It's the night before #CampNaNoWriMo. Not familiar with Camp National Novel Writing Month? I've written a blog about it last year. And I started another project earlier this year (The Renegade Messiah) that I failed miserably at... but we're not focusing on the past! We're focusing on 12.5 hours from now, when it starts again! Last night was the "night before the night before" #CampNaNoWriMo and what was I doing?
So the "night before the night before" #CampNaNoWriMo I was taking the outline I had previously started -- and transferred it by hand to 3x5 index cards. It was a bit tedious, but it helps me remember when I handwrite words. (I also watch TV with closed captioning on; not because of poor hearing, but I just catch/retain more when I can read and hear it).
During my outline process I came across an instance where I knew I had written a scene--but my official document for The Burning City didn't have it. A frantic search across my computer hard drive, blog posts, and Facebook also showed that I had never shared it. While unpacking recently, I came across a notebook: I had written a few pages by hand, but they never made it to the computer. Thankfully, it made me feel a little less crazy. I hate when I remember something and can't find where I put it...
So with my current outline and where the story is going, this sits somewhere around Chapter 12. This is 1,418 words that I started writing March 30th and just finished writing today. Trigger warning? Implications? You have been warned.
The Burning City, somewhere in Chapter 12...
“You haven't paid for the last meal I gave you.”
“That wasn't a meal, that was a crust of bread and water.”
“It was soup, and you didn't pay for it.”
Malisyn could feel her cheeks turning red.
“I'm from the Citadel. I'm a blood mage—doesn't that mean anything?”
The older woman leaned against the bar top as if to whisper to her.
“I don't care if you're a blood mage or a bloody demon—if you don't pay, you don't eat.”
The woman turned away from Malisyn and went back to cleaning. Malisyn's stomach began to growl. She felt as if she was being watched, and turned around to face the rest of the poorly lit Inn. It was little more than an old stable leaning against the side of a house. The chairs were mismatched and old; none of the tables matched—and it smelled of damp horse and stale ale.
In the back of the Inn, Master Jadae was watching her. Watching her beg. He took a long drink from his ale which only seemed to upset her more.
“Is everyone around here as nice as she is?” Malisyn asked as she approached Master Jadae.
“She doesn't like blood mages.” Jadae shrugged as he finished his ale and signaled to the old woman for another.
“I don't think she likes anyone.”
“She likes people who can pay. Just not blood mages.”
Malisyn tried to ignore the woman as she refilled his mug and balanced a bowl of hot stew that belonged to a different—paying—customer.
Once she was gone, Master Jadae slid his mug of ale towards her. It smelled heavily of tree bark and cinnamon.
“A blood mage killed her husband. And the demon that was attacking him. She's still bitter.” He spoke while he watched the woman walk away, then turned his attention towards the front of the Inn.
The doors swung open and a man stepped inside from the rain.
“Stay here. Sip this. It'll take the edge off your hunger, little bird.” Jadae stood up and studied the man before continuing.
“I'll go and see what I can get you for food.”
Malisyn watched as Jadae spoke with the surly Innkeeper, and noted how charming he was. He leaned in close and she caught a sly smile cross his lips. The Innkeeper wasn't amused, but Jadae was persistent. The longer he spoke, the slower she scrubbed her counter top until she finally looked up from their conversation, eyed Malisyn disdainfully, and poured a bowl of steaming stew. Jadae bowed his head in thanks and reached up to un-braid one of the hundreds of feathers that wove in his ashen black hair. He held the lone feather out to the Innkeeper. She studied it for a moment, ran her calloused fingers along its silky edges, then nodded. She leaned under her counter and produced a loaf of bread and a large glass bottle filled with an amber-colored liquid.
The man who had entered earlier blocked Malisyn's view. She sat up a little straighter as he stood directly across from her table. His clothes were soaking wet from the rain, and dirty. His shirt was torn open, his dirty brown hair was plastered to his head from rain and mud.
“Blood mages—and their whores—aren't welcome here.” As the man spoke, Malisyn could smell the ale on his breath. He spat in to the dirt on the floor and motioned for her to stand up.
“Come here.” He said with a laugh.
Malisyn shook her head and pushed herself closer against the wall. Her hands were wrapped tightly around Jadae's mug of ale. The man noticed and reached out and grabbed her wrist before she could pull away. His skin was cold and damp. She struggled but only managed to knock over the mug. The ale spilled out over the table and soaked her clothes. The man dragged her out from behind the table.
“Can't handle your drink, girl?” The man said as he pointed to her damp shirt. She wanted to cry but fear held back the tears and the air from her lungs. She had seen demons scarier than this man, but something about him made her unable to move.
“You're a bit old for me, but you'll have to do.” The man pulled her close. Malisyn couldn't move. “Now all I have to do is find your blood mage friend and get rid of him—”
The man's voice was interrupted by a glass bottle breaking over his head. Isaru wine and smokey glass shattered around his shoulders. The man's grip on Malisyn loosened as he fell to the floor.
“Demon magic.” Master Jadae said as he gripped Malisyn's shoulders and moved her away from the man on the floor. Jadae turned her to face him. “That man is dead, Malisyn. Do you understand? He can't hurt you.”
“Did you kill him?” Malisyn croaked, tearing her eyes away from her teacher to look at the man on the ground. Even as she watched, the man's damp skin began to wrinkle and crack. His dirty clothes and skin faded to a pale gray and his skin stretched tight over his bones. His eyes—a color she hadn't even noticed—rolled white to the back of his head. A swollen, black tongue slipped out between his broken teeth.
“He was already dead.” Jadae knelt down and placed his hand upon the man's chest—the fabric of the man's shirt crumbled away like dust. Left behind was a large, maggot-filled wound in his chest. His skin was soaked in ale to hide the smell of death.
“This wound is what took his life the first time, not my bottle of Isaru wine.” Jadae rolled the man's body over.
“I'm going to be sick.” Malisyn would have thrown up—if she had anything in her stomach at all.
“The reason you couldn't move—that was fear, and demon magic. I'm sorry I left you alone. It won't happen again.” Jadae reached down and lifted the man's decaying body off the ground. Malisyn covered her nose as the scent of death and dirt filled the Inn. The Innkeeper turned to look sadly at Malisyn, and waved Master Jadae out the front door. As they passed, the Inn Keeper handed Malisyn a torch.
It took Master Jadae a while to find enough dry wood to build a fire, and more time to find a place dry enough to burn. They eventually found solace beneath a large tree where the dirt was dry enough to lay down the man's body and light it ablaze. The rain outside was loud and cold—and Malisyn was still shivering inside. Once Jadae managed to light a fire, they stepped back and sat against the trunk of the tree. Jadae took off his cloak and laid it over Malisyn's shivering shoulders.
“The frost demon that appeared outside our Shrine,” he began as he watched the fire burn, “I thought it had shown up by chance. That something about you just attracts demons, like the Grand Master had said. No, little bird, I fear this may be worse.”
Malisyn swallowed a question and leaned her head against Jadae's shoulder for warmth. She couldn't stop shivering.
“How could it be any worse?” She waited for tears to fall, and they didn't.
“I think the demons are hunting you, little bird. The frost demon, that man in the Inn—they were looking for you.”
“But, he was just a man, just a drunk, stupid man—he didn't deserve to die.”
“He was dead long before the demons found him, little bird. He wasn't a man anymore, just someone with blood magic who died and didn't receive a proper burial—and so the demons used him.”
“But he said things, he was going to—was that the demon, too?” Malisyn felt her voice shake. Jadae knew better than to ask. He knew the look in her eyes and knew better than to tell her the truth.
“Just old memories, little bird. He's gone now. And now that I know we have to be careful, I won't leave you alone again.”
“So this wasn't a part of my Apprenticeship Journey?” Malisyn sniffled.
Master Jadae watched as the flames began to die out.
“No, little bird. It was not.” He ran his hand down Malisyn's long, wet hair and sighed. “We're going to need all the help we can get, if I'm going to get you through your Apprenticeship Journey alive. I have someone in mind that could help.”