Sunday, February 15, 2015
First 5 Pages February Workshop - Thompson Rev 1
Name: Meghan Thompson
Genre: YA Fantasy
Title: THE KEYS TO MIST AND LIGHT
Lockrey sat straight on her cushions, her heart pounding against her ribs. She couldn’t see. The light of the two moons that usually shaded her sleeping chamber a soft charcoal-rose was absent. The embers in her fireplace dead.
Instinct told her to scream, but she fought to calm herself. She was eighteen star cycles old – not a child who called for her mother to comfort her after a bad dream. And the tower gossips would be certain to hear – she refused to give them more reasons to talk about her.
Pressing her back against the wall, she slouched down against her pillows and held her quilt tight against her neck. She blinked, then blinked again. Nothing. As she wiggled her fingers in front her eyes, desperately seeking their outline, she thought she felt something on the edge of her cushion. Just a slight shift, as if someone had sat down.
“Hello?” she said, but the word was swallowed by the dark. She tried again, louder, “Hello?” Still, the sound disappeared. Beads of moisture formed on her temples, her pulse raced.
Then she felt the cold. Tendrils of iced air touched her feet. She kicked, curling her toes underneath her. It touched her knees, like some small creature was walking up her body. She slapped at herself and jumped up, then tripped on her quilt, falling hard on the flagstone floor. Lying there, she felt like she had as a small child lost in the elvgrove forest.
The prickling air found her again – her hands this time. She scrambled to her feet and dove for her bed, just grasping the edge. Pulling herself up, she jumped back onto the cushions as the icy air enveloped her.
A wracking cough made her body shudder and her limbs thrash. Inhaling, she felt something like smoke enter her body and she clawed at her face as if to remove a mask. Whatever had been crawling on body now felt as though it was inside her, a cold breath seeping through her mind, her heart, the core of her being.
She fell back onto the pillows, scrunched in a ball, no longer able to move. What was happening? In her mind, she heard a voice, edged in hate. It whispered, “Are you… Are you the Redeemer? I will find you… your soul. It will all be over soon…”
Her room dissolved and images flashed before her, as though she was flying fast to another land. Suddenly, she was in a cart next to a boy, perhaps four star cycles her junior and a girl, no more than eight. Lockrey tried to yell, but nothing came out of her mouth; she tried to shift, but could not move. She could see, though… and smell… and hear.
‘What’s happening to me?’ Her thoughts raced. ‘Where am I? Why can’t I see my body?’ She was no longer anything more than her mind. Though she struggled to make her presence known, the children ignored her like a ghost in the wind.
The boy, whose dark-green skin stretched taut over his body, sat tall, his chest puffed out, his eyes alight. The tiny girl, who shared his features, watched him, her head tilted to the side. Both children reeked of neglect: straggly hair, threadbare robes, distended bellies. Brown dust kicked up by the army that marched all around them was ground into their every pore.
The army, Lockrey now noticed, consisted of cressl beasts, which stretched in every direction. Their moss-colored bodies, covered in spikes and scales, required no armor. Their five-clawed feet stomped the ground in time to a quick-paced drum. These beasts served one purpose, destruction, and were the minions of the kings of the Eastern Edge, Oesma and Chenin.
In the distance at the army’s head, Lockrey could just see the men who controlled them – the captains of the army of the East. She tried to shut out the site of them, but had no eyes to close.
Having lived her whole life in Mythenrock, Lockrey had never seen the land of the Eastern Edge before – this vast, empty plain, almost desert-like, inspired no thoughts of beauty or comfort. This was a hard land, lived in by violent people and their deadly beasts.
She turned her attention back to the children in time to see the boy glance down at the little girl, his mouth curving wide, revealing brown, crooked teeth. Reaching to the floor beside him, he opened a bag and pulled out a robe.
“Sister, put this on,” he said, handing her the heavy fabric. She pulled away, wrinkling her nose against its bitter smell. “Come now,” he said, “it’s not for very long. And by wearing it, you will earn all the pleasures in the world.” She hesitated. He leaned in, adding to the incentives, “And you will see mother again!”
She accepted the robe with a hint of a smile.
“Look!” said the boy, pointing toward the horizon. “That’s the village we’re going to. We’re nearly there now!”
Just as he spoke, the drumbeat increased to double time and the cressl began to run. The synchronized pounding of their feet was too loud for the little girl, who covered her ears and ducked her head into her brother’s arm.
As Lockrey looked in the direction the boy pointed, she instantly found herself floating, it seemed, next to the senior captain of the Kings’ Army. He wore a fine, deep blue cloak over his silver tunic. His skin was lighter green than the boy’s, and it covered a body many times larger. It was also accustomed to battle, judging by the scars that covered him like twisted ropes.
He sat upon a raysol, a giant rodent with sunken eyes and hairless limbs, which he rode with abandon. Racing ahead of the army, he entered the village the boy had seen.
‘Where are the people?’ Lockrey wondered. They couldn’t have been gone long – doors to tight-packed cottages swung loose on hinges and smoke still curled from chimneys.
The captain glanced around the nondescript hamlet and said to himself, “They haven’t gone far.” He looked down the length of the central road that ran parallel to the Mavornian Ocean, just visible in the distance, and whispered, “What are we meant to dig for here? Warriors cannot work in riddles. I need more information.”
He started to head back to the army when something caught his eye. Lockrey noticed it, too: a reflection. He lifted the reigns, leading his raysol toward the temple in the village green. The captain’s jowls twitched and his eyes narrowed. “Oh, they make this so easy.” He rode back to his deputies.
“They have locked themselves in the temple,” he told them. “Destroy it.”
“Shall we take the men for labor, first?”
“No. Waste of time. Just burn it. I will request slaves from Vardra. Unless we take men from Mythenrock’s army.”
“It’s made of crystal; does that burn?” one of the deputies asked, tentatively.
“That’s what the girl-child is for. Let her brother handle it.”
With that, Lockrey was again riding in the cart, which sped along, throwing the children from side to side. The cressl around them bawled, their fanged faces contorting with naked hunger. As they reached the farmland on the outskirts of the village, the army halted, though the beasts were like coiled springs, scratching at the ground.
Through their lines, a man, who appeared to be the captain’s second, approached the cart and said, “Is the martyr prepared?”
“Yes, Marshall Dregna,” said the boy, standing to attention. “I have taught her what to do. She is ready to be received by the eternal kingdom.”