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05 November 2011 @ 02:17 am
NaNo - How to sway them - First scenes  

I've been so caught up with trying to keep pace with my NaNo story that I haven't had the time to comment anywhere for a few days. Sorry about that! I'm very much looking forward to having the time to read the beginning parts of my Writing Buddies' stories, as well as other friends' journal entires.

But that won't happen until Sunday at the earliest (unless I write at breakneck speed tomorrow), seeing as I'm at least 5 000 words behind schedual.

That doesn't mean I have nothing though, and I'm getting more and more excited about How to sway them the more I write, so I'm not quitting!

Seeing as people have started putting up first drafts of their stories, I thought I'd do the same.

BIG EDIT:
Decided to un-f-lock this, as well as update and add a few scenes.

SECOND BIG EDIT:
Changed the title from "Control" to "How to sway them"

Updated synopsis:

There are demons in the woods.

Well, at least according to the Imperial Military. Soldiers are sent there every year and only a handful come back, most of them suffering from an unknown disease that takes away their will to live. They just sit and stare and starve. A rare few wake up before death claims them, but they're all quickly taken away, either to the laboratories or Outer Camps.

Because of that, there's no one outside of the Emperor's closest allies who can claim to ever have seen a wild demon. The only proof of their existence are the tame bodyguards of the Emperor and his Adviser; obedient like well trained hunting dogs and far deadlier.

It's rumored that Field Marshal Warlow is to thank for the demons' undying loyalty, caused by a spell even beyond the Emperor's magic - rumors that have cost many a drunken farmer a finger or two for blasphemy.

Dylis, lowly soldier that she is, is inclined to believe the official claims; all the hellish training and the failed surgery that took her hearing would've been pointless otherwise.

Her younger brother Glaw is luckier – by no means as good a fighter as she, but unique all the same. Of eight chosen, his surgery was the only one to succeed. And unless Dylis can think of a way to switch their places, he's leaving for the woods in the morning.

Alone.



How to sway them

The room stank of blood and urine. There were shadows above him, vaguely human-shaped and tall as the clock tower by the barracks. He wanted to scream, but couldn't and it took him a few seconds to remember why.

He gasped as he woke up, drenched in sweat, and got a disgruntled look from the man in the bunk next to his. The familiar sight of the dim room and the rows upon rows of bunk beds grounded him. The thundering of his own heartbeats quickly dulled and faded away and he lay back down, fully intent on going back to sleep.

And then he realized what day it was.


****

She could hear herself scream. As final sounds went, she guessed she could have wished for better and did so now, in a distant sort of way. The scene unfolding around her felt disconnected, as if she was watching it played out on stage.

A man dressed all in white, his face covered by a mask made of bird bones, walked up to her bed. He pressed a needle into her neck, taking away her scream. It burned, that much she could remember, and suddenly she was vomiting, clawing at her neck and praying for the pain to stop.

Her eyes flew wide open, trading the view of a floor covered in sick for a ceiling spattered with spiderwebs. It took her pulse a good minute to slow back down to normal. Her breathing took a little longer.

And then she realized what day it was.
****

The docks were crawling with life, though the sun had barely made its away above the horizon. Men and women were bustling from place to place; carrying boxes, yelling orders, unloading cargo and generally making the harbor come alive after a long night of only cats and guards patrolling the area.

On a brick wall, high enough to overlook most of the crowd, Glaw had just made himself comfortable alongside his sister Dylis. He couldn't help but make a face at her soggy appearance. Her uniform was unbuttoned and her close-cropped hair was darker than its usual shade of mud, dripping water onto her nose and knees. She sat hunched over, looking to be seconds away from toppling over and falling down onto the walkway five meters below, but she didn't start when Glaw playfully elbowed her in the ribs; instead she glared at him out of the corner of her eye.

Glaw stuck his tongue out, the grimace pulling on the scar tissue that decorated the skin behind his ears and downwards. How far down they went was hard to tell, as they were mostly hidden by the high collar of his shirt. They were old scars, faded in color though impressive in size, as if someone once had decided to cut him open and see what the inside of his neck looked like, then stitched him back up. They matched his sister's almost perfectly.

A loud screech drowned out all other noise from the crowd for a brief moment. Glaw pulled his tongue back in and turned to look at the building the wall had the best view of. It was a large wooden hangar, similar to most other buildings in the harbor at first glance, but a unique sight to an attentive onlooker; it was the only building not directly connect to the sea or the road-channels. The screech started up again, as the doors to the hangar in question were pushed open another meter.

Dylis and Glaw both looked on with great interest, for a moment ignoring the crisp morning air, the shouting from a barge crew who had both one and eight things to say about the maneuvering of their towboat and the ringing of various bells and whistles.

They sat motionless in absolute silence, just staring. Then Glaw broke the spell by sneezing. He elbowed Dylis again and signed: 'Sit long?'

Dylis shook her head in a curt 'no'.

'Liar.' Glaw shifted, shrugging a backpack off his left shoulders. He opened it up without really paying attention to what he was doing, his eyes instead fixed on the sky. A few gray clouds were floating by far above, slowly disbursing to leave room for blue sky and sunshine.

The was a short staring match as Glaw produced a blanket out of his bag and held it up to Dylis, waiting for her to take it. She accepted it with a huff, pulling her jacket off with more force than necessary before wrapping the much drier wool around herself.

"Spoiling your sister, are you?" The voice was faint in the din of the harbor, but Glaw immediately began scanning the groups of soldiers passing by on the walkway below, eyes jumping from face to face until they settled on one that was nearly hidden by a curly chestnut-colored beard.

"What else am I good for?" he shouted back down, waving at the bearded man, who gave a cheerful wave back before continuing on his way. When he turned back to look at Dylis. she gave him a questioning look.

'H-U-W,' he spelled out with one hand, as his other was too busy digging through his bag and he needed both to properly make the sign for 'bear'. He got an acknowledging nod in reply, before Dylis' eyes once more drifted back to the building on the other side of the channel.

'Do you think they'll ever fly?' Glaw signed, leaning over to hold his hands up in front of his sister's face, before joining her in staring at the half-open hangar doors. Through them the large shadow of a metal wing could be glimpsed, half hidden by a myriad of gray clad workers.

Dylis batted his hands away and shrugged, making the leather of her ancient uniform creak. Her eyes kept wandering over to look at him, then back to the hangar, before they darted off to stare unseeingly at the opening of a floodgate; allowing a smaller boat into town and onto one of the many road-channels.

As it sailed passed on the channel below them, half-hidden by the walkway, Dylis suddenly slammed her hands down onto wall, the impact scraping the skin off her palms. Glaw flinched. A pit of dread that had been occupying his stomach all morning began to blossom into full fledged nausea.

'Great honor,' he signed, biting back the urge to scream.

Dylis made a complex gesture with one hand that would have made any decent citizen gasp with shock, then added the sign for 'honor', seemingly as an afterthought. Glaw merely gave a shaky smile.

The opening of another floodgate - a far more exclusive one than the first, with intricate carvings and jewels lining its sides - disturbed a handful of seagulls. The flock of birds rose in a squabbling, screeching cloud as a gilded boat made its way into the less packed road-channel, and brushed passed within a hand's breadth of the wall.

Glaw quickly raised his arms to shield his face, gritting his teeth as beaks and wingtips brushed against them. He swayed a little, vertigo unsettling what was left of the calm inside of him, causing his heart to leap up into his throat. For a few seconds he felt like he was suffocating.

A steadying hand on his right elbow stopped his swaying. He lowered his arms and turned to look at Dylis, who was wearing an unreadable expression. She was also digging through one of her pockets with her free hand and Glaw let his eyes wander to look at that, carefully avoiding having to meet his sister's gaze. Then he titled his head to catch sight of the hangar again.

'You'll soon be training to fly,' he signed, and if his hands shook he told himself it was just from almost having fallen off the wall. 'You'll forget all about me, you'll see!'

The hand on his elbow went from supportive to painful. Glaw allowed himself to look up and saw that Dylis had paused in her search and was giving him a wide-eyed look that bordered on insanity.

"Nevr!" The word, though mispronounced and poorly articulated, had the impact of a punch in the gut. The air went out of Glaw with a noise he really hoped wasn't a sob and he sagged where he sat, hunching in on himself until he matched Dylis' earlier pose.

'Never!' Dylis said again, this time with her hands. Her back had straightened until she towered over him, illuminated from behind by the almost risen sun, the whites of her eyes bloodshot and her face shaped into a grimace not unlike a growling dog. For a second, Glaw imagined that was what an angered demon would look like.

Glaw let his gaze fall, staring at the bricks they were sitting on without seeing them. A rustling noise told him Dylis had gone back to searching her pockets, though with slightly more force this time. Glaw remained motionless until Dylis thrust a hand in front of his face. The thing in the palm of her hand didn't look much for the world - a crumpled brown paper bag, barely the size of a fist, tied together with a piece of string. Even so, a jumbled mess of emotions grabbed a hold of Glaw's heart and squeezed.

'For until you come back,' Dylis signed, after he'd taken the bag from her (and his hands were shaking now, there was no denying it). 'Only until you get back.' She emphasized the 'only' with a forceful flick of her wrist.

Carefully, cradling the brown paper as if it were the wings of an injured bird, Glaw unwrapped his present. Inside were six bars of chocolate; not the kind you got at market that was saturated with butter and sugar, but the real kind, almost bitter to the taste and about as rare as pearls this early in spring.

Glaw said nothing as he straightened up, eyes locked on the chocolate. Just as carefully as he'd unwrapped it, he closed the bag and made room for it in one of his own pockets. He hurried to wipe away a few tears he hadn't been able to bite back, while Dylis very pointedly didn't comment on them.

'Guess I own you half a month's pay,' he signed when his hands were wetter than his eyes, his smile steady again. All he got in reply was a curt nod.

"Hey!"

This time Glaw almost did fall off the wall. He gave a yelp as Dylis grabbed the back of his jacket, nearly got dragged down with him. Heart racing he grasped the wall with both hands, fingers aching from the impact, and began a wide-eyed search of the walkway to find the person responsible for the shouting.

"You going to sit up there like a molting owl all morning or are you ready for some fun?" Owain's grinning face matched his voice perfectly, mischief and excitement wrapped up into one thin, gangly body currently seated on the walkway railing.

"If I fall, I'll make sure to land on your head!" Glaw called back, his voice so cheerful it was

Owain laughed and jumped down from the railing, dodging around a man with a wheelbarrow, before answering: "We've got a gathering waiting for you in the pub by that bakery you're always raving about. Better come join us soon or we'll start without you!"

Glaw started, as if an invisible hand had smacked him upside the head. 'I should go say goodbye!' he gestured wildly to Dylis as Owain disappeared into the crowd.

'Go,' Dylis signed, smiling for the first time in days. It was a small, amused smirk a far cry from her usual grin, but it was something at least. 'You've got privileges I'm sure you can't wait to take advantage of.'

Glaw gave an embarrassed chuckle and ducked his head, before signing, 'See you tonight.' Making sure he got a reply (an absent-minded nod) he began to make his way over to the nearest rooftop, keeping to his hands and knees to not risk another near fall.

Once back on his feet, he threw a last glance back at Dylis and the hangar. The sun was high enough now to color the buildings around her a faint golden tone and, for a moment, her as well. The trick of the light made the blanket she'd wrapped around herself look like a fine silk cloak, and for the briefest of seconds Glaw could picture her soaring through the clouds in an airship, dressed in clothes fit for a royal. Or a war hero.

He hurried over to the nearest walkway and set off after Owain, before the image could get stuck in his head. It wouldn't do to cry at his own farewell party.
****

It took Dylis a full hour to get down from the wall, once her brother had left.

She sat there and stared, as if everything around her was draped in thick fog. Though unlike her calm appearance, her thoughts were rushing by at breakneck speed and suspected that if she got up before she was ready, she'd throw up what little breakfast she'd managed to eat.

A seagull landed right next to her and regarded her with suspicion, before boldly attacking her jacket that lay draped across her knee. This finally called her back to reality and she gave the bird a violent thwack with one hand, nearly dropping the blanket and the jacket in the process.

The seagull jumped back a few steps and shook its head, looking far too unconcerned. It crouched down, preparing for another attack. Dylis gritted her teeth in frustration and got up, uncaring of the narrow ground she had to stand on.

The seagull looked up at her, taking in her suddenly much larger form and took a step back. It's beady eyes locked on her her jacket, following a few crumbs of uneaten breakfast bread as they tumbled out.

With a squawk it spread its wings and threw itself up into the air, making a nose dive for the soon to be lost breadcrumbs. Dylis watched it fly away and disappear behind the corner of a nearby storage house, before she whirled around and began walking, putting one foot down in front of the other as if the wall was nothing more than a somewhat narrow road.

Once back on steadier ground Dylis allowed herself to think, letting go of the blanket of mind-numbing panic that had left her a walking shell all morning. Immediately the litany of 'Why!?' returned, like someone yelling at the top of their lungs from a watchtower. Why Glaw? Why not her? He wouldn't last a day in Outer Camps - it made no sense!

With steps that were far noisier than they needed to be, she made her way to the edge of the roof and leaned out over the waist-high wall, uncaring of her still bleeding hands. She let her eyes dart around the crowd below, making their way across the myriad of walkways that crossed the main road-channels.

She needed an idea. A way out. And standing around on a rooftop feeling sorry for herself wasn't going to give her one. But she needed a destination, some for of goal...

Mentally she went through her list of friends, of any resources she might have at hand. It was nowhere near the length it needed to be for this, but it was better than nothing.


One name popped into her head and shone brighter than the rest: Rhian. Of course. No one in the Imperial Military she knew was influential enough to get anyone reassigned, but Rhian wasn't part of the military - and she had access to so much more information than anyone else.

The library. That would be her goal, for now.

Decision made Dylis set off as fast as the old ladder would allow her to. She landed right in front of a quite startled old couple that she gave an apologetic nod, then rushed off. Around her the city was brimming with activity. Everyone who could was out, either enjoying the sunshine after the stormy night, repairing buildings or delivering goods.

She even spotted a few foreign sailors, easily detected by their mismatched clothes, unending number of earrings and tattoos, as well as their suspicious expressions. The storm must have been quite something, for so many of them having dared to make their way into town - usually they stayed on their ships as much as possible, having food delivered to them and only speaking with people they directly traded with.

The first passenger barge she caught was packed to the brim with people, and she had to squeeze herself in-between what looked to be a hatter and a baker, their work clothes already stained by the ingredients of their trade. The hatter gave her a somewhat mad look, but seeing as this was no unusual look for a hatter Dylis let him be.

On the other side of the barge a small child - its gender unidentifiable due to baggy clothes and a hat that surely had to belong to an adult - had gotten up on its knees on its seat, facing the water and was doing its best to reach out and catch one of the flying fish that were following the barge, glittering green, red and silver in the light reflecting from the water. Dylis couldn't quite see its face, but she was quite sure it was laughing.

On each side of the child sat two men - perhaps the fathers, brothers or maybe uncles - who kept smiling at each other as only older relatives can when observing the antics of a small child, while still keeping an eye out for any loss of balance.

Any other day such a domestic scene would have put a smile on Dylis' face. Today however, all she could see was Glaw, small as he'd once been, kneeling by the side of the channel, short fingers flailing after the tail of an escaping fly fish. The child even had the same sort of hair as him; mousy gray and an unruly mess.

She hurried off at the next stop and took another barge, thankfully free from children.

The library was an old and not too impressive building. It lay in the shadow of the court house and at least three different religious sights - Dylis never could tell one from the other - but it had an air of calm and wisdom about it that few other places had. Other than the harbor, no other place in all of Trade could put her so at ease.

As soon as she'd entered the building her back stiffened, as if it had a mind of its own, just waiting to feel a glare upon it. Out of the corner of her eye she caught sight of Siani, looking as disapproving as ever. Dylis hesitated in the doorway for a moment, weighing her options, before simply stepping inside. Her boots left muddy footprints on the rust red carpet as she walked. Siani's glare intensified, sending a shiver down Dylis' spine.

She stopped by the desk, her back still turned to where Siani was lurking, and gently rang the bell. She counted to three. As if on cue, the smiling face of Rhian popped out from behind a faraway bookcase, her brown mop of hair as unruly a mess as ever. Dylis inhaled slowly, waiting for the warm anticipation the sight of Rhian would bring – and was left wanting, as the churning worry that lay coiled in the back of her head refused to budge.

Rhian gave a wave and mouthed something Dylis assumed had meant to mean: 'Be right with you!', before she rushed down the ladder she'd been standing on.

Dylis took a moment to study Rhian as she approached, losing focus on the here and now for brief moment. Her fellow soldiers often likened Rhian to a door mouse; quick, nimble, uninteresting and very good at blending into the background of whatever room she happened to be in. Dylis could never get over how wrong an impression that was. If anything, Rhian was a cat. Not the graceful, pampered kind the nobles dragged along on soft pillows and fed cream, nor the wild, battered alley cats that scavenged for food in trashcans behind restaurants.

No, Rhian was a house cat. Deceptively kind and social most of the time, hiding a keen mind and sharp claws.

The sudden appearance of a small chalkboard, waved in front of her eyes like an illusionist might use a pocket watch to hypnotize an audience member, started Dylis enough to derail her train of thoughts. Her eyes were faster than her mind, making out he words Are you with me?, scribbled in white with Rhian's neat handwriting.

Dylis cleared her throat, her cheeks heating up, and nodded. She tore her eyes from the chalkboard and forced herself to look at Rhian's face. It was still was adorned with a gentle, almost shy smile, that left Dylis unnaturally cold.

Rhian returned her nod, wrestled a handkerchief from her purse and began scrubbing at the board, until it was free enough of chalk dust for a new message to be written.

Looking for something? The sentence was accompanied by an exaggerated, thoughtful frown from Rhian, who was staring at Dylis hard enough to give the impression that she was attempting to read her thoughts.

Dylis gave a curt nod and automatically reached out for the board and the chalk, which Rhian gave her with an encouraging nod.

Law books, Dylis wrote under the much daintier sentence. All of them.

When she saw the request Rhian did a double-take, and gave what looked to be a laugh. All mirth left her face though, as she looked up and caught sight of Dylis stone-faced expression.

For once Dylis couldn't make herself care that she'd been the cause of such a drastic mood-change, not even when the victim was Rhian. Instead she just gave another nod.

As Rhian disappeared among the shelves, Dylis took the chance to turn around and return Siani's consistent glare with one of her own. The woman in question, old hag that she was, didn't was much as start at this sudden change. She only pushed her glasses back to the top of her nose and settled down even further in the chair she was occupying, her hands sorting books onto different carts without her paying them much attention.

Their eyes locked in silent battle for a good while. Siani's hands never stopped moving and Dylis crossed her arms over her chest in a demonstration of utter

A gentle tap on her shoulder brought Dylis' attention back to Rhian, who gestured at a table on the other side of the room, half-hidden behind rows upon rows of bookshelves. She waved her right hand as if to beckon Dylis to follow her, but suddenly cut herself short and frowned. Without a word she moved two steps to the left, got up to stand on her tiptoes and tilted her chin up to look over Dylis' shoulder. Dylis followed her gaze to Siani, who rolled her eyes and continued to stack books, but also stopped glaring.

With a brusque shake of her head, Dylis decided to ignore whatever mind-game the two of them had chosen to play today and simply stepped across the room, halting to glance out the tall windows for a split second, before taking a seat by the table Rhian had indicated. It was already covered with books and texts in all shapes and sizes; some looked so old they might fall apart at a mere touch. The only thing they all had in common were the words 'law' and 'rule', printed here and there across their covers or sides.

What are your plans? Rhian asked by means of the chalkboard, placing it on the table against a stack of leather bound editions of Imperial Laws and Guidelines.

Plans? Dylis scribbled in reply, mind already more focused on the texts before her than the conversation at hand.

Rhian leaned over the table and after cleaning away some of the letters, added: Are you moving?

The question struck Dylis' like a bolt of lightning. She froze, memories of the previous week flooding her mind; airplanes and reassignments and her brother's excited smiles.

None of that was going to happen now and that truth brought with it a wave of anger so strong it made her blood boil. She took the chalk from Rhian's unresisting hand and wrote a curt, No, before returning her attention to the books.

Rhian's hand remained in the air, her fingers curling and uncurling as if unsure of what to occupy themselves with. After a moment's hesitation she picked up the chalk from the tabletop where Dylis carelessly had discarded it and added:

I'll go see what news I can hear. She left the table and returned to the desk without waiting for a reply.

Dylis paused in her search for the books that seemed relevant to her case and let her eyes lock onto Rhian's retreating form, taking in her hunched shoulders. Finally some emotion other than cold panic registered - guilt. Better than nothing, at least.

Dylis opened her mouth to call her back, but snapped her jaw shut just as quickly. The humiliation of speaking out loud wasn't something she'd be able to face, not even now.

Resigned to apologizing later, as well as missing out on watching Rhian weave a spell, she turned her full attention back to the books. This would take some time, but it was the only way. There had to be a way for Glaw to refuse this reassignment without being dishonorably discharged (or worse). There just had to be.

She turned the first page, signed a short prayer to whatever god might be listening, and began reading.



Part 2
 
 
Current Mood: productiveproductive
Listening to: 最後はいつものやつで締め - TAM
 
 
 
Eve N. Furter: Famous Last Wordseve_n_furter on November 5th, 2011 08:39 pm (UTC)
Med fare for å mase: har du vurdert å lage en post om NaNoWriMo på scandafandom? Jeg tror det er flere der som er i gang og jeg er nysgjerrig på hvor mange skandinaver som deltar og hva som skrives, men siden jeg ikke har våget meg utpå akkurat denne glattisen, synes jeg ikke jeg kan lage en post sjøl. *g*
Nonesane: No-faces from Mononoke.nonesane on November 5th, 2011 08:46 pm (UTC)
Jag funderade på det, men visste inte om det var relevant för gruppen. Det finns en hel del folk från skandinaviska länder med och man måste inte skriva på engelska, så varför inte? :)

Jag postar en liten reklam-notis på en gång!
Eve N. Furter: Eastern Promises - Tattooeve_n_furter on November 5th, 2011 09:00 pm (UTC)
Det er jo ganske vanlig å skrive fanfiction-NaNo-romaner, så jeg kan ikke se at det skulle gå på tvers av reglene på noen måte. Et større spørsmål er vel om det er noen som skriver på skandinaviske språk. 8)
viherkyn on November 6th, 2011 08:39 am (UTC)
A man dressed all in white, his face covered by a mask made of bird bones

Goose bumps!

They were old scars, faded in color though impressive in size, as if someone once had decided to cut him open and see what the inside of his neck looked like, then stitched him back up. They matched his sister's almost perfectly.

O.O

Och dem är mina tankar. :P Nej men, allvarligt, verkar jätte intressant och lovande. Kan inte vänta för mer! ^^

Nonesane: Spoony Quote 5nonesane on November 6th, 2011 08:44 am (UTC)
Så glad att du gillar det så här långt :D

Ska försöka få upp några scener till innan veckan är slut, men lillsyrran kommer och hälsar på i veckan, så jag får se hur mycket tid jag har till NaNo.