As a writer, I occasionally do some actual writing. I love talking about the writing process, but until now, I’ve never placed a sample of my writing in a public space for people to scrutinise. There are a couple of legitimate reasons for this, the primary one being that publishers tend to not like your work being out there. But “I don’t like that” is not the same as ‘that’s not allowed’ (well… if you agree with linguistic prescription, I suppose it is).
So basically… it’s allowed. So basically… I’ll let you see some of it.
This extract was chosen because I wanted some of my more current writing to be up for show, but also one of my more rounded chapters. The only context I’m going to give you is my current synopsis. Beyond that, you’ll have to guess and imagine. This will be useful for me, because only I will know what has come before this chapter, and it will be interesting to see how people interpret this solitary excerpt.
I should forewarn you: it’s an entire chapter, so it’s rather long. But you guys probably love reading, so I’m probably preaching to the choir on that one.
Anyway, that’s all I’ve got to say, and I’m out!
A talking book tells a young girl the story of how the world fell to darkness. On the surface, this is a story about a chosen one and a misguided warrior, but beneath and between it all, is a scheming sisterhood, a world in revolution, and an imposing Cycle of Fate.
The story follows the paths of Auria and Parax, idealistic chosen one and egotistical prodigy, as they begin a journey of self-discovery down a path paved with adversity.
A mythical Order seeks to forge their ultimate warrior from the slumbering potential within Auria, and Parax aims to unravel the mysteries around her new superior.
All the while, the cunning Umbrisa is spreading life-sapping darkness across the country, her methods contrary to what was foretold, and as the protagonists will soon discover, so are her intentions.
This is a story of how a world came to ruin, of the all-encompassing influence of Fate, and the light within all things.
A/N: By this point in the book, there are terms which have been explained. So I’ll provide a small glossary for the ones relevant to this scene, so you can have a clearer understanding of it.
Manipulation: Literally telekenesis.
Materialization: The ability to create weapons from memory.
Lenria: A magic-wielding female-only race that are identical to humans. Together they are known as the Lenrian Order.
Brands: Tattoos that signify a Lenria’s rank.
High-Paladin: A rank within the Lenrian hierarchy.
Varlet: The rank given to uninitiated children within the Lenria Order.
Wild Lenria: Uninitiated Lenria who live outside of the Order.
“I done it, High-Paladin Jaii,” Parax proudly announced. “I used Manipulation without my hands.”
Jaii remained staring down at the courtyard as she said, “I see.” There was not even a shred of surprise sprinkled onto the words. “At least you’ve managed to turn your arrogance to more productive uses.”
Parax grit her teeth, biting back a retort. She turned her attention to the shadowy face of the sky, staring at it’s sparkling freckles and it’s lone luminous eye. Night had always been Parax’s favourite time of day. The silence it brought to her surroundings was something she deeply appreciated.
But something else she deeply appreciated, was answers.
Parax reverted her focus to her superior. “High-Paladin, I have a question.”
“As far as I’m aware, nobody in the Order teaches us how to use Manipulation like that. From the way you so skilfully done it, it’s obvious that wasn’t your first time doing it, so it wasn’t an accident. You also didn’t react much when I just mentioned that I’d done it too, so you seem to have been expecting that.”
“An interesting list of observations,” Jaii said patronisingly. “But I heard no question amongst them.”
Parax took a deep breath. She studied the brands on Jaii’s naked arm. She studied the long threads of black that hung down her back, stemming from her round head. She done this to remind herself that this woman was nothing more than just that, a woman. Then she asked her question.
“Where… where did you learn to use Manipulation in such a manner?”
Parax could sense a shift of emotion within Jaii, but the woman’s external bearing betrayed that feeling.
Time turned for slow and silent moments as she just stood there, hand on hip, peering off the top of the castle tower. Then, with a small smile she finally said, “I appreciate your boldness, Parax. But sometimes you need to know your limits. It should have been enough to discover it was possible.” She sighed. “Some questions are better left unasked.”
“I tried,” Jaii spat out. “I just tried like you did, and it worked. Then I improved on it in my own time. There’s the answer to your mystery.”
Parax frowned, slightly shaking her head to herself, unconvinced. “But nobody would do that,” she challenged. “We’re taught that’s it’s too dangerous to haphazardly use our abilities like that. We’re too afraid of what might happen if we-”
“If you what?” Jaii cut in with a sharp snap. She spun on her heel, her tresses swung around with her. The moonlight perfectly lit up her dark face, bringing her cute features into clear focus. “If you step into the unknown? If you tap into your true potential?” She grimaced. “Of course they’d not want that.” she whispered those last words.
They? Parax thought. Surely she didn’t mean the Order? A High-Paladin wouldn’t question the teachings of the Order. Such rebellious thoughts would have been beaten out of her during training. But then… they hadn’t been completely beaten out of Parax either.
Curiosity clung to Parax like the cold air, and so she braced herself as she prepared to take further liberties. “You don’t mean the Order do you, High-Paladin?”
Jaii just scoffed before glancing to the side. She turned her back to Parax, peering down into the courtyard with those fear-ridden eyes once more. “You are dismissed, Sulira Parax.”
Just then, a snap of rage surged through Parax. She was so sick of Jaii’s easy dismissal. This woman had swiped away Parax’s dream for another three years. That single thought broke down all barriers that rank built between them. “Why did you make me lose my Higher Appraisal?” She yelled. “I lost because you used a technique I was taught to never use! So you better damned well-”
Before Parax could even utter the first letter of the next word, Jaii’s fist slammed into her face, sending her staggering. She steadied herself, her hand reflexively flexed, prepped to Materialize. Her other arm covered her nose.
Void-spawned bitch! Her hand strained as she restrained her mind from Materializing a weapon. Jaii stood before her, her robe fluttering in the sudden, aggressive breeze. Parax straightened, she wiped her nose, feeling the warm-wet liquid on her hand. She glared at Jaii with stone-set eyes, Jaii just stared right back.
In that moment, Parax pictured all the ways she could hurt the woman. Using Manipulation to throw her off the tower kept popping up.
But then the feeling passed, the wind calmed, and all angry thoughts were softly blown away. Well, most angry thoughts.
She shared a stare with her Mentor. A hundred words being silently spoken between them.
Parax could see that fire burned within the woman, a wild wrath starving for release. And yet, still laying beneath all that internal flame was a nagging fear.
What the Void are you so afraid of?
“You are dismissed,” Jaii repeated with sharpened severity. “I won’t say it again.”
“You are dismissed,” Parax mocked. “Talking to me like I’m some uppity Varlet. I should be her peer, not her damned subordinate!”
Parax paced up and down the small strip of space between her and Risa’s beds. Risa sat in the centre of her bed, bare legs crossed and her naked body concealed behind a plain white towel. “Sounds like a High-Paladin being a High-Paladin to me.”
“She’s hiding something. She clearly has some issue with the Order.”
Risa slightly cocked her head, a thoughtful look on her face. “That’s not too uncommon. Many of the higher-ups are Authoritarians.”
The Authoritarians were named as such because they held the political belief that Lenria were the most supreme of the three races, and should essentially rule over all of Aiga.
“Yes,” Parax agreed. “But that’s typically the Seniors. The Lenria who are actually engaged with politics.”
“Don’t be so simple,” Risa chided. “Anyone can be an Authoritarian and into politics. I’ve known Varlets who are.”
Parax ceased pacing, shooting Risa a confused stare. “Who are what? Authoritarians or into politics?”
Parax placed a hand on her face. “By the Fates.” She then considered Risa’s words. “I never really thought about that possibility, to be honest. That Jaii could be an Authoritarian.”
“It would make sense,” Risa supported. “They tend to dislike a lot of the Order’s current methodology. I mean, you said she didn’t seem too fond of The Lenria’s Tale, only Authoritarians are known to be like that. ‘Oh, it’s too soft and fluffy’,” Risa said in a mocking voice. “’The kids won’t learn a thing from it’.” She scoffed. “Because according to them all we need is ‘the hard facts’.”
“Nonsense,” Parax said with a shake of her head. Risa nodded. Parax began to undress, removing her robe and tunic.
“Still,” Parax continued. “It’s fairly uncommon for younger Lenria to have such beliefs unless it’s being taught to them from one of the older women. None of us know enough about the Civil War or the Mainlanders to talk about superiority and ruling.”
“Well I have no idea how old Jaii is,” Risa said. “Then again, I’m not sure anybody knows much about her beyond her name and rank.”
Parax folded her arms and raised a brow. “She’s that much of a mystery?”
Risa nodded fervently. “When me and Meihui were being transferred to her squad, Meihui tried to get some background on our new squad-leaders. She basically just looked at some documents and listened in to a lot of conversations.”
“Typical,” Parax smiled. She pulled out her folded night clothes from the wooden dresser beside her bed and began garbing herself.
“I would have investigated too,” Risa added. “But she’s the one who lives in the Citadel Towers, so it’s easier for her, and-”
“Yeah, I get it.” Parax chuckled as she adjusted the gown’s hood. “Not that you would have investigated anyway. But go on.”
Risa rolled her eyes. “I would have actually,” she murmured. “Anyway, there were more than enough boring bits on Senior Patrice. You know how Meihui is, there’s always got to be a little detail that she might have missed, so she recites all her lengthy notes to you in the most dry, dull voice. Ugh. Suffice to say, Senior Patrice was pretty boring. But there wasn’t much about Jaii, and what there was didn’t stand out too much. Considering she was a Wild Lenria, you’d think there’d be more talk about her.”
Parax’s bed let out a squeak as she sat on its edge. “Wait, a Wild Lenria?”
“Yeah,” Risa affirmed. “It was probably the only remotely interesting thing Meihui managed to find out about her. She rose through the ranks pretty fast, I guess.”
Curiosity shot through Parax like a leaden ball, her speech became swift. “What else? Did she find anything else?”
Risa shook her head. “Nothing of import. Just things as equally boring as Patrice.”
“You’d find a Misanese opera boring, Risa.” Parax sighed. “Are you sure there was nothing else?”
“Yes,” Risa shrieked. “Unless you want to know her eating habits?”
Parax gave Risa a broody look.
“Look, this bitch is hiding stuff. I need to know as much as I can about her. Did Meihui say anything about when she was initiated?”
“Void be damned,” Parax cursed. “Perhaps Meihui could find out for me.”
“I doubt it.”
“Why?” Parax challenged. “Almost everything is documented on the Isles. Initiations and the profile of each initiate certainly is. Meihui is a High-Archivist, so she should have the privileges to look at that information.”
“Oh I don’t doubt she could,” Risa explained. “I doubt she would. She’s been busy with her research recently.”
Parax tut. “She’s talking nonsense.”
“Tell her that.”
“What research could she possibly be doing? We’re not humans, we don’t do science. I don’t have time for her excuses. If she’s going to give me problems, I’ll just find out my damned self.”
“And how on Aiga do you plan on doing that?” Risa asked. “Isn’t the whole point of you asking Meihui because you can’t do it yourself?”
“Yes, and because it’s convenient. But I’ll settle only for results, not convenience. If Meihui can’t or won’t deliver, I’ll do it myself.” Somehow, Parax’s mind thought doubtfully.
Risa’s hands danced. “And break the rules, your oaths in doing so? For what? To find some worthless details about some woman?”
“She’s not just some woman,” Parax snapped. “She’s a…” A what? A mystery? A curiosity? A closed-book enigma draped in a complex web of perplexities? Those may have all been true to Parax, but she knew that none of them should have been so compelling that she was prepared to forsake her oaths for them.
It’ll probably turn out to be a load of nothing anyway. Her mind told her.
“Just leave it, Parax,” Risa said softly. “It’s not worth the hassle.” Parax could see the concern that overlayed her sulira’s eyes. “I get it. She’s an interesting character with a strong sense of mystery that appeals to your natrual curiosity. I understand all of that. But you’re undergoing extended evaluation, remember? It’s already going to be three years. Don’t do anything that could make it longer.”
‘Don’t question anything.’ That was the meaning buried beneath those words. Parax knew Risa meant well because Risa always meant well. But a well-meaning Lenria didn’t get answers.
But I can’t let her worry. “You’re right,” Parax half-lied. She saw the worry clear out from Risa’s hazelnut eyes.
She knew there was truth, logic to Risa’s words. But there was a logic to Parax’s desire to know more, there was a logic to Jaii’s mysterious manners. Only a matter of weeks ago she had discovered that her abilities could indeed do more than she’d been told, that there was more than she knew about herself and the Order. If there were more things like that, why should that knowledge be withheld from her?
Sorry, Risa. But I deserve to know.
“Of course I’m right,” Risa grinned. “Look,” she said, moving to stand. “Gather your thoughts and all that. I’m going to have my bath, and when I get back, we’re going to mind wrestle.” She proceeded to the door before opening it. She smiled back at Parax. “I have to regain my honour for last time, you know.”
Parax found herself chuckling at her friend’s mettle. She laughed as she said, “Just get out already!”