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More excerpts! This one is longer than my other posts, but if you have the time, give it a read. I’m not really happy with the first half, but I think the pace picks up quite nicely after that. Writing is rewriting!

***

They sat in tense silence as the sky settled into an evening dusk. Matt stood with his arms crossed, leaning back against the far wall of the cell. His gaze seethed in silent reproach, considering Wit who lay unconcerned on the pallet in the corner. Fae paced the length of the iron bars despite trying to keep a tight reign on her anxiety. She didn’t like being shut in; she didn’t like being trapped. She allowed Lori’s consciousness to sooth her mind, embracing a momentary calm as she let her worries drift up through the stones to be swept up by the wind. She smiled sadly as she thought of her sister trapped within her mind, as she herself was trapped within these bars. Sensing Matt’s gaze, she turned her face towards the small barred window, watching the sun slowly sink below the rooftops.

“I suppose we’re too late to meet up with Serina,” she said, keeping a steady tone.

“We’ve been held back a little,” Wit shrugged casually before Matt could say anything. “She’ll understand.”

“We wouldn’t have been help up a little if you had bothered to think things through.” Matt said harshly.

“Yes well, I didn’t really expect there to be a naked dead man, did I? Or an guild assassin for that matter, which you still owe me an explanation for,” he noted. “It was still the best course of action.”

“Except now we are thought to be murderers as well as thieves.” Matt interjected.

“Near as I can tell that alchemist’s been dead for a week at least. They’d have sent us to the gallows already if they had though we actually had anything to do with it.

“Now, I can still get us out of the cell, it’ll just require a little more finesse, that’s all. It’s already taken care of, so just sit back and I’ll have us out in no time.” He assured them with a grin.

“I just wish you would have told us earlier instead of springing it on us like that,” Fae sighed forcing herself to stand still.

“I told you that you’d have to trust me.” Wit pointed out as he sat up. “I don’t reveal all my cards until I have to.”

“This isn’t some game.” Matt said with a dangerous edge to his voice.

“That’s where you’re wrong,” Wit responded grimly, staring Matt down without flinching.

Fae sighed as she turned away from them, grasping one of the iron bars tightly. She could feel her anxiety bubbling inside and she could barely keep from hyperventilating, but she didn’t pace, even though her feet itched to be standing still. She breathed deeper and tried to calm her nerves with an old trick her sister had taught her when they were girls. Focus on a pinprick of light in your mind, and allow it to absorb your anxiety and fears, transforming them into pure white light. When the light becomes unbearably bright, let it course through your entire body. Accept the light as a part of who you are and you can control it, and your fears, as you would control your own breath.

But as she did so, Lori’s consciousness expanded as well and filled her with a seething light. She could feel sweat beading her face, her hand tightening it’s grasp around the iron bar of the cell, but it all seemed distant to her. She was floating untethered in her own mind. The calm was overwhelming; her thoughts and feelings echoing through the void until she could see the pattern of her own being. Her mind appeared to be a tranquil pool that stretched into the darkness. Ahead of her, she could see her sister lying atop the water, small ripples drifting across the surface beneath her still body. Her calm was shattered by a surge of emotion. She reached forward but Lori faded away as Fae was drawn back into herself.

“Are you alright?” Matt’s voice seemed far away at first, then the cell became real, his voice became real. She turned towards him; both Matt and Wit were starring at her concerned.

“Yes.” She managed to say letting go of the iron bar. “How much longer?”

Wit eyed her warily as he stood. “Actually, I think we’ve waited long enough.”

Despite having been searched for weapons, Wit pulled out a thin dagger and pick from the folds of his clothes. He walked over to the door of the cell and picked the old lock. He heard a soft click, carefully pushing open so that it didn’t creak.

“That was surprisingly easy,” Fae noted as they followed Wit out into the alcove.

“Old lock,” Wit shrugged walking past the door that led to the corridor where two alchemists were posted to keep watch.

He picked the lock of the next cell, which was filled mostly with crates and storage boxes. They made their way carefully to the back corner of the cell, ensuring not to knock anything over. Wit crouched down, prying a heavy stone out of the floor. There was a narrow gap dug underneath the wall.

“I dug this years ago, thought I might need it someday.”

Fae followed him through the gap, uncomfortably pushing her way through hard-packed earth. She emerged on the outer wall, crouched within a large tangle of shrubbery. Matt followed closely behind her, nearly hitting his head against the stone that hid the hole as he wriggled free.

“How is it that no one knows this is here?” he asked.

Wit was peering out at the rooftop sentries across the street. Luckily it was easy to spot their outlines against the clear evening sky.

“Like I said, the guards can’t come onto the grounds, and I don’t think they’ve ever had to use those cells other than for storage. Let’s go.”

Wit gracefully raced out of the bush, Fae and Matt close behind him. They squeezed through the metal bars, the shadows concealing them from the street patrol that stood only a little ways up the alley. Wit led them through a series of winding alleys and streets. To Fae’s surprise, they ran into few patrols and those they did encounter were easily avoided. When they turned down a deserted street Matt held out his arm to stop Fae, and Wit also slowed to a halt. They could hear drunken laughter somewhere in the night.

“Where are we going? We need to rejoin Serina,” Matt stated, emphasizing that the last we did not include Wit.

“Listen, usually they wouldn’t kick up much fuss for a couple of kids caught trespassing, but we were actually inside the Alchemist Observatory. We could have seen things, heard things; they aren’t just going to let us go. They’ll be looking for us; we need to get out of the city.”

“We can’t leave without Serina,” Fae interjected. “We’ve been avoiding the patrols so far, let’s just head back to the get her.”

“It’s not just the patrols I’m worried about.”

“What do you mean by that?” Matt asked pointedly.

“I wasn’t the only one following you earlier,” Wit admitted. “Whoever they are, they’re probably interested in why you went into an alchemical auxiliary, and what you found out.”

“Why are they following us?” Fae asked.

“Why were you following us?” Matt added, his eyes now scanning the rooftops more closely.

“I’ll tell you, but first we have to get out the city. I know a place, and I’ll get a message to your friend to meet us. Just trust me.”

“Is the place your taking us going to lead to another dungeon?” Fae asked skeptically.

Wit smiled mischievously. “I can make no promises.”

“Really not the time.” Matt said, purposefully looking around. “Where are we headed?”

“Actually, we’re almost there.” Wit lead them down the street, the sounds of laughter and drunken yells grew louder.

“They probably know we are heading out of town, but I think I managed to loose them a little ways back, so they’ll have trouble finding us now.”

They emerged in a wide and crowded street lit by lanterns that hung from the sides of the taverns and bars. As they pushed their way through the crowd, Fae caught glimpses of women dancing in the streets to entice patrons, men sipping bottles from beneath their cloaks, and playing dice on overturned crates. A man doubled over in front of her and she narrowly avoided the contents of his stomach splashing on the cobblestone.

“Keep your head down,” Matt cautioned from behind her as they walked past a couple of guards who were laughing drunkenly with a group of street merchants. Fae pulled up the hood of her cloak when they had passed, allowing her face to be obscured from the lantern light.

“Here we are,” Wit said over his shoulder, and he pushed open the door a small tavern, his voice suddenly lost as the sounds of fiddles and drunken cheers spilled into the street. The tavern was brighter than she had expected, it was easy to distinguish faces, clothing, and the glint of metal from dagger hilts. She felt gazes turn their way, even though she couldn’t really tell who was watching. Wit scanned the room, but before he could step any further a grizzled barman hobbled towards them.

“Bringin’ more trouble?” he growled loud enough to be heard above the noise. He eyed Fae, then just as quickly dismissed her. He lingered on Matt a little longer, whose face was indignantly indifferent.

“Why would you think that, Dirk?” Wit smiled grasping the man’s forearm firmly. As he slipped his hand back, he let a small pouch fall into the large man’s hand.

“Then why do I hear the city guard be looking for ye?” Dirk lowered his voice so that only they could hear.

“Aren’t they always.” Wit shook his head disparagingly. Dirk grunted.

“Only when yer make stupid mistakes. I hear they had ya begging on hands n’ knees.”

“Please Dirk,” Wit said painfully. “You shouldn’t believe everything you hear.”

“Well one of ‘em is waiting for ye. Said to tell ye he were here.” Dirk nodded behind them.

Fae looked to the back of the room and saw a lone guard sitting as he watched them intently. She hadn’t really noticed he was there until now, and she felt her heart sink at the sight of him.

“Good.” Wit clasped his hands together, his brow slightly creased with worry. “Bring over some drinks in a bit will you?”

Before Dirk could respond, he started across the tavern, picking his way through the drunken din.

“This doesn’t look good,” Fae noted as Wit approached the guard, grinning broadly.

“No. It doesn’t.” Fae jumped; she had forgotten the squat barman was still there. Now he was looking at her levelly, and she shrunk back into her hood to hide her face. Dirk grunted and turned back towards the bar, hobbling nimbly around drunken patrons.

“Come on,” Matt said, placing a hand on her shoulder. When they got to the table, Wit and the guard were talking quietly as Wit scribbled hastily on a piece of parchment, but they stopped as soon as the two sat down.

“This is a friend of mine. He’s going to help us get our things back, and he’s going to bring a letter to your friend,” he smiled, patting the man on the back.

“It’s a fine mess you’ve gotten yourselves into,” the man said simply, his plain and trusting face giving away no signs of concern.

“Yes well, you owe me one,” Wit reminded him, drumming the tabletop. “Where are those drinks?”

“Yeah, but I’ve never done anything half as stupid as this. I saw you when you were up there, you nearly wet yourself when this one had you over the edge,” he smiled.

“No need to be crude,” Wit sniffed, crossing his arms. “And I did not.”

“This may be some pitch-filled city in a field, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t going to take this seriously.”

“We know what it means to be have been caught inside an Alchemist Auxiliary,” Matt said gravely.

“No, I don’t think you really do,” the man said, leaning back. “You, on the other hand, have no excuse. And I’m risking more than I’m comfortable with because of it.”

“I know, I know,” Wit said rubbing the bridge of his noise. “I didn’t really expect all the company.”

“Guild business,” the man said, idly glancing at Fae for the first time since she sat down. For some reason she felt as though he had grasped much about her in that one look.

“It was very important that we get into the observatory,” Fae assured him, stopping herself from shifting her weight uncomfortably. “I’m the one who asked him to take us, I’m sorry for the trouble it’s causing you.”

“I only hope it was worth it.” He looked at her again and she couldn’t help but feel as though he were trying to figure something out. His eyes were a deep chestnut, his jaw sturdy and his features plain, almost generic. She may not have been able to pick him out of a crowd. She was relieved when Dirk hobbled over and brought them each a mug of yellowish-brown liquid. Fae could smell the yeast from where she sat and politely passed hers to Wit, who was already nearly finished his own.

“It was nothing easy, but I managed to get my hands on what they confiscated from you when you were taken. I’ll have them sent to where you’re going,” the man told them between sips.

“And where is that?” Matt asked.

“It’s a secret,” Wit said as he set down his empty mug. “But you’ll know soon enough.”

“Why?” Fae asked, starting to get annoyed with all the secrecy.

“Because I like secrets,” he said. “And it will be easier to get you there if you don’t know where there is.”

“That doesn’t make much sense.”

“No not really,” he grinned. “Alright, my friend. Here is the letter I need you to deliver. She’ll be at the Evening Veil.” Wit folded the letter, and pulled a used stick of wax from his cloak, holding it to the flame. He let the wax drip onto the fold and then pressed it flat with the bottom of his mug.

That man nooded, taking the letter and slipping it under his coat. He finished his ale as he stood. “I better be going, they’ll miss me soon enough.”

As he moved to leave Wit caught his arm in a firm grasp.

“I do appreciate this,” he said seriously. “You know I wouldn’t ask.”

“I know,” the man sighed. “I guess you owe me now.” He smiled.

“Well I wouldn’t go that far.”

 

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In my writing, it’s rare for me to complete something that I’ve started. It’s like I’m unable to just sit down and see my story to the end, an inherent predisposition perhaps, a latent defense mechanism? A way of protecting myself from some pre-envisioned failure or inadequacy. Things have changed in the past few days to make me see otherwise.

I’ve recently posted a short story I submitted to an acclaimed writing workshop in Seattle; the opportunity would be life changing. Let me preface this by saying I didn’t get in, and yes, it was horribly devastating. But I mentioned in my last post that even if I didn’t get into the workshop, the experience of actually writing an end to a story was quite revelatory. I always thought I was afraid of how my work would stand up once it was done. On some level, all writers are anxious about this, and I’ve realized that it’s not the entire reason we leave things unfinished. So many of my stories, and my characters, have been with me my entire life. I’ve been writing them for years, and I’m not sure how I would feel if I were to be finished with them. I think I would feel very strange, like a part of myself was missing.

  There comes a moment where you just have to leave it behind and move to the next thing…but you do it really happy. Because whatever you leave behind you has taken on a life of its own

–Neil Gaiman

I’ve spent the better part of my time daydreaming about moving to Seattle for the workshop, and now that it’s not going to happen, I’m more sure than ever that something has to change. It’s time to try and finish things, so that others can finally begin.

 

Sherlock

 

 

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– More excerpts! (YA Fiction) –

Serina pulled up the hood of her cloak as she rode down the narrow alleyway. She’d picked up the trail quite easily, though it led right down the main road. Instead, she kept to the shadowy side streets, blending into the dusty ground. She could feel the pull of Fae’s spirit. It pulsed with need and twisted the world around her; destinies falling away into darkness as the world worked it’s way towards a single inevitable fate. Each choice altered the course of the future, and now she was sure the girl was a part of it. Her need would be the hope of mankind when hope was all they had left.

by klauspillon on deviantart

Serina led her mare carefully. She still wasn’t completely comfortable with the creature, but the mare seemed to have sensed the need to be meek. Though she sometimes shook her mane restlessly, ready to take off galloping at any moment. Serina felt the unease rising in the air as well, whirling on the winds, drifting into doorways. Something had turned this once tranquil village into a hub of misery and decay. It crept into the hearts of these people and fed on their despair. Something was here and she feared the worst. She patted the mare’s neck soothingly and noticed her own shadow upon the ground. It was deep and dark, its edges defined as though the sun shown down upon her back. Serina looked up at the sky, which was a mass of swirling gray clouds, casting the village into a dim obscurity. Frowning, she reined in.

As the wind blew down through the mountain pass, Serina saw the shadows of the buildings sway. They stretched out as though to detach themselves from their hosts, then would lay perfectly still again, the wind twisting into a sighing moan in their wake. The mare stamped its feet impatiently. Serina placed her fingers on the pale stone around her neck, her lips moving silently. The mare kicked nervously as the wind around her began to swirl. Serina was enveloped in a thin azure mist that drifted away as soon as it has come. The mare turned her head but there no longer sat the kindly old priestess but a young woman with golden skin and narrow green eyes. She had thin black hair that was tied back and fell the length of her spine. Her red breastplate was inlaid with an intricate gold pattern, her loose fitting white pants fluttering in the wind. A broad saber was tied to her waist, as well as a bow and quiver slung across her back next to her wooden walking staff.

The mare wasn’t startled at the change, but gave Serina a level stare. She leaned forward and patted the horse’s neck again.

“Sorry, sister. I did not mean to put you off.” She straightened in her saddle. “It does feel good to be oneself again.”

Troubled, Serina looked up at the sky, whose swirling clouds had grown much darker. People in the village stopped in the streets, looking up at the sky with hope. They didn’t notice how far and deep their own shadows stretched, but instead lifted their hands to feel for the first drops of a rain that would not come.

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Here’s another excerpt from my YA fantasy. I’ve been having trouble working through some of the finer plot points, and I’ve been at a stand still for a little while now. I decided it was better to write something than nothing at all, and so I wrote what may be the Prologue to the second book. (I intend for this to be a dilogy). Writing ahead isn’t something I usually do, and I was strongly advised against it. I’ve found however that this has helped me get back in the swing of things, and even gotten me excited about the possibilities the story holds. It’s just a matter of going back and finishing what I’ve started. Again, feedback is appreciated, it shouldn’t take too long to read through!

Prologue

            The boy awoke frightfully, the usual nauseous unease rolling over in his stomach as his eyes adjusted once again to the darkness of the cave. He squinted, trying to make out the sickly silhouettes huddled around him. Pushing himself up on one knee, he felt a jolt of paint course through his limbs. He ran his fingers along his arm until he felt the pinprick holes at his joints. He remembered the wires and vials and glass tubes filled with glowing liquid, like molten light; and he remembered the pain.

He pushed it to the outskirts of his mind; he needed to find her. The young boy blinked as he started forward cautiously. He could hear the others drawing in their legs as he walked past, flinching at the slightest movement. He strained to hear amongst the murmurs until he finally recognized her voice.

“Teo?” she called faintly to him, her eyes already used to the dimness.

“I’m here Everyn,” he said soothingly as he knelt beside her. He could see her slender outline resting against the hard stonewall.

She smiled weakly, her breathing heavy and coarse. “They’ll be here soon.”

“No, I won’t let them take you,” he protested.

“If you see mother or father again, tell them I miss them,” she said softly lifting her face in the darkness. Teo opened his mouth but closed it again uneasily. “And I will miss you too, my brother.”

She brushed her frail hand against his cheek. Teo grasped it lightly in his own, lowering her arm back down to her side. He could feel the small punctures on her wrists beneath his fingertips.

“Do you trust me Everyn?” he whispered. She nodded lightly, trying hard to control her breathing.

Teo glanced around. The other children lay haphazardly around the damp cave, some huddled in groups, others curled up alone along the walls; most looked like they hadn’t eaten for weeks. Their torn clothes hung about them loosely, their bodies weak from exhaustion. Teo noticed a girl watching him. Her body was shaking anxiously as she cradled her hands, one in the other, her fingertips covered in blood and dirt. He could hear her some nights, scratching at the walls, searching for a way towards the light. She starred at him intensely, her eyes filled with a tempered resolve. Teo lowered his own eyes and slowly turned back towards his sister.

He leaned in to put an arm around her waist. “Come now then,” he murmured gently.

He placed an arm around her shoulder and helped her make her way in between the huddled children. They glanced up at them with open shock and fear as he lead her deeper into the cavern, where it was so dark only her hand and rasping breaths told him she was still beside him. No one dared go into the darkness of the cave. There were pitfalls only known to the others by the sudden cries of those who had ventured to far, their screams receding as they plummeted into nothingness. But Teo had been sneaking off when the others were asleep, treading the paths carefully until he found a way across.

image by: Alexandre Pouliotte ~ monsterboy.ca

He guided her slowly across narrow walkways and ledges, their eyes still blind, unable to adjust to the pitch dark that surrounded them. Everyn was shaking beside him, but she didn’t speak any protests as he led her further. Every now and then, he thought he heard something moving in the darkness, but when he stopped to listen, all he could hear was Everyn’s heavy breathing echoing down into the pits.

The darkness began to lift slightly, and he could see the outline of his hand stretched out before him. He knew then that they were close and soon his hand pressed against a sheer rock face. He felt around above him for the narrow ledge he knew was there. He hoisted himself up carefully, then turned to help Everyn clamber up. She leaned against the wall, rolling her head towards him, but she still didn’t say anything. Teo took this chance to look out into the darkness that stretched before them, but he couldn’t see or hear any thing. Sighing with relief, Teo led her to a thin fissure in the wall, nearly entirely concealed by the rock formation.

“It’s quite narrow,” he warned as he eased her into the crack. “Try to hold in your stomach and just keep moving. It’s not too far.”

“Teo, I don’t think this is a very good idea,” she panted as she squeezed herself between the rock.

“Please trust me Ever,” he said quietly.

Teo could feel the cold stone pressing down on his chest and back, the passage getting tighter the deeper they went.

“I can’t breath,” she gasped as they edged on sideways.

“We’re nearly there,” he assured her, trying his best to keep his voice calm. “Just keep moving.”

“My ankle!” she whispered. “It’s stuck.”

Teo felt panic rise in his chest at the thought of stopping, but he paused and shimmied down as low as he could. He could see faint torchlight through the other end of the passage and quickly loosened his sister’s foot. They emerged into a narrow corridor, straining as they wriggled free from the rock. Everyn sank to the ground, her chest heaving from the pressure. Teo bent down next to her and glanced down the empty corridor anxiously.

“We have to keep moving,” he urged. “The guard will be coming round in a minute.” Everyn tried to mutter something, but she couldn’t manage to form the words. Her skin was glistering with sweat and her eyes unable to keep focus. Teo lifted her onto his shoulders, grunting from the weight of her frail body. He was so tired, and hungry, and nauseous from that day’s treatment, but he didn’t think about that as he began to shuffle up the slight incline. He only thought of getting out.

Suddenly he heard heavy gasps behind him. He spun around to see an arm squirm free of the fissure, which was barely noticeable in the dim light. Soon a girl’s torso emerged, her face a mixture of panic and determination. She looked up at him, smiling eagerly when she recognized his face. She reached out her hand towards him, struggling to free herself.

“Please,” she stammered, “Please help me… I think I’m stuck.”

Teo simply starred at her in shock, his arms and legs going stiff.

“Help me!” She pleaded more urgently.

Teo could hear the guard’s measured footsteps, and he took one step back still starring with horror at the girl.

“Please,” she sobbed, her eyes tearing as the footsteps got closer. “Don’t leave me here with them.”

There were voices now, growing louder by the moment. He could feel Everyn’s harsh breath against the nape of his neck, the sweat from her skin dampening his clothes. Teo took one more step backwards and then clambered up the incline to the mouth of the cave. He could hear the girl struggling violently now, her cries becoming more desperate. As he stepped out into the fresh air, he lost his footing on the rocky ground. He struggled to keep his sister from tumbling off his back as they slid uncontrollably into the ravine below.

When the ground came up beneath him he fell face first onto the hard earth, Everyn tossed forward with a jolt. Teo turned his head slowly and bit his lip to stop from crying out in pain. He could see Everyn staring at him fixedly as she struggled to catch her breath. Teo scrambled towards her and lifted her onto one shoulder. They quickly limped behind a large boulder only a few paces away. Leaning his sister against it, he peered over the rock anxiously. They would have found her by now, she would have told them where they were. Teo strained to hear the footsteps of the guards rushing out, their heated shouts raising the alarm, but nothing came.

He slumped down next to his sister, forcing back tears as he leaned his head against the rock. He turned his face towards Everyn, who was still studying him levelly with her vivid emerald eyes. They did not say a word as he lifted her onto his shoulders again and set out through the forest. Soon they came to an open field, the yellowing grass covered in a white blanket of fog that blended into the cloudy sky. Teo pushed forward one step at a time, his head swimming, unable to ignore the throbbing pain and exhaustion creeping through his bones. He felt Everyn’s head lull against his back, her breathing growing steadier but still heavy.

Teo continued to walk until the fog had soaked his clothes straight through, his skin clammy and numb with cold. He fought to keep his eyes from closing, squinting to see through the thick haze. The sky remained the same cloudy grey long past when the sun should have set, and there was no way to know how far they had come, or how much further they’d have to go. He couldn’t see more than ten paces in any direction, and the air around him hung in dead silence. But he didn’t dare let himself stop, the exhaustion weighting on his limbs like quarry stones. Instead he tried to focus on his sister’s slow rasping breaths.

He felt one leg give out, then the other, falling to the ground with a thud. Everyn gently rolled off his back, but she did not move to him. He looked past her and saw someone walking towards them through the fog. He tried to push himself up, but he could barely lift his arms. The man who drew nearer was draped in robes of muted grey, his head shaved to show a tattoo of a thick black circle on the back of his skull. He approached Everyn, placing his fingers gently on her neck.

“She is alive,” he stated serenely, looking over at Teo. “You can rest now.”

Teo tried to drag himself towards his sister, but he could feel the exhaustion pulling at the edges of his mind until he was consumed by it.

 

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Wit

A short excerpt about Wit, The Thief of Cardel.

The day grew late, and would soon be overtaken by the night. The moon lay transparent in the tawny sky, waiting for the sun to set so that it might become whole once again. Wit pressed himself against the cold stone, hiding in the evening’s deep shadows to avoid notice from below. The ledge where he was perched was narrow, but despite his willowy frame he did not sway as a breeze gust by him, carrying hints of Fae’s voice in its wake. He scrubbed his fingers through his hair, reflecting on what he had just heard. His eyes scanned the surrounding buildings, he wondered who else may have been eavesdropping. None close enough to hear as clearly as he had, but he could spot a few choice places. If there were others, they may not have heard everything but they knew that he had. He felt the hilt of one of his daggers press against his leg, always a comforting feeling.

The alley below was empty save for two city guards finishing their rounds. He watched as they walked directly below him, not even thinking to look up into the eaves where he was crouched. He waited until they were safely around the corner before vaulting off the ledge and landing with soft feet on the cobbled street. Straightening casually, Wit stuffed his hand in his pockets and sauntered around the inn, unnoticeably skimming the rooftops and alleyways. He thought he caught some movement near where he had been hidden, but when he turned to get a better look there was nothing there. He’d have to keep a close eye on the inn and make sure Fae didn’t leave without him knowing. He may be a thief, but he definitely wasn’t a stupid one.

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Here is an excerpt from the young adult fantasy I have been working on. I find dialogue to be particularly tricky at times, especially when trying to find a voice for my characters. It reads fairly quickly, if you have the time please leave some feedback!

***

They fell in behind merchants and peddlers, all waiting for their carts and packhorses to be inspected. Many jumped down from their seats and spoke amongst themselves, exchanging wares and bargaining for feed. The guards moved steadily between them, lifting tent flaps and checking baskets. A wiry man whose small cart lumbered forward on a cracked axle darted between merchants, showing them various necklaces and bracelets made of sparkling glass. His clothes were rumpled and covered in the filth and sweat of a poor man’s journey. They wrinkled their noses as if he churned a foul odor and turned their back when he would come near. The wiry man would simply grin and bow as if they had kindly dismissed him and swiftly move on to the next. The line trudged on and when it would soon come to be their turn the thin man returned, his hands still full of bright jewelry. Each bead swirled with dazzling colors like smoke trapped in clear glass. Fae dismounted onto the dusty path, smoothing her skirt as she looked around.

“Do not go far.” Matt said absently still studying the guards along the city wall. “We will be moving before long.”

“I won’t.” She said looking over to the wiry man. He was bent over the wicker baskets that overhung on the side of his cart. Fae saw him quickly stuff a few leather pouches that jingled with coin into the bottom of the basket before replacing the thick porcelain jars on top. She walked up behind him, carefully stepping to avoid making too much noise.

“May I see those necklaces?” She asked, leaning over to look at the display next to him. The man straightened with a jolt, looking at her with surprise then bewilderment. He quickly regained his composure and smiled at her.

“Why of course my dear.” He said. “Though these worthless trinkets would do you no justice.” With a flourish of his hand he produced a thin silver chain intertwined with a white thread that sparkled in the sunlight. He placed the necklace around her neck and fastened the clasp with his slender fingers. Now that she was closer, she noticed that his features were soft and young underneath the smudges of dirt. His wiry frame was that of an awkward bony adolescent but he moved into a graceful bow as he backed away.

“Quite stunning young maiden.” He said, lifting his face.

“I’m sure it is.” She said, placing a hand on the necklace. “But I’m afraid I have no money. I only meant to look.”

“But you must keep it then, as a token for your beauty.” He sighed wistfully.

“No I really couldn’t.” Fae continued, as she held it out for him to take. “I don’t know from whose neck you took it. It’d be awkward if they saw me wearing it.”

This time his faced showed no surprise, but a wide grin.

“Well if you have not yet told the guards then what is it you want from me?”

“Only to talk.” She shrugged, placing the necklace with the others. “Mister…?”

“You can call me Wit.” He said picking up the necklace and making it vanish with another flourish.

“Tell me Wit, those emblems on the banners, what do they stand for?”

“The blue is the feudal lord’s Coat of Arms. The sigil of House Cardel” He said slowly. “The other is that of the School of Alchemy; the four elements made into one.” He finished looking at her curiously. “Surely you are from the mountains to have not heard of them.”

“I don’t get out much.” She smiled. Suddenly her eyelids were heavy and she felt herself stumble sideways into a wide corridor. Books and parchment were scattered everywhere. The dim torchlight flickered on stonewalls spattered with fresh blood. A moon, a dove. Empty shelves and overturned bookcases and a need that drove her, pushed her from this place. This place was empty.

“Are you alright?” She heard Wit say as she regained her footing. “You tripped and almost fell over while standing still.” He laughed. She realized she had seen it all in an instant. She reached out to her sister’s awareness to steady herself and felt the familiar warmth. She looked at Wit whose smile had been replaced by a small frown. “Everything is alright?”

“Yes, just dizzy.” She assured him, pulling herself upright. “Wit, I won’t tell the guards what you’ve done, but they’re checking all the carts. Don’t you think you’ll be caught?” She added seriously as she regained her breath.

“You would be surprise how easy it is to be fooled by a fool.” He winked, looking over her shoulder. “I think your friends are looking for you.”

Fae turned and saw Matt starring straight at them.  She smiled and waved back to him, but it did nothing to lift the look of stone from his face.

“I guess I should get back to them.” Fae said starting to back away. “Maybe I’ll see you in the city.”

“It is doubtful you will catch me off my guard again.” Wit smiled.

Fae grinned as she turned back towards her horse. She quickly mounted behind Matt without saying a word, grateful to be sitting once more.

“You would do well not to draw attention to us.” He said plainly.

“I was only talking to him.” She said, slumping slightly in her saddle

“Did something happen?” He asked quietly not taking his eyes off the guards.

“We can talk about it later.” Fae watched Wit as they passed. He was putting on a show for the guards, wringing his hands nervously as he spoke with the foreman.

“I sell fabrics, dyes and glassware.” He said quickly, eying the men who were inspecting his cart. “Best deals in all the mainland, and even better for the protectors of our sovereignty.” He said a little louder.The foreman ignored him, signaling to continue the inspection.

As they approached the back tent flap Wit stepped forward shakily. “As you can see, all the dyes I carry are separated by color in these baskets.” He continued, pulling out the porcelain pots that were hiding what he had stolen. “I have the most exotic colors; ones you have never seen before!”

“We are not interested in the color of your dyes.” The foreman waved, smiling at Wit’s discomfort. “Pack those baskets up. Check the back!” He ordered with a sneer as Wit’s face fell, feigning anxiety.

The guards came around the back of the tent and opened the flap. From where she sat Fae could not see inside, but the guards and foreman looked at Wit incredulously, their faces flushed bright red. Wit simply spread his hands and smiled shamefully as they covered the back up again hastily with canvas.

“Lets move on!” The foreman said flustered. Wit looked over at her and winked as the foreman and the guards moved on, glancing back at his cart only to turn away with a guilty and embarrassed flush. Fae wondered what could have possibly gotten the guards so flustered. With a blush she shook her head and thought it best to leave it be.

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A blazing fire burns somewhere in the darkness;

From afar it is a beacon, brilliant orange flames licking the night sky.

But closer still the air is thick with the smell of ink and kerosene;

And atop the bed of flames pages curl like blackened wings.

All words turn to ashes and are swept away by the wind.

 

A free verse inspired by Ray Bradbury’s evocative novel and Neil Gaiman’s short story The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury.

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