Sunday, October 19, 2014
First Five Pages Workshop - Wolfe Rev 2
Young Adult Fantasy
The Kinship Mantle
Sheba had warned him earlier that day, so when Kenley exploded and disappeared into the sword, Hal couldn’t say he hadn’t had notice. Of course, he didn’t know exactly what was going to happen; his dragoncat was never quite so specific. Still, he could have been more careful. He could have made sure Kenley had been more careful.
That was a laugh. He shook his head at the very idea, as Sheba rested across his shoulders, her weight heavy and relaxed, pressing down onto his neck and loosening his muscles. She purred thickly against him as he sighed, still in awe of what he had seen, and the rumblings that came from her small body helped him to stay focused on his memories, which may have been fresh but confused him all the same. It had been less than an hour since it had happened, and he now held the sword in his hands as he sat on a bale of hay, staring at it as if, considering what had just occurred, it might begin to speak and explain. The old wives’ tales of the one who would reunite the country and save her from centuries of strife. If that didn’t sound like a ridiculous fairy tale, he didn’t know what did. Kenley? His little sister? Even she would admit it was more than a little unbelievable. She was clumsy, absent-minded - and she had taken the cracked sword that had been practically a plaything to them for the last ten years, raised it high above her untamed mess of hair, and stared defiantly at the damaged metal before spontaneously combusting.
Hal would have laughed at her, at the obscene number of pearls shimmering on her dress like a gathering halo as the women around her wrestled with the silk folds to stitch them in one by one. The last time she had seen him, they were both ankle deep in cow manure, straw in her dirty length of hair, mud dried beneath her nails, and he had yelled at her for leaving a pitchfork out on the barn floor where he could and did step on the tines to flip the wooden handle up and smack him in the face. Now, she allowed her eyes to drift closed and pictured his face, damp and flushed in momentary anger, and felt her fingers curl into fists at her sides. Her nails were chewed to the quick, the nubs harmlessly pressed into her palms.
“Your grace, it would help if you would kindly hold your breath.”
One of the sewing ladies spoke with words of respect but a tone of impatience and resentment. Kenley took a small breath and held her belly in as much as she could, regretting the extra cherry tart she had charmed out of the tavern keeper’s wife the night before, keeping her eyes sealed against the image in the huge mirror before her. She stood in the middle of the room surrounded by kneeling women of varying ages, their heads bound in plain white scarves and their attention fixed on the slippery silk that filled their hands. She tried to keep her brother’s angry red face in focus as someone started to pull at the back of her head, scraping a rough bristled brush against her scalp in an attempt to tame her unruly hair. Good luck to them, she thought, and wondered how long she had been there. Not just in the room, but in the castle. Time had seemed to stand still since she had found herself here, had been handled and paraded around for inspection like an animal set to compete in a village fair. The attendants, especially those who had been instructed to bathe her earlier that day, made no pretense of liking her or their work and carried on as if she were deaf. While she didn’t care what they thought of her, she did wonder what she had ever done to them to earn such ire.
“Well, if the king is looking for a grubby wench to sit on the throne beside him, he sure could have come looking right here in the castle. If it’s mucky he wants, any one of us could have fit that bill.”
They snorted with laughter. Kenley knew she was dirty, but it was honest dirt that came from honest work, much like these women’s own. It would be strange, though, she considered, for them to be set to work on a strange girl presented to them as their new queen, who looked no more royal than they did. Her head felt fuzzy from the heat of the steam, and she wished she could jump in the cool lake back home, with Hal at her side. What a fuss, she thought. No one had ever paid so much attention to her hair before, and she knew Hal would be greatly amused to see it free of straw and mud and whatever else she had collected on the farm and in the woods. She wondered what it had looked like to him, when she disappeared, and if his dragoncat Sheba had explained it. Surely Sheba knew more about it than she did. Really, at this point, anyone might know more about it than she did.
Hal knew that Sheba had something to do with the strange calm that had come over him after the initial shock of Kenley’s disappearance had passed. The dragoncat had always influenced his feelings, and for the better, but this felt inappropriate, and began to scare him. The usual teasing between him and his sister had been interrupted when her jaw set firm, her smile vanished, and with a straight back that would have pleased their mother, who always complained about Kenley’s slouching, she had gripped the sword tightly and held it directly in front of her. What in the world, he had begun to ask, but before he could speak, the space in front of Kenley, the air that even in the early morning had held a heaviness that spoke of a humid day to come, seemed to move and take shape. His jaw had dropped as he watched while she disintegrated by degrees for an eternity that lasted mere seconds outside of his experience, the flickering faded blue of her day dress dissolving along with her straw-yellow hair. She hadn’t seemed afraid but more than a little surprised. Whatever had called to her through the sword, old wives’ tales aside, would have to relinquish her. Hal would make sure of it.