Here’s an excerpt from a work-in-progress novel I’ve mentioned once before on the blog, my so-called “Elemental Story.” Still haven’t come up with a title, but hope you enjoy this sneak peek into some of the cast.
“Well, now what?”
I look up from drawing in the dirt as Saaron begins to complain again. He has such a hard, angry face. It’s tricky to get his frown just right; he has such a sharp-angled jaw. But everything about him seems sharp and angled. His nose is long and thin, with a sharp point to it. His eyebrows are neatly clipped. Even his black hair seems to jut at strange angles from his scalp.
I return to my drawing, dusting my hand over the earth to erase the pouting lip I had made on my version of Saaron. It wasn’t nearly angular enough. While I draw, part of me wonders if Eliasz is going to tell Saaron to stop. Normally, Eliasz would have said something by now, but Eliasz is tired. Maybe more tired than me, and I’m the weakest one.
Eliasz sighs while I’m thinking this. “Now, we set a watch and catch some rest.”
I look up from my drawing again to this other boy. I feel as though I should not call him a boy, though—he must be old enough to have been a Votary.
Eliasz is certainly not difficult to draw—or to look at. I’ve seen the other girls looking at him, too. I wonder if it was not only his skills, but also his height, his neat green velvet robes, and his lean but muscular body that has brought him to his place as our leader.
I see Eliasz has glanced to me, and I quickly drop my gaze back to my drawing. I hope he cannot see me well in the dimming light, because I can feel the heat of blush in my cheeks.
“Li-Li,” Eliasz calls. His voice is sonorous, rich and deep, and this time, full of concern. “How are you faring?”
I set down my stick and find myself clasping my hands and setting them into my lap. It is a habit I hope I can break. “I am well, Eliasz,” I say as respectfully as possible.
He watches me a moment longer. I can see he does not believe my words. But unlike Saaron, he does not always speak what he is thinking. For that, I like Eliasz all the more. Because in that way, he is like me.
And now I begin to wonder, what do the others see when they look at me? I am the smallest of the group. Even Khisa, who is my age, is far taller than me and much stronger. Though I suppose I should not be surprised. He is a boy, and I am a girl. Still, there’s no hiding that I am tiny. Even my light hair and light blue eyes seem small, especially in comparison with Kereina. She is tall, with thick black hair and deep sapphire blue eyes that always seem to spark, even in the darkness.
As if she is summoned by my thoughts, Kereina bounds into the clearing where we are talking. She usually remains behind us as a scout, while Khisa usually scouts ahead. Eliasz came up with the idea of scouts, but Kereina always volunteers. I can tell Eliasz does not like her being the scout because his forehead always crinkles with worry when she says she will do it. He never looks worried when Khisa volunteers.
She is breathless from running, but her eyes are still sparkling. “No sign they followed us down the ravine. I think we’ll be safe tonight, fearless leader.” She pecks Eliasz’s cheek with a kiss.
That makes almost all of us blush–except Kereina.
I think Saaron tries to cover up his surprise and embarrassment by behaving even more cross. “Right. As if we’ll be able to sleep after all that. They nearly got us this time!” He turns to Eliasz. “I told you we were getting careless. No more heading that close to towns!”
Eliasz just sighs and nods. “We’ll reevaluate in the morning.”
Saaron only scoffs.
“Well, if you’re too wide-awake to sleep, then you can take my first watch, Saar,” Kereina volunteers him as she skips over and pats his shoulder. “I’m bushed!”
Then she dances over to me and laces her fingers between mine, tugging me up to my feet. “C’mon, Li-Li, let’s get some shuteye!”
Kereina doesn’t look sleepy, and I certainly do not feel tired, but I cannot protest because she is already tugging me toward a leafy place in the clearing for us to unroll our blankets and settle in for the night.
My picture will have to be left unfinished, only to be stamped out tomorrow. We can never leave traces we were ever here.
Khisa returns shortly after Kereina and I have lain down. I hear him speaking with Eliasz and Saaron in murmurs. The sound of murmurs in the cool darkness–it makes me feel as if I am back at the Temple, lying on the stone floor, listening to the Votaries’ chants.
The night air is cold and wet on my face now, so I curl up against Kereina. She hugs me close and sighs. Then she begins to breathe evenly. I think she is already asleep.
But I am wide awake. If only I were more like Kereina. If only I were not a burden who slowed everyone down. If only everything were as easy for me as it was for her.
But all I can do is watch and draw.
I close my eyes and try to fall asleep.
Excerpt from work in progress novel, “Elemental Story” (name pending). Note that all content is subject to change!
From Him, To Him
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