In which there are snippets from the three stories I worked on writing during NaNoWriMo 2015. (Since I turned Rebel this last NaNo, which is a topic of its own for a later post, perhaps…) Enjoy!
THE SILVER FOREST
Beast and rider swept up at a gallop and came to a halt directly in front of the princesses. The animal pawed at the ground with a hoof and snorted, prancing in place for a moment before standing very still.
Silver stared at it in awe, for it was not a horse but a magnificent kingly stag, silver-white, with a grand array of sweeping horns.
Except, in this point there was later an argument. For some of the sisters distinctly remembered it being a horse, others a stag like Silver, and others in fact a unicorn. Some of them claimed it was white, others that it was silver, and a few that it was a solid black like the clothes of its rider. They were all adamant about what they had seen, convinced they were right, but the accounts varied so much, and they could not come to an agreement.
As for the rider of the black or white or silver creature (horse or stag or unicorn), he was quite as magnificent to look at.
His hand clutched the reins in the act of reining his steed to a halt, in an effortless yet strong gesture, and he sat very straight in the saddle—if there indeed was a saddle (or reins, in fact), for there was some confusion over the existence or absence of that as well—and he had very tall shiny black boots and was dressed entirely in black. Pants, tunic, and great caped cloak, all were deepest black, edged with intricate silver embroidery.
He had a mane of black hair that flowed loose and fell past his shoulders. His face was very handsome in a fierce and frowning way, with the angles of his jaw and nose and cheekbones all sharp but smooth at the same time, in the way of a statue carved of stone. He looked to be about twenty-five years of age.
There was a strength of presence about him that Silver had never felt before, and she thought it was as one with the wild calm of the feeling of the silver forest itself. He belonged there, she felt. And yet . . . at the same time he did not. He was like no one she had ever seen before, though at the same time almost familiar.
A pair of shadowed silver eyes set in that distinctive face keenly took in the group of twelve princesses standing among the silver trees staring back at him like a captive audience.
“And where is ‘here’, if I may ask?”
He seemed to pause. “Faerie,” he said at last.
“And where is that, please?” Silver asked politely, wondering at the strange name.
Taghdach raised one black eyebrow and the corner of his mouth curved into a sardonic smile. It was the first expression he had made yet that was not remotely related to a glare. “It’s . . . difficult to explain. I thought you would have known better than to ask such a question.”
“Indeed, I did not,” Silver shot back, rather nettled at his tone of condescension, and losing her temper rather. “I have never heard of any place called Faerie, or for the matter of that, of any king called Sisceall, so unless you wish me to believe you are entirely making all of this up and deliberately giving us falsehoods for your own amusement, I should advise you to at least explain where we are.”
“Are you not going to dance at your own celebration?” she asked, stopping beside him.
Taghdach did not move for a moment or make any acknowledgment showing he had heard her. Just as she was about to ask again, he stirred and finally glanced over at her.
“Did you say something?”
“As a matter of fact, I did. I was asking if you were not going to dance at your own celebration.”
His silver eyes appraised her for a moment. She tried not to back down from the steely look. He said finally, “Dancing.” Then he shrugged, tossing his mane of black hair. “And it is not my celebration.”
“It is a ball held in honor of your day of birth,” she protested. “That is as much your celebration as anything can be.”
“I do not see that my being born is any cause to celebrate,” Taghdach said in a low voice, his eyes burning past her as if they did not see her at all. “In fact . . . more specifically the opposite,” he added, glancing at the floor, a subtle note of harsh bitterness behind his words.
Taghdach strode off, a swirl of dark cloak and mane of black hair, and disappeared into the silver forest.
“Oh, and he can go off the path, I suppose,” Emerald said.
“I believe, my dear Emerald,” Silver said, “that he does whatever he pleases.”
Seamus gave Peach a flamboyant bow, and casually pulled a silver coin out of Rosie’s golden curls with the deft fingers of his outstretched hand and flicked it through the air to Peach, who caught it.
“If you keep doing that, Father’s going to wonder why he pays you,” Rosie teased.
“You raise a good point,” Seamus mused, rubbing a hand over his jaw.
Seamus always said of himself that he was vain as a peacock, and twice as handsome.
“Well then, how about I make it an extra-special juggling lesson?”
“Oooh!” Rosie’s eyes lit up.
“Oh no you don’t!” Peach cut in quickly.
“Come on, Peaches!” Rosie protested. “Don’t give me that. Since when are you all practical like Silver?”
“I’m not, and I don’t mind if you get dagger juggling lessons sometime, but not just now. It’s almost the ball tonight, and I came to fetch you to get ready. I don’t exactly want your arms slashed all to bits right before, thank you. No offense, Seamus.”
“Oh, it’s taken,” Seamus said. “Are you implying that I’m a poor teacher? I’ll have you know that when I’m teaching your sister to juggle daggers, she’ll be as safe as a baby bird in a dragon’s nest.”
“You’re not reassuring,” Rosie and Peach both said together.
“Did I say a dragon’s nest? I meant a patch of daisies and soft fluffy harmless dandelions. Naturally.”
Finnigan gasped a lungful of breath and threw himself mostly clear of the falling stones, tumbling to lie on the wall top and glancing up to see what— That was when he saw the enormous golden dragon, the cause of the fire and falling masonry, blasting through the air overhead.
He shut his eyes a moment, and reopened them to see if it had been his imagination.
No. Evidently not.
He would have groaned again if he had not been so winded and also busy flinching away from smaller bits of stone falling on him.
This was all he needed.
The guardroom was empty . . . probably because half of it was on fire. That was the problem with dragons. Too much flame.
“Why did you take us this direction?” Finnigan asked, glaring in the direction he thought Kern was, not that it would do any good as neither of them could really see each other in the dark. “You could have taken us to where my father and the rest of the army is.”
“No, I could not,” Kern growled. “I took you the easiest way, through the least enemy soldiers. The castle was surrounded but there were the least the way we took. The way to toward where the king and the rest went would have been through the bulk of the enemy, through the worst part of fighting and the most fire, not to mention the fellow I don’t like with the lightning, and I might add the dragon. So unless you wanted both of us to end up extremely dead in a very short amount of time, this was the best way we could have gone, and taking you to your father would have defeated my orders because you would be dead, and keeping you alive was half of them. Taking you somewhere safe was the other half. So that’s what I’m doing.”
“But—! You—! That—!” Finnigan couldn’t seem to get his words to work with how exasperated he was. He threw his hands in the air. “Why am I even talking to you?”
“Excellent question,” Kern said dryly. “Finally one that I’m glad you asked.”
THE ROSE AND THE RAVEN
Derrick was up early that morning, walking along the corridor in search of breakfast, minding his own business, when a whirlwind suddenly ran into him.
“Whoa—!” He regained his balance, grabbing at the arms of the whirlwind, which on further inspection proved to be a wild-eyed, frenzied Princess Brier-Rose apparently in an extreme hurry, with quite untamed hair and seemingly still in her nightdress.
“What are you in such a—?” he began.
“I have to save the tower room!” she exclaimed distractedly in one breath—so that he was not entirely sure he had even heard her correctly—even as she tore away from his steadying grip and off along the corridor.
“Wha—?” Derrick wavered a fraction of a second, then gave up and switched directions, hurrying after her. He caught up in time to witness her bursting into the room where the two kings were talking over breakfast and a game of chess. These activities were paused as they looked over to see a very disheveled ten year old princess standing at the flung-wide door, apparently with something on her mind, and Derrick in the background as unsure of what was going on as they.
“Funny, you’ve always seemed quite grown up to me. At least, I always thought so,” Brier said.
“I always did too,” Derrick said with a laugh.
“Even when you were five?”
“Especially when I was five,” Derrick said with mock solemnity.
“Derrick!” Brier said, quickly moving to stand in front of the roses. “What—?” she began.
Derrick answered distractedly, looking past her, “I met a maid coming down the stairs from bringing your breakfast—she said I could go in—and why do you have roses in your room?”
“Roses?” Brier laughed. “What are you talking about?”
Derrick looked uncertainly from the roses—which Brier now reflected must be visible behind her no matter how much she tried to block the sight—to her, and back again.
“You will be dead before the day is out.”
“Good luck with that, then,” Ev said cheerfully.
THE SECRET OF KEDRAN’S WOOD
Tare turned to Baz. “Move.”
Baz quickly elbowed Lavender out of the seat so he could scoot over and hastily move out of Tare’s way, making a mental note that he should never ever block Tare’s way again, even unintentionally.
The Chess Club were running around hither and yon, messing up the blanket of fresh snow, pelting a rain of snowballs in every direction, making enough noise to wake the dead, and clearly having the time of their lives.
Tare folded his arms and watched.
They weren’t making very good use of the various snow forts and the impromptu shelter made of a snowman which Baz was using. Their military strategy was very much lacking, he observed, except perhaps—he had to grudgingly admit—for Adrian. Chucking snowballs every which way, dumping arm loads of snow on other people and giggling seemed more to be the order of the day.
He was about to turn to leave, but one of the teams rallied and began rushing at the other, and somewhere in the midst of it a stray flying snowball hit Tare square in the face.
“Um, Tare . . . is that a gun?”
Tare glanced down at his hand that wasn’t holding on to the door, and almost looked like he hadn’t known he was holding the black handgun. “Yeah, why?”
“And your knuckles are bloody,” Marie observed.
He looked like he hadn’t noticed that either. “So.”
“What happened?” Lavender asked.
Tare gave her a flat look and blinked once. “A wall ran into them.”
“Are you all right?” Adrian asked straightforwardly.
Tare closed his eyes and said wearily, “Leave me alone, Adrian.”
Adrian nodded slowly. “I will,” he said simply.
Tare watched him another moment, appraisingly, then finally turned away and reached for the doorknob. He paused with his hand on it. Adrian waited.
Then Tare said in a low voice, “Tell them I’m sorry.” And with that Tare pulled the door open and disappeared inside his lair.