by Jim Caryl
I AM in the process of preparing to move my files to my new Macbook, once it arrives, but stumbled upon some old prose I prepared for a creative writing class; I never attended more than one session in the end and thus have not found found a style of writing I like. I chose to write an excerpt of a potential fantasy novel, but couldn’t really get in the mood. I have every intention of writing a work of contemporary fantasy at some point in my life, but at the moment I’d rather focus on science writing. Anyway, because I was amused by the rather kitch style of it, and because I could barely remember writing it, I’ve decided to post it.
Creative writing class No. 2
A fresh mountain breeze caught the rich scent of wetted soil, carrying it high into the forest canopy where a child slept. The girl, a small, wiry, and feral slip of a thing had taken refuge under the eaves of the old Oak before the bruised sky delivered its promise of rain. She’d spent the day sitting on the sun-baked, hollow-sounding earth of the hillside below, ignoring the pleas of the over-dry, and now crushed, grass, despite the actions of relentless pin sharp blades poking through the rough material of her clothing. Other thoughts filled the girls mind; thoughts unbidden and unwanted. A rumble had stirred her to reality and she’d climbed up the knarled and forgotten tree to take shelter.
The breeze was warm, despite the lateness of the day; it was early summer and the ground was drying rapidly. Small motes floating on the air gently tickled at the girls face; she sneezed and abruptly fell from her rest atop the branches and hit the matted undergrowth beneath with a resounding thump. Startled birds and animals fled the intrusion, a clattering of hooves, panicked cries and flapping wings. The girl rolled onto her side, attempting to recover her wind whilst trying to remember where she was. She curled up into a sitting position, hugging her knees; the world had returned to her all too suddenly, bringing with it memories of events she’d been running from. Her peaceful haven had once again been taken from her. It was time to move on.
The sun had long since set by the time she’d escaped the mountain forest and descended into the open planes, but the night fell slowly in these lands, the light lingering whilst shadows grew longer and longer until they merged. From her earlier viewpoint she’d imagined that she would have enough time to reach home by nightfall, a trek across fields to a tree bounded river that lead from the mountains to the brackish water of the fens, her home; she was one of the few who could be out at night, capable of resisting the taunts of fell creatures that wrapped themselves in darkness. Still, she always preferred to be in a familiar surrounding come the dusk, in the barrow that her family had claimed several centuries earlier, days she remembered well, despite her youthful appearance.
The first cry of a Haldan Crow signalled that darkness was upon her, it had overtaken her as she walked, too buried in thoughts to notice. Haldan Crows were a minor pest, but insignificant to the girl; she had sufficient talent to ward herself against them. But they heralded greater, darker beings, beings who could challenge her, even someone of her race who were of these lands and as old as any creature roaming the old world. She hurried, and using some of her talent to fashion a shroud from the mist rising above the cooling river, vanished into the night.
Watching from a distance, from beneath the knarled Oak where the small girl had taken rest, a woman stood. She’d watched the child fall from the tree and had been bemused at the sight; a Knowling girl being caught off guard, vulnerable and clumsy; she never thought to see such a thing.
“You’re not powerful enough to capture her, Saria”, a quiet voice announced from behind the tree. A tall man, taller than a shire horse, rounded the trunk; his hand, still resting upon the tree, appeared to sink into the wood. “I know that. I’m just surprised”, retorted the woman, without turning, “I’m not aiming to capture her. The world is changing Woltan, and the Knowlings aren’t keeping pace. They just retreat to their barrows whilst the filth steals through the wards of the Lessers holmes and villages”. “Yet here you are Saria, braving the night?”. The woman sighed deeply, “You know as well as I that the night does not bother me or my kind. We were once of the night and it leaves us be”. Saria stepped backwards, seating herself on a mossy hag whilst watching the mist rolling away from the river and across the open fields. Woltan approached the sitting woman. He knew he mustn’t get to close, but just once maybe he could take advantage of Saria’s melancholy. He did not take steps so much as glide across the short distance between them, roots moving aside to let him pass.
“That’s far enough Woltan”. Saria had not appeared to get up and turn around, yet in an instant she was facing him. “Woltan, you know you cannot get close to me…yet you managed to get close to the Knowling girl? You let her drop to the ground, you could have caught her, what were you playing at?” Woltan shifted uneasily, he didn’t like the way with was going, and knew that Saria could easily pull him from the mother soil if she wished. He wasn’t so weak as she thought though, her kind always misjudged him. “I have no idea what you’re talking about? She sneezed. She fell. This is the way of things. I can’t be there to catch every Knowling child that falls over”. “That much I saw, and yet you are here, and she would only have slept in your boughs had she felt relaxed in your presence. You must have deceived her and let her fall. She does not realise the significance of what you did because she is deep in thought, but when she does I would not be here for her reckoning”. With that Saria took a step towards him, Woltan backed away; for a brief moment, Saria thought that he would actually try and reach for her, but the moment fled and tall man stepped behind the tree and vanished.
Saria pursed her lips. What is he playing at? she mused, the Knowling could unmake him as easily as she could breathe. Tsk, Knowlings daydreaming, the Greater Tree Spirits behaving like Lessers and her, a member of an ancient order, as old as the Knowling, but restricted in powers for much of that time because they lacked what the Knowlings had daily access to, the sun. Only, she alone of her order could travel in the light, with wards that protected her from the sun, wards that drained her energy leaving her near mortal and in need of replenishment through the mother night. She who had once been an enemy to the Knowling had now been sent out to guard them; they shared an ancient kindred, separated for so many centuries, yet ultimately borne of two Sisters, and themselves to the old King, who bade them guard the day and night separately until such a time as the two shall need each other again. That time was fast approaching, yet the Knowling continued doggedly in their charge of the day, heedless of the signs of impending troubles. Saria bowed with the weight of responsibility.
Oh well, that’s where it ends; I have no idea where I was going with this.