"Aedhira" being the temporary/tentative name of my novel. Now, these scenes won't necessarily remain. Just something I threw together on my breaks at work. I'd been thinking about what I was going to share at writing group that night, and how I'd have to share something from later in Aedhira, since I didn't have a beginning yet. But, much as I like the scenes with Tessa, some of them sort of have spoilers. I used to have a beginning (or two?), but then the plot changed and it (they?) became unusable. So, instead of sharing a later scene, I wrote myself a new beginning. I've only changed this a bit since sharing this with the writing group. Added some names. All names are tentative, although extras are even more so than main characters. I really need to go through and figure out the languages better before I can truly create good names... The plot may change again, plus I'm not sure how much I like this anyway (see comments after story)... but anyway. Here it is, hope you like it, and I'll have more comments afterward.
Tardev glanced over his shoulder repeatedly, but kept riding into the forest. He had heard any number of tales about these woods, some of them from trustworthy folk, but he didn't see any other choice. No one would follow him here. No one would return him to the gypsies. There were only a few places like that left in the world to turn to. Better this than to run to the fey. Still.... he kept his horse to a walk, and his hand kept wandering back to his sword. This forest was supposed to be filled with witches, shape-shifters. Maybe ghosts, too. It was a strange place. He was hoping the tales were at least a little bit exaggerated, because he needed to live here, not just pass through. The lands beyond the forest belonged to the fey, and they were supposed to be even worse than whatever lived here. Who knows, maybe the woods were empty now of whatever had originally caused the stories. He could hope.
* * * (centered, as blogger won't allow)
Lariel cautiously peered around her tree. It wasn't a great hiding place, but it should do, as long as the Defender didn't head straight towards her. She'd just change into her unicorn form and make a dash for it. Pilat was the Defender, and he was slow. He was just an otter. In human form he wasn't a bad runner, but he couldn't compete with a unicorn. And since they weren't playing in the water, he didn't stand a chance as an otter.
Pilat was coming in this general direction, but wasn't coming right to her. He hadn't seen her. Her heart beat fast, and she wished Tidhana were playing. She always helped her. But now she was saying she was too old to play. Hanging around the throne room, as though she were going to be the queen tomorrow instead of decades from now.
She heard something rustle near her, and held her breath. Had Pilat come this way while she was daydreaming? Maybe she could still run past him... she peered out. No one was there. Maybe a mouse had been sneaking through. Though why a mouse would bother to hide this far from the "castle" tree, she didn't know. She tried to make herself still and silent again.
She stood there. And stood. This was getting boring. She'd almost rather be caught. It was probably time to run. She peeked out again. He was nowhere in sight. That probably meant he was far enough away she could make it. She changed in a blink and galloped forward. Ah, there he was. He saw her, but was busy chasing Fisha and wouldn't catch her. Triumphantly she reached the tree and changed back to human, grinning at Lani, Sytu, and :Zhina, who were already there. Horse, hawk, mouse. Happily she watched the chases and the sneakings to the tree as the game wound down. Pilat did catch a couple, despite his otter handicap. He even managed to surprise Niad, a deer normally good at the game. But not her, not her.
They were arguing about who should be Defender next when they saw Rizh running towards them. They all stopped and watched him. He was too old to play. He was so old it was unusual to even see him run. Something exciting must be happening. As he neared, he called out, "Stranger in the woods." He huffed a little, came closer, and stopped. "You should all go back to the castle." He meant the real one, of course, not the game one. Lariel felt a sinking in her stomach. Many protested, asking to come help scare the strange man, but she knew she never could. She was a unicorn. Outsiders, xlefa, must never see her. Not in her unicorn shape, anyway. And as a human... well, maybe if she hid well enough she could scare him a bit. But they would never let her. She sighed and started walking home, away from the babble of arguing voices.
So that's it, at the moment. Short, but sweet? I've been doing a decent amount of writing recently, for once, although a lot of it has been plot work. Hopefully I'll get it nailed down pretty well soon, and either way, I think I should be able to write a continuation to this now.
Incidentally, although this is more important later on, the word "gypsy" may be misleading. I may still continue to use it, as the best English equivalent, but it describes a people group that doesn't exist in our world. Some of the typical attitudes towards gypsies would apply, but not all of them. And they're not the same people.
That very beginning part feels a little corny to me for an intro. I hope it's okay because I immediately undercut it with the next scene, but aren't you supposed to hook readers with your first words, not your second paragraph? I think (if it works) it's a funny effect, talking about dangerous ominous places that end up being peopled by kids playing the equivalent of hide-and-go-seek, but... don't know if it's ideal, or if that really comes across.
Is there not enough exposition? Too much? Are you confused, or does the action not flow well enough because of exposition interruptions? It's not as much an issue here, but I'm also worried in later scenes that I spend too much time on Lariel's or Tessa's internal monologues and not enough on actual action. I would have liked to use the first person point of view, but that's not really workable when you have to switch perspectives to other characters. My Weekend Novelist book tells me that beginners shouldn't try multiple protagonists, but I can't help it. The story started out being about Lariel (who is older in most of the book), but then Tessa just had to draw more and more attention to herself. She most certainly won't leave. That would never do. But I highly doubt Lariel will either. ::sigh::
Oh, and one more worry -- this beginning sets a rather light tone, but it's not going to be a light book. In fact, the more I think about how to answer the question, "What is it a story about?" the more I think the answer is slavery, and its effects on my fantasy world in general, and my main characters in particular. (Note to self: need to do more research on our world's current slave trade and its effects.) So... is this false advertising? =) I suppose it's okay -- part of the reason I'd been wanting to write a scene like this is because you have to show happiness and such for the reader to feel its loss with the characters. Hmmm....
Critique, answer my questions, please. Or I'll have to throw oatmeal at you, and you don't want that. Messy, and I won't sweeten it with honey, cinnamon, and nutmeg.