Thursday, December 29, 2011

Done! Okay Done for the 50th Time

As any writer knows you write a book, rewrite the book, polish the book, find out it's not good enough and rewrite again. I just finished with major rewrites of a story I like to call Daemerkin. Okay, so the beginnings been polished for years, but I totally rewrote my ending, and for the first time ever I feel like this actually HAS an end. This after cutting off about eighty pages that took the story further. Book two will have a fantastic beginning though. Anyway, for your enjoyment, the first few pages of Daemerkin (also in celebration of actually finishing this before New Years).
CHAPTER 1 The silence of the forest sent chills up Tiani’s back. Even the bugs were quiet. A faint red glow bathed the mountain ridge, the sky changing from the black of night. A few more minutes and the sun would rise. She swallowed past the lump in her throat. It’s just a stupid dare, but if I run back now everyone will call me coward. Her clammy fingers clenched around the leather bound hilt of the knife and she slipped it from its sheath tied around her leg. It’s probably nothing. Just a wolf, or bear. Nothing more dangerous than that. A twig snapped behind her and Tiani spun, scanning the treeline. “Ehlrin? Is that you?” Silence. Her heart beat in her ears, her knuckles white. Just stay calm. Oh, please just let it be Ehlrin’s stupid brothers. Please let them be playing a trick on me. A deep rumbling growl made her freeze in place and Tiani slowly turned. Just among the trees a wolf crouched. Its shoulders brushed against branches ten feet up, the paws larger than her chest. Tiani’s eyes widened and she tried to remember her training, tried to recall some way to get out of this. Surely there was something that would keep her alive, some way for her to beat a demon. The wolf stepped from the trees, its red eyes fixed on her. Two others appeared on either side, saliva dripping from fangs longer than her hand. She’d be no more than a snack for them. Why did I agree to this? What possessed me to think I’d be able to handle a demon? Tiani widened her stance and adjusted her grip, her hand shaking as she tried to remember to breathe. If I’m going to die, it won’t be alone. A wolf leapt toward her from the side. Tiani jumped back and slashed out with the short knife. The blade whistled through the wolf’s fur. Strands fell over her hand. Her feet hit the ground, and she fought to gain her balance. A rock beneath her foot shifted. Tiani pitched headfirst to the ground. Pain twisted through her ankle. A wolf sailed over her head, its claws raking through the air where her head had been a second before. An eerie howl echoed through the valley. It resounded off the rocks and the wolves cringed. The first beams of light broke over the ridge, catching their gray coats. The echoing howl came again, so near the branches trembled. Her heart leapt into her throat as the wolves took one last look at their helpless prey and vanished into the forest. Tiani gripped her knife, her breathe ragged, fingers trembling. Strands of her auburn hair fell into her eyes. What is a demon afraid of? The answer that came only made the shaking worse. Another demon. She looked around, jerking the knife toward the rustling of leaves, the clatter of rocks, the breeze brushing over her cheek. The soft rustle of cloth made her twist around. A man stood in the shadows, his hair black, his eyes dark, endless, like the night sky, just a shade above black. Even in the chilly morning air he only wore a thin black shirt, the sleeves ripped off, and a pair of worn pants. He stepped forward, keeping in the shadows until he reached her. At the edge of the sunlight he paused, took a breath, and crouched by her foot. He reached toward her. She jerked back. Agony twisted through her ankle. A muffled cry broke through her teeth, tears flooded her eyes. The man’s fingers brushed against her ankle, his movements slow, reassuring, as if he sensed she was frightened. Still touching her leg, he pulled a bandage from the brown leather pouch at his waist and wrapped the ankle. Her rapid pulse slowed as the pain in her ankle eased. A hawk called, and the man looked up. No, not a man. A boy. He couldn’t be more than a year or two older than her. Fifteen, sixteen at most. And yet she’d never seen him before. Where had he come from? Was he lost, separated from a group of traders? He scanned the sky for a moment then backed into the shadows of the trees and knelt on the ground two feet from her. He met her gaze. “Who are you?” she asked. Out of his bag he withdrew a loaf of bread no bigger than his hand and split it in half, his eyes roaming the forest, and handed half to her. She trembled as she took it. Is he incapable of speaking, or is he a demon as well? Her throat tightened. Did demons take human form? “You should not have come so far up the mountain. The closer to the top you get the more likely you will be found.” The boy broke off a piece of bread and chewed it slowly, still scanning the tree line. “By the demons?” She couldn’t tear her eyes away from him. Each movement flowed into the next. A calm assurance surrounded him, like he ruled here. It was beautiful, strange, and unnerving. “Among other things.” His eyes flitted back to her then away again. The white headband tied around his forehead bore a strange dark symbol in the center. Three parallel lines with a fourth drawn through them. “Then what are you doing up here?” Please just let him be lost. “I live here.” “Then you aren’t lost?” “No.” The hawk called again and his eyes rose to the sky. “Your friends have all retreated to the village.” Slowly Tiani looked up. How could he know that? “All of them? Did Ehlrin make it?” If those things ate him… “I would assume so, though I know none of their names. Everyone in these woods tonight made it out except for you.” The sigh of relief escaped. At least Ehlrin was safe. Tiani relaxed. “They’ll be worried about me.” “That’s not going to change. There is no way you can make it down the mountain on your own, and they won’t dare come up for you now.” She eyed him for a long moment, glancing at the ankle he’d wrapped. If he’d wanted to hurt her he could have done it already. She inched toward him. “You could help me get home.” He glanced at the forest again, his fingers slipping into the bag at his waist, then looked further up the mountain. “I could.” She dared to breathe again. “The demons might come at any moment. If we go now we can avoid them.” Tiani tried to keep the realization of how close she’d come to death from her mind. The wolves red eyes, the teeth. She placed the knife back in its sheath. No matter who he was if the boy would help her she’d take it. An amused smile creased his lips. “What makes you think there is a demon at all?” “You saw them!” She swallowed and studied his dark eyes. “How did you chase them away?” “Chase what away?” “The demons! The giant wolf things that attacked me.” His smile widened, and he leaned back. “I saw no demon.” Tiani stared at him, her mouth open. She snapped her mouth shut and clenched her fists. “Everyone knows the demons exist.” “Really? Have you ever seen one?” “They just nearly ate me!” Tiani glanced over her shoulder, and her lip trembled as she scanned the trees for evidence of their return. “They looked like wolves to me.” She glared at him. “Every year someone is designated to go into the mountains with tribute to keep them at bay. It’s the only way we survive.” He raised an eyebrow. “And I suppose fruit and bread is enough to keep a demon away, is it?” Tiani’s lips tightened. “They feed on those lost in the forest as well.” He chuckled and shook his head. “And that happens often?” “Well, no. Nobody is allowed to go too far into the forest. It’s only when they break the rules that…” She swallowed. She’d almost been one of those exceptions. She should have followed her first inclination and told Jamo and Kanrin to forget it. “Then if this demon wants to kill you all so badly, supposing there is a demon, why hasn’t he attacked the village?” The corners of the boy’s lips twitched upward as he stared at her, the dark orbs of his eyes filled with amusement. “The Jai are too powerful for them. They protect our village.” Tiani frowned. The Jai were the highest level of her people, the Hindori, and even they didn’t go into the forest unless absolutely necessary. His eyes darted to the forest again, the smile gone. So he was nervous too. If he lived here he must know of the demons and how to avoid them. Unless he was one.

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