The challenge of the walk

Okay…. I finished with word count Tuesday night as planned… here is one last excerpt before I crawl into bed… I know I said earlier I wasn’t going to share this one here, but I figure since I posted it as one of the bits on the official site I might as well, eh?

Thanks again to all those that have helped me to evolve Talia over years. This portion of the writing has all been solo exploration, but occasionally inspiration comes from unexpected places.

(*I feel evil for what I put my characters through*)
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          Julie took the blindfold over to Talia and began tying it across her eyes. “Just remember what you told me Eleri was teaching you. You should be fine.” The nervousness in her voice was unmasked. Talia thought she could feel a slight shaking as Julie finished the knot. “Are you ready to go to the edge?” Julie asked.

         Talia nodded, feeling the hand gripping her arm tighten. She inched her foot forward, trying to imaging where the edge of the platform was. When she had extended a little, she shifted her weight to bring her other foot up. On the second slide, she felt her toes curl over the edge. She stopped moving forward and slid her foot side to side. She found the beam, and stepped forward. Exploring, she found the other edge, and judging the width, stepped slightly to her right.

         “Ready?” came Julie’s voice, seeming distant.

         Talia nodded again, “yes, I’m ready.”

         The hand on her arm did not release immediately. She felt a slight pulling to one side and then a light brushing of a kiss on her cheek.

         “For luck.” Julie whispered, right next to her ear. Julie stepped back and she felt the hand release her arm.

         Talia was floating. Floating in the darkness, a seeming endless void ahead of her. At first she sensed nothing. Then, as her heart stopped racing, she could feel the cool night air on her arms. A light breeze brushed past, making the hairs stand up on end. She lifted her arms slightly, extending them loosely, being sure to remain loose and limber. Stiffness would cause her to over correct. Reaching down in her thoughts, she felt her toes and the beam they had found. She turned her right foot slightly sideways to the right, allowing her toes to wrap over the edge. She brought her left foot over, tentatively placing it in front of her. It found the beam. She moved carefully, searching, and found the edge. She set her left foot down, slightly to the left, her toes gripping and exploring. As she shifted forward, she could sense what lay ahead of her. The edge her feet had found extended out indefinitely ahead of her in her mind. It was as if there was a long row of stitches. Eleri’s exercises came to mind, and she lifted her right foot from behind and swung it down along the side as if following the needle disappearing to the other side of a canvas. Her foot came up, following the edge, and planted almost perfectly on the beam, toes curling again. She shifted forward.

         Talia continued, sensing nothing other than the beam. One foot swung out, planted and was followed by the other. A murmur began below her, seemingly a world away. “She’s made it halfway” floated up to her on hushed voices. She ignored it, it was not her. She was a needle and thread. Her legs swung down, stitching her forward. Another step, another. The murmur became louder, like the tide of an ocean, “she’s doing it, she’s going to make it” Talia moved on, stitching.

         “What’s going on here!?” boomed a voice, piercing her calm, drowning the waves and causing the beam to vanish from her mind. She turned, instinctively, towards the intrusion, and felt for a moment as if she was floating in the blackness. There was a blinding light and intense pain, everything went dark and silent.

         Julie was watching from the platform, holding her breath, holding the support tighter. Talia had stepped out from the platform in one gentle, graceful, movement. Her steps had seemed mechanical, even, as she became further and further away. Julie’s heart started to beat faster as Talia reached the point where Tomas had fallen. She wasn’t slowing down. The children below started to murmur, not taking their eyes from Talia’s slender form. There was a mild disturbance coming from behind Julie, she turned to see a rather large priest standing in the doorway to the courtyard. A few of the children had turned and were backing away, into the crowd. The rest still had their attention focused on Talia as she neared the end of the crossing.

         “She’s going to do it, she’s going to make it,” Julie could hear it ripple out from those at the far end, near the other platform. She turned back; Talia was only a few steps away from the other side. In a moment she would reach the platform and all this would be over.

         “What’s going on here!?” the man roared, striding out into the courtyard. Julie saw Talia turn in mid stride. Her foot missed the beam, and keeping to her rhythm, Talia stepped down. Julie’s eyes widened in horror as Talia fell forward, her arms went out, on either side of the beam as if to catch herself but found nothing. Julie nearly screamed as Talia’s head landed squarely on the beam. Her little body rebounded backwards and flopped onto the tarp covered hay, limp as a doll of rags. There was a collective gasp, as the gathered children watched Talia fall. Tomas and Charlie ran forward. Some of the younger children began to cry. Julie stood on the platform, frozen, unable to move.

Al-Most There!!

Al-Most There!!

*sigh* It’s been a long month, and I am sooo damn tired. And as far as story goes, will be lucky if I’ve reached the halfway point. It’s rather hard to tell. This thing has evolved into much more than I expected. but for November, all we care about is wordcount. It’s the 27th, and I’m at 48.5k… woot. I’ll finish tomorrow! (now, off to bed)

Looking forward to more indepth return to Arabel next weekend… (tho I did cheat a little and grab several hours this past weekend.)

Learning the shadows

This week’s excerpt comes again from the early years. In fact, it seems I haven’t really been able to get out of the early years. I’m about 2/3rds through my word count, realizing there is sooo much more to write about. On the plus side, I seem to be on track to cross the finish line before the end of the month

I’d also like to toss out a little thank you to Elsbeth for an inspiration that I thought was going to be a little side scene and ended up being a major change in direction for one of the other characters. (no, I’m not sharing it here Wink )
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Outside the sky was overcast and the rain continued to pour down covering the city in a dreary grey haze.  Most of the streets were empty, save for those that needed to be out.  In houses, apartments and inns across the city, people huddled around roaring fires to stay warm and dry.  The temple, while never truly quiet, was no exception.  The children were gathered in the larger common rooms, family units intermixing as friends from classes and meal mingled about.  Some groups played games, and others passed the time with stories.  Other groups, such as the one Talia sat in now, passed the time learning to sew and embroider.  Sherri had led the group earlier in the afternoon, until her duties called her away.  When a new caregiver arrived to take her place, Talia stayed.

Her stitches were rough, hardly straight at all.  More than once she sighed in frustration and began picking out stitches as she realized she had made a horrible mistake.  Eleri was patient, going over the various stitches, showing how easy it was to embellish a simple design.  Talia’s fascination outweighed her frustration, and she stayed after many had left for easier pursuits.

It was during one of the times of unworking what she had done that Julie plopped down next to her, all smiles.  “What are you working on?” she asked.

“A table napkin,” Talia said, tenseness in her voice as she tried to salvage the design.

Julie nodded, leaning in to look over her shoulder.  “And what is that suppose to be?” she said, indicating the incomplete stitches.

Talia dropped her hands in her laps, letting out a deep breath.  “It’s supposed to be a cat.”

“It doesn’t look like a cat.”  Julie said thoughtfully, “It that the head or the tail?”

Talia turned, glaring slightly at her friend.  “That isn’t either, that is the back,” Talia resumed her stitches, turning her back to the intrusion.

Julie nodded again, biting her lower lip.  “Which end is the head going to be on?”

“I don’t know yet,” Talia said, putting down her work again.  “I’ve tried both sides, and neither look right.”

“Maybe you should start with the head,” Julie said helpfully.

“Maybe you should go somewhere else.” Talia sighed again, not really angry.

Julie shrugged, “I could, I suppose, but Tomas sent me over to see if you wanted to go exploring.  He said he found something.”

Talia looked up at Julie.  There was a light of mischief in her eyes.  Often in the late afternoons Tomas had asked them to come exploring.  Usually they ended up in some forgotten or rundown area of the temple, other times it was out in the lesser-used areas of the grounds.  Once, Tomas led them into a series of narrow halls that connected many of the rooms in their wing by hidden doors.  They learned the way from the living quarters to the kitchen, and over to the lecture halls.  They had nearly been caught that time.  None of them had expected the late even class to be in session.  They had stepped out through the door behind a large tapestry.  The priest was going on and on about the political structure of the city and how it interrelated with the country and countryside.  It was much more advanced than any of the classes they had been placed in.  Curious who would find this interesting they crept to the edge of the tapestry to peek out.

Rather than a typical class of children or young adults, the desks and chairs were filled with other priests.  The children turned to one another shaking their heads slightly, understanding nothing of the speech, when they heard a soft click.  The door to the hidden passage had closed.  Tomas stepped back, but after a moment searching was unable to find the latch on this side.  He looked to the girls his expression one of confusion and defeat.

“What are we to do?” Talia mouthed soundlessly.

Tomas shrugged, “I don’t know,” he mouthed back.

Julie shook her head, frowning.  “We wait,” she whispered.

And so they waited, standing up against the wall, no room to move.  An hour passed and finally the lecture was ending.  They heard priests rising to go, thinking they were finally free.  Three voices remained, talking over some finer points of the lecture, their tone suggesting a disagreement, but never raising in anger.  The children look at each other again, Juile with discomfort on her face.  Talia quirked an eyebrow in question.

“Pee,” came the single word response.

Talia had to cover her mouth to hold in the laugh, as did Tomas.  Julie scowled at both of them.  She looked out into the lecture hall.  The three robed figures were half the room away, but they would have to pass by them to get to the door.  Juile nudged her shoulder.  “I need to go, now!” she said in the barest of whispers.

Talia nodded, her mirth subsiding.  This was becoming serious.  Tomas still wore a big, stupid grin.

Their side of the room was fairly dim, the lamps placed on the far wall, near the lectern.  Talia stepped carefully from behind the tapestry, keeping flat to the wall.  The priests were entirely engrossed in their discussion, two with their backs to the door.  Talia moved with a catlike grace, carefully avoiding the chairs and stool near the wall.  Within a minute, she was at the door; she motioned to Julie to follow.  Julie just shook her head, indicating the priests.  Talia raised her hands in an unspoken “why not”, and waved her over again.  Julie shook her head, moving back out of sight.

Talia let out a small sigh.  The priests were still deep in discussion.  Carefully, quietly, she opened the door and stepped out into the hall.  The hall itself was little brighter, only half the lamps lit at this hour.  She carefully scanned both directions, no one was about.  What was she to do?  If Julie didn’t get out soon, they would all be in great trouble.  There was no telling how much longer Julie could contain herself, or Tomas for that matter.  As with most boys his age, he often found the wrong things humorous at the wrong time.  She nodded to herself and decided.

She opened the door, making no attempts at stealth, knocking quietly.  The priests turned to the door, regarding her with questioning eyes.

“Um, excuse me, Fathers,” she said a slight quaver in her voice.

The elder priest, the one she recognized as leading the lecture spoke up.  “What are you doing here, child?  You are not allowed in this area.”  He strode away from the other two priests, towards the door.

Talia ducked her head, bowing in what she hoped was embarrassment.  “I’m sorry, Father.  I took a wrong turn and couldn’t find my way back to the main hall.”  She looked up to his face, trying to read his reaction.  “I heard voices, and I thought someone could help me.”

His frown softened, and eventually became a slight smile.  “Of course we can, child.”  He turned to his fellow priests, “Brother Maynard, Brother Charles, we’ll continue this discussion at tomorrows meeting.”

The other priests nodded, and passed by Talia, out into the hall.  The elder priest set a hand on her shoulder, speaking kindly.  “Now, lets get you back to your rooms, it is nearly time for the evening bell.  Your caregiver must be getting worried about you.”  He stepped ahead of her into the hall and Talia made a quick glance back towards the tapestry.  Both Julie and Tomas were looking out from their cover, Tomas smiling and Julie wincing.  Talia passed through the door, and it closed behind.

A meeting on the road.

Here, I promised to post a little bit… This is from early on.. I haven’t decided for sure, but Talia would have been roughly 10 to 12 at this time.

I’m doing ok, just a little behind, but if tomorrow goes well it won’t be much.
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Talia continued on for two more days and nights before coming to a crossroads.  Ahead of her the road continued to wind south, but now a similar road spread out to both the east and west.  The sign posted to a nearby tree was too worn and faded for her to read in the dark.  Her father’s stories never spoke of directions, only that the outside world was to the south of their own village.  She studied the path for a time, trying to determine if one way seemed more traveled than another, but she could see no difference in the grass and dirt in the faint moonlight.  Tired and frustrated, she sat where she was and began to cry.  Once started, the tears flooded out.  Why had she left her village?  Why did they treat her as a stranger?  It was days between villages, would she ever find the city that her father had spoken so fondly of?  Minutes passed, or maybe hours.  Her sobs subsided to sniffles, and more tears refused to come.  She sat in the center of the road; knees drawn to her chest, rocking gently back at forth.  For the first time since she had left, she felt lost and alone.

“You’ll never be alone,” a soft voice floated on the night air.  Talia looked up suddenly, wiping the tears from her eyes.  There was no one there.  The road was empty as far as she could see.  Only the tree broke the desolate landscape.  She stood, turning checking all around.  “I’ll always be there in your time of need” It was behind her, back by the tree.

“Who’s there?” she called, fear creeping into her voice.  There was no one there, only shadows from the tree, shifting in the moonlight.  As she was about to turn away, a small woman stepped from the shadows.  She was shorter that other adults she had seen, only a foot taller than Talia herself.  Her clothing and hair were black like the night, her eyes and smile glittering slightly.  “Who are you?”

The dark figure smiled, but stepped no closer.  “I’m just a friend, sent to help you on your way.”  The woman sat elegantly at the based of the tree, as if waiting.

“Help me on my way where?”  Talia asked, skeptically.

“Where ever it is you think you need to go.”

Talia stepped closer, wary of the seated woman.  She felt something about her, something her limited experience could not explain, but it made her uneasy.  “Why?  Why are you helping me now?”

The woman raised an eyebrow, tilting her head slightly, as if surprised by the question.  “Why?  Because you asked, of course.”  The woman smiled again.

Talia stopped at the edge of the grass, a few yards from where the strange woman sat.  She shook her head, “no, I mean, why now?  Why not before?”

The woman leaned forward, her smile becoming more serious.  “Talia, there are things you want, and things you need.  Honestly, we didn’t expect to be called for several more years.”  The woman looked about, as if just noticing her surroundings, “and we certainly didn’t expect it to be out here.”

“How… how do you know my name?  And what do you mean ‘we’?”  She looked around, fearful others might step from the shadows.

The woman shook her head, “it is too early for this, you won’t understand.”  She stood quickly, turning back towards the tree.  “Suffice it to say, your destination lies further to the south, maybe two days at the pace you’ve been traveling.”  The woman puts her hand on the tree, turning back to smile at Talia.  “It was an honor to meet you, I hope we may again, some years in the future.”  With that the woman steps behind the tree and is gone.

Talia stood for a moment in stunned silence, and then ran up to the tree after the woman.  She circled the tree, but found no sign in the dark of her passing.  Even the place she had been sitting was undisturbed, as if she was never there.  Talia shakes her head, “it was just a dream.”  She walks slowly back towards the road.

“No, it wasn’t…” the soft voice is barely audible above the wind.  “You’ll understand in time.”  With that it is gone.  Talia waited for minutes on the edge of the road, waited for the voice to speak again, or the woman to appear, but nothing happened.  As the chill of the night started to set it, she gathered her resolve and continued on the road, heading south.

Perhaps it only proves that I’m insane…

…but I decided, against my better judgement, to sign up for NaNoWriMo this year.  I think I’m going to be delving into Talia’s past before she came to Arabel, but I’ve already been visited by one character I wasn’t expecting when I started, so we shall see how this thing evolves.

That said, I will probably post an excerpt or two here as I go along, if anyone is interested. Most of it wouldn’t be suitable to add to her journal, at least not from the point of view I’ll be writing.

Wish me luck, and don’t expect to see me much unless I’m keeping up with word count, or suffering from writer’s block Wink

A look into the past

Below is the passage that first inspired me to write of Talia’s past, and childhood.  It is what prompted me to set about putting words to paper for NaNoWriMo.  This was never posted online before under Talia, but was included over as a side story on Leefe.  This will give some perspective to the origins of both Talia and Tomas. 

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          Aldous looks down to her arms “Those markings… interesting.  Have you had those long?”

         Talia looks down at her own arms, “something from when I was younger.” Then thoughfully, “there are things you can leave behind, but a part of them will always stay with you.”

         “Younger?”  He smiles,  “Right. I suppose we all were once. But I’m not one to say that either of us aren’t still young.”  He leans in for a closer look, “What are they of?”  When he notices her blush he smirks, “Oh come now.”

         “I wasn’t always a tailor.  In those days, I was more daring.. foolish perhaps.”

         “They can’t be -that- bad. Besides. Foolishness and fun start with the same letter for a reason.”

         She raises an eyebrow at his jest “as does frightful.”

         Aldous hold up his hands, “Simply saying, the foolish usually have a great deal more fun than the… well.. come now! Simply tell me what they are.”  He smiles widely, “You’ve tickled my curiosity. I simply can’t rest until I know now.”

         Talia sighs for a moment, “They were just markings of status… of accomplishment.  Suffice it to say, I was a bit more reckless in those days, and a bit less noble in my persuits of wealth.”

         “Oooh? Shady dealings mayhaps?”

         She smirks this time, “at the time I told myself it was liberations.”  He hand goes out, retrieving the bottle.

         “Now it’s getting interesting.”  Taking another sip of wine, “What sort of things did you do?  Just give me a little example.”

         She frowns, looking into the fire, “petty thief, really.  Though we liked to think of it in grander terms.”

         “Tell me about it. Everyone does that with everything they do. Reality is simply… depressing.  But, regardless. You’ve -got- to tell me at least one story.”  He smirks at her knowingly, “I know you’ve got them.”

         She takes another sip of her ale, “I’ve worked hard to put all that behind me.  I try not to think of it.”

         “It’s healthy to reminesce. Besides, you’re not the only one who’s been mischevious.”

         She looks over her cup to Aldous, “Mischevious, or stupid?”

         “A bit of both,” he smiles slightly.  Talia takes a long drink and sets the bottle down.  Aldous chuckles to himself waiting.  “You know, I’d be willing to trade one of my stories for yours.”

         She leans back in the chair, tired, “If you really must have story…”

         “Oh, I’ve got them, too.”  He smiles smugly and slides back in his chair.  “But you know… if you don’t want to talk about that sort of things.”

         “In those days there were maybe 9 or 10 of us altogether.”  She looks thoughtfully into the fire.  “We thought that the nobles had enough coin that’d that never miss a few here or there.  It was usually a simple enough task to cut a purse while delivering drinks at an upscale tavern.  Occasionally one of us would be caught, but the guards cared littlle.  A night in a cell wasn’t much worse than a night on the streets, so we never really learned.  Only one night, it wasn’t the city guards that stopped us.  Tomas had targeted a rather loudmouthed young noble, of an age with the rest of us.  It was the same ploy as always, we just didn’t expect the other to be watching.  The noble noticed nothing, but as Tomas turned to leave, he came face to face with “Daddy’s Guards” who were keeping an eye on him two tables away.  The young noble was embarrased, and very drunk.  He’d been shown for a fool.  They took Tomas out to the back alley and beat him within an inch of his life.”

         Talia pauses for a moment frowning as she stares into the fire.

         “Are… you alright?”

         She blinks slowly and looks over, “those were darker days then.  When the rest of us found out, we were furious.  A night in the cells was nothing compared to what they had done.”

         “Listen… I’m sorry I brought it up.”  He leans over and reaches his hand over to her armrest.  “Listen, you don’t have to go on.”

         She smirks slightly, “you asked for a story… I never promised a happy ending.”

         Aldous shakes his head slightly, “I didn’t want to do anything that would bother you.”

         She nods, lips twitch, not quite hinting at a smile, “well.. it’s a bit late for that, better I finish it, or I’ll think about it all night.”  He nods to her, saying nothing as she takes another sip of wine.  “As Tomas was recovering, the rest of us plotted.  None where known to the noble, so it was easy to get close.  We waited… watched.  One even managed to make it into his little circle of friends.  Once we knew the guards, it became easy.  A little drugging of the wine, just enough to dull the senses, not enough to alert them that something was wrong.  When they left the tavern that night, we guided them, over to where the rest were waiting.”  She smirks slightly, “the guards may have been large, but they were easily surprised.  A few clubs, and it was only the noble standing.  We closed and gave him the same beating he had dealt.”  She pauses to take another sip, staring again into the fire.  “Tomas stepped from the shadows then, I hadn’t know he had come along.  There was something in his eyes that I had never seen before.  A beating wasn’t enough.  Tomas had his dagger out, he pushed past us.  Only a few of us realized his intent, and by then it was too late.”

         Aldous takes a deep breath, “I see”

         She shakes her head, sadness creeping into her eyes, “no words, no pause for gloating.  He moved in quickly, calculating, and in an instant the blade had opened the young noble’s throat.  No one cared when all we cut was a purse or two, but this was different.”  Aldous shakes his head as he listens.  His gaze turns downwards, a faint expression of sadness on his face.

         “This changed everything.  We fell apart, as a group.  The city guards were looking everywhere.”  She looks again down at the marking on her arms, “When I left that city, I left that life behind me.  I don’t know what happened to the others.”

         “And Tomas… what did he look like?”

         Talia smiles slightly at a memory, “not many would call him handsome, but he had a way with his smile.  His black hair was cropped close, his eyes pools that you could fall in to.  He had the courage of one who didn’t know any better, and a quick wit.”  Her smiles slips to a sad frown, “After that night, both his smile and wit were gone.  Only a hatred remained.”  She sips quietly at the ale.