So this is a little bit of a different Tuesday Tales, as it's technically a Wednesday Words because I'm going to share a new scene I wrote for my first chapter. No matter what version or draft I'm in, the consistent general consensus is, "I don't really know why I need to care about Ghuli yet." So I decided to look at what was missing. The action/inciting incident is in the first chapter, but I've always technically started with it. Ghuli's in the woods, Ghuli goes home, bam, army attacks (not a spoiler). I decided to show more of Ghuli, Cyan, and Laris being normal before their worlds get turned upside down.
So, this is a chance for anyone who reads to beta this scene and tell me your thoughts in the comments. I need to know if the scene makes you at least feel sympathetic towards Ghuli as an MC. So (I say "so" too much), away we go.
Only ten or so Humans and hillsprites roamed the market that evening. The Oculus stood at the edge of the path, its crimson light tinting everyone near it. A handcrafted sign with a poem carved onto it hung from a small hook welded into the Oculus:
“Crimson means the army’s far
Gold means the army’s near
If ever blue, do run and hide
For’t means the army’s here”
There wasn’t a moment where I forgot that the Oculus was built out of dismantled parts of the metal army. I shuddered, and Cyan squeezed my shoulders, pressing away fear and memories as we entered the market.
“1st Lt. Cyan, 2nd Lt. Laris,” the butcher John greeted my watchmen. His thick, black beard rose as he smiled down at me. “’Tis not often we see the little lady out. How are you this evening?”
“I’m well, thank you,” I said.
“I hear you’re the one who eats the most elksmeat in the manor now, but that can’t be true.”
“It can, and it is.”
He laughed and began stacking packs for us. Cyan wrote his information in The Watch’s payment book as Laris transferred the meats to our sack. John slipped me a strip of candied bacon in wax paper and winked. I smiled and thanked him before we moved on. Laris crossed the square to pick up vegetables, and Cyan told me not to go too far as he stopped to collect sheep’s milk. A Human couple stood speaking to a hillsprite by her cart of trinkets two vendors away, so I walked over casually to look at the wares.
“There I was, cleaning out my cellar,” the hillsprite said, her large emerald eyes wide and pointed ears perked. “I believed I was done, and then I found a hidden door going further into the ground! ’Twas filled with these old valuables.”
“You live off the road to the old palace, right?” the man said. His eyes scanned the jewelry and odds and ends, but he pursed his lips in distaste. His wife picked at items as though they had thorns.
“I do. It must be an old Crystal keep. The Bearers were strange. Who needs a cellar within a cellar?”
“Haughty as they were, I’m not surprised.”
I glanced at him from the corner of my eye but returned my attention to a Crystal Soldier figurine holding a glass sword made to look like a crystal one. I picked him up and looked at his small, brown face and dark blue eyes, the tiny glass gems set into his hands.
“At any rate, shall I sell you anything?” the Sprite asked.
“I don’t want any of their things in our house,” the woman said, wiping her hands on her coat.
I held the little soldier closer. Had I not worn my linen wraps everywhere, she wouldn’t want to stand by me, either.
“Well, all right,” the man said, albeit reluctantly. “Sorry we got your hopes up.”
“’Tis no trouble.” The hillsprite waved as they walked away. Then, she turned towards me and jumped. “Oh, I didn’t see you, my lady. Do you like the little soldier? I believe there are a few more here.” She climbed into her cart and returned a few seconds later, two fair faced soldiers and another brown one in her hands. “They look to be a set. Which men are they?” She brought one soldier’s shield close to her face, and I looked at the tiny arrow facing the northwest on the shield of the man I held. “Ah, of course. They are of Prince Deleon’s battalion. I say the Bearers were strange; howbeit I love learning little things about them. This was Prince Deleon’s island before his brother, King Daviel, gave it away. Did you know that?” I shook my head. “You are very quiet. ’Tis why I didn’t notice you.”
“’Tis a rarity, trust me,” Cyan said from behind me. “We’ll take the set, thank you.”
The Sprite handed Cyan her payment book for The Watch and then took the soldier from me to wrap him with the others. He glanced at me before he set the book on the edge of the cart.
“Are you all right?”
I shrugged. Being in the manor for long periods, I always forgot that I hated going out to the market. Cyan patted my head and thanked the hillsprite as she handed him the small package.
“Let’s go home,” he said. “Laris should be done hording.”
“I heard that, my brother,” Laris said, approaching us with our sack now bulging with foods. He handed me a smaller sack with the bags of milk.
We walked northward up the path to the Forest of Weeping Willows. Once we were far enough away from people, I sighed.
“Does anyone on Teorre speak of my people well?”
“Did someone say something to you?” Cyan asked.
“Don’t fret of it, Princess,” Laris said softly. “Those who can only speak ill of the dead will have the same words lain over their graves. ’Tis what my father says. At any rate, no one truly understood why the Bearers all migrated to the northern continent, then locked themselves away, but ’twas shortly after the Crystal War. Perhaps King Daviel wanted to restore harmony among his people.” Laris looked away wistfully. “I cannot imagine how it felt to be a child king. I am glad I don’t have to.”
“Do we have a book on the Crystal War?”
“Somewhere. I shall find it for you.”
“Somewhere. I shall find it for you.”