As you can see by the badge in my sidebar, I crossed the 50,000-word finish line for this year's NaNoWriMo writing marathon last Friday.
At 7:00 pm. With 5 hours to spare.
Compare that to the first year that I did it, with 15 minutes to spare, chasing midnight!
Congratulations to my fellow NaNoWrimers, wherever you may be.
This week, I'd like to share a bit of what I was working on during that writing frenzy. This is straight from the NaNoWriMo unpolished manuscript, not counting a few alterations made to avoid spoilers.
From Book 2 of my Dragonsfyre series
Cast of characters -
Xaviero - we first meet him as a military cadet, then rejoin him as the captain of the guard for Lord Visigard and his family
Elysande - cousin to Scorpius' master, Lord Thibault, daughter of Lord Visigard. We meet her first as a vision appearing to Xaviero, then as a little girl at the Nursery which raises noble children, and later still as the highly-sought-after daughter of Lord Visigard
Scorpius - former falconer's apprentice, now lord's man for Thibault of the House of Pruzhnino
Thibault - second son of the Duke of Pruzhnino, noble family of the Eighth Dominion
1 - The officer pulled Xaviero to his feet, already turning to head for the door.
That’s when Xaviero was struck with a vision.
He always required touch to gain the sight, to see that which was hidden from most. The grip of his hand upon the officer as the man made to leave was enough to warn Xaviero that he must not let the officer open that door.
Dragging back upon the man’s arm with all his weight, Xaviero cried, “No, Sir! No!”
2 - He could feel the gravel digging into his legs as he knelt in this ancient forest clearing, could feel the coolness of the stone dragon against his shivering flesh. When he looked up into her gaze that looked at and through him, he knew once again that she was meant for him. The realization that he must wait for her burst through his body like a geyser.
Xaviero heard himself moan in the midst of his vision, and he twisted his head back and forth, trying to wake himself out of it. Yet he came to at the feet of his commanding officer and the dormitory steward, both staring at him in the chill light of dawn.
3 - Xaviero watched this odd toadying behavior from the officer and realized this new boy must be the son of a high-ranking noble. Heavy disappointment settled in his chest.
As the son of a decorated officer from a military family, Xaviero had a respected pedigree here at the officer’s training school, but he was outranked by any nobility from the start. His brief sense of finally having the chance at a friend and ally vanished among the greetings offered by the nearly-blushing officer.
Just who was this fellow, anyway? Keeping his head high and his gaze trained ahead of him in proper military form, Xaviero stole looks from the corner of his eye at his would-be friend.
4 - An eerie sensation raised the hairs on the back of Elysande’s neck. In the distance, a horrid sound of swooshing wings made her wish she’d never heard anything so large and terrifying. Her little legs ran as fast as they could, but the flap-flap of the enormous being dwarfed the efforts of all of them.
Nurse and the guards had only managed to herd the children as far as the little roofed garden house with no walls that Elysande liked to pretend was a palace. There was still all the lawns and the flower gardens to pass through before they got to the safety of the double doors that led to the breakfast room.
The massive flying thing hung in the air overhead, casting them all into shadow. Nurse and Elysande stopped running, since it made no difference now. They could never hope to get away from it.
5 - “You should have read the dragon signs.”
“There were none, my lord! It came from nowhere.”
“Dragons don’t come without signs!” Papa said, kicking the guard in the ribs, lifting him up with the blow to roll across the carpet of the drawing room.
Nurse pulled at Papa’s hand. “Please, my lord! It was I who should have seen the signs. I have more experience with them.”
Papa turned and flattened Nurse with one sweeping blow. He stood over her, shaking in outrage. “We are the closest parents here to the Nursery,” he said. “But we will not be the only ones here come to see whether we needed to collect the remains of our sons and daughters. If I were you, I would not be here to greet them.”
6 - “Who sent the messenger we intercepted?” Xaviero asked.
The man shook his head no, starting to whimper in expectation of the next cut. Instead, Xaviero stood and laid on a series of hard slaps across the man’s face.
With his second sight, Xaviero could see inside the man’s thoughts as long as he could focus intently on the person’s eyes while touching some part of the body. Reaching down to wrap his hand around the man’s throat, he waited for the prisoner’s eyes to open in terror.
Once he could see inside the fellow, Xaviero relaxed within himself even while maintaining his iron grip upon the man’s throat. He followed the trail of the prisoner’s mental barriers to locate the crack he needed.
He could see clearly what the man’s worst fears were. Easily done. So very easily.
Xaviero released the man’s throat and gave him a few moments to choke and gasp and fight for breath. Circling him slowly, Xaviero said nothing, every now and then stopping to bend his mouth close to his ear, but this time inhaling deeply as if the prisoner was a fragrant blossom.
The man recoiled from him, jerking in his bonds to try to keep Xaviero in his sights. Xaviero therefore kept one step ahead of his sightline.
“Who sent the message we intercepted?” he kept asking.
7 - He came to her in a surly mood, so that she was obliged to order him to her room later that night. It saddened him, but it was all worth it. He was very close to getting what he needed from the prisoner. He would do whatever it took to get the name of whoever sent that messenger they’d intercepted.
Whatever it took.
The look on his lady’s face when he arrived a good deal later than their agreed meeting hour was priceless.Taking a deep breath, Xaviero continued on into her chamber with his customary swagger. Yet his skin now washed over with cold bumps.
“You forget that we arranged an earlier meeting, Captain?” she said.
He bowed his head in acknowledgement but said nothing.
“If there was something of far more importance, then of course I must wait. But if you must know, waiting has put me out of sorts.”
He bowed at the waist like a servant. “Apologies, my lady.”
“I will accept your apology after you have paid for your insolence,” she said, turning on her heel and walking away from him. He knelt then, figuring it would be the best place for him to be once she turned back to regard him.
As though she knew he needed marks on his body in order to convince the prisoner to confide in him, Lady Elysande walked towards him to strike him backhanded across the cheek.
He straightened as much as he could on his knees, lowering his gaze yet keeping his head held high. No need to feign wounded pride. He was, after all, working to preserve her family’s place in the Eighth Dominion’s hierarchy.
8 - The torment was so extreme that often just the mention of dragonsfyre to a prisoner would yield results without even bringing the hard-to-get powder out of its holding box.
Her guard captain passed her the belt from around his waist, knowing the powder was in one of those pouches, and knowing that he was destined to inhale it only a few moments from now.
Perhaps they shouldn’t go through with this. Maybe there was another way…
Xaviero placed his hands over hers and nodded once. She crouched and opened the pouches, laying out the silk cloths, the vials on top of the silk, the siphons beside those.
Her captain walked the last steps to the dragon statue. He turned with his back to the stone form, beginning to undress with trembling fingers. Walking to join him, Elysande gently brushed aside his hands and finished undressing him, pulling and tugging and slipping his cape, his doublet, his tunic and leggings free.
There he stood, breathtaking in the moonlight. He knelt with his back to the statue at the base of the carved rock. Taking one wrist in hers, she encased it in the manacle chained to the statue.
Repeating the action with the other hand, she secured her captain to the base of the dragon statue, face out for the ordeal. He knelt in the moonlight, his eyes in shadow.
Turning away, she returned to where she’d placed the vials and siphons. She took up the first of many, as this ordeal wouldn’t be over for some time, once begun. When she turned back to her captain, the moonlight shone down on him as he waited bravely for her. The sight of so much courage humbled her.
If he had the courage, surely she did, too. Elysande took each step that brought her closer to her captain as if it were her last in this world. In her hands was the box containing the orange dragonsfyre powder, and once she blew that into her captain’s face, his excruciating ordeal began.
9 - The weight of the magicke circle deepened, and for a moment she was certain she could no longer stand. The sound that deafened her silenced.
Gazing across the invisible circle into the purple-blue eyes of her captain, it seemed to Elysande that she had always been here, in this timeless moment. She had always worn this gown, had always been this age, had always raised and opened her arms wide to embrace the magicke that was hers to command.
Yet something made her turn her head to her right. Looking for something that was not there, Elysande felt a great sadness.
In that moment she knew she’d always been waiting for the thing that was missing.
10 - She held her arms wide as Xaviero did opposite her, creating a circle of power she could feel but not see, not the way she saw her ribbons of pain. Her hair whipped back and forth as though she stood in a windstorm. The force of the magicke tried to push her down into the dust, but she held firm, stumbling at times but keeping her feet.
For a moment fear broke through, grasping at her like someone drowning.
She searched for Xaviero’s gaze, but his head was tipped towards the sky, his mouth moving with the words of the spell he intoned.
This was it. This was what they’d both been working towards for so many years. She would not let him down, not her dear captain. She wouldn’t let any of them down, not her estate, not the Eighth Dominion.
It appeared that Xaviero struggled against the same force as he reached for the pouch that held the vials of pain essence hooked to the belt running across his chest. His movements slowed as though he trudged through a deep river.
Elysande’s arms pushed down too low to keep the circle going. The pressure on both of them lifted as the energy faltered. Xaviero quickly grabbed the pouch but looked in alarm across the space between them.
She used every ounce of her strength to straighten her arms into the position he needed. Immediately the whirlwind that buffeted her returned. Xaviero withdrew the first vial. Elysande’s heart beat quickened as the moment they’d been working towards for so long drew close.
11 - It seemed to take an eternity, but finally the guard pulled his head free of the tub. As he knelt there fighting for breath and dripping over himself and the stained floor, his master refused to answer their questions. A tone of pleading laced Lord Thibault’s voice, which sent a spear of terror through Scorpius’ chest.
If he were the one putting his master to the question, he would clearly see there was a chink in Lord Thibault’s armour. Scorpius fought to stop the protest from rising in his throat, but the sounds came anyway before the guard dunked and held him again.
This continued for longer than Scorpius could hold his breath. His body snaked and surged against the guard but he would not let him go. A dim sense of shouting joined his own underwater cries before some of the water seeped into his lungs.
Then he slammed onto the stone floor, coughing and seeing stars.
Lord Thibault shouted and struggled against arms that held him back. The cell door opened and a figure entered.
“You,” his master said, all the fight going out of him.
12 - Lord Thibault kicked hard and threw the noble to the floor. The guards surged forward, taking hold of Scorpius’ master once more. Lord Thibault fought against them as though he had not been coming to this cell for weeks of torment, watching Scorpius suffer and growing more pale and lined by the day.
He fought as though he’d just arrived here, a wild beast of outrage even though he was outnumbered four to one, and now facing an attacker who could actually inflict harm. Scorpius watched his master in detached fascination, as though his lungs didn’t burn and his knees and shoulders didn’t ache.
The noble closed in on Lord Thibault, backhanding him so hard his master’s teeth glistened with blood as he smiled.
“That the best you can do?” his master said, eyes gleaming with fury.
“No,” the noble said, giving him a series of brutal punches to the gut that lifted Scorpius’ master off his feet.
13 - “I’m certain I shall.” Lord Thibault’s grin faded, his eyes shadowing with the truth neither of them spoke aloud.
Well, Scorpius would have no regrets. Not now.
“I want to thank you, my lord.”
His master shook his head, no.
“If Richolf were here, I would thank him, too.”
“He deserves your thanks, but not me.”
“I thank him with all my heart for fetching me to live at the falconer’s cottage, and I thank you, my lord, for giving me the life I dreamed of living.”
“But you dreamed of returning home, of being claimed. I know you did.”
“I dreamed it when I didn’t know who would have come for me. You know I never would have gone with him.”
“If you had told them back there in the cell--”
“We’ve been over all this, master. I would take it all again rather than align myself with that man."
“All of that hitting about your head must have loosened something inside of it.”
“I’m telling you I’m grateful. Now are you going to lay there among the grazer shit and take it like a man, or aren’t you?”
© 2012 - Julia Phillips Smith