salty kiss dancing across his skin. He backed away and closed his eyes, letting out a gentle sigh as the feeling left him. Never did he imagine the ocean would feel so wonderful, so connected to the world around him.

Reyne opened his eyes and stared across the ocean. A peacefulness enveloped him. Nothing dark and ominous out there. So why couldn’t he enter? The faeries directed every aspect of his life. He had always listened out of fear of what they might do, but what would they actually do?

Reyne’s stomach tightened, and he fought to push away the nausea that rose up each time he disobeyed. A heavy fog rolled over his mind. His thoughts were off today. He shouldn’t think ill thoughts about the faeries. Without the Fae, what would he be?

He lowered his head and turned away, trudging back to his sandals buried in the sand and the sickness faded. If he didn’t get the morning greeting set up, the Fae would become curious and, for Reyne, curiosity meant punishment. He had enough chores without the Fae adding any more—and he didn’t need their mocking tone.

Reyne searched the tall grass lining the edge of the beach and grabbed a stick poking from the sand. He walked along, brushing the fingers of his other hand over the long, green blades. The sun peeked over the horizon indicating the ritual should begin. Reyne would greet the sun and say the word signaling the faeries to come out. Lacking magic, his part existed for theatrics. The Fae would come and raise the platform themselves.

He turned his head toward the sun. Its warm rays blanketed his body, casting his shadow over the sand. A shiver ran down his spine and the light caressed his skin. Careful to place one foot directly in front of the other, he moved forward until he stood centered between the tall grasses and the water’s edge.

Reyne took seven steps to his left, pushed the tip of the stick into the sand, and drew a large circle. He dropped it at his feet and placed his palms together, pressing his thumb against his sternum. The ocean breeze ruffled his hair as he bowed deeply to the sun.

He pointed toward the blazing orb. “Eimi!” he shouted.

The ocean rumbled.

A burst of light shot from the sun and across the waves. Reyne flew through the air, landing hard on his back. Grains of sand shifted beneath him. He scrabbled away. A tiled, bluestone floor encircled by twelve, large rectangular, flat-topped rocks rose, revealing the, grand pavilion in the center.

Reyne’s heart thundered in his ears, and he lowered himself onto one of the stone benches to catch his breath. “That was power. . .” He inhaled to steady his breathing and pushed himself off the bench. A tremble created a slight waiver in his steps as he walked over to the basket he had tossed. Hands shaking, he lifted it to his waist and turned, releasing a sigh of relief. He stood alone.

Reyne crept toward the pavilion and stood before one of the slabs. He glanced at his basket. The placing usually occurred after the faeries arrived. Eyes closed, he took another deep breath and steadied the shaking in his hands. His eyes popped opened, and he grabbed a handful of berries and dropped them on the flat top, making his way around the circle and repeating the action at each slab. Reyne stepped back from the stones examined his body. No bruises, no sparkles, no sign that anything out of the ordinary had happened. His mind whirled. He couldn’t have done it. He was human. So, who or what?

1st 5 Pages Nov Workshop - Standridge Rev 1

Name: Casey Standridge
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Title: Hope's End

You can never cross the ocean until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.

Wren Baker thought that was a ridiculous statement.

In her sixteen years of living, she had crossed many “oceans” without any courage or even desire to do so, yet life took her on its unfortunate path anyway.

She pondered these words from one of her favorite books as she gazed out at the Atlantic, wishing the seconds would tick by a bit faster. She fidgeted with the uncomfortable red straps of her lifeguard suit, then shifted impatiently on the hard wood of the guard stand. Finally, her phone vibrated, signaling the end of her shift.

About time, Wren thought. Now she just had to wait on Mason to come replace her, a task that took most of her fellow lifeguards only a few seconds. Mason, on the other hand, preferred to stroll agonizingly slow down the beach first. Surveying, he called it. More like wasting everyone’s time.

Wren fished in the pocket of her shorts for the little vial, assuring herself it was still there. She brushed her fingers against the smooth glass as Mason completed his survey and approached her stand.

“All clear,” he squeaked up at her.

“Great,” Wren replied unenthusiastically.

The beach was deserted, crashing waves and harsh winds driving off the Miami beachgoers as a thunderstorm loomed on the horizon. Of course it was all clear. She clambered down the wooden ladder of the stand and shoved the rescue tube into Mason’s waiting arms.

“Enjoy the rain,” she called up to him as he took his spot on the stand.

He ignored her, gazing intently out at the water so as not to miss any invisible swimmers.

Wren rolled her eyes and headed towards a more private strip of the shore with determined steps. She needed to be home soon, she’d have to hurry. But this couldn’t wait. The vial clicked against her keys in her pocket as she trotted over the uneven sand, reminding her it was there. As if she could forget.

She pulled it out and sprinkled some of her mother’s ashes in the water, as she had done each year before.

She thought of Nathan, her twin, and wished she could do the same for him. But it had been three years of searching the ocean, and they still hadn’t found his body.

Three years today, she thought. It felt like both a lifetime ago and just yesterday. She had to strain to remember the exact shade of her mom’s eyes. The sound of her brother’s laugh. 

The sound of crying pulled Wren from her dark thoughts. She glanced behind her and saw a girl, no more than eight, red-face and shrieking in the sand. A woman, presumably the girl’s mom, stood over her, scolding her about something. She pointed down to the water where Wren stood.

Wren turned away, but the girl had already started walking towards her.

“S’cuse me, I…Can you…,” she stammered. “I lost my mommy’s keys trying to catch a fish, can you find them for me? I-I don’t wanna be in troub—” her voice cut out as she burst into more tears.

Wren pushed aside her frustration at being interrupted as she looked down at the distressed little girl. She felt for her. She’d had her fair share of lectures over her mother’s things being lost or broken due to the schemes she and Nathan used to pull. She smiled down at the girl.

“Hey now, don’t cry. I bet we’ll find them in no time, I’m an expert treasure hunter,” she said with a wink.

The girl relaxed a bit and gave her the smallest of smiles. She shuffled off in the sand, leading Wren to where she thought she’d dropped them.

Wren waded out into the warm water until it reached just above her waist, toes sinking into the thick, coarse sand. Her eyes scoured the murky floor of the ocean, searching for a glint of metal. After only a few minutes, she caught a glimpse of something shiny through the rolling waters. She kicked at it in the sand but was disappointed.

It wasn’t a set of keys. Just a flat shell, rough and scaly on one side and slick and shiny like a pearl on the other.

Shrugging in defeat, she bent to retrieve it anyway. Her grandmother would love to add it to her bathroom decor.

As her fingers closed around it, her skin prickled with goosebumps. A man’s sharp voice called out her name.  She glanced around to see who’d yelled for her, but the waters were empty. The shore was as well besides the little girl and her mother, who didn’t appear to have heard anything.

The voice continued. “There are things you must know, things—”

A rough wave crashed into Wren’s side. The voice instantly cut out as the impact knocked the shell from her hand. She searched frantically for it in the water, but the waves were only getting stronger, making the ocean floor beneath her a chaotic mess. Sand and thick globs of seaweed swirled around her feet, but the strange shell was nowhere to be found.

Startled, Wren took a deep breath to compose herself. She didn’t need to find it again, it was just a shell. She’d imagined it, that was all. Shells didn’t speak to people. Couldn’t speak to people.

Things you must know.

The words haunted her as she struggled to convince herself they hadn’t been real.

She turned back towards the shore and spotted the little girl. She was ankles deep in the water, victoriously waving a sparkling mass of keys in air.

Wren smiled lightly as the girl skipped off in the sand towards her mom, her meltdown completely forgotten. She waded back to the shore as well, carefully avoiding the shells.


In her short bike ride home, the sun began its slow descent toward the horizon. Thunder rumbled in the distance. She wiped off the sweat coating her forehead and pedaled faster, hoping to beat the rain.

She rounded the final corner onto her grandparent’s street and saw their old sheepdog, Pooka, galloping across the perfectly trimmed yard. Wren’s grandmother chased him half-heartedly away from her freshly planted flowers. Wren smiled at them as she pulled into the driveway, and her grandmother gave up her fruitless chase and came to greet her.

“Oh, my dear, you’re back so late. I don’t know how things are done in France, but here you should really get home earlier,” she said sweetly, then led the way into the garage.

Wren followed, paying no mind to her grandmother’s unusual greeting. Grandma Ginger had had dementia for over two years now, doctors blaming the family tragedy for the early onset of the disease. For the past few months, she had thought Wren to be a foreign exchange student from France.

How she came to this conclusion, Wren had no idea. She didn’t speak the language and had never even visited the place.

Wren parked her bike in the garage, careful to avoid her grandfather’s ancient but prized Ford pickup, and continued on into the house. She changed quickly out of her lifeguard suit, swapping it for a simple t-shirt and shorts. Her one unique accessory was the golden locket she secured around her neck, the only valuable thing she’d inherited from her mother. She deftly braided her long pale hair and headed back out.

1st 5 Pages Nov Workshop - Telford Rev 1

Name: Pat Telford
Genre: Young Adult mystery
Title: Sky Lanterns Over Nether Ides : A Redferne Family Mystery

Chapter 1 - Orphans

Higgs

Last year my brother Faraday instantly figured out why that helicopter crashed into the fringe of Nicholson's Woods. He stood there, a little too close to the blazing wreckage and pointed out to Newton and the other police officers what had happened. If only it was that easy to arrive at some conclusions when examining the more recent wreckage of our family. When I get trapped in the maze of thoughts about the deaths of our mother then father, I don't even try to find the way out. That's the best way to survive.

As a result of the crash investigation, Faraday was briefly a minor local celebrity. His hair wafted traces of smoke and he still smelled of aviation fuel when the first reporters and prying neighbours appeared at our house. They were politely turned away by my parents, but in town for the next few weeks Faraday walked quickly and anxiously. It was visibly awkward for him to accept the praise and earnest interest expressed by the people he might encounter. His bedroom became more of a haven than usual. I dread to think what he would have been like if the spotlight of attention shone on him *after*. I still feel the space where my parents should exist, and I know he does too.

He seems to suck in so much information and comes to conclusions so quickly that he often figures things out before anyone else has a chance to get their thinking caps out of their back pockets, let alone put them on. His incessant counting, obsession with detail, and his failure to understand how to speak to people he hasn't known for at least several years are infuriating. But at 17 years old, even though he's a year and a half older than I am, he will always have an inner child that needs guidance.

Because everyone else in the house was snarled up in the aftermath of the helicopter crash in some way, I never found a good chance to talk to my parents about what happened to me that same night. The next morning, I opened my mouth and started to tell my mother a half dozen times, but then cut myself off mid-word. I didn't want to be the baby sister distracting my brother's protectors.

That night, the nightmarish black smoke glowing orange underneath from the still burning helicopter had been visible from my bedroom window. It was cool, but the breeze on my face and hands was not unpleasant. But in the moment immediately before I heard my grandmother's voice whispering from the back yard, every little hair on my body stood on end, as if there was a prize for the straightest-looking strand.

"Higgs!" she whispered dreamily. "Higgs! You are a tree." I could hear her clearly, but she wasn't visible in the yard, even though nobody had bothered to turn off the string of bulbs that ran suspended over its length. And it couldn't be her out there, could it? She was in a medical care home up by the hills, and there was no way she could walk all the way down here, especially not at night.

I dared to call out to her tentatively, even though I did not believe she was there. "Granny?"

There was no direct answer, but her distinctive musical voice spoke one more time, this time at full volume. "A tree."

It wasn't a dream that her voice said nothing more and my hairs settled down. It wasn't a dream that my palms started to itch, and when I turned them over and looked down, tiny shoots of vegetation had started to spring out from them. It wasn't a dream that the shoots turned to leaves, green at first and then crinkling into autumn reds and oranges. I know it wasn't a dream-although my palms had returned to a normal girlish state in the morning, my bed was sprinkled with fallen autumn leaves. It was springtime.

I was in denial, like a polar explorer looking at blackened, frozen toes and figuring they'll feel better after a nice soak in some warm water. Something unseen was forming in the dark recesses of my brain, but I refused to acknowledge it. I decided not to tell anyone, and now my parents will never know.



I had known Dot Pendlethwaite since we were toddling unsteadily around at mothers' group meet-ups. Although we shared the same outlook on life, onlookers would likely only pick out our differences. Dot seemed insubstantial, with her almost reflective dark hair often half-drawn curtains across her pale face. And I was a midget compared to her, with the tufty peaks of my blonde crop barely reaching her chin when we stood close in conspiring conversation.

There was also a newcomer to our circle - Lars Janssen. He arrived at West Ides School only last year and gained admission on a scholarship because he was as clever as anyone at the school. He lived in a small, cluttered apartment in the town centre with his mother who ran the Trove of Wonders consignment shop at the canal end of the high street. His English still had a Swedish lilt to it, and he sprinted his lightweight frame from home to shop to school without much care for the state of his shoes. Friendly and unpretentious, he somehow found Dot and I in his first week and has been a fixture ever since.

I thought of Faraday often when I was at school with my own friends. His general existence was like the world's most pathetic Instagram account. He followed just one person-our brother Newton, who took advantage of that fierce analytical mind, making him an informal helper in his police detective activities. And Faraday had just one follower-our dog Disco. Faraday was ten years old on the afternoon that he and my grandmother found her as a stray, up by the canal tunnel, and they have since been inseparable. She came to us with a little rip in one silky-soft ear and an unregulated eyeball that tends to get bored with what the other eye is observing and rove off to find its own superior view. Maybe Disco, a scrawny whippet with snaggly teeth sees Faraday as a fellow misfit.


Disco

Humans are such idiots sometimes. I'm no steak surgeon, but sheesh. I'm not even the smartest dog in the neighbourhood. There's a French bulldog that lives just around the corner. She looks dumber than a sheep, with her comical underbite. Still, she somehow outsmarts me every time. But dogs are rarely wrong about the basics. We don't overthink things. We never let analysis get in the way of instinct. We protect the pack.

Check out that human that kept coming around with Higgs after school. He was always chatting and getting a bit closer than she seemed to like. I don't know his name. Just like I don't know pretty much everyone else's name. He smelled like raspberry leaves, talcum powder, and faintly of frying bacon. That guy. I knew he was hiding something, from Higgs and from everyone else. I didn't have any reason to think that, but I knew it. It was my mission to find out what he was hiding. If only I could get the kids to take me to the right spots to properly investigate. I could protect the pack.

1st 5 Pages Nov Workshop - Grant Rev 1

Name: Belinda Grant
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Title: The Librex

Climbing down a slippery cliff in the dark was not one of my talents.

My sister Sunny was made for the task. While my stubby fingers gripped for dear life, she’d scampered down like a lizard, barely touching the grooves in the stone. She dropped down to the hard, slick rock as if it was spongy grass, dumped the contents of her bag and began to make a fire, occasionally looking up as if surprised I hadn’t joined her.

I wished I’d stayed in bed. The night’s little moonlight had vanished. All that guided my hands was the slight glow of the clouds, and the white waves that lapped against the rocks below. Those same clouds also gifted a misty rain, adding to the unpleasantness of my descent. Secret, mysterious caves, it turned out, weren’t so appealing in the rain.

I inched my way down further, dropping the toe of my boot into a lower groove. Now I stretched out as far as I could reach. I let go with one hand to grab a rock jutting out near my elbow, but the pressure on my other hand was too much. With a cry I fell. I landed on my feet but lost my footing and crashed onto my rear.

“Why’d you let go, Annie?” Sunny called out.

I lay flat on the rock, glaring at the grey sky as if it was to blame. “It wasn’t exactly on purpose.” I groaned and pushed myself up gingerly onto first one, then both of my feet. My ankles survived, though my rear started to throb. Why couldn’t my body behave for once?

Sunny had finished her fire and was now preparing a torch to light our way. Even she wasn’t dextrous enough to descend a cliff holding a lantern. “Well, hurry up. We don’t have much time.”

She was right. I’d spent many sleepless nights observing the tides, and the platform where we stood was only safe from the waves for an hour at a time.

Research. That was a talent of mine.

For years we’d been fascinated by the cave, situated in the cliff just north of our house. Visible during the low tide, we pondered if anything hid behind its jagged mouth. We couldn’t risk swimming in, where the waves did their regular battle with the rocks. We assumed the smooth cliff was too difficult to climb. But a few weeks before I’d noticed the strange grooves in the rock, making it safe to descend to the platform at its mouth.

Safe for Sunny at least.

The grey Morgandy Sea reflected the night’s cloudy sky. The biggest waves would break against the platform, close to reaching Sunny’s spitting fire. I ducked down, holding my aching hands up towards the flames. The cave was darker than I’d pictured, and I rubbed my prickling arm.

Sunny twisted an oiled cloth around a green branch. She rocked from one foot to the other and her night-dress, half tucked into her drawers, billowed in the wind against her tall, lean frame. Her blonde curls danced across her face as she worked. She kept blowing them out of the way with frustration, but little success.

“What do you think’ll be in there?” Sunny asked, using her body as a shield from the wind as she lit the torch.

“Treasure?”

“Treasure?” Sunny’s laugh had a patronising undertone, as if I wasn’t already thirteen, and barely two-year years her junior.

“Well, what do you think it is, oh wise and great Sunnilyn Demar?”

“A pirate skeleton, maybe? Not coins or jewellery.”

I hadn’t meant coins or jewellery. I hadn’t lost sleep marking tides for coins or jewellery. I hadn’t risked my ankles or the wrath of our protective parents for coins or jewellery.

I had a greater treasure in mind. Magic. I licked my lips and moved forward.

Sunny stepped into the mouth. The slimy walls and loose rocks at my feet were perfect locations for things to hide. Slimy, dark things. I pushed up close to Sunny. What might have made their homes in the caves depths?

I could almost taste the salty water that clung to the walls. The light from Sunny’s torch bounced off the stone as she hurried along. She came to an upward ledge standing just above the high tide line. With a jump she was up, light in hand, and she reached down to help me lumber my way to the top.

The cave walls narrowed in around us, the roof brushing Sunny’s head. Damp from my cloak seeped through to my nightdress. Sunny raced ahead, but I slowed down, surprised at the length of the tunnel. Who’d last braved this spot?

Someone had been here. Waves couldn’t forge this. Someone cut those groves in the rocks.

The tunnel went dark as Sunny turned a corner. She gasped, and I quickened my steps. There were still no hints of the whispers I always heard when a magical item was close by.

Sunny stood at the end of the cave. If there’d been any doubt that people had made this, it was quelled by the sight of a symbol, the size of my head, chiselled into the wall. Four triangles connected at their tips and fanning out like a flower. Below was a stone pillar, carved out of the back of the cave.

On the pillar was a wooden box.

Tiny enough to fit in the palm of my hand, the wood was dark-brown, coated in thick resin. On the box, etched into the surface and burnt black was the same symbol that watched over us from the wall.

“By the River.” My voice echoed strangely through the cave. It was much too small to hide a staff or a book. A gem perhaps?

Sunny poked the wood with her finger, as if hearing my thoughts. “It might be an artefact. Do you hear anything?”

I moved closer, even held my hand over the box. I strained to hear something, anything. But it was no good. There was only the sound of distant waves and two sets of breath.

“No whispers.” My voice was low and someone more sensitive than Sunny would have picked up the hint of tears behind it. There was no reason to think there’d be an artefact just waiting in the cave by our house. But I’d day-dreamed the possibility too many times, it had become almost a certainty in my mind.

But there was nothing. No Magic. No answers as to why I could hear what I heard. And no magic I could use to protect Sunny and I from the Wizard Lords.

I turned the box in my hand. The resin which protected it from the elements sealed it shut. Sunny rustled through her pack and handed me a knife. She stood behind me and rested her chin on my shoulder, holding up her torch for light as I pried it open.

Inside was a quartz stone. It was a speckled, cloudy white, with a vein of metallic blond running through the centre. Shaped like a bent knuckle with a hole in the end.

“A rock?!” Sunny shook her head as I held it up to the light. “I could find five thousand of these on the walk to town. Why the shrine?”

It made no sense. Why would someone go to some much trouble for something so ordinary? I turned it in my hand, watching the glow from the little string of mental. It was rather pretty.

1st 5 Pages Nov Workshop - Pounds Rev 1

Name: Sarah Jane Pounds
Genre: YA Fantasy
Title: Rider in the Mist
CHAPTER ONE



The nameless girl and her horse trudged through the swirling snow of an endless winter. As they had done a hundred times before, they passed under the arching canopy of ancient spruce and pine. The girl maneuvered the horse through the familiar grove of aspens. Their spindly, naked arms bowed under the burden of fresh powder. The stallion's nostrils flared, puffing little clouds of steam as they trudged through the snowy trail. A trill call echoed from far off, deep in the forest. 
The girl knew it. Could picture the bird, a striking crimson with yellow feet. And yet, she could not remember the name. Surely it had a name, as did every living creature. Some she knew at once. Like the trees; spruce, aspen, fir. But others left her. The name slipping just out of reach as she tried to speak it. She wondered what a bird like that with such a beautiful song could be called. 

But the name itself was lost.
Much was lost to her.

Although there was no road to travel on, the animals that lived in the woods had left a path for them to follow. The girl peered over the side of the black horse, glancing past the heel of her leather boots, and watched as the horse’s hoof prints were left behind.
There was no way to know for certain if they’d come by here recently due to the fresh snowfall last night. New snow fell here every night, erasing all signs of those who’d passed before, including them.

But she’d grown clever over her time in the forest. 
She let out a deep sigh when they rounded a thick trunk, and her gaze tracing up the backside of the tree.Like a grisly wound, long strips of bark were peeled away revealing the softer, flesh-colored wood underneath.

The same marks as yesterday.
And the day before.

And every other day she’d been trapped here, in this winter wood.
Fragments of a world outside the trees teased her when she slept, shuffling images of grassy meadows and rows of stone houses perched along a wide road. 
It had to exist. She felt the truth, a longing etched in her bones. And until her last breath, she’d never stop searching to find it. 
Find a way out.

She pulled the horse to a stop and climbed off. Her boots sunk up to her knees in the snow as she trudged the few steps to the enormous tree.
She took the small dagger from her belt, one of the precious few items she owned. A rare gift she’d found in this cursed wood. The knot in her belly twisted, and she bit her lip while scraping the blade into the bark. When it was finished, she tore her eyes away for fear of counting the number of marks that she’d made on days past.
Today, however, she’d had to start a new line.
A new row beneath dozens of others.
Quickly, she turned and mounted her horse.

“Easy, boy,” she said and patted him on the neck. Her voice cracked as she spoke from its rare use. She tugged her hood back just enough so she could search the surrounding brush and branches. The snow drifted down in spiraling pirouettes from the gray sky. 

She’d lost count of how many days she’d been here. Day. Night. Day. Night. Always to keep traveling, pushing to find the edge. The invisible wall or door that separated her from the rest of the world. 

There must be other people, other places, besides this. Yet, as she’d made her marks on the tree, she ignored the sinking feeling that she was going in circles. Caught in an endless loop. She fought the urge to succumb to the fear that perhaps this was all a dream, and there was no hidden wall. 

Perhaps, she’d never make it out.
All sunshine was muted through the thick cloud cover, an infinite sea of gray above an endless blanket of white. 

It was the memory of blue sky that pushed her, kept her from collapsing under the brutal weight of despair. Forced her to wake up every morning, saddle her horse, and continue on.
The horse’s pace picked up and his ears flicked front to back, listening.

Her legs tensed, gripping the saddle a little tighter. She stilled her breathing, hearing nothing but the soft thump-thump of his hoofbeats and her pulse thrumming in her ears.
The bird no longer sang his tune. The forest had fallen silent.
Thump, thump, thump.

They continued onward. An urge bubbled to the surface. 
Move faster. Find a way out.

The primal drive to survive pushed her. She wasn’t safe in the trees. The horse was fast, but only in wide-open clearings where he could stretch his legs at full speed. Among the dense trees, a full gallop wouldn’t only be impossible, it’d be deadly.
She’d stolen a glance over her shoulder, squinting through the falling snow for any sign of movement. But behind them, lay only a curtain of white, shrouding everything but the darkest silhouettes of trees and hedges.

The stallion snorted and the girl leaned forward, feeling his body tense between her legs. She didn’t speak this time. When he acted like this, it was best to keep quiet. His hearing far exceeded hers. She trusted it.

Trusted him. 

Raven she had called him when she’d first discovered him desperately scraping at the deep snow. Like her, he’d been hungry. Scared. Lost.

While his past was still a mystery to her, she knew the stallion was not a creature of the forest. His origin belonged somewhere else, somewhere warmer where food and shelter were never a worry. The girl had imagined he’d belonged to a fair noble lady or perhaps a knight. She wondered if he’d ever seen the battlefield or had been required only to accent a royal carriage during a parade.

Raven had been the only word she could use to reflect such a coal-black color. He wasn’t the midnight blue-black of the night sky or the residual spent ash from a campfire, but black as the darkest recesses of a cave. The inky surface of the water at the bottom of a deep well on a moonless night. A creature void of color save but for a pair of intelligent garnet eyes that had so swiftly fixed their intense gaze upon her. She did not like to remember the time before.  The days she’d wandered this cursed forest...alone. 
The stallion arched his neck, his mane whipped her face, stinging the tender skin on her cheeks. 
From the veil of snow—a giant beast of ash and smoke emerged— crawling towards them. Its amber eyes glowed from the gray muzzled head. Raven’s body lifted up and the ground fell away beneath them as he reared.

She clutched a handful of mane with the reins, struggling to keep from sliding off the back of the saddle. The stallion grunted, lashing out his forehooves at the creature. 
The monster lowered its head, snarling.

Wolf.

But the image the name conjured in her memories was not the same as the animal that stood before her, teeth bared and eyes possessed.
The massive creature’s long, slender tail twitched like an irritated cat. But the most peculiar detail was its fur coat. It was...wrong. 

Sunday, November 3, 2019

1st 5 Pages Nov Workshop - Telford

Name: Pat Telford
Genre: Young Adult mystery
Title: Sky Lanterns Over Nether Ides : A Redferne Family Mystery

1 - Orphans

Faraday

I think my sniffer is broken. It's not that I can't smell anything, it's that the smells are stripped of emotion, and don't seem to register anywhere in the range from offensive to delightful. I'm more like our dog, Disco, than a proper human. We would both sniff a dead badger, a fallen slate roof shingle basking in summer sunshine, or the blooms of a lavender bush with enthusiasm, but without any real reaction. She might even get more emotional about a smell than I do. I guess you smell with your mind, not your nose, so maybe it's just another sign that whoever put my brain in my cranium gave it a quarter turn before insertion.

But the springtime when my sister Higgs unmasked the Knights of the Drowned Cabal, I wasn't really worrying about my broken sniffing powers. She was only 16, so I had to keep an eye on her. But I was also striving to figure out what the sky lanterns had to do with the explosion at the Ryder mansion, and why everyone was craving Fish and ‘Snips, all while trying to stop obsessing about what happened to our parents. I didn't think I could do all of that and prevent myself from breaking completely. Maybe I ended up both stronger and more broken, but you will have to judge that for yourself, because it’s hard for me to distinguish between broken and working.


In Middle Ides, a town hurled like a damp towel at the base of the hills and then forgotten by the main roads and rail lines of northern England, my older brother Newton, my younger sister Higgs, and I were accepted but always treated as a little odd. Up until their deaths last year, a few months apart, my parents kept us connected to the fabric of the town; Middle Ides was big enough that they weren’t part of the public consciousness, but they had a wide circle of friends and were woven into events ranging from the polo club to the fundraisers for the upkeep of the Ides Giant – a looming limestone outline of a primitive figure cut by some inspired but unknown ancients into the rising hills overlooking the town. It was undoubtedly the social connections of our parents that brought a thousand little kindnesses as we worked through the chaos, forced first into a single-parent family, and then to a home with only us nearly-children, aged 16, 18, and 22.

The three of us started out oddly, so maybe it makes sense that we continued a little oddly. Newton came crying into the darkened and nearly silent maternity ward during the big power failure of 1995. Higgs was born three weeks early, and made her entrance in the staff room at the Feynman Nanotechnology Centre, where our mother was chief scientist but snowed in like everyone else on the campus that day. And I arrived battered and bruised; I apparently seemed like I wanted to be born but then changed my mind and required considerable coaxing, a few incisions, and some use of forceps that my mother said more closely resembled fishing than medicine. I looked as alarmed and gangly at the moment of my birth as I do most of the time now, and I was so silent for the first few months that my parents worried something was seriously wrong with me.


Naming us after famous scientists didn’t help us blend in while growing up, either. Newton is maybe forgivable – it sounds like a proper first name, and he often just gets called Newt. But Higgs? And Faraday? That I am named after the pioneer of electromagnetism didn’t really strike my teenaged classmates as a good reason to stop making fun of me. My father told me that a name is just something that lets people refer to something or someone, but the real person behind the name is what matters. My name does not tell anyone what I truly am. He told me that 174 times. I counted. But I guess that’s one thing I can stop counting now.

When I tell you everything that happened, you will probably see that it’s the combination of our quirks and the way our parents prepared us that let us dig, and join, and chase our way into figuring out how the strange events around Middle Ides were like vines choking an ancient oak.

Disco

Humans are such idiots sometimes. Yes, I know you aren’t going to place much value in an insulting opinion from a scrawny whippet. Especially one with snaggly teeth. And one unregulated eyeball that tends to get bored with what the other eye is observing and rove off to find its own superior view. I’m not even the smartest dog in the neighbourhood. There’s a French bulldog that lives just around the corner. She has a comical underbite and only one ear pointing up. She looks dumber than a sheep, but she somehow outsmarts me every time. But dogs are rarely wrong about the basics. We don’t overthink things. We never let analysis get in the way of instinct.

Check out that human that kept coming around with Higgs after school. He was always chatting and getting a bit closer than she seemed to like. I don’t know his name. Just like I don’t know pretty much everyone else’s name. He smelled like raspberry leaves, talcum powder, and faintly of frying bacon. That guy. I knew he was hiding something, from Higgs and from everyone else. I didn’t have any reason to think that, but I knew it. It was my mission to find out what he was hiding. If only I could get the kids to take me to the right spots to properly investigate.

Newton


It’s only because of my father that I joined the police as a detective. During the day, I’m officially Detective Constable Newton Redferne, but I still feel like I should be working at a coffee shop or a grocery store. When he arranged for me to get the job, he probably thought that it was a safe place for me to start – how much detective work could a place like Middle Ides really need? And the first few months were indeed pretty quiet – I spent a lot of time in over-warm rooms sitting on uncomfortable plastic chairs, in training sessions and learning police operational procedures.

1st 5 Pages Nov Workshop - Standridge

Name: Casey Standridge
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Title: Hope's End

Andre Gide once said you can never cross the ocean until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.

Wren Baker thought that was a ridiculous statement.

In her sixteen years of living, she had crossed many “oceans” without any courage or even desire to do so, yet life took her on its unfortunate path anyway.

She pondered these words from one of her favorite books as she gazed out at the ocean. Though it was a warm summer day, the Miami sun was lost behind angry gray clouds. A harsh wind stripped the heat right off her skin. Not the most pleasant day.

Wren’s watch beeped, signaling the end of her shift. She clambered down the guard stand and headed towards a less crowded strip of the shore.

Three years today, she thought. It felt like both a lifetime ago and just yesterday. She had to strain to remember the exact shade of her mom’s eyes. The sound of her brother’s laugh.  

She pulled the vial of her mother’s ashes from her pocket and sprinkled some in the water, as she had done each year before. She thought of Nathan, her twin, and wished she could do the same for him. But it had been three years, and they still hadn’t found his body.

Wren was pulled from her dark thoughts by the sound of crying. She looked down the surf and saw a girl, no more than eight, red-face and shrieking. A woman, presumably the girl’s mom, stood over her, scolding her about something. She pointed harshly over to where Wren stood.

Startled, Wren looked away, but the girl had already started walking towards her.

“S’cuse me, I…Can you…,” she stammered. “I lost my mommy’s keys trying to catch a fish, can you find them for me? I-I don’t wanna be in troub—” her voice cut out as she burst into more tears.

Wren felt for her. She’d had her fair share of lectures over her mother’s things being lost or broken due to the schemes she and Nathan used to pull. She smiled down at the girl.

“Hey now, don’t cry. I bet we’ll find them in no time, I’m an expert treasure hunter,” she said with a wink.

The girl relaxed a bit and gave her the smallest of smiles. She shuffled off in the sand, leading Wren to where she thought she’d dropped them.

Wren waded out into the warm water until it reached just above her waist. Her eyes scoured the sandy floor of the ocean, searching for a glint of metal. After only a few minutes, she caught a glimpse of something shiny through the rolling waters. She kicked at it in the sand but was disappointed. 

It wasn’t a set of keys. Just a shell, rough and scaly on one side and slick and shiny like a pearl on the other. 

Shrugging in defeat, she bent to retrieve it anyway. Her grandmother would love to add it to her bathroom decor. As her fingers closed around it, her skin prickled with goosebumps, and an unfamiliar man’s voice shouted her name. Wren flinched away from the thing, dropping it back into the water. The sharp voice cut out. She glanced around for the man who’d called her. The waters were empty. The shore was as well except the little girl’s mother, who didn’t appear to have heard anything. She trudged away from the shell with a sense of unease. 

She was about to continue her search, but as she walked towards the shore, she saw the girl, ankles deep in the water, waving a sparkling mass of keys at her.

Wren smiled as the girl skipped off towards her mom, her meltdown completely forgotten. It wasn’t the worst way to end a shift. She waded back to the shore, all thoughts of that eerie voice drifting away with the tide.

In her short bike ride home, the sun began its slow descent toward the horizon. Sunset was only a few hours away. She wiped off the sweat coating her forehead and pedaled faster, hoping to make this pit stop as quick and painless as possible.

She rounded the final corner onto her grandparent’s street and saw their old sheepdog, Pooka, galloping across the perfectly trimmed yard. Wren’s grandmother was chasing him half-heartedly away from her freshly planted flowers.

Wren smiled at them as she pulled into the driveway, and her grandmother gave up her fruitless chase and came to greet her.

“Oh, my dear, you’re back so late. I don’t know how things are done in France, but here you should really get home earlier,” she said sweetly, then led the way into the garage.

Wren followed, paying no mind to her grandmother’s unusual greeting. Grandma Ginger had had dementia for over two years now, doctors blaming the family tragedy for the early onset of the disease. For the past few months, she had thought Wren to be a foreign exchange student from France. How she came to this conclusion, Wren had no idea. She didn’t speak the language and had never even visited the place.

Wren parked her bike in the garage, careful to avoid her grandfather’s ancient but prized Ford pickup, and continued on into the house. She made it to her bedroom and changed quickly out of her lifeguard suit, swapping it for a simple t-shirt and shorts. Her only unique accessory was the golden locket she secured around her neck, the only valuable thing she’d inherited from her mother. She deftly braided her long pale hair and made her way back outside.

Halfway to the kitchen, Wren heard her grandfather before she saw him.

“Fore!” he yelled, a heavy thud echoing from his golf ball missing its target and smacking into the back door.

Wren grinned as he slowly made his way up the hilly backyard toward her. A dusty ball cap was thrown haphazardly onto his balding head. He wasn’t the most athletic—his bulging belly and heavy breathing from the twenty foot hike across the yard were evidence to that—but his love of golf kept him moving.

“Save some lives today?” He asked jokingly, pulling her into a bear hug and squeezing until it hurt.

“The usual,” Wren replied, shrugging like her job of a glorified beach babysitter was really that exciting. “Anyways, Grandpa, I can’t talk long. Selena will be here any second to pick me up for the movies, remember?”

“Right, right,” he said, nodding as if he did remember, though Wren saw the confusion in his eyes. She doubted he even recognized the name of her best friend right off hand. 

Lately he’d been forgetting lots of things, and Wren knew it wasn’t long until she had no family members left who knew she wasn’t French.

He stuffed his golf club back into its battered bag. “You kids be careful, no texting and driving. And no boys,” he winked, opening the back door for her as they heard a car horn honk.

“Gotta go,” she said, kissing her grandpa’s cheek and ran out the front door. 

Her grandmother’s shouts of “Au revoir!” followed her all the way to the car.