Saturday, December 5, 2020

My Writing Journey - Part 5

I went back to Chapter 1 and re-wrote parts of it. My adult daughters gave some very helpful suggestions. I have never shared the chapter in its entirety. Today you get to see all of it! Please keep in mind that it's still a work-in-progress. 

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Check out today's excerpt below!

Here are the previous posts:

Here is today's sneak peek:
Chapter 1

Myra knew she was in trouble even before seeing Nula’s irate expression. Her older sister, Nula, had urgently summoned her to the solar. She was sitting on one of the cushioned benches with tense shoulders and tightly clasped hands. She looked stiffer and fiercer than the stone statue of a wolf that lay at her feet. Myra tried hiding her feelings of guilt as thoughts of her secret encounters with the outsider raced through her mind. She had known that the retreating figure she had glimpsed during her last encounter with Damien would probably inform Nula. There was nothing that she could do about it now. She squared back her shoulders and prepared herself for whatever came next.

Nula was nineteen, only two years older, but she sometimes treated Myra like a child. Myra preferred her mother’s chastising over her sister’s. Ever since the tragedy that took their parents’ lives the previous year, Nula had changed, and so had their relationship. Being the new ruler would do that to someone. Myra was grateful she did not have to bear the same burden of responsibilities that Nula had to carry.

It was just the two of them inside the solar. It was their private family sitting room, which separated their sleeping quarters from the rest of the castle. The solar with its bedrooms had been used by their ancestors for a few hundred years. It was a spacious room on the upper story of the limestone-brick castle. Part of the castle was built against the Azure Mountain’s rock face, with one side of the Great Hall below being solid rock.

Several woven rugs adorned the solar’s wooden floor. Their father had the old ceiling remodeled with curved beams and decorative woodwork after their mother, Thea, had fallen pregnant with Nula. Some of the woodwork had been painted with accents of red, green, and yellow. To Myra, those joyful colors were now a bittersweet memory of happier times spent in this room with their loving parents.

The furnishings inside the solar included a stone table with leather chairs, red cushioned benches, and a carved wooden bookcase. Several large tapestries softened the hard look of the stone walls. A large stone fireplace, as high as Myra was tall, stood empty.

Large pointed-arch windows faced the main garden. Architects had perfected the layout of the decorative garden with geometric shapes that fit snuggly together like cut-outs on a pastry sheet. The garden had well-trimmed bushes also in geometric shapes, as well as flowers and fruit trees. The spring flowers had already come and gone and were now replaced by summer blooms.

Below the garden was the view of the Walled City. Livania was a beautiful country, but most of its people stayed behind walls. Higher walls were surrounding the city with its residents and businesses, as well as the castle. Then there were lower walls surrounding farmlands and homesteads.

The country was roughly shaped like a large slice of pie with natural borders. The Azure Mountains were at the narrowest end, making up the north-west border of Livania. The Azure River bordered the widest end. It flowed from the mountains toward the east and then cut its path south toward the west, separating them from their neighbors. They were self-reliant behind their walls and only select people ventured out for activities like patrolling, hunting or cutting wood.

Most Livanians were fair with pale-blond hair, like Nula and Myra. Nula was a few inches shy of six feet tall with refined features and a commanding presence. A portion of her hair was braided in a circle around her head while the rest flowed loosely down her back. She wore a long-flowing dusty-purple gown with a midnight-blue sash tied at the waist. In contrast, Myra wore a work dress and a denim-blue apron that enhanced her pale-blue eyes. Wisps of hair were escaping her single braid at the back and her face was flushed. Under her nails were still hints of dirt. She had been gathering vegetables for the cook before being summoned to the solar. Myra was only a few inches shorter than Nula but felt small under Nula’s hard and steady gaze. Three minutes under that gaze felt like thirty. Her silence was as much a form of punishment as her words could be. It was hard for Myra not to fidget or squirm.

Nula’s main distinguishing feature was her eyes. Hers was the color of iridescent white opals. When she was particularly angry or excited, they would flash colored light. People with opal eyes had the gift of healing, something that was unique to Livanians. It still weighed heavily on Nula’s heart that she was unable to help their parents. An earthquake had caused a rockslide, which had quickly buried their parents and a few others that were with them that day. When Nula heard the news, she was the first healer on the scene to help with the injured, but their parents were beyond saving.

The number of Livanians born with the gift of healing was dwindling, as was the royal line. No one knew why, but Myra suspected it had something to do with their separation from the rest of the world nearly three-hundred years ago. Through her insatiable curiosity and love of books, she had observed that scholars only began noting its decline during this period. Being a princess with access to the castle’s library certainly had its advantages.

Nula’s sharp tone snapped Myra out of her musings. “Myra, please explain to me why you were seen with an outsider. The report I heard was that you were very familiar with this individual. Explain yourself.”

Myra figured there was no use trying to lie since the truth was already out. In a shaky breath, she replied, “It is true, sister.”

Nula sat straighter if that was possible. “Who is this man and how did he get past our scouts?”

Myra dropped her eyes to the wooden floor. “His… his name is Damien. He’s twenty-two and a special friend to me. I don’t know how he got through though. I have asked him, but he always changes the subject.”

Nula felt a stab of fear. What potential danger was this man to their people? She needed to find out more. “What did you talk about then?”

Myra took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “We talked about me, mostly.”

Nula felt the blood rush to her face. Her anger had reached its peak. In a deafeningly loud voice, she yelled, “You gave him information about our people? I thought you were smarter!”

“No, no! I didn’t tell him anything about us. We talked about my knowledge of plants. He knew a lot about the woods, surprisingly. And, we talked about things that I like, as well as my hopes and dreams. I didn’t tell him any sensitive information. He doesn’t even know that I’m a princess. That’s all. I promise.” Myra knew that was not the full truth, but she intended to keep that part of their relationship hidden. Since Nula hadn’t said anything, she hoped she didn’t know.

Nula wasn’t satisfied with that answer. “Why would you risk our way of life for some… outsider?” She drew out the last word as if it was foul.

“He is not just some… outsider,” Myra mimicked. “He is kind and handsome and clever and…”

“I don’t care what he is! He is not Livanian, and you know that we have nothing to do with outsiders. I forbid you to have further contact with him.”

Tears sprung to Myra’s eyes. “You can’t! I need to see him.”

“You do not need to see him. What nonsense.”

“It’s not nonsense. When I’m with him, I feel like I can breathe. If I can’t see him, life will cease to have meaning.” Myra looked pleadingly at her sister.

Nula’s eyes narrowed. “Trust me, you will get over him. Life will go on.”

“I can’t,” Myra whispered.

Nula’s eyes flashed with fiery streaks. “Then you will leave Livania and never return. It’s either him or us.” She made a chopping motion with her hand. “Your choice.” Her words lashed Myra’s heart like a whip and she crumpled to the wooden floor with a sob.

Nula flinched at her sister’s distress. She might come across as harsh, but she wasn’t unfeeling. She hoped that her ultimatum would scare her into obedience. Deciding that Myra needed space, she rose, shook out her dress as if to shake off all the unpleasantness, and quietly left the room.


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