Wednesday, December 11, 2013

"Inkweaver" Excerpt--"The Invisible Gift" and "Forward Unto Danger"

In the morning, a rooster crowed, and Naten greeted us in the main area of his cottage with three packets of fresh provisions.
“This should keep you till you reach the next village,” he told us. “And for you,” he turned to me, “I have a gift.” He brought out his hands in front of him and extended them, palm-upwards, toward me.
The other girls gasped in awe, but I still waited for him to show me the gift.
“What are you waiting for, Shereya?” Larryn asked. “It’s beautiful.”
Naten smiled and gestured toward me with his hands again.
I shook my head, “I do not understand; there’s nothing there!” I waved my hand between his to show Larryn her mistake—and the side of my hand connected with something hard. “Ouch!” I cried, drawing my hand back. I stared at Naten—were Wordspinners sorcerers after all? “What was that?”
Naten’s grin dimmed somewhat. “You must accept the gift first; can you not hear its tale?”
I could indeed; it was the same story I’d heard and seen last night in my dream: footsteps on flagstones, clanking goblets, creaking door-hinges, labored breathing—someone dying. It scared me; who was dying? Would we be expected to save them? Would they join our group as Greyna had? Why couldn’t I see it? I backed away from him.
“I want nothing to do with an enchanted object, gift or no!” I informed him.
Larryn stepped forward and seemed to take the thing out of Naten’s hands. She turned to me, holding the invisible item. I could see the way she curled her hand around it, gripping it, but I all I saw were the fronts of her fingers.
“Why are you behaving like this, Shereya?” She whispered to me. “Here, let me fasten this belt around you.”
“What belt?” I asked, but Larryn already had her arms about my waist. I could hear the jingling of buckles, and I felt the press of leather and the weight of something heavy, but try as I might, I could not make out so much as a glimmer of whatever the gift was. Once this was done, we took our leave.
“Farewell, fair maidens,” Naten waved as we retraced our steps along the little path back into the forest. “May my gift serve you well, Lady Shereya!”
I blushed at the title and at the way he persisted in kindness even when I had shown such distrust.
“Thank you!” I called back, only half-genuine.
“Farewell, Naten,” said Larryn, “Thank you for your kindness.”
I took my mind off Naten and the mysterious object hanging at my side by checking the tapestry. For the first time, I noticed that our route had been traced along the various landmarks, and at the end of the trail there was Naten standing at his anvil in front of his cottage. I also saw that the various patterns and designs were more detailed than I remembered. Even the compass at the bottom seemed more ornate.
“Larryn, look at this,” I said as I clearly saw that what had been misshapen lumps of embroidery before were now very clearly heaps of charred wood with diamonds in their midst. “It changed!”
She shook her head at me, “Weren’t you the one insisting that tapestries don’t change, when we left? I’m glad you think so, even though, honestly, it hasn’t changed since yesterday.”
“But—“ I couldn’t say anything more. I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. There was so much about this journey I didn’t understand. When would it all make sense?

The three of us walked down the path through the woods in relative silence. The invisible object weighed heavily on my waist, and several times already, I had complained about it, but Larryn and Greyna both refused to help me take it off.
"Why would you want to throw away such a magnificent gift?" Greyna asked.
Magnificent indeed! I snorted. In truth, I was getting nervous about the path ahead. The voices had been very faint ever since they arrived at Naten's house, and they weren't getting any stronger with distance. I had tried to check the tapestry, but beyond the forest, there were only the faintest lines before the end of the picture. To cap it all off, I knew someone was following us. The noise of the Telling voices had masked the sound, but in straining now to hear them, I could on occasion make out a fourth pair of footsteps creeping along beside us, somewhere deep in the undergrowth.
Larryn and Greyna chatted away, oblivious to this. I figured that the safest thing for us to do would be to get out of the forest, forcing our footpad out of hiding.
I stopped to gather our bearings. All I could see were trees all around us, and every gap just revealed yet another tree beyond.
"Will these woods never end?" I groaned.
Larryn paused and glanced around them. "This forest does seem impossibly large, doesn't it?" she observed cheerfully.
I rolled my eyes at her. There were some things a dauntless mood just did not help! Adjusting the—whatever it was—over my hips, I started off again.
"We didn't have any forests near Mirrorvale," Larryn explained to Greyna, "at least, not ones like this one, that you could go wandering through."
"That's incredible," Greyna chuckled, "for Stania is situated right in the thick of a large forest, entirely surrounded by trees."
I paused as we reached a wider clearing. "Speaking of surrounded by trees—" I muttered.

All around us were the strangest trees I had ever seen. There were thick branches protruding exactly perpendicular far above our heads, but instead of leaves, these branches bore thick, black, shiny vines hanging from them. It may have been my paranoid brain playing tricks, but it seemed that the more I stared at a vine, the longer it hung, till they were almost touching the forest floor.
"I've never seen anything like them," Greyna breathed.
"Let's get out of here," I warned the two of them. There was something sinister about those black vines.
"It's sticky!" I heard Larryn cry, and only then did I turn to look.
Larryn had the end of a vine in her hand, and if I didn't know any better, I could swear that the vine was attaching itself to her palm! She spread her fingers wide and shook her hand furiously, but only succeeded in wrapping more of the vine around her wrist. Wide-eyed, Larryn looked up at me. It was the first time I had ever seen terror on her face.
"Run!" I told Greyna, but the vines were too thick. We had no sooner felt the brush of them than we found ourselves stuck fast. Larryn, in trying to pull the vine off one hand with the other, found both hands firmly bound. Greyna shrieked as a vine caught in her hair and pulled her mercilessly into its grasp. My heart raced as I froze in the very center of the clearing, only attached by the merest contact on my cloak and shoulders. When Greyna's hair had been seized, I had thrown the hood of my cloak over my head to avoid the same fate, and that was the last movement I could make. My mind, unfettered, churned madly. Why had the voices not warned me of this? In fashioning her tapestry map, one would think that the Inkweaver would have the foresight to include such a danger in her designs! No, instead I was hearing hoofbeats and roars and the crackle of fire and people wailing—and the screams of my friends. Greyna and Larryn were completely trapped; the more they struggled, the more vines caught hold of them. Already Larryn's head was covered by the black vines. I was paralyzed and helpless. Here was the end of our journey.

Also from "Inkweaver":

-The Legend of The Wordspinners
-The Last Inkweaver  
-What Are You Afraid Of?  
-In The Inkweaver's Cottage 
-The Unfinished Tapestry 
-Tales of the Inkweaver: "The Three Daughters"
-In The House Of The Talesmith 
-Escape From Blackrope 
-The Rise and Fall of Morgianna Plontus-Byrmingham 
-The Morning After 
-Tales of The Inkweaver: "The Four Travellers
-In the Court of Count Bergen 
-"The Four Travellers" Part 2 
-Do You See What I See?
-Welcome to Criansa
-Meeting Delia
-A Nice Cup of (Honest) Tea
-Saving Margo
-Interpreting The Stone
-Tales of The Inkweaver: "Four Animals in Partnership"
-Tark Trades People
-"Plotting" and "Meet Tark's Crew"
-Storytime for Tark
-Tales of The Inkweaver: "The Stone in The Road"
-Moon Valley
-Writer's Eyes