So I’ve posted the first 3 chapters of In the Dark… a work in progress that’s been written a million times. I genuinely don’t know where I want to go with it and it’s I haven’t looked at it in so long that I may or may not remember if those coincide with the other 12 chapters currently done lol. I did a lot of rewrites to the beginning, so you may or may not see more chapters for a bit. Especially since all of my energy has gone into a new piece about a woman doing website design/tech work for a marketing firm that gets mixed up with a crime organization. I have 14 chapters, but I’m not sure how I want to share them. The dream is to get published, but this might be something I publish on my own. We’ll see.
Siobhan stood on shaky legs, slinging the worn satchel over her shoulder. Margot had begun to walk swiftly back to the village. Flowers spilled from the pouch as Siobhan lifted the basket that Margot had dropped.
Siobhan’s heart pounded. There was an emptiness in the air without the barrier. Their magic was strong. Her hands trembled as she thought of Brenna. Siobhan sprinted to catch up to Margot, who had begun to jog.
Margot looked over her shoulder to Siobhan, her eyes wide with worry. Both women were passed their prime, but they ignored the strain against their bodies, as they started to run towards sudden billowing smoke.
Weak from the strenuous return, Margot collapsed to her knees at the sight of their ravaged village. The doors of her neighbors’ homes were broken. Fences were littered with blood. The men and women she had known and loved her entire life had been reduced to corpses. Their bodies strewn about the road and their lawns without care.Breathless and biting her lip, Margot watched the Clayborsons’ house burn through tear-blurred vision.
The basket of wildflowers slipped from Siobhan’s fingers. Her heart pounded as she raced to her small home with hopes that her daughter managed to escape whatever horror fell upon their land. She gasped as she tripped over an arm. She forced held not to gag as she realized there was no body near. For a moment she wondered if it would have been worse to see the owner’s fear-stricken face before reaching her home.
Siobhan stood before the threshold and stared at the oak door, afraid of what she would find on the other side. The sound of Margot calling to anyone left alive began to fade away; all Siobhan could hear now was the sound of her heart pumping in her tightening chest.
She closed her eyes and pushed against the heavy door. Holding her breath, she opened her eyes only to have that very breath viciously pulled from her lungs. Her daughter was still and silent on the living room floor.
The sight of Brenna, unmoving, on the floor lifted the air from Siobhan’s lungs. Her brain was unable to process the gruesome scene before her fast enough as she stood just as still and silent. Disbelief and reality fought for her mind. Tears too heavy to be held in her eyes began rolling down her flushed cheeks. Siobhan fell to her knees at her daughter’s side. She bit her lip and clenched her fists; the air in her lungs too shallow to let out the screams she could hear in her head.
Ill with ideas, Siobhan tried to ignore the bits of pale skin peeking through Brenna’s torn. Siobhan slid her hands under her, pulling her stiffening body close.. She held her daughter to her chest, stroking her hair with trembling hands. Siobhan kissed Brenna’s head, her thick hair muffling the sobs.
“No.” Margot stood in the entryway, her face wet with tears. She had seen enough brutality today, finding the entire village in shambles, all of their friends now corpses. She knelt by Siobhan and wrapped her arms around the broken woman’s shoulders. Margot wondered if they will ever move on from such tragedy; Siobhan wondered if her heart will even survive the night.
Brenna finished attaching the eyelets to the back of white dress she’d sewn for the birthday ritual. She tried not to think of how tonight she’d have to hear wielder after wielder give her sappy “your powers will come” speeches as they look to her with pity. She sighed, thinking about it anyway.
Most wielders started showing their powers around puberty. But it came and went and there’s still no touch of magic. She can’t even feel it; the subtle hum of power that every other wielder has described. Brenna had tried so hard and so long at magic practice until she eventually gave up. Now a young adult, the world outside of their small town was beckoning her. There was more beyond the trees and meadows and she wanted to discover it.
She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, putting her focus back into her dress. She threaded the eyelets with a thick white satin lace and held it in front of her.
“Alright, now let’s make sure it fits.” She aloud to herself to drown out her own thoughts as she stepped into the dress. She struggled for the laces in the back and cinched the waist before making a sloppy bowtie.
She spun in front of her bedroom mirror, craning her neck to see as much of her back as she could. “Niiice. Good job, Brenna.” She pranced around the empty house in her bare feet, excited that at least something about tonight would go her way.
Brenna looked at the map of Dorinda she’d pinned to her wall, her fingers tracing the rivers from Kaern to nearby cities. “One day.” She whispered. When she was ready, when she knew her mother was ready, she’d find a place where magic didn’t matter. Where she could be normal.
She jumped at the sudden burst of screams outside of her window. Reckless and brave as usual, she rushed to the door, heart pounding, adrenaline pumping. She swung open the door, greeted by a pair scarred and dirty faces with wicked grins.
“Oh, well, hello.” One man slithered as the other began to reach toward her arm.
Brenna whipped the door closed as hard as she could and began to run to her room. The man who reached toward her grunted in pain as the door closed on his forearm. She locked her door and opened her window, the odor of burning wood stung her nostrils. She could hear shouting, swords clanging. She lifted her dress, feeling sick as the doorknob began to rattle. She swung one leg outside of the window, but they were already inside. The strangers’ hands were on her, pulling her back into her room. She struggled and managed to catch one of the men off guard, her knee landing between his legs. She pushed off of the window sill and knocked the other man over. She slipped out of her room. She didn’t expect them to be so quick.
One man caught her hair in the hallway and pulled her back against him. His other arm tight around her chest. Brenna let out blood curdling scream and clawed at his hands. The other man slipped around her and grabbed her jaw. “We can make this real easy for you or real hard.” He laughed, unbuckling his belt with his free hand.
“Get off!” Brenna shouted as she kicked the man’s leg.
“C’mon, Barker, show this lass how we handle uncooperative women.” The man behind her chuckled in her ear.
The one called Barker cupped her breasts. Brenna shouted for help. The man behind her kicked the back of her knees. She began to cry as she swung her arms wildly, but Barker wrestled her onto her back. Her nails were red with blood from the scars she left on their faces and arms. She continued to thrash, but they pinned her limbs. Unwanted fingers touched her pale skin through tears in her dress. She screamed until her throat was raw.
“You fucking pigs.” A deep voice echoed throughout the hall. Eyes wide with panic, then two mean whipped their heads and looked toward the living room.
With wide strides, the man towered over her attackers before they could move. He scowled and effortlessly lifted the men to their feet by the backs of their shirts. “Put your dicks back. No one wants to see that.” He pushed them toward the open doorway. “Go.”
Brenna looked up with blurry eyes as she sat up. The light from the entryway gave the mysterious man a soft halo. For a moment she was awestruck as the tears cleared.
He reached down and pulled her to her feet by her underarms. beautiful with unruly dark hair. He smelled like a wildfire. His black unruly hair and deep blue eyes paled his skin.
Brenna stumbled as she tried to get her footing on her sudden sore ankle. She caught the leather strap of his single pauldron that crossed his chest. He was sturdy, barely moving as she steadied herself against him.
“Easy.” His hands gripped her upper arms.
Brenna looked up through locks of stray hair. He brushed back her hair, surprised by the sting of familiar features. He eyes moved around her face, soaking in every freckle, every blemish. He didn’t remember reaching for her skin, but he palmed her jaw gently losing himself her soft brown eyes.
Brenna’s heart pounded in her chest. The silence between them rang painfully in her ears. She was confused, aroused, curious, yet unable to do or say anything. She was frozen in his grasp.
“Don’t. Just let her go.” A gentle voice came from the doorway.
The man holding her blinked, his eyes suddenly seeming colder. He’d spoken to the voice without taking his eyes off of her “Fine.” A quick jerk is all it took. The snap of her neck echoed in the silence, followed by the sound of her limp body against the old wooden floor.
Samuel winced. “That’s not what I meant.”
Alaric stepped over Brenna’s corpse, looking around her small house, “Did you find what we came here for?”
Samuel sighed, “Nope. Not here. It appears our source was mistaken.”
Alaric scoffed, “Mistaken, I’m sure.”
Samuel broke the silence during their walk back to the caravan. “That girl, you shouldn’t have-“
“It doesn’t matter now.”
“But she looked just like-”
“Sam,” Alaric sighed and rolled his eyes, “It doesn’t matter.”
Through the open shutters of the kitchen window, Siobhan watched her oldest friend make her way to the door. “Are you sure you don’t want to join us?” Siobhan looked over her shoulder, “It’s going to be a beautiful day.”
“I know, mom. I just don’t know if I have it in me today.” Brenna sat at the small table and rubbed the sleep from her eyes.
“What’s wrong?” Siobhan moved to the door to let Margot in.
Brenna narrowed her eyes, “The same thing that’s always wrong: Me. Apparently I’m a freak.”
Margot stepped in, a large woven basket in her hands. “Are we ready to go?” Excitement lit her eyes. “The fields are in bloom. It’s officially Spring!”
“Hi, Aunt Margot.” Brenna’s voice counteracting Margot’s cheer.
Margot walked towards Brenna and kissed her cheek. “Happy birthday, darling.”
“So you comin’ with us, dearie?
“What’s wrong, sweetie?” Concerned, Margot sat at the table across from Brenna.
Siobhan spoke up, “She’s still upset that her power hasn’t come.” A subtle, knowing look passed between the two women.
Margot looked back to Brenna, “I know it’s uncommon, Brenna, but I hope you understand that this isn’t a bad thing. It makes you unique. In a town of wielders, you get to be our anchor.”
Brenna smirked poorly and looked at the table, scraping the old wood with her nail. “Yeah, I’ll try to remember that.” Her voice was soft.
Siobhan kissed the top of Brenna’s head, “I love you, powers or not.”
Brenna winced, “Alright, you two, it’s too early for all of this mushy stuff. Go get the blooms for the ritual.”
“What are you going to do today?” Siobhon asked.
“Probably get my dress ready. The least I can do is look good while standing around and doing nothing tonight.”
“That’s my girl, always the optimist.” Margot winked.
As Siobhan followed Margot out the door, she looked at Brenna and the disappointed expression still prominent on her face. “It’ll get better, my light. I love you.”
“Love you, mom.” Brenna whispered in return, watching Siobhan leave.
Siobhan and Margot entered the thin patch of woods between their home and the cliffside meadow.
“You ever gonna tell her?”
Siobhan gripped the strap of her satchel. “I know I should.”
“She’s more than old enough.” Margot looked at Siobhan as they continued walking. “Maybe it’ll make her feel better to know why.”
Siobhan took a deep breath, hoping to gain the strength to hold back the coming tears. “I know. I know, but there’s so many questions she’ll have that I won’t be able to answer.” She sniffed, trying not to burst into tears.
“Have you even talked about him?”
“Not to her. She never asked. She just always accepted that it’s just me and her. I just don’t want it to change how she feels.” A single tear escaped and rolled down Siobhan’s cheek.
Margot stopped and hugged her friend tight. “She’ll always be your daughter.”
Siobhan closed her eyes and embraced Margot. “I know. Maybe I’ll tell her after the ceremony. I’m not sure how she’ll take it.”
They broke away from their hug. Siobhan wiped away the tears and they continued their trek to the meadow in sullen silence.
The early spring sunshine stretched across the grass-strewn cliffside. Siobhan lay in the tall greens, watching the puffs of white clouds shift with the breeze. Nearby, Margot hummed old lullabies as she picked fresh wildflowers. Siobhan’s mind raced with memories, this day reminding her of the day she met the mysterious stranger she’d come to know as the greatest love of her life.
It was a day just like this, many years ago, Siobhan had been singing old lullabies that her grandmother had once sung to her while they tended the garden. She let the magic ripple from her fingertips as she tugged the plants, the blooms always sparkled when she did this.
She spun to pick flowers from a different patch of soft earth when a dark blemish on the bright landscape startled her. She squinted trying to see clearly. It was a man, donning armor as black as his hair. The distance between them was waning as he marched directly toward her.
Curious about each other, they’d made eye contact until he was within speaking range. His voice was hoarse; his lips looked dry, despite the moisture clinging to his skin. “What is this place?” His question was fitting for an armor-clad man in such a peaceful place.
Siobhan watched his eyes move across the landscape while keeping his large knapsack close to his chest. “This meadow is on the outskirts of Kaern, my home. You must be lost.”
“Yes, and in great need of some shelter.”
“Well, follow me. I’ll take you to our High Priest, she usually has an answer for everything.”
She had begun to walk briskly toward the little village hidden by a patch of woods when she turned back with an unexpected smile. “Oh, by the way, I’m Siobhan.”
Her heart still fluttered when she remembered the way he smiled back. Margot’s soft singing sounded distant as Siobhan fell further into memories.
Siobhan remembered the weary look on Sondair’s face to hear how far the nearest city with an inn had been; how her grandmother showed no hesitation to open their home to this strange man with hair as black as night and battle-worn armor just as dark.
Sondair had been hesitant, but grateful. He’d offered to keep to the borrowed room, but when her grandmother reached up and flicked his ear, they all knew there would be no hiding for Sondair.
When the sun rose over Sondair’s first night in their home, he expressed how comfortably he had slept, but how he didn’t feel ready for another long trek so soon. Her grandmother had smiled and offered him their home as long as he needed.
Days turned to weeks when he took a job with Farmer Brandel. “I left my home with nothing. I really should have money before I go anywhere. I doubt everyone is as hospitable.” He’d told her grandmother. After hard days in the fields, he’d spent the evenings with Siobhan and her grandmother. He’d help cook and clean. Siobhan would listen to the odd stories of creatures and places that sounded more like fairy tales than real life.
Weeks turned to months. Siobhan found herself seeking out Sondair’s company. He’d watch her practice magic, she’d tell him the town gossip. And on one cool, autumn night, stolen glances turned into stolen kisses.
When her grandmother passed, their sadness sparked something more than the simple kisses stolen in the night and locked hands during summer walks.
Siobhan had been crying on her bed, holding her grandmother’s favorite scarf when he opened the door. Standing in the doorway, he looked at her through swollen, red eyes. “I’m so sorry, Siobhan.” His deep voice was soft, comforting.
“I’m glad you were here, Sondair. That she had the chance to meet you. You meant more to her than you realize.” Siobhan looked toward the window, rain beating heavily against the panes. She coughed and straightened her back. “I think you mean more to me than you realize. But if you’re ready to leave, I understand.”
Sondair had sat in front of her, his gentle fingers on her chin pulling her gaze toward him. “The first time I kissed you, I knew I’d never leave. I’ll stay right by your side.”
It had been years since she let herself think of him so clearly. He had been everything to her in such a short time. He even gave her Brenna; such a beautiful and bright child, she practically glowed in the night. She remembered how Sondair’s arms would wrap so tightly around Brenna after she had fallen asleep, his hands in her straw colored hair.
“My Brenna,” he’d whisper, rocking her in the moonlight of the small room-
“Siobhan,” Margot interrupted. “Do you feel that?” Lost in memories, Siobhan hadn’t noticed when Margot stopped serenading the wildflowers. But she felt it, the subtle shift in the atmosphere not many would have noticed.
Eyes wide, Margot looked to the direction of their small village, hidden in a cluster of trees as if in its own realm. She leaned forward and squinted, hoping to see something, anything that denied the sudden anxiety that had swept over her. “Siobhan, something’s wrong. We need to go back now,” she stammered. “The barrier – I can’t feel it anymore.”