It's after 10 am, which I guess is normally the time I remember I forgot to post, so good morning! I set aside the 2nd Wednesday of each month to share what I am writing and/or reading. Today, I am going to share a piece of the YA/NA project I've begun working on (that magical princesses one I keep ranting about). It has a few kinks in it (I've almost successfully forced myself not to go back and touch anything yet because of NaNoWriMo. I was just trying to get words onto pages), but it's still exciting that I'm moving onto new work again. The tentative title is The Queen's Daughters, and here is a snippet from the chapter "The Festival."
Also, just for some context, my MC Ash and her sisters have been paraded back to their father's castle with their dead mother to a celebration of their "return home." Ash's power (she can conceal herself, her thoughts, and/or her feelings so no one else can see or detect her/them) isn't noticeable in this scene, but her sister Naiyalah's comes into play: she can both take in thoughts and emotions and project her own onto others.
“My darling girls,” our father says softly. He looks at each of us in turn, and his eyes mist over before he blinks them dry. “I am glad you have returned to me.”
Words lodge in my throat, as they should. Instead of what I want to say, I follow my sisters and kneel, head bowed, hands folded demurely in my lap. He comes to Zuraiyah first, lifts her chin and guides her to her feet.
“My beauty,” he says and kisses her left cheek. “Welcome.” Then her right. “Welcome.”
“Thank you, Auba,” she says in a small voice.
We didn’t have to speak small with our mother.
He moves to Naiyalah next. She is “his purpose.” A kiss on her cheeks, a welcome for each as well.
I close my eyes for the briefest of moments before his touch to my chin. I open my eyes and stand. Of the five of us, I have his face. He always smiles proudly at that. I did too, once. I am his favorite. There has never been any denial of that.
“Ashula,” he says even more softly. “My love.”
Another pulse of calm from Naiyalah when I just want to explode and burn the whole world and curl up and cry.
“Auba,” I manage to say.
He cups my face and kisses my forehead. “Welcome home.”
He pulls both Babri and Katri up and wraps his arms around them, kissing Babri’s head, then Katri’s. “Welcome home, my sweet girls.”
They were six years old when we first returned. They had both cried and whined and held onto our mother as the royal guards came for us. Never having met our father, they couldn’t understand why our mother was sending us all away. Now, after seven years of visits, his pampering, and none of the memories of before, they aren’t quite old enough to hate this man the way the rest of us do.
Or at least the way I do.
I close my eyes again, take a deep breath. I must. We still have hours to go in this long, awful night.
“The Heavens have blessed us with my daughters’ return,” he calls to the crowd behind us. “Let us praise them and welcome peace back to our land.”
We turn towards the masses as they take up their cheering and singing once again, as the drums bounce off of the walls and more wine is poured before the festivities resume. We have done our part to mingle, and so we may return to our platform. Our father has already moved onto his, just above us. As we climb the stairs, we each must meet his eyes and bow our head. He smiles and does the same. Fortunately, we do not have to smile this time, although I’m certain we’re supposed to be at our height of revelry by this time. I can no longer muster the strength for it anyhow. I simply nod and return to my throne.
Once we are all seated, the steward returns, after once again tasting his wine before the guards, to refill our chalices. He bows and pours. He clears his throat as he stands straight and moves on to me. Beads of sweat form on his brow as he pours my wine. When he straightens his back again, his body stiffens. With one wispy gasp, he collapses dead at my feet.