Weaving together the threads that make up my passion for the written word…as an author, editor, and follower of The Word.
Camp NaNoWriMo officially ended on July 31st, and I’m happy to report that I did make my 10,000 word goal before the deadline! In true camp spirit I also indulged in a number of s’mores while I was writing, albeit the microwave version.
Overall, I have to say, the experience was wonderful, and I would totally encourage other writers to join NaNoWriMo during months when it is offered. I was in a virtual cabin with other writers–some that I knew, and some that I met for the first time. Having that extra bit of encouragement and motivation made a huge difference. I’m looking forward to doing this again in the future.
In a previous post, I announced that I would be working on a new novella, based on the adventures of Einar from my Journey to Aviad book. I have a deadline to finish it this year so that it can be published together with the writings of four other authors at the beginning of 2016 (Aurora Jean Alexander, Melissa Barker-Simpson, KJ Hawkins, and Renee Scattergood). In celebration of a successful month, I’m going to share an excerpt from the novella I started. My only disclaimer is that this is a draft version of a yet incomplete story, so there will no doubt be changes before the final publication. Make yourself a s’more and enjoy! For those who are already fans of Journey to Aviad, and Einar, what do you think?
Chapter 1 – Friend or Foe?
The fire was dying, and with it all my hopes for this quest, which seemed to have been cursed from the start. There was no dry firewood left. With no way to revive the faintly flickering embers, I pulled my cloak tighter against the cool dampness of the morning and waited for the sun’s rising so that I could wake my companions and move on.
Not that it would matter much. Everything was wet, and tangled, with shadows constantly following, shifting, and distorting our vision like demonic spirits. I thought perhaps the Shadow Wood was so named for its thick, heavy foliage which frequently blocked the sun’s warmth. I now understood more fully that the darkness which resided here went far beyond a mere absence of light. There was a presence. I knew not what it was, only that it sickened my soul more each day. The longer we remained there, the more I feared its grip would tighten until we would never be able to break free of it. Even as I sat there in the dim light of dawn, I sensed movement where there was nothing to be seen. I heard sounds that had no form, and felt the prickling of insects crawling over my skin. Yet when I looked, there was nothing.
A crashing noise broke through my mental haze—something was running through the brush. Should I trust my senses, or was this yet another delusion of my mind? I stood up and drew my bow, setting an arrow to the string. There was no time to wake the others as a tall, dark form rushed towards me. My eyes strained to make out who, or what, it was. Human-sized armor and shield… a long spear…dark, blotched skin with a circular brand stamped on its forehead…red glowing eyes.
“Einar, don’t!” a panicked voice called out. “It’s just me—Alaric—don’t shoot!”
My vision suddenly cleared and standing before me was no horrific beast, but one of my own traveling companions. His palms faced outward submissively and his brown eyes were deep pools of fear. My arrows rarely missed. Still I hesitated to lower my bow. I glanced over to the heap of blanket that I thought had contained Alaric’s sleeping form. Slowly I inched toward it, arrow still at the ready. I moved the blanket’s folds over with my foot to find nothing but the imprint of where Alaric had once been. I finally lowered my weapon, still unsure, yet relieved that I had not released my arrow too quickly.
“I did not fall asleep on watch. How…when…did you leave camp? Where did you go?” My suspicions had not yet been satisfied.
“You’re going to think I’m crazy, but honestly, I’m not sure,” he stammered. “I was having another nightmare, worse than any of the others. Nevon was there.” He swallowed hard, as if he was trying to choke down something caught in his throat. “He was being chased down by the Hounds, their red eyes and breath of fire glowing ominously in the dark. They were toying with him, watching him run while they surrounded him. He never had a chance to get away. Their master was leading them with his hunting staff. He was calling instructions to them with words I could not understand.
“The foul beasts brought Nevon down by the little stream we crossed—the one the girl Elowyn showed us. Everything was happening just like she said. It was horrible to watch, and I could do nothing to help—I was frozen in place or I would have died fighting alongside him. They dragged off his body into this horrible wood. I tried so hard to follow, to find out where they were taking him, but as they crossed over the border of the Shadow Wood they all disappeared into the darkness. Then I woke, and realized that I was no longer at our camp—that I was lost and alone. A noise startled me and I panicked and ran. But it seems that I had not actually wandered very far off, because I’ve somehow made my way back. I can’t explain any of it. Einar, I feel like I’m starting to lose my mind.”
“It’s this place,” I said with disgust, finally returning my arrow to its quiver. His story disturbed me greatly, as I realized it had probably been more than just a dream. How he had risen from his place by the fire and wandered off without me knowing was all the more unsettling. It was as though something had purposely obscured my vision, just as it had caused him to chase phantoms in the dark. My stomach sickened at the thought that I had nearly shot him on his return, thinking him to be a menacing beast the likes of which I had never seen before. If we could not trust our minds, or our eyes, there was no longer safety in companionship.
“I used to think all the stories of people going into the Shadow Wood and never coming back out again were the talk of fools and cowards,” I said. “Now I think we would be wise to leave while we can, if indeed we still can, before we end up killing each other.”
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