Hey, readers. Recently I applied for the position of story writer on a Minecraft server owned by Altaris9, and he requested that I include at least 3 examples of my past work, so he can see what I’ve written. I’ve decided to compile some of my best work here, so he can see what he’s working with.
This is an excerpt from chapter 28 of my novel in progress, Stormborn. (I did change the working title, if you happened to notice that I used to call it Dragonborn. The old title just didn’t really fit anymore.)
The men are looking at me. Quickly, as if they don’t want to be noticed, but I’m an expert at seeing things that people don’t want me to see. One of the men laughs and turns around. Out of the corner of my eye, I see Arrow stiffen, and I think I know why. He’s noticed what I did. This guy looks too much like Masen to be coincidence.
He gives me the kind of appraising look that people used to give my little sister, the kind that means he thinks I look attractive and he wants to look at me just a little longer. I sit up straighter and catch his eye coldly, and he turns around again, pretending he was never looking.
They don’t know who we are, at least. They wouldn’t be laughing like that if they did. The third man whistles, and that’s the last straw for me. One hand firmly on handle of the knife strapped to my leg, I raise my voice.
“What is it, boys?” I ask. My voice can hardly be called sweet, but the note I use is teasing in a way that makes all three of them turn around to face me. “Is my shirt on inside out or something?”
The third soldier chuckles. I can’t help thinking that, even if he wasn’t one of the enemy, his chances of enticing the likes of me are very slim. He’s short and a little on the porky side, and his short auburn hair is slicked down with sweat. But, somehow, I can’t take my eyes off of the tallest one. He’s a little older than Masen was, his eyebrows a little darker, and his nose maybe a little longer, but they have to be related somehow, because, in my experiences, coincidences like this don’t happen.
They must notice that I’m watching him, because the other soldier – the one that looked at me first, with the crossbow – gives me a steely grin and crosses his arms. A warning look. It’s not good practice to develop a crush on a girl you don’t know anything about, I think. She might be a fugitive, one that’s ready to slit your throat at the first sign of trouble.
“Your shirt’s fine,” says Masen. No, it’s not Masen, but it might as well be. “Say, do you want to sit up here? With us? You don’t have to sit next to them. Kids are annoying, we know.”
Across the aisle, Arrow makes a rude hand gesture at the three of them, and I have to stifle a small chuckle.
“You think so?” I say, putting one arm (the one that’s not holding the knife) casually around Ambrosia’s shoulders. “The question is, would I find the three of you any less annoying?”
Finn turns to look at me, and there’s a warning written on his face. Don’t, his expression says.
He’s probably right. I’m attracting attention from three people that probably have the power to put us back in Wulff’s hands. But it’s too late to stop now.
“That depends,” says the short one with a grin.
“Well, I’ll pass,” I say, leaning back and stretching out my legs. “So far, the kids are making better company.”
The one with the crossbow leers at me. I’ve decided already that I don’t like him a bit. “Come on. You won’t regret it, we swear.”
I take the knife out of its leather sheath and look down at it, casually rubbing a nonexistent speck of dust off of it with my thumb. “Well, if you say so.”
Finn says anxiously, “Q…” I mentally thank him for not using my name.
“Shut up, blondie,” says the soldier with the crossbow. “She made her decision, didn’t she?”
It’s a funny thing, but it comforts me to see that the soldier that looks so much like Masen is the most well-mannered of the three. If I’d seen his lookalike acting like this creep, I doubt I’d be able to remember the real Masen the same way.
Watching the three boys carefully, an idea occurs to me. Before, I hadn’t considered them to be anything except an obstacle, a hurdle to jump over in the race to the safe house in the mountains. But maybe we can turn them into something else. A tool.
This is the excerpt of my book from 2014’s NaNoWriMo, which I did actually self-publish, but under a different name than the one I use on my blog.
From the start, Oriel could tell Gwynn was having a bad morning.
Leyla, who was unbearable on the best of days, had obviously woken up on the wrong side of the bed that morning. She couldn’t sleep out in the open with the bright full moon in her face, and she was used to a soft, expensive mattress and feather pillows, not a couple of blankets and a sleeping bag. Everyone heard Leyla loud and clear as she complained about how horribly she’d slept last night, and she was acting like it, too. Gwynn looked like she didn’t have much longer before her fuse burned down and she exploded.
“Honestly, you’ve got to be insane to be able to sleep on a place as hard as that,” Leyla snapped the next morning as Oriel cooked a quick meal of pre-packed chicken and bread over the campfire. “It’s absolutely terrible. I didn’t get a wink of sleep. I won’t be able to perform well on patrol later, and Adrion will be so angry with how badly I’ve done…”
“I thought you wanted to come on patrol, Leyla?” said Gwynn innocently. “If not, I can see if…” Leyla shot her a disdainful glare, cutting her off mid-sentence.
“At least, if I’d slept well, I could take over when you teenagers mess it all up,” she snapped, her eyebrows knit together. “Adrion’s counting on me… I’m never going to be able to understand how you nutcases are able to actually sleep out here!”
“They’ve slept on worse,” Madeleine piped up defensively, her voice resolute despite Leyla’s withering stare. “Oriel’s told me, when she was two, she and her sisters had to sleep on the cold, hard ground for a month when the Wraiths destroyed their village.”
“Like barbarians,” said Leyla with an infuriatingly haughty glance at Oriel. “Well, I suppose I’ll get used it in time if I want to be as great of a patroller as you two.” She was staring daggers at them both.
“I didn’t know human beings could be this rude,” muttered Madeleine contemptuously to Oriel through a mouthful of chicken. “I wasn’t just bragging for you. You and your sisters have been through so much more than that idiot. Adrion’s not playing favorites, whatever Miss Nightspirit says. You’re just better.”
“Believe me, I know,” agreed Oriel. “Unfortunately, though, I think we’re stuck with her until tonight. I don’t like it any more than you do.”
“But I think we both like it more than Gwynn,” Madeleine pointed out.
This last excerpt is from an unpublished piece of mine, a rough draft of a story I came up with as a sequel to the one I self-published. I had honestly forgotten that I wrote this until today, and it’s actually not that bad. It’s a little bit long (a whole chapter, although not a long one), so I won’t be offended if you skim.
Lila, it seemed, was in no better emotional state than Ayanna. She and Fawn knew that it was no wonder that the Lapi queen was stretched thin; her two best friends – one of whom she’d married – were about to go to war, and she didn’t know which side to choose.
Ayanna’s idea had been right. Lila’s stronghold was already a sort of refuge for the people who didn’t want to take sides in the war. There were plenty of Lapies there, but also a few Ombra and two or three Scimitai. Ayanna had told Lila that she didn’t want to stay there full-time – she was too loyal to Adrion and the other Ombra; she would feel like a traitor backing out of service as the deputy – but it was nice to know that she had a place to fall back if things went wrong.
Akha had been there, too. Lila had explained that she had no other place to stay; as the ambassador, she’d been living in a small cottage outside Lila’s headquarters anyway, and it was too dangerous for her to try to go home on her own. Lila had already guessed that Akha might be suspected in the theft of Bernard’s ring, and she knew that it wasn’t safe for her to throw herself out in the thick of things.
Ayanna had already explained the situation with Oriel to Lila. Aster was particularly upset to hear how the three sisters had split up recently, but at least she had Fawn to hang out with; even though there was a five-year age gap between them, the two were still good friends.
That left Ayanna, Lila, and Akha to discuss things by themselves. Lila and Ayanna agreed that this war had to be stopped at any cost, but Akha wanted to go deeper. She wanted to know who had started it and why.
“Ajéda was a safe place when I arrived,” she said uncomfortably, fidgeting with her skirt in her lap. “I did not think that I would have problems here, now that your war has ended. I did not expect this.”
“None of us did,” said Lila heavily. “It was as unprecedented as anything. The war with Malador, we knew it had to happen at some point. Tauro and Ava were at odds with him long before Ajéda was pulled into the fight. But whoever stole Bernard’s ring… it was as if they wanted this to happen. And it pushed Bernard right over the edge.”
“You’re not staying with him anymore?” asked Ayanna. “I mean, you two are married and all…”
Lila shook her head. “He’s taken to staying at his own stronghold,” she said unhappily. “I thought I might as well stay at mine.”
Akha clasped her hands together tightly, her knuckles turning white, staring intently at her interlaced fingers. “Lila, you must find out who has done this,” she said, her voice low. “The kings will not stop their fighting until what was stolen is returned. We cannot return it until we know who has taken it. We must solve this.”
“She’s right,” said Ayanna, looking at Lila pointedly. “We can’t wish this problem away. Find the source of the problem, pull it up from the roots, and get out of this mess.”
“That’s where we differ,” answered Lila. “You’re thinking like an Ombra – looking at the big picture, trying to figure out a solution with the least amount of trouble. I’m not like that, Ayanna. I’m a Lapi. I – I want this problem solved as much as either of you, but I can’t shut out everything else. I want to help the people involved in this mess.” She spread her arms. “How am I supposed to solve a crime when I have a house full of refugees to take care of?”
Ayanna sighed. “I understand,” she admitted. “But all of Ajéda is at stake here.”
Lila ran her fingers through her hair anxiously. “I know,” she said. “Trust me, I know. But I’ll admit, I’m not as smart as you or your sisters, or even Adrion.”
“That’s not true,” said Ayanna immediately.
“Yes, it is,” said Lila with a small smile. “You’re Ombra. You’re all smart. That’s why I’m leaving that part of the task to you. My job is to shelter these people – people like Akha, who can’t stay at home because of the danger this war is already causing.”
“I cannot stay here forever,” Akha reminded, her eyebrows arched. “I must go home sometime. My village is waiting for me.”
“It’s too dangerous,” said Lila. “We already discussed this. You can’t go out alone. This war won’t leave your village untouched, either.”
“She doesn’t have to make the journey alone,” Ayanna said. “Fawn and I can go with her. We’ll take her home, then ride back. If we take the long way around – move south of Imperial Ajéda, then circle around the east and back up north – we’ll stay out of the way of the conflict.”
Akha made a small noise in the back of her throat. “You know not what you are asking to do,” she said nervously. “It – it is not peaceful in the northern lands. The trees, the stones…”
Whatever Akha was talking about, it sounded a whole lot less threatening to Ayanna than the Scimitai-Ombra war happening in Ajéda. “It doesn’t matter,” she said. “I’ll do anything I can to help.”
Akha tried to smile, but it looked more like a grimace.
“Ayanna, we’d be glad to have your help,” said Lila, sounding relieved. “I understand, as the deputy of the Ombra, you’re taking a risk helping us to stop the fight between Bernard and Adrion.”
A frown flickered across Ayanna’s face for a moment. “It’s okay, I don’t have anything to do, anyway,” she said. “Adrion’s letting Gwynn and Dmitri help him instead of me and – and Oriel.”
Lila’s gaze grew sympathetic. “I know how it feels,” she promised. “I grew up with twelve other siblings. Feeling like I’ve been replaced is nothing new to me.”
Ayanna smiled halfheartedly, glancing out the window. The rain wasn’t as violent as it had been the night before, weakening to a misty drizzle, letting a watery light slide through the small row of windows behind her. The three women had met in Lila’s study, a wide room with pale pink walls, two tall bookshelves flanking the doorway, and three wooden chairs in which Ayanna, Lila, and Akha sat. Judging by the angle at which the light was coming into the room, they’d been there for a few hours, and it was getting late.
“I should be going,” said Ayanna. “Gwynn will be home soon, and she’ll wonder where I am.”
“Won’t she be there later, if she and Adrion are helping Dmitri prepare?” said Lila. “Planning a war isn’t something that can be done in a day.”
“Maybe,” admitted Ayanna. “But, honestly, I just need to go home.”
A trace of a smile appeared on Lila’s lips. “I understand,” she said. “Go ahead. I enjoyed your conversation today.”
“As did I,” said Akha, nodding her head once. “I am grateful for your offer to help me home.”
“It’s no problem,” said Ayanna.
Akha’s face was sad, as if she knew something Ayanna didn’t. “It is a problem,” she said slowly, before turning away, unwilling to say anything else.
In fifteen minutes, Fawn and Ayanna were on the road again. The streets were quieter now that the sun was going down, but Ayanna still had the disconcerting feeling that it wasn’t safe anymore.
As Lila had guessed, when Ayanna returned home, Gwynn was nowhere to be seen. When she opened the door, Ayanna could almost imagine it was a completely normal day; she’d arrived home after work, and Oriel and Gwynn were waiting for her. Oriel would be sitting on the couch, making loud conversation as she always did, Gwynn would be in the kitchen cooking up one of her culinary experiments, and Fawn would be waiting by the door for when she arrived home, ready to give her a hug and ask her how her day was.
Ayanna blinked, and all the misery and fear of the past day came flooding back. The house was dim and silent; the windows were splattered with dust and rain from the storm from the previous night. Reality hit her like she’d been clubbed with a baseball bat. Fawn was standing right behind her, as solemn as sad as Ayanna was. Gwynn was at Adrion’s headquarters with Dmitri, helping him prepare to make his first move in the war. Oriel… well, Oriel had deserted them.
“What now?” said Fawn quietly.
Ayanna clicked on the electric lights. They sputtered to life, bathing the living room and kitchen with a yellowish light. The setting was a little depressing, truth be told; Ayanna much preferred natural light to this artificial imitation.
“I don’t know,” said Ayanna with a sigh. “We’ll wait for Gwynn to get home, I guess.”
When Gwynn finally arrived home, the moon was high overhead. She was frowning irritably, her eyebrows low over her gray eyes.
“Hey, Ayanna,” she said, rubbing her eyes. “I’m finally back. Where’s Oriel?”
Ayanna bit back a sob. How was she going to explain to Gwynn? “Oriel and I, uh… it’s complicated.”
Trying not to cry, Ayanna did her best to explain what had happened with Oriel to Gwynn. Gwynn didn’t get as emotional as Ayanna did. Rather, her frown just grew more pronounced, her eyebrows knit together and her eyes narrow.
“You’re saying… Oriel left… to join the Scimitai?” said Gwynn. Despite her sour, cold expression, her voice sounded wounded.
“Yes.” Ayanna was afraid that if she tried to talk again, she wouldn’t be able to hold in her tears.
“That’s… that’s…” Gwynn sounded hurt and angry. “That’s more stupid than anything she’s ever done! And that’s saying a lot. What does she think, that she’s going to take a sword to everyone she’s ever shared a guild with? Does she think she could fight us? That was the dumbest thing she possibly could have done!”
“I tried to stop her,” said Ayanna, her eyes squeezed tightly shut. “I really tried. But she – she sounded so determined.”
“She’ll be back,” promised Gwynn grimly. “There’s no way she can stay with her new guild. She’ll regret it as soon as she sees what those people are like.”
“She knows what they’re like,” argued Ayanna miserably. “She’s met them. She likes them. She – what if she… what if she really doesn’t belong with the Ombra?”
“She’ll come back,” said Gwynn again, and Ayanna noticed for the first time how scared her voice sounded. Even though Gwynn and Oriel teased each other constantly, Ayanna knew that they really loved each other. There was no way Gwynn would ever stop missing Oriel, even if she still had Ayanna, Fawn, and Dmitri. “She has to come back.”
Ayanna hung her head. “She has to,” she repeated, trying to convince herself more than Gwynn and Fawn.
“Won’t she?” asked Fawn in a small voice.
None of them really had an answer to that.
If you’d like to leave a rating or feedback in the form of a comment, I’d be glad to hear it. I’m always working on improving my writing, and I’d love to hear what you think.
Thanks for reading!