This has been a rough week. I’m heading back to the States soon, which means not seeing my sister or her family for a very long time (likely 2+ years). My sister and I are two halves of the same soul, and my sister’s husband is the best big brother ever, and their children are smart and funny and kind. I’ve had to say the long goodbye to them many times before, but it never gets easier.
I have kept writing, though, because writing is cathartic for me. It helps, even if just a little.
So without further ado, here is my third excerpt from my NaNoWriMo novel.
Darkfall: Excerpt #3
“Look at her feet,” said a woman’s voice. “My gods, what happened?”
Ada jerked awake with her heart already hammering. She tried to crawl away, but strong hands settled on her arm, holding her in place. “Settle, child, settle,” a man said. “Let us look at you.”
Ada tried to open her eyes, but she was so tired, and cold had shivered its way into her bones. Through her cracked-open eyelids, she saw nothing but dark.
The woman gasped. “Finnal, look.” She touched Ada’s belly, running her hand lightly along the swell.
Both were silent for a moment. Then the man said, “What happened to you, child? From where have you come?”
Ada fought her eyes open and looked up to see two shadowed faces leaning over her. “I’ve come,” she said. Her voice sounded weak and distant. “From my village… A long way.”
“Did you chase down every creature that bit or burned in the entire forest?” The woman asked.
“Kee, don’t make fun,” said the man. “Look at her. She’s had such a bad time.”
“Well then,” the woman said, “let us carry her home, and see what can be done.”
Ada lost herself for a time, when they lifted her. She closed eyes that felt swollen and heavy, and when she opened them, she was inside a warm dimly-lit house. A beautiful woman leaned over Ada, wiping her face with a damp cloth. The woman’s black hair shone in the lamplight.
“Hello,” said the woman. “I am Kee. What gave you these cuts?”
Ada licked lips that felt as dry as the anciet paper in one of Tanneth’s books. “Which ones?”
Kee smiled and trailed her fingers along the side of Ada’s face. “These,” she said. “Like claws, ripping.”
“Thorns,” said Ada. She had not known the gashes were so visible. She had not thought of them in days.
Kee shook her head. “And your feet? Did you boil them for soup? You are lucky they did not fall off.”
Ada felt ill. She had tried not to think of the raw lumps at the ends of her ankles.
“Water,” she said. “A lake. I tried to cross, but the water…”
Kee hissed through her teeth. “Forest water? Your feet were immersed in it? Child, you should be dead.”
“But I am not,” Ada said, the words leaping from her lips. Weak defiance, as fragile as leaves, but alive and growing. She had made it this far. So far. At such cost.
“So I see.” Kee was smiling again.
The man came in, carrying a bucket of water. He plunked it down on the floor and came to sit at Ada’s other side.
“Is she awake? Are you tormenting her with rude questions?”
“Ignore Finnal,” said Kee. “He does not appreciate honesty.”
Ada laughed, just a little, and it set off a cough that rattled her bones. Finnal brought water, and lifted Ada’s head just high enough that she could drink. Her teeth rattled against the rim of the cup.
“She is chilled,” said Finnal. He touched Ada’s hand. “Her skin is cold.”
“Not her face,” Kee said. “Her face burns with fever.”
They traded a worried look.