CampNaNoWriMo Day 1 - Nox tells a story

what-did-you-do “What did you do, Nox?” Starr asked, staring into the fire. The embers crackled and hissed. Nox didn’t seem to hear her—his eyes also transfixed upon the dancing flames. He took a deep breath, poked the fire with a branch from the beach, and sighed.

“I’m afraid this story may require more than one bottle of Isaru wine.” He tried to smile. His mouth wouldn’t move. Starr nodded, pulling her gaze away from the flames. She drew back the blanket from her lap and revealed not one—but two—bottles leaning against her thigh. The dark amber glass winked back at Nox in the twilight.

“I see you’ve come prepared.” Nox reached out and accepted one of the bottles, drawing his knife to work out the cork.

“I’m a resourceful woman. And I always have time for a long story.”

Nox grunted as he pulled the cork free and tossed it into the fire. He waited for it to catch fire, then drank directly from the bottle. Starr arched a slender brow but did not interrupt him. Instead, she took his knife and opened her own bottle. Nox did smile, then, after a long drink.

“I’m not really sure where to begin,” he said, letting the taste of Isaru wine linger on his tongue. The honey-sweet wine had never failed him before. He would find the beginning, and he would find the end. The bottle would help him with the parts in the middle. The ocean waves crashed against the beach in the distance. Far above them in the village of Tor’vic—the sound of drums and pipe music drifted down like a lullaby. The heat from the fire warmed his face; the wine warmed his stomach. The breeze against the sand tried to cool him down—but his memory was from a place and time much, much colder.

A chill sunk deep beneath his skin. He didn’t want to remember.

But remembering might mean saving lives. Any life.

He took another sip and let himself fall into the bitter, distant past.

#

“You’ll never become Captain if you can’t hold your wine,” Sarya said with a laugh, pouring from a water-skin. Nox’s gloved hands shook as he tried to hold the cup still. He was frozen to the bone. Ice lined the inner rim of his cup.

“What’s wine got to do with becoming a Captain?” He asked. The wine was still warm from the water skin—a habit he’d never gotten used to. Why the woman drank her wine warm—although, he supposed, it did help keep his stomach warm. He couldn’t feel much below his knees anymore. The ache in his thigh was gone, too. She was right about that, at least.

They trudged through knee-deep snow. Nox remembered now, how thankful he had been for the Beast that marched ahead of them, flattening some of the path. He had seen at least a dozen Beasts by that point in his training, summoned from Transcendence and held in place by magiked collars. Beasts of every shape and size—but Torryn’s was different. Angry. All the time. Something like an over-sized wolf with bright, white eyes—and feathers where there was normally fur.

The clawed footsteps were sporadic, left to right, as if always trying to run away. A trail of sluggish blood dripped down the Beast’s neck into the snow, marking their path. A long, ribbon-thin line stretched miles behind them, frozen to the ground. By now, wolves or other creatures would have picked up the scent.

“To make it to Captain, you’ll see—and do—a lot of unpleasant things. You’ll want to forget them.” Sarya said with a small smile and took a swig from the water-skin before re-attaching it to her belt. Her boots crunched against the snow as she passed him. The Beast’s head turned to study her with one bright eye as she approached.

“Captain Sarya has seen and done a lot of unpleasant things in the line of duty. Most of them were blood mages uglier than you.” Torryn laughed, turning in his saddle to study Nox. The Guardian’s mouth broke into a toothy grin hidden by his thick beard.

“Uglier than me?” Nox looked offended. His hand went to his chest above his heart. “I’m shocked. I thought Captain Sarya had better taste.”

“I don’t choose who my trainees are—I just make the best of it.” Sarya said. Torryn’s Beast stopped suddenly, clawed feet digging into the snow and ice. Torryn held up a gloved hand, signaling for them to stop. Nox took an extra step—his boots crunched in the ice like a hammer resounding from an anvil. Sarya would remember, and he would lose marks for that mistake. Torryn’s eyes scanned the distance. His free hand drifted along his saddle, reaching for the long sword he kept there. Nox couldn’t see anything through the falling snow. He’d be happy if he never ended up on some frigid mountaintop ever again. Whatever demon they had followed up this treacherous path, surely it would have frozen to death by now. He didn’t understand how any of this was going to make him a Captain like Sarya someday—

A screaming howl erupted in front of them, so loud it made Nox’s ears ache. Torryn’s Beast spooked and jumped sideways—straight into Sarya. The Captain was knocked sideways into the snow. Nox couldn’t help the laugh that escaped his lips. Torryn drew his long sword from the sheath and the sound of metal rang across the empty, frozen morning. The laughter died in Nox’s throat. He heard the sound of crunching footsteps, moving slowly towards them, one careful step at a time. Something was advancing down the path. A shadow began to appear against the falling snow. Then, the strangest sound Nox had ever heard—hissing, like the low hiss of a teapot over a fire. The sound of boiling water. Ahead, steam curled into the air beneath dangerously clawed footsteps. The surrounding snow and ice melted with each demonic step.

“Nox, help your Captain up. Slowly.” Torryn spoke beneath his breath without taking his eyes off the trail. Nox nodded and moved to the left side of the Beast. Sarya had stopped struggling in the snow when she heard the awful scream. She knew the sound of a demon when it called to her. She held out her hand and accepted Nox’s help. Together they rose and faced the trail.

Blood began to drip faster down the Beast's neck. It’s nostrils flared, eyes darted from side to side in the delicate light. The shadow became darker and darker as it approached, ice and snow turning to boiling puddles in it’s wake. A small stream of water began to run downhill. It mixed with the Beast’s blood and continued to run in watery-pink rivulets behind them. The smell was sickening and Nox regretted drinking so much. His stomach seized. Sarya reached with one hand to begin to untie the laces of her bracers. The leather straps were stiff from the cold. She untied one and handed it silently to Nox instead of dropping it in the snow. He tucked it inside his belt. Torryn shifted in his saddle, spurs guiding his Beast to take a step backward, putting the three of them side-by-side on the trail.

“Nox, no matter what happens—” Sarya’s voice was cut off by another scream, and suddenly the demon was upon them. The hissing sound filled Nox’s ears, snow and blood sprayed across his face in a warm slurry. The demon was there, long, clawed arms outstretched, black claws slashed through Sarya’s throat in an instant. Blood gurgled and sprayed from her throat as she fell to one knee. Nox’s eyes went wide. The demon’s dark, glittering eyes looked up—staring directly at him. The morning was silent except for the sound of Sarya’s life spilling out onto the snow. Nox’s heart began to pound in his chest. The demon was right in front of him. Sarya lay on the ground, bleeding out. Torryn—what was Torryn doing? Why wasn’t he doing something? Nox couldn’t move. His legs were frozen in place from fear as much a cold. The hissing, boiling presence of the demon thawed his legs just enough and fear did the rest. He scrambled backwards and fell into the snow with a curse.

Torryn swung with his long sword, metal whistling through the crisp air, steel screaming for blood. The demon heard the scream, too, and jumped to the side. It slashed out with another claw, this time raking alongside the Beast and catching Torryn’s leg. Flesh and leather ripped open like wet paper. Torryn cried out and only years of discipline kept him from dropping his sword from the shock. Muscle and bare bone were split open. Blood soaked his Beast’s feathers. Torryn spurred his Beast into action; a blur of claws and feathers as the Beast attacked the demon, rearing up as Torryn’s hands gripped the reins, spurs digging in desperately.

The Beast clawed at the demon, wolf-like mouth snapping with deadly teeth. The demon slithered across the snow like a snake; soundlessly, not of this world. It left only a trail of melted snow.

Sarya blinked slowly. She stared at the blood that sputtered and ran down her chest. She was kneeling in a pool of her own blood. She felt light-headed already. She could survive this; she only had to Transcend to save her physical body. She just had to concentrate. She closed her eyes—

“Sarya!” Nox yelled, his arms outstretched to protect himself from the demon. Torryn was off his Beast now, striking at the demon with his sword. Blood ran down his left arm and his left eye was closed with blood spattered across his face. Sarya’s hand came up to grip her throat, to stem some of the bleeding. She felt so warm, so incredibly warm, she just wanted to curl up in a bed next to Nox and sleep—but he was yelling for her, and the demon wouldn’t let them sleep any time soon. Her bracer was untied. She shifted her weight, turning towards the two men, towards the demon and Beast, as they each fought for survival. She clawed at the fabric of her shirt, fingernails digging like an animal until she ripped the fabric and exposed her rough, scarred wrist.

She could save them—but it would mean focusing on the magic, not taking the time to Transcend and save herself. There was no time. Fire erupted around her throat, sealing the wound enough to let her focus; it was unguided, undisciplined magic, crazed at the thought of death. It hugged her throat, burned skin and flesh alike—she worked past the pain and pushed the fire outwards, focused on the demon. Rippling, dancing red and orange flames jumped from her throat, shoulders, chest—wherever her blood touched her skin or the ground, it turned into fire. And it all flew towards the demon—and Nox.

CampNaNoWriMo Day 7 "Magical Yoga"

1,871 words total. This was an "emergency Story 3" for my Creative Writing class, so there are footnotes at the bottom that pertain to certain story elements outlined here. Malisyn's thoughts -- about Korean Kung Fu movies and paying the Utility bill are all about being "deep inside the character's head" and I took it to the point of distraction. This isn't my normal writing style: it is meant to be weird. Photograph by Michelle Brumley

Magical Yoga

The room was dark. The blinds were pulled shut. The sounds from the streets outside were silenced. Even the air inside was quiet and still. Dust filtered through the light that snuck through the cracks in the blinds. Golden-amber rays cast rectangles of muted light on the wooden floor. If you didn't know the building was in the middle of an urban jungle—you could have believed it wasn't.1

Malisyn stood in the darkened doorway. She stared down at her cellphone. This was the address, right? Her brows furrowed. Maybe she shouldn't have looked at a random posting on CraigsList for a new yoga studio. Who calls a yoga studio Magical Yoga? Maybe the old building was a front; a place to lure in unsuspecting women who came alone. Maybe this place was just a front for axe murderers. A whole gang of axe murderers, straight out of some terribly dubbed Korean flick, just waiting for a young woman like her to show up--2

But then she'd fall in love with one of the Korean men because he was obviously misunderstood and then they'd find out that, secretly, they were half-siblings because of some random love affair her mother had had twenty years before and their love would be doomed because, gross3. She closed the screen on her phone, shoved it in her back pocket—which she didn't have since she was wearing yoga pants—and sighed. She shoved the phone into the side of her yoga pants and hoped no one noticed. No one's going to notice, right?4 Where the hell is everyone?

She clutched her yoga mat to her chest and blinked. Her breath quickened as she waited for her eyes to adjust and somehow find the bodies of a hundred dismembered young women on the floor. This better not be some of that weird, kinky yoga. She thought and took a step back.

She bumped into something, squeaked, and dropped her mat.

A man stood behind her.

This is definitely some of that weird, kinky yoga shit! She practically fell onto her mat in her rush to pick it back up.

“I know kung-fu!” She lied. What she meant was: she had over a hundred hours invested in watching kung-fu movies. When her faux-karate-chops didn't seem to startle the man, she pretended it didn't happen.

“The sign outside said 'yoga class, walk-ins welcome.'” Malisyn stammered over her shoulder at the stranger. Did he look a little Asian? Korean, maybe? No. More like Yul Brynner. Well, that was just fine, too.

“You have an unusual style of yoga. What is that, jumpy-in-my-twenties-style? Kung Fu Yoga?” the man said and Malisyn heard the slight smile in his voice. He brushed past her and walked toward the front of the darkened room.

“Hey, uh--” Malisyn followed after him. “Isn't there anyone else in this class? I mean, weird?”

“The sign said 'walk-in welcome.' You're the only one who has walked in today. You're free to walk-out.”

You're free not to be such an asshole. No wonder you don't have any students. She thought about it, quickly checked for axes in the darkest corners of the room and threw open her yoga mat. Her cellphone slipped down her leg and tumbled out onto the floor. She ignored it. For a moment, then scrambled to check for missed messages.

“My name is Nox,” the man said as he sunk to the floor, cross-legged, on the only yoga mat in the room. He rested his wrists upon his knees and breathed deeply.

Nox became aware of the air as it filled his lungs. He closed his eyes, tried to block out the distracting presence that was this strange girl. He listened as she fumbled to unroll the mat. He didn't think she could have made more noise if she'd tried. He heard her frantically tapping on the screen of her cellphone. This girl just doesn't get yoga.5 Maybe she'll understand magic better.

“Malisyn,” she mumbled and tried to sit like he did. She set her cellphone aside. “And I don't know a thing about yoga. It's supposed to be relaxing, right? I'm all out of friends. I need a distraction.”6

They sat facing each other for a long minute. Finally, Malisyn couldn't take it anymore.

“This place is called Magical Yoga. That's a bit weird, isn't it?”

Nox stifled a sigh.

“Breathe in. Be aware of your breath as it moves and fills your lungs. Can you feel it? Close your eyes.” Nox asked and watched as Malisyn struggled to relax. He could practically see the thoughts flying from her brain like emoticons7. The poor thing. Her sex life8 was probably awful and full of stress. He arched an eyebrow at the thought.

Malisyn nodded, but she only heard half of what he had said. ...I wonder if I paid the utility bill. Did I pay the utility bill? I know I paid for my parking pass. That was $20 for the month. Twenty fucking dollars. Who has to pay, what is that, $0.65 a day? What a weird, arbitrary number. Magical Yoga, why is this place called magical? Does he juggle or something—or worse, tell jokes? I hope not—oh, shit, is he still talking to me? She cracked an eye open, hopefully.

“...doesn't work if you're not listening.” He sighed. “Would you care for me to demonstrate why this place is called Magical Yoga?” Malisyn shrugged and then remembered, yes, yes she had paid the utility bill. She yawned and looked for a clock somewhere.

Nox pulled a knife from beneath his yoga mat.9

Malisyn's breath caught in her throat. She was prone, sitting cross-legged, she couldn't exactly get up and run. He'd stab her to death before she could--

He turned his free wrist toward the ceiling and ran the knife along his flesh. Blood dripped down his skin and onto his yoga mat. His eyes were still closed.

“Take a deep breath,” Nox said. Malisyn suddenly remembered to breathe. “Yoga is all about connecting with the here and now. Not being distracted by intrusive memories, nostalgia, regret or fantasy. No social media, no text messages, no nagging responsibilities. It's about returning to the original tenderness of our youth, before we forgot what it was like to relax and live.” As he spoke, he drew the knife again across his wrist, this time in a deliberate spiral pattern.10

In the darkness—a calming purple smoke lifted from his blood and floated into the air like heavy fog. It moved softly, as delicate as his breath, and shimmered like an iridescent cloud. The forgotten rays of sunlight filtered through the cloud and turned purple against the floor.

“In our society, as we grow, we become guarded. Our heart is held in a cage within our chest.”

“That's why it's called a rib cage,” Malisyn said with an involuntary snort. Fear made her giddy.11

The smoke shifted into the shape of a heart. It pulsed like a heartbeat and the color changed from purple to a deep red.

“At our center—what's called the Focal Heart12—it's the place where we retreat into ourselves. Where we tend to withdraw from the world, from each other. But the Focal Heart is meant to be a source of energy, where we can withdraw, we can also expand.” The smoke disappeared and Nox opened his eyes.

Nox lifted his bloodied arm and held it up to show Malisyn. He had carved the shape of a heart into his flesh. His blood was beginning to dry against his skin.

“The heart is the center of courage and strength, it takes you back to your original tenderness. Before the world stole it from you, replaced your courage with fear, your strength with weakness.”

“Magical Yoga—brings you back to center. It replaces your fear with courage, your weakness with strength. It burns away your fear and reconnects you. It's magic.”

Nox pulled the blade up his arm and let blood pool down his skin and into his palm. His mouth twitched, not quite a smile—and fire exploded from his arm. It engulfed his flesh, lighting up the room with a fierce yellow and orange glow. Malisyn's eyes went wide and she was frozen to her yoga mat, unable to move, to try and stop Nox from burning to a crisp.

Except he didn't; the fire didn't seem to touch his skin at all—just danced upon it, springing from the blood that ran down his arm.

“Blood magic comes from the heart, where your courage and strength is hidden. Magical Yoga—taking the time to reconnect with yourself, and your heart—helps you bring it back.”13 Nox pushed the knife across the yoga mat toward Malisyn.

Malisyn reached out with a shaky hand and picked up the knife. She wiped his blood off on her yoga mat.

“All I have to do is bleed, right?” “Bleed—and believe.”

1

Normal setting, no Fantasy or Sci-fi elements. A real area, a yoga studio. The beginnings of Fabulism.

2

Entering into the mind of a young early-twenties, late-teens woman with an over-active imagination. Saunder's style, where you're not quite sure what is going on because you're inside the head of the character.

3

Use of character's language, “gross.” Disrupts the style of the story, very much belongs to Malisyn. Saunder's style.

4

It doesn't matter to anyone if they notice or not, but it lends to ground a sense of Malisyn's insecurities through thoughts.

5

Switching to Nox's perspective, head-hopping. Saunder's style. To learn more about Nox through his own perspective and how he feels about Malisyn—which isn't much, since she's texting in the middle of his Yoga class.

6

She speaks as randomly as she thinks, trying to develop a clear character voice here.

7

Trying some weirder descriptions here, borderline Fabulism/Magical Realism (are there actual thought bubbles or aren't there?)

8

I feel like him even thinking about that throws the reader off balance. But maybe that's just me. Maybe this is more roving third person, since I switch back and forth between the heads of these two characters.

9

Everything is decidedly normal until this point—then he pulls a knife, and it gets weird.

10

Magic! It's more than the half-way point—but if it's Fabulism, does it have to follow that strict rule? Magic is normal for Nox, not normal for Malisyn, so this seemed like an experiment in Fabulism. Or I could argue that it just changed to genre-fiction.

11

Trying to insist this is different for the character, but normal for magic to be around Nox.

12

Specificity (of yoga). I tried hard not to use any physical details (except comparing Nox to Yul Brynner).

13

Fabulism “should” have some kind of message. This is meant to be a commentary on A: how amazing Yoga is, that's it's not just meant for women (it was originally made for and practiced only by men), and B: that we're too disconnected in this age of technology, so reconnect with yourself, via Yoga, but do it with blood because it's cool. I promise I'm not poking at Jesus here.