Monday, August 25, 2014

Entry #29: QUEEN'S CHOICE

QUEEN'S CHOICE
119,000 words
YA Fantasy


It was not, Marin reflected, as if this was the first time she had
been to the surface and the shore.  Not the first time she had
experienced the twisting nausea of her body reshaping itself, her form
like liquid poured from one container to another.  Not the first time
pain had knifed through her in the desperate moments when her body’s
need for water to breathe changed to water drowning her and a need for
air.  No, none of this was new.

This was, however, the first time she stayed on the shore, alone, as
her people left her behind.  She stood watching as head after head
closed their eyes and dipped below the water’s surface with barely a
ripple.  One by one spears sank with their bearers, until only
sunlight shimmered on the sea.

Marin took several deep, deliberate breaths, holding back impending
tears, their hot salt water a reminder of home.  She had known this
day would come since she was old enough to understand the stories
she'd been sung.  The sea did not hold its princesses.  They were born
and bred for another purpose: to bind the sea and the land, building
treaties at the shore.  Her destiny was not the comforting waters of
her childhood, nor the songs of her father’s people.

She was a princess and a sorceress and could not afford to act like a
child.  Mastering herself, she forced down the loneliness and
abandonment, turning instead to those who waited for her.

Four horses stood patiently, as pure white as the sea foam from which
their new forms had been born.  They had been the sole volunteers
accompanying her to a life on land.  While they were not the merfolk
among whom she had been raised, they had their own intelligence and
now looked about curiously, silken tails twitching, as they tested the
air and ground.  Their changes, apparently, had been easier than hers.

Behind them stood a carriage.  Its wheels and axles shone glossy
black, its round sides clear but the interior obscured, as though it
was blown of thick glass.  There was neither a perch for a coachman
nor reins to lead the four horses, but a chest made of ramshackle
driftwood was lashed to the back.

Fewer than a dozen steps took her to the carriage.  As Marin placed
her hand on the door’s frame, she saw that the webbing between her
fingers was already shrinking back, nearly invisible.  I have lost the
sea, she thought.  Then, The sea is in me.

She shored up her confidence and stepped up into the carriage.  The
door shut behind her.  Needing no command, the horses surged forward.

* * *

As the page scampered away, having delivered his message, Ariss rose
to her feet.  The red-haired queen, her coiffure already shot with
gray, offered her hand to Baron Greencove.  Twice the queen's age,
nearer to seventy than sixty, her advisor was still devoted to his
wife, dead these last twelve years, and thus had long been a safe
choice as an escort.

A handful of merchants, hoping to petition the queen's favor, stood
waiting on the landing as the tall, spare baron promenaded her
outdoors.  But the throng, unusually, took no notice of the queen,
instead watching the carriage that wound its way up the drive.  It
took the baron's parade-ground voice to get them to clear a path for
the diminutive queen and the court that followed her.  Undeterred,
Ariss walked to the balustrade with perfect poise, claiming the best
view.

The carriage shone and shimmered like glass where it was not
ornamented with gold or mother of pearl.  It glimmered and gleamed as
it made its way along the cobblestones.  The vague shape of its
passenger could be seen through translucent walls.  Four horses, white
and gallant, pulled the exotic conveyance even with the stairs.

Ariss raised an eyebrow.  There was no driver.

Footmen rushed to open the door and let down the steps.  “My lady,
allow me.”  One took the hand that emerged and steadied the traveler
as she stepped out.  Her shoes were cloth-of-gold, embroidered with
silk ribbons and pearls.  She wore white stockings which clung to the
shape of her ankle.  Then she was out of the carriage in a rustle of
darkness and stood still, allowing the footman’s touch for a moment
longer, as if unsure of the ground beneath her feet.  Well she might
be; as far as Ariss knew, she had never before stood on solid earth.

“A mere slip of a girl,” Greencove murmured.

“Hardly a slip,” Ariss replied.  Unlike the queen herself, the
princess was tall and powerfully built, plump with lush curves.  “And
I was no older when I came to the throne.”

“True.”

The girl looked up, at the watching court who saw the princess clearly
for the first time.

Black hair with just a hint of green iridescence to its shine swept
simply back, held by golden shell combs, framing a heart-shaped face.
Her skin was like that of the most sun-shy of the court ladies, the
color of sunlight through water.  A green-black dress with high collar
and long sleeves served as a background to a peacock blue surcoat, all
heavy with decoration.

Having set foot on ground, the princess now waited for no aid, walking
up the white steps, magnificently embroidered skirts held carefully in
her hands.  For some reason, her steps put Ariss in mind of an eel
coiling through water.  Not ungraceful, but not the moves of a dancer.

The crowd cleared to let Ariss meet her niece.  The girl stood before
her, solid to her slightness, dark to her brightness, and a good head
taller than the queen.  The only way in which they seemed alike was
their green eyes, though the queen's were the color of spring grass,
and the princess's the jade of the sea.

Now that she was up close, Ariss noted that though no jewelry adorned
the princess's fingers, her ears, crowned in gently curved points,
were laced with ropes of tiny, perfect pearls.

The girl's curtsy was flowing, but, the queen noted critically, a
shade too deep.  “I am Marin,” the girl said.  Her voice was soft and
low, her pronunciation strange and rippling, quite unlike any Ariss
had heard.  “As my father bid, I have come to you.”

Ariss smiled courteously.  But nothing more.  “I am Ariss, Queen of
Estellia, and your aunt.  I hope you will be happy here.”  Empty
words.  She would let things play out, see how suitable Marin was for
her purposes.

“I shall try, Aunt.”  Marin's tone was inscrutable.  Reserve or cleverness?

“Come, child,” Ariss said, taking her niece's arm, showing her public
favor, turning back toward the summer palace, “let us get you
settled.”  A nod to Rosemarinda sufficed to set the ch√Ętelaine
directing footmen.

“A moment, please.”  Marin half-turned toward her carriage.  The
straps binding her driftwood trunk were being undone, two stout young
liveried men hefting it down.

The princess waved her free hand.

The carriage dissolved, water splashing the ground dark.  Its
undercarriage rusted away in an instant, leaving a pile of red iron
flakes on the ground.  Startled, one of the porters dropped his end of
the trunk, then bit back a cry as it landed on his toes.  The
hostlers, come to collect the horses, stood frozen, as did the court.

Ariss looked at her niece, eyes widening.  Marin merely nodded at her
horses, gesturing them to go with the hostlers, then turned back to
the queen.

5 comments:

  1. Lovely descriptions and ooh, that's a very short and tantalising glimpse :)

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  2. I quite liked this line: "I have lost the sea, she thought. Then, The sea is in me." (needs punctuation/capitalization tweak, but a great line nevertheless)

    The action is really well staged and very easy to follow. With the word count restriction it was over too fast! Would read more.

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  3. The writing and descriptions are really beautiful here. I feel like the pacing picked up toward the end and helped to bring me into the world even more. Best of luck to you!

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  4. Definitely some lovely descriptions here. I especially loved the description of her hair. I feel like the story picked up more towards the end of the excerpt, and I struggled to get through some of the beginning paragraphs. Maybe you can get to the interaction with the queen sooner?

    Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Intriguing main character - sorceress from the sea summoned to the land. Visual descriptions let the reader see the world you've created.

    ReplyDelete

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