Sunday, November 17, 2019

1st 5 Pages Nov Workshop - Standridge Rev 2

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

Wren Baker understands tragedy and loss better than the average teenager. What she doesn’t understand is why she’s started hearing voices on the third anniversary of her mother and twin brothers’ deaths. She also doesn’t get why, later that same day, strange people kidnap her, calling her “Gemini.” After being rescued by the mysterious warriors who call themselves the Sol, Wren is led to their secret world to escape her captors. The most bizarre thing about this new world―her brother Nathan is there. Alive.

Wren soon discovers she and her brother are no normal teenagers. They have a great purpose, destined to save the world from a treacherous foe, the Phasmatis. But Wren doesn’t care about saving the world. She just wants her brother back, even if he is distant and hiding something from her. She agrees to the mission in exchange for his promise to return home with her after.

In her training, Wren finds herself in possession of a power she didn’t know existed. Just as she starts learning how to control it, the Phasmatis begin terrorizing her town, demanding the Sol hand her over. Suddenly going home may not ever be an option.

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 AndrĂ© Gide, her favorite philosopher, 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.

Of course it was all clear. The beach was deserted, crashing waves and harsh winds driving off the Miami beachgoers as a thunderstorm loomed on the horizon.

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.

Not yet, she reminded herself, clinging stubbornly to her last shreds of hope.

Three years today. 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 held a baby in one arm, pointing with the other 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 cut through the whistling wind.

Wren Baker

She whirled 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.

“―there are things you must know. Your brother—”

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.

Hope and fear warred within her. Had someone found Nathan, discovered his body?

She plucked random shells from the sand with shaking hands. None responded to her touch.

Startled, Wren took a deep breath to compose herself. It was just a shell. She’d imagined it, that was all. And shells didn’t speak to people. Couldn’t speak to people. Even so…

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, the relentless waves pushing her away as if for her own good.

Things you must know.

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 thought longingly for a moment of her friend Selena’s car, dry and air conditioned, before remembering why she didn’t have her own. Shattered glass and screeching tires flashed before her eyes, but she shook them away quickly.

She rounded the final corner onto her grandparents’ 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, a welcome distraction from her distressing thoughts, as she pulled into the driveway. 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 greeting. Grandma Ginger had had dementia for over two years now, doctors blaming the family tragedy for its early onset. For the past few months, she had thought Wren to be a French foreign exchange student.

1st 5 Pages Nov Workshop - Telford Rev 2

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

The three Redferne children are barely adults when their parents die. While grieving, strange events occur around them in the town of Middle Ides. But can they tie together the fragments and figure out what's hiding under the surface? Can their dog, Disco, help investigate? And why the heck would members of the Polo Club eat so many parsnip muffins?

In the contemporary YA epic conspiracy Sky Lanterns Over Nether Ides, each child and Disco discover elements of the hidden conflict between science and magic. They realize they are unwittingly involved-on both sides. With alternating narrators, you will see the pieces of the puzzle arranging, maybe even before they can. Nanotechnology is deployed by a secretive government agency to track students at the local school, Lord Pendlethwaite's daughter is being used as part of a spell that settles over the townspeople, Granny Redferne apparently descends from witches hanged at Pendle Hill in the 1600s, and submerged in a pond above town lies The Undertoad.

As the secrets are uncovered, there are attempts to silence the children, escalating to a confrontation with the hidden forces. Can they cope?

Chapter 1 - Orphans


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 used his photographic memory and obsessive attention to detail to point 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 surrounding the deaths of our mother then father, later in 2018, 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. My parents politely turned them away, but in town for the next few weeks Faraday walked briskly and anxiously. It was visibly awkward for him to accept the praise and earnest interest expressed by the people that might accost him. His bedroom became more of a haven than usual. If this happened a year later, when it was just us three kids, I'm not sure Newton and I would know how to offer the same kind of support. A hollowness exists that our parents should occupy.

I had my own strange experience that same night. With everyone else in the house snarled up in the aftermath of the helicopter crash, I managed only a fleeting chat with my father about it. I cut the conversation short because I didn't want to be the girl-pest distracting my brother's protectors. At 15, I'm marginally his baby sister, but he will always have an inner child that needs guidance.

Here's what happened. That evening, the nightmarish black smoke glowing orange underneath from the still burning helicopter had been visible from my bedroom window. In the cooling air, the breeze on my face and hands was not unpleasant. But in the moment right 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!" The voice was dreamy. "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 would meander her way here, especially not at night.

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

No direct answer came, but her distinctive musical voice spoke once more, this time at full volume. "A tree."

It wasn't a dream that she said nothing more and my hairs settled. It wasn't a dream that my palms started to itch, and when I turned them over for inspection, tiny shoots of vegetation had started to spring out from them. It wasn't a dream that the shoots erupted into 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, fallen autumn leaves littered my bed. It was springtime.

I was in denial, like a polar explorer looking at blackened, frozen toes and figuring they'll recover after a nice soak in warm water. Something unseen had formed in the untapped recesses of my brain, but I refused to acknowledge it. I resolved not to tell anyone the whole story, and now my parents will never know. It would take the unmasking the Knights of the Drowned Cabal a year later to make me understand what happened to me that night, even though I puzzled over it often.

Muted family conversations continued downstairs late into that night, a soothing background as I eventually dozed off, and in the morning only my father and I were awake as I got ready to leave for school. It was often hard to tell if he had brushed his antenna-field of hair, bristling grey with the odd remnant of red. Today, it appeared he was trying to absorb maximum signal from the world through his hysterical lid.

"Dad? Last night I was looking across the back yard and I swear I heard Granny whispering and then speaking to me. Could I be going crazy or something?"

He raised an eyebrow that was as unkempt as the hair above. "I'm pretty sure you aren't crazy. What did she say?"

"Not much. Something about me being a tree."

"Huh." He paused in visible thought. "Sometimes I hear her voice too, but probably everyone hears their own mother's voice from time to time. Usually instructing you to pull up your pants or keep your shoulders back and down. But the tree thing does sound like something she would say-you should ask her about it when you can catch her in a moment of clarity. And in a way, you do remind me of a tree."

"Why? Because my skin looks like bark and if you cut me open you'd count 15 rings?"

He laughed at that, just as I intended. "Well, yeah, those things... but mostly because you are tough. You bend but almost nothing can break you. And you have powerful roots."

I shrugged off the sentiment, secretly pleased. I shouldered my backpack and placed a tented post-it-note at my brother's habitual position at the breakfast table.
Dad looked at it. "I'm guessing Faraday will crack this in two seconds flat, but you'd better decipher it for me or else I'll waste the next 30 minutes on it."

I had jotted CHASED SALARY FAVORS. "That anagram unscrambles to FARADAY SOLVED CRASH. And yeah, he'll make quick work of it."

"Nice one! Anyway, do you want a ride to school?"

I nodded. "Jag or Jeep?"


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 defeat instinct. We protect the pack.

Check out that human that kept coming around with Higgs after school. He was always chatting and getting closer than she seemed to like. I don't know his name. Just like I don't know almost everyone else's name. He smelled like raspberry leaves, talcum powder, and faintly of frying bacon. That guy. I knew he was concealing 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 investigate. I could protect the pack.

1st 5 Pages Nov Workshop - Grant Rev 2

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

When Annalyn Demar touches her book of fairy tales, she hears the thoughts of its former readers. Dangerous in Moridan, where the magical gifted are kidnapped to serve the ruling Wizard Lords. Yet what use is her gift? Her sister Sunny’s magical strength, and ability to move things with her mind seems more practical. They should be safe, if Annie can keep her sister in check.

Annie and Sunny are separated when their powers are discovered. Annie is taken to the Librex, the Wizard Lords’ Library of magical books. A million minds at her disposal and no magic can stay secret when her gift is in play. Her master, Lord Zavin, shares her magic and passion for books. But he isn’t willing to share his research. Or Sunny’s location.

But years later, comfortable in her new home, Annie learns of an old, dark magic that could threaten her long-lost sister. But the Librex is Annie’s prison, and escaping leaves her a fugitive, with a master who’ll stop at nothing to get her back.

But her biggest obstacle might be Sunny herself. Because you can’t rescue someone who’s determined not to be found.

Chapter 1

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.

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?” Sunny’s laugh had a patronising undertone, as if I wasn’t already fourteen, 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. But how to explain that to Sunny? 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 cave’s 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 a 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 closed 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 the 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’d 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 fanned 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. On the box, etched into the surface and burnt black was the same symbol that watched over us from the wall. It was 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 our 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.

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 if they came for us.

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?”

Why would someone go to the trouble? I held the stone in my hand and stared at the string of metal within. A feeling came over me. A warmth that had nothing to do with a sensation on my skin.

1st 5 Pages Nov Workshop - Williams Rev 2

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


Kidnapped at birth, fifteen-year-old Reyne dreams of finding his human family. Torn between despising his faerie captors and feeling he should be grateful for all they have provided, he finds solace in the company of his friend Halite, a gnome with a habit of blowing things up.

When Reyne discovers he has the power to open a path to another realm, powers that humans should not have, the faeries lock him away. That is until the portal he opened lets in the soul sucking sirens. Reyne panics and looks for a place to hide. Instead, he finds an ancient being who opens a portal to send Reyne home. In a bungled attempt to save him, Halite sends them both into the darker part of the Faerie Realm.

The mortal realm is not the haven Reyne expects. Magic has deteriorated leaving a desolate land ravaged by a siren seeking revenge on his ancestors. The family he’s longed for rejects him, and for reasons he can’t understand, the sirens are trying to kill him. Reyne wants to go home, but as he delves deeper into his heritage, he realizes going home means letting go of all he knows, including those he loves.

Careful to place one foot directly in front of the other, Reyne moved forward until he stood centered between the tall grasses that ran along one side of the beach 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 from which the faeries would eat them.

Reyne stepped back from the stones and examined his body. No bruises, no sparkles, no sign that anything out of the ordinary had happened. His mind whirled. He couldn’t have lifted the pavilion. He was human. So, who or what?

A chill 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 as he turned toward the sound of fluttering wins.

“Human!” Seymour’s high-pitched voice commanded from behind.

Reyne closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and turned.

Seymour and eleven other faeries hovered in the air.
“Yes?” Reyne asked.

“Yes? Yes? That’s all you have to say?” said Seymour, a deep crimson exploding across his face.

“I didn’t do—” Reyne’s eyes grew wide and the words caught in his throat. Pain seared along every fiber of his being and he stumbled forward, falling to his knees.

“Who lifted the pavilion?” Seymour asked, magic crackling along his fingertips. “Everything has to be done in order!”

“Not I,” responded a chorus of voices.

Seymour sneered at the group. “We don’t have time for this.”

“Barely time. . .” the others added amongst themselves as they fluttered past him, each flying to hover in front of a stone. “The sun is rising,” their singsong voices echoed.

Seymour took his spot before the last stone. “Positions. We must be quick and harness the magic before the sun has fully risen.”

Reyne pulled himself to his feet and made his way to his place on the grassy hill that rose over the beach.

The faeries took the berries in their hands and delicately nibbled them until they were gone. They raised their hands to their sides, kicked out a leg, and spun. As they twirled, their wings diminished, and their bodies grew in stature. Long, silky hair whirled about tall, lithe, elven forms—glimmering orange and gold in the beams of sunlight.

Though Reyne had witnessed this act every morning, he stared in awe. The faeries rarely showed their elven forms outside of ritual. Their pale skin glittered, and their eyes shone like the bright blue of the morning sky. In contrast, the sharp angular features of their face alluded to something otherworldly. During the morning ritual, day after day, his awareness of the differences between he and the Fae grew. In witnessing the shift from diminutive to tall, lithe, and deadly beautiful, he remembered that he should never take these creatures lightly.

Their magic cascaded over their bodies as they raised their arms and clasped their hands. The elves danced around the stones clockwise three times and then reversed, circling equal rounds in the opposite direction. As they twirled, the menhirs rose higher, revealing the cromlech buried beneath the sand. The hallows between each stone, stretched tall, like doorways, but not once had the Fae step through.

As their power grew, a light sparked to life at the center of the pavilion. Reyne rose and raised his arms in the air to praise them. As he swayed, he leaned forward trying to see what lay beyond. A shadow moved across the opening of one of the hollows, and he leaned in closer just as his arms swung too far in the opposite direction, throwing himself off balance. He tumbled forward and down the hill, breaking through the clasped hands of the elves. Shouts echoed in his ears as he tried to grab hold of the stones and fell through the center.

Face-down and sprawled across the cool, hard floor of the pavilion, he took a deep breath and pulled himself to his knees. Reyne bowed his head to avoid eye contact with the faeries. He shuddered. What would happen now? He had broken the sacred. Surely this would be punishment beyond locking him in his home.

“Who are you?” a deep, yet musical voice commanded.

Reyne opened his eyes and scrambled to his feet. He found himself in a pavilion much like the one on the beach. A forest blanketed in a deep blue hue surrounded the stone structure, encasing it in an unsettling darkness. Fear crawled over Reyne.

A tall, blond male elf, wearing white and gold silk robes towered over him.

Reyne took a step back, shielding his eyes from the golden glow that emanated from the elf’s skin. “M-me?” he stammered. “I’m just a— a— human. Who are you?”

Curiosity flicked across the elf’s features. “What do you mean, who am I? I am the Bearer of Light. And you must be the human siphon who has been stealing my sun.”

1st 5 Pages Nov Workshop - Pounds Rev 2

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


Trapped in an endless forest of ice and frost, a nameless girl rides her horse, seeking her freedom. With no memories of her life before, a stallion, with mysterious crimson eyes and a coat as black as obsidian is her only companion. The two rely on one another for survival, spending their days having to flee from the plagued beasts, hunting scarce game, and searching for a way out of the woods.
 Nearing starvation, the girl meets a strange old man. He too is caught within the invisible walls of the winter wood and warns her that her fading memories of her past life will soon disappear completely the longer she remains. But having been imprisoned for many years, he shares with her the few secrets he has uncovered.  
 With her skills of bow and arrow and his magic, they devise a plan to find a way out. However, when the exit appears, the girl must choose to face the tragic truth from her past or lose more than just her name, her mind as well.
 RIDER IN THE MIST is a Frozen meets Wintersong dark YA fantasy.


The nameless girl and her horse trudged through the swirling snow of an endless winter. As they had done countless 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 marched along the snowy trail. A trilling melody of a bird echoed from far off in the forest. 
She wondered what a bird like that with such a beautiful song could be called. The girl could picture the bird, a striking crimson with yellow feet. And yet, she could not remember the name. Some things she remembered at once, like the trees that grew in the forest; spruce, aspen, fir. But others left her, the words slipping just out of reach as she grasped for them. 
But just as her own name was lost to her, so was that of the pretty bird.

Much was lost to her.

Although there was no road to travel on, the animals that lived in the woods had left a path 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.

But she’d grown clever during her time in the forest. 
She let out a deep sigh when they rounded a thick trunk, 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 added 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. 
She’d lost count of how many days she’d been here. Always to keep traveling, pushing to find 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 quickened 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. Her horse was fast, but only in wide-open clearings where he could stretch his legs at full speed. Among the dense trees, a gallop wouldn’t only be difficult, it’d be deadly.
She stole a glance over her shoulder, squinting through the falling snow for any sign of movement. But behind them was only a curtain of white, shrouding everything but the darkest silhouettes of trees.

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. And 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 but it was the pair of intelligent garnet eyes that had so swiftly fixed their gaze upon her that captured her attention. She did not like to remember the time before, the days she’d wandered this cursed forest...alone. 
Raven arched his neck and 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. 
Suddenly, Raven reared and the ground fell away beneath them. 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.


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. 
Unnatural. Nothing like the fluffy pelts she remembered used as rugs in front of hearths but matted and torn, as if moth-eaten. And like melted honey, a dark yellow liquid oozed from the wounds on its sides.
The beast growled as Raven’s hooves slashed at the air just above it.