Sunday, September 04, 2011

Back on the Blog Chain: It Was a Dark and Stormy Night

I'm back from my hiatus. I didn't get as much revising done on my fantasy novella as I planned, since I had to prepare for this round of the blog chain. No, it's not brought to you by Snoopy (I was considering using the cartoon, but I don't want to violate copyright) but by Christine. Here's her topic as she wrote it:

Since we are all writer's, I thought it was about time for us to stretch our creative muscles and do a little writing. So, take the following topic and go crazy! Show us what you've got. Your story can be as long or as short as you choice.

The topic: A dark and stormy night.

I come between Amparo and Matt this round.

It just so happens I'm rereading an old project to see if I can revive it. This novel is set in a country called Challen, which was modeled on Victorian England except for a couple of twists: they worship Four Gods and Goddesses, each aligned with a particular season; and periodically their country is afflicted by a magical weather storm called the Day of All Seasons. (Here I call it Chaos Season.) To fight this storm, a group of four mages called Season Lords must pool their magic. The four Season Lords are all born in the same year, on the solstice or equinox of the season and deity they serve. They all have different types of magic; for example, the ones born on the winter solstice have weather magic. Their official title is "Sol" or "Sola" in front of their season. They reincarnate generation after generation, remembering their magic--and any personal issues they have with other Season Lords. This can really complicate matters when each group comes together for the first time or when one group replaces the current one, as you'll see below. This is a new short story I wrote with old characters, trying to give them a new background:

Storms in the Night

Thunder cracked above the attic, sending Kay’s brothers and sisters scrambling under the covers. Kay pressed her face against the broken window. Rain pounded her skin, taunting her. For a moment, she imagined the storm was a message from Dorian, the current Sol Win. Look at this power, it seemed to say. You’ll never be able to control it.

But I can. She stuck a finger through the empty pane. With a thought, drops shied away from her finger. Compared to what she remembered from previous lives, this was small magic, something so small Dorian might not even sense it. But her power had only reawakened in this life a couple of months ago, and it thrilled her to rediscover it. When she was ready, she’d join the other three Season Lords who were her age, and together they’d tame the Chaos Season. But she was too young, her magic too new, for that. For now, another quartet of Season Lords protected Challen. They’d returned to the city of Vistichia this afternoon for the Summer Solstice ceremony. By sunrise, the streets would be washed clean by the storm.

I should get some sleep so I can wake up early and find a good spot to watch the ceremony. Kay planned to study not just Dorian, but how he worked with the rest of the Season Lords. She’d drape a scarf over her best dress, the blue one, to hide the stain on the collar. Maybe this year she’d try to talk to them. The difference in their classes wouldn’t matter now that she’d come into her magic.

Perhaps I don’t have to wait. What if I add my magic to the Sol Win’s? Then he’ll sense me and know I’m ready for more training.

But would he want to teach her? In Kay’s previous life, the old Sola Win had been unwilling to share her knowledge with her replacement. What if she had been reborn as Dorian and still harbored that feeling? If they were the same person, Kay wanted as little to do with Dorian as possible. But how could she be sure?

How will Dorian react when I use my magic? I guess there’s only one way to find out.

Kay listened past the rain and wind for her siblings’ breathing. They were silent, too terrified to breathe. Ma and Pa alternated snores, thin and deep. What a shame they couldn’t appreciate the magic weaving over their heads. Suddenly longing to be out in the storm, experiencing it first hand, Kay heaved the window wide enough for her to wiggle under it, emerging on a rail barely big enough to hold a cat.

The wind howled in renewed fury, and rain sluiced her until her nightgown clung to her indecently. It should have chilled her, even on a summer night, but Kay drew warmth out of the air. She didn’t bother chasing the water away. Instead, she clung to the rail, closed her eyes, and let herself observe Dorian’s magical trace. It was controlled, assured, confident that he could sweep up every drop of rain from furlongs away.

She opened her eyes. The rain still poured down, though she could sense it would soon lessen. Wind swirled about her, shaking tree branches. A gust blew past her into her family’s room. Kay frowned. Wasn’t Dorian supposed to care for everyone in Challen, no matter how poor? If he controlled every aspect of this storm, why would he make her family huddle miserably in their room?

Holding out one hand—Kay didn’t need to make the gesture, but the defiance bolstered her—she changed the direction of the wind until it blew perpendicular to the window instead of straight into it.

The rain continued to fall, but all wind ceased for a few heartbeats. Then it pummeled her from all directions.

Kay’s grasp on the railing slipped. She frantically kicked her legs clear of the sodden shift and wrapped them around the cold metal. As the wind lashed her, she huddled into a ball and prayed to the God of Winter that He wouldn’t let the rail break. If she fell, she could break a limb—or worse.

The Four wouldn’t let me die, would They? The other three Season Lords my age wouldn’t be able to tame the Chaos Season without me.

If she could manage the Chaos Season, a small storm like this should be easy.

Kay pushed against the winds, trying to clear a space. But Dorian refused to yield. Just when she thought she had one wind under control, he grabbed it back from her. The rail grew ice-cold under her skin.

Freeze it; wind and ice at once? How much could he do?

As Kay tried to melt the ice so she wouldn’t slip, the wind pushed her over.

She screamed once, her cry covered by thunder.

Fear gave her magic new strength. Grabbing all the wind surrounding her, she cushioned her landing. The stone pavement collided with her shoulder and side, but not hard enough to break bone. She lay there for a moment.

By All Four, did he try to kill me?

How could a Season Lord do that to his eventual replacement? They were supposed to work together. What could make Dorian reject that? Either he was mad—then why hadn’t the Sola Spring healed him?—or else he’d turned against the Four. And that Kay couldn’t comprehend at all.

Fear still prickled her skin. Could the God of Winter truly expect her to present herself to Dorian after this attack and ask him to teach her weather magic? What if he tried to kill her again? If he was so offended by a single use of her magic to help her family, what would he do when he was supposed to step aside and let her handle Challen’s weather system?

If something happened to her now, then it would be another twenty years or so before a new generation of Season Lords could replace the current set. She had to keep herself alive long enough to link with the other Season Lords from her generation before facing Dorian again. But how?

There’s no other way. I’ll have to hide myself and suppress my magic. They can track me with it.

She couldn’t even tell her family what had happened or where she was. The less they knew, the less likely Dorian could find her.

Kay stared up at her family’s room. With the front door barricaded from the inside, she couldn’t retrieve her extra clothes or the few chals she’d saved. She’d need the God of Winter’s help to survive, at least long enough to leave Vistichia. She hoped the God would understand. She wasn’t shirking her duty; she’d return when she was strong enough to face Dorian.

A voice inside her scolded her, saying she’d never match Dorian's weather magic if she neglected hers. Fear drowned the voice out and sent her running down the street, away from the Temple and toward the city gate.

The rain had slackened off, and the wind and lightning died down. But Kay’s drenched nightgown chilled her. Her physical condition didn't bother her half as much as losing her family, her home, and her magic. Would she ever be able to enjoy a storm again?


Jonathon Arntson said...

Sandra, I love the last line because I am a storm lover myself. You beautifully describe the kingdom - at first I had a hard time picturing the Victorian Englandish setting. Nice work.

Matthew MacNish said...

Wow. What a cool scene! I can only imagine how fun it would be to experience a storm when you had that kind of power.

Great excerpt, thanks for sharing, Sandra!

Eric said...

Incredible. I love how much of the world you put into it. We get a decent sense of so many things, such as her social status and the way things work in her world. I especially like the tension when she gets forced off the rail. Nice job, Sandra.

Christine Fonseca said...

This is great - and BTW, Chaos season...AWESOME!

Katrina L. Lantz said...

I also loved the idea of a Chaos Season! So cool! And I'm not usually into epic fantasy, but you did a fantastic job with world-building and really pulled me in. I'm very curious about how she'll grow her magic without being able to use it. It seems hopeless and yet there's a tiny bit of hope. Well done! Thanks for sharing!

Michelle McLean said...

Ooo very nice :D These posts are all incredible! I loved this excerpt, excellent job :D

Kate Karyus Quinn said...

Love that last line - nice job!

Sarah Bromley said...

Like some of the others, I like the idea of a Chaos Season. There's some nice internalization going on. I personally would like to see a little more setting, but this is really cool. Definitely onto something here.

Abby Annis said...

Awesome scene! Great job! :)

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