I was going to wait until the move to the new site to start these, but what the hey. I’ve been trying to get back into writing fiction, both fan- and original, and given how good this site has been for my nonfiction output, I figure a similar public commitment for fiction can’t hurt. So, every Friday I will post a scene from something I’m working on. It might be a fanfic, an original piece, whatever. Generally speaking, they will be drafts, not polished final pieces, just straight regurgitations from my brain.
First up is this bit from an original piece I’m toying with:
Felda stood shoulder to shoulder with the other youths, vibrating slightly. She couldn’t help it; she was terrified, ecstatic, and excited beyond anything in her life.
Three months of tests, that’s what it took. The normal couple of weeks of midsummer testing that any 16-year-old went through at their coming-of-age, of course, and then the discovery that her resonance was Earth! Then the unimagineably long journey with her mother to Weizenstadt—20 miles, at least!—and nearly a week there, assaulted with sights and smells and so many many people, hundreds and hundreds bustling about between buildings two, sometimes even three stories tall! And then more tests of her health and intelligence, fiercely competitive games of cunning and speed against a dozen other youths her age, but none of them made the cut, no—only Felda, in all of Weizenstadt and the villages around, was quick enough and clever enough and tough enough to earn a spot on the barge that floated down the river past more country than could possibly fit in the world, taking her every hour farther from the mother she had never spent a day away from in her life.
But there was no time to miss her, because at the mouth of the river was the harbor and the ship that held as many people as lived in Felda’s village, including two girls and a boy who’d passed as many tests as she, and beyond the harbor was the ocean, which was not only too big to fit in the world, but too big to fit in Felda’s head, and nothing had ever been that big before…
Felda permitted herself a brief wolfish grin, then closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and opened again. Her hands were still shaking, barely perceptibly, but she could focus on the view in front of her, a large stone floor bigger than her village square, with open sky beyond. Behind her, slightly closer than she was entirely comfortable with, the Guild Tower dropped almost two hundred feet from this roof to the Great Square of Tauftor, heart of the mightiest city in the kingdom. It was all too big, too grand for a farm girl from the southern reaches–but she was about to become so much more than that. A spark of energy, terror and delight in equal measure, leapt from her heart and into the back of her throat.
A wizened old man emerged from the hole in the center of the floor, wrapped in a long brown robe and carrying a tray. Behind him came two pikemen, tall and with an air of menace that reminded Felda of her village’s constable.
The old man stepped forward while the pikemen took up positions on either side of the entrance. Felda watched curiously as he offered the tray to each of the twenty-odd youths lined up before him, gathered from Weizenstadt and a half-dozen other regions throughout the kingdom. The tray was full of little balls of fired clay, each a few inches across. He proffered one to Felda, and she took it and held it in her palm. It weighed little, and was warm to the touch–fresh from the potter’s kiln, she assumed–and her palm itched slightly at the touch.
The old man reached the end of the line, and then stepped back. “Kneel, candidates, in the presence of Her Majesty, Queen of Tauftor, Empress of the Southern Reaches, Protector of the Mountains of Holoth…” he went on for several minutes while the youths kneeled, reciting a long litany of titles and distinguishments, ending with, “and rightful ruler of the stolen lands of Ackerbucht, Margeurite the Third of that Name.” He turned to face the opening in the floor and knelt; only the pikemen remained standing, stony-faced and impassive. A young woman stepped up and out onto the roof from the stairs that wound down from the opening. Felda’s first impression was of majesty, a tall golden crown and rich, furred robes of exotic materials she didn’t recognize, jewels and an elaborate hairstyle; it took a moment for her to see the rather bored-looking young woman, barely older than Felda herself, underneath. With some shock, Felda realized that if Margeurite had been dressed plainly, she would have walked past her in the street and never noticed anything special. Briefly, she wondered if that was why people always said things like “Your Majesty,” because they would rather talk to the crown and robes than acknowledge the rather ordinary people underneath, but that line of thinking was cut off when the Queen spoke.
“Our loyal subjects,” she said, her voice deep, calm, and welcoming, “it is with great pride that we welcome each of you. Of all those who came of age in the past year, you and you alone have the strength of heart, endurance of muscle, craft of mind, and loyalty of spirit to earn this highest of honors.” She down at each of the assembled youths in turn. “You are children of farmers, miners, artisans, soldiers, merchants, and nobles. You come from the mountains of the east, the ports of the west, the fields of north and south. And when your training and service is complete, if you wish, you may return to those lives until the realm has need of you again–for on this day, you transcend birth and rank and class. On this day, you become protectors of the realm.” She bowed her head. “Blessed Taufong, Archon of the Earth,” she began to pray.
Suddenly, the ball of clay in Felda’s hand grew burning hot. She gasped and let go, but it stuck to her palm. She stared at it while the Queen’s voice rolled on. Cracks grew and spread across its surface, and burning agony spread up her arm, through her chest, into her heart and her brain. She collapsed on her side, dimly aware of the other assembled youths writhing in agony while the Queen prayed.
The pain went on for what seemed like hours, but the sun had not moved visibly in the sky when it was over. Felda slowly uncurled, blinking at the bright day with exhausted eyes. Every muscle in her body ached, as did her head, and her throat was raspy from the screaming. She felt utterly drained as she looked up, seeing the rest of the youths slowly reviving as well.
No, not youths, for next to each of them sat or crouched or stood an animal that had not been there before. She saw badgers and moles, a goat, two snakes–and then a shadow fell over her, and she looked up to see a bull, black and warm and strong. She reached out slowly to stroke his coat as he bent down to nuzzle her, and she knew with absolute certainty that never in her life had she loved any creature so much, nor would she ever.
She stood, shakily, one of the first in the group to make it all the way to her feet. It was done. She was a knight, and he was her elemental.