Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Look who got done early!

It's only 9:30PM and I'm posting my next installment of Servant of the King.

Just as a heads up, I'm coming up with this story as I go-- which is kind of a fun experiment. In truth, the nugget of the story about Lakhoni has been percolating for some time, but much of this has been pretty much spontaneous. I point this out because as experiments go, I recommend this one. I'm learning to fight the internal editor off, leaving ever more grievous wounds on him after each battle.

Right then, here's the chapter:

Chapter 7

            Death. The rich, sweet stench of rot assaulted her. She reeled back, spinning to get away from the gaping maw before her. She felt sure that a hand, gnarled and dripping and with claws of sharpened bone, would reach from that pit to grab her if she didn’t move fast enough. Before she could take a step, her pathway was barred by indistinct, looming figures. Their hazy shapes looked like wide, stunted trees, but with pale yellow eyes glowing from their shadowed faces.
            She spun again, heart hammering in her chest, desperate to find an escape. Long arms, deep with shadow and menace reached for her. The stink of the pit filling her head and body.
            All strength left her and Ree screamed in hopeless terror.
            She was sitting in her bed, sweat making her skin feel sticky and chilled. Cold light filtered through the nearly translucent animal skin covering her window. Heart beating wildly, she looked around quickly.
            A dream. It had been a dream. She was home, safe. In her father’s palace, in her room.
            Ree hugged herself tightly, then, still too cold, snugged her woven blanket around her. She felt like she could still smell the stench of that horrible pit, feel the hands of those figures just behind her shoulders.
            What had the dream meant? Omnio, her father’s spiritual advisor, claimed that all dreams had a meaning; that dreams were messages sent by the First Fathers and the Great Spirit. Omnio said that most people were just too blinded by their flesh to understand the messages.
            What would he say about this one? Ree shook her head, deciding to just try to put the images out of her head. She sidled to the edge of her raised sleeping pallet and lowered her feet into her soft skin slippers. She briefly considered going to her father’s throne room to try to puzzle out the lock on his stone box, but discarded that idea. There would be guards and she just needed to do something to get her mind off her dream, not get into serious trouble.
            Ree reached up and removed her cloak from the carved bone that had been stuck into the stone wall of her room. Tossing her blanket onto her bed, she donned the cloak and wandered around her room. She idly picked up trinkets as she passed them on the shelves her father had ordered built for her. A shiny bronze set of earrings that her father said were shaped like shells felt smooth and good in her hands. She wondered if she would ever see the ocean. It was only three days journey to the east, but her father had never allowed her to make the trip.
            He had to protect his precious flower.
            Ree put the earrings down, picking up a delicate, wood figurine of a beautiful woman. She had found this one on the colorful mat spread out by a young boy in the market square of Lemalihah. The boy had claimed that the carving was of one of the First Fathers—which would of course make the woman a First Mother—but Ree preferred to think it was a carving of her mother.
            Whenever she asked her father about her mother, his answer came quickly, “She died in childbirth.” Ree would often ask about siblings and other family, but Lemal always insisted that her mother had no family. Ree wondered why she didn’t just believe her father, but he always seemed to be in such a hurry to push Ree off the subject that she felt like he was hiding something. But what could he possibly feel like he had to hide? Try as she might, Ree could never imagine what the secret could be. Her father was king; he could do whatever he wanted. Why would he care about hiding something from her?
             Carefully replacing the carving, Ree decided that a walk in the night air would help her calm down and slow her racing thoughts. She knew that her father loved her. If he didn’t want to tell her something, it wasn’t for her to question. Besides, she was probably imagining things. As Ree moved toward the door, one of her father’s favorite sayings came to her mind. “There goes your imagination. Better catch it before it gets you in trouble again!”
            Ree let her door close slowly and made her way down the hallway to the main corridor that wound in a slow circle around the inner, second-story walls of the palace. Down the stairs and out into the courtyard or to the terrace? Feeling too lazy to go down stairs and then have to climb them again, Ree opted for the terrace. Her slippers whispered on the heavy stones of the floor as she walked. She held her cloak more tightly around her body, keeping the chilly night air away.
            She soon came to the doorway to the terrace and slipped outside. A blue-white moon hung heavily in the sky almost directly overhead. It was surrounded by a thick carpet of stars that glinted and shimmered in the autumn air. Ree took a slow deep breath, soaking in the evening. An image of the stench-filled pit flashed through her mind, but she fought it off, opening her eyes wide to take in as many of the stars as she could.
            Ree stepped closer to the edge of the terrace, looking out over the city that spread out from the palace. She could see only two or three small fires, or maybe they were torches, in the stone homes that encircled the huge building that was her father’s palace. She walked back along the terrace to the other edge. This side of the terrace dropped straight down to one of the side courtyards of the palace. As she approached the edge, she heard an indistinct voice.
            Instinctively ducking, Ree almost dashed back inside, but curiosity got the better of her. She lowered herself to her hands and knees, crawling carefully to the edge of the terrace. Down in the courtyard, she saw the paddock and low stables where horses were kept, and behind them she saw a dim light filtering out through the gaps around a door to the slaves’ quarters. She stayed in that position, listening in the direction of that light. After a moment, she heard the voice again. She couldn’t tell what it was saying, but it was a man’s voice.
            The voice got louder for a second. It was Shule! Ree wondered why Shule, her father’s favorite warrior, would be in the slaves’ quarters this late at night.
            Then she heard the other voice—a girl’s. It was loud and frightened. Ree didn’t hear it but she knew that Shule must have slapped the slave girl to keep her quiet, because the girl’s voice suddenly cut off.
            Ree easily understood why Shule would want to keep the girl quiet; he should not have been in there. The slaves belonged to her father, King Lemal, and her father had made strict rules about other men spending time with the female slaves. If Lemal found out about Shule’s presence in there, especially this late at night, who knew what would happen?
            Ree decided to tell her father in the morning. She had never liked Shule and she would love seeing the angry man get in trouble.
            As she eased herself backwards, Ree wondered why Shule would be visiting a slave this late at night. Why would he take the risk? Ree knew perfectly well what men and women did together, but Shule had access to plenty of other slaves and servants.
            When she was close to the doorway back into the palace, Ree stood and hurried toward her room. Yes, Shule was breaking a rule and he deserved to get in trouble for it. Wait, she thought, almost stopping as the thought struck her. I can’t tell father, he would want to know what I was doing out on the terrace in the middle of the night. And even if Ree spoke only truth, there was little chance that her suspicious father would believe her. It didn’t help that Ree had already spent much of her life in front of her father as he rebuked her for her curiosity-driven antics.
            But what was Shule up to? That same curiosity grew in her with every step she took toward her room. By the time she had closed the door behind her and slid back under her blankets, Ree had made her decision.
            Shule was up to something and it was against the rules. She would find out what the man was doing and then decide whether to tell her father. If Shule was doing something really bad, her father would appreciate knowing and would thank her. Then maybe he would see that her curiosity wasn’t only a bad thing. And if Shule was just being a stupid man following his desires, maybe Ree would keep it quiet until she found a use for the knowledge.

Alright. So that's about 1500 words. This brings the current grand total to just shy of 10,900 words. 

Works for me! Let me know what you think and feel free to invite others to follow along. 

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