Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Works-in-Progress Wednesday: "Inkweaver" Excerpt--Moon Valley

The next day, we came to the very edge of the Fforgan Mountains—the edge of the country. We had traveled the entire breadth of Gramble in at least a month. Of course, it wasn't really the border just yet. The mountain range itself was still a few miles off—but we had reached a small "branch" of hills off of the main range. A fog had rolled in, so when we crossed the line of hills and did not find any sort of town, Belak recommended we stop for the night.
He still watched me very closely as I pulled the tent and blankets from the satchel, but I didn't mind so much anymore. It was scary to see him go off into the whiteness in search of wood, but he found some, and it was dry, too, in spite of all the moisture in the air.
"It's so quiet," said Greyna, shivering and pulling her blanket closer around her. 
"Let's see what we have for food," I said, reaching into the satchel. 
My hand groped only seams and fabric. There was the coin purse, but what good were coins when there was nowhere to spend them? One couldn't eat coins! 
The others stared at me as I withdrew my empty hand and dropped the satchel on the ground.
"What?" Greyna gasped.
"No food?" Squealed Larryn.
The very idea made my stomach wrench painfully, even though before now I wasn't all that hungry.
Belak scowled. "Now, hang on, I thought it was a magic satchel that always had everything we needed!"
I was every bit as disappointed as he was. "I thought so, too!" I snapped back. "But apparently someone has decided that we don't need food!"
"Someone? Like the Inkweaver?"
"I don't know!"

"People!" Larryn cut in, grabbing my arm. "Let's not fight, okay?" She looked between Belak and I. "Fighting won't change our situation; in fact it might even make us even more focused on our hunger. What we need is some kind of diversion."
I sighed, "Like what?"
Greyna perked up, "Like how about Shereya tells us a story!"
I blinked. "A story! I don't know any stories!"
Belak snorted, "Oh that's right, they banned storytelling in Mirrorvale, didn't they?"
I nodded. "Storytelling is all conjecture, making up something that isn't there. The Council worried that if children were allowed to fantasize, we would lose sight of what was really going on around us. After the Inkweaver left, no one even had any dreams."
"But you told a story to Tark and the bandits," Larryn pointed out.
"That?" I only vaguely remembered talking nonstop. "I wasn't really paying attention to what I was saying. I was just talking, saying the first things that came to mind."
"Well," Greyna pressed, "what comes to mind now?"
I hesitated, staring off into the indistinct mass of cloud. If I didn't know any better, I could very well be staring at the blank muslin before a tapestry is woven, the starched white canvas before the painting. Framed by the high cliffs, one could not tell where sky ended and the horizon began. It was as if everything beyond the small circle of our camp did not exist. But I knew that it did.
"Beyond the fog," I said, fighting against myself to envision what the valley looked like, even though I had never seen it before, and could not see it now, "is more grass like this." I pointed to the green at our feet. "A little path leads the way straight to a small town huddled in the cliffs. In that town, the people are kind and peaceable. We would have a house to stay in, with beds for everyone, and a well-stocked larder." I paused to let the idea sink in; the more I thought about it, the more everything felt right about what I was saying. "The houses and shops look just like they did in Mirrorvale, with the little chimney pots and the signs hanging over the doors saying things like 'Baker' and 'Butcher' and 'Seamstress' and 'School.' But," I was just talking now, prattling the words as they filled my head, just like I had done with Tark, "the difference is in the color of the town. Where Mirrorvale was drab and plain, this town is bright and colorful. The people wear smiles and sing songs that echo off the valley walls, and sometimes you might catch a few people dancing as they go about their work."
Belak snorted, jerking me back to reality and the darkness around us and our little fire. Larryn laughed and clapped her hands at the thought of a place where she could run and whoop and holler to her heart's content, and Greyna just watched me with shining eyes. 
"And that's the story of the little town in the foggy valley," I finished.
"Wonderful!" Larryn gushed. "Tell me more about the people!"
I sighed as the hunger pains returned with all the grace of a sandbag. "That's another story for another time, Larryn," I excused myself.
"I liked your story very much, Shereya," murmured Greyna.
Belak just wagged his head. "Well, I have to say, it was a nice diversion, but just talking about food and a soft bed doesn't make any of those things real." He stood and stretched his long frame.
After the excitement of the story wore off, I felt only tiredness. I shrugged and laid down on my sleeping mat. Greyna lay with her head close to mine, Belak at my feet, and Larryn curled up on the other side of our campfire. I closed my eyes.

"Shereya?"
I wasn't asleep yet, so I whispered back, "Yes, Greyna?"
She glanced up at me, her hands firmly holding the blanket under her chin. "What was the name of the town in your story?"
The poor girl assumed I had put any amount of thought in it at all. "I really didn't think of one, Greyna," I told her.
She persisted. "Can you think of one now?"
I sighed. "Call it Moon Valley, if you like," I said.
Greyna rolled over. "Moon Valley," she mused. "I like it."
Being awake so late and with an empty stomach made me rather snappish. "Can I get to sleep now?" I grumbled at her.
"Yes, I'm sorry; goodnight, Shereya."
I closed my eyes—but for some reason I couldn't get Moon Valley out of my head. I fell asleep as visions of its layout took shape in my dreams.

"Shereya... Shereya... Wake up, sleepyhead!"

I awoke to someone calling my name. I opened my eyes and studied the rough-hewn rafters over my head. The pillow was so soft... Couldn't I sleep for five more minutes—
I jerked upright and stared about me. What was I doing in a bed? In fact, as I looked at my friends, all bustling about and getting ready for the day, I saw that we all had beds. What were we doing in a house? 
Belak caught my puzzled frown. "What's the matter?" He cajoled me, "Did you forget where you were last night?"
My eyes moved slowly around the room as my mind refused to comprehend what I was seeing: four beds lined up against one wall, and at the other side of the one-room cabin, a narrow door. The house held no other furniture or fixtures.
"No," I stammered, stumbling out of the bed. "No, no-no-no; this is all wrong! This can't be—" I turned as Larryn flounced into the room. "What are you wearing?" I asked.
The drab-yellow sack was long gone. In its place, my friend wore a pretty, full-skirted green dress with a square neckline that framed her face and set off her sparkling eyes and brown hair.
"It's called clothing." The change of circumstance had not affected her personality. "You should try it, Shereya. Here, put this on!" She handed me a bundle of purple fabric. It was the first time I had worn anything but brown. Automatically, I slid it on over my nightdress as I resumed talking to Belak.
"What happened last night?" I asked.
He shrugged, turning his head to give me a modicum of privacy as I changed. "Nothing really; we came into town and went right to bed."
That wasn't at all how I remembered it. "But what about our camp?" I came around to his front to let him know that I was finished.
"What camp?" He asked.
Half of me wanted to dismiss the previous night as a dream, but I was absolutely certain that it wasn't; my friends had all gone crazy. "We made camp last night because of the fog, remember? We slept in the open last night, at the edge of a valley."
"Right," Belak snorted. "Why on earth would we make camp so near to a perfectly good house?"
"Okay, first of all, I distinctly remember the fog being so thick that we couldn't even see anything; second, whose house is this really?"
Belak was still staring at me as if I had woken up speaking some foreign language. "It's ours, Shereya."
I stamped my foot in frustration. "But it can't be, don't you see? What would we be doing with a house this far across the country if half of us had never left Mirrorvale before?"
"Hungry?" Greyna interrupted. She held out a small plate with a blueberry scone and a juicy red apple on it. She saw me glance at the others. "We've already eaten," she confessed, "but don't worry about saving up; there's plenty of food in the larder!"
To be honest, I was starving. Unlike them, I could not pretend that last night did not happen, in all of its hunger and discomfort. I fairly wolfed down the scone.
"So where are we?" I asked.
Belak chuckled. "You really don't remember coming into Moon Valley and going straight to bed? We were practically dead on our feet, from walking all day since we left Tark's camp. You must have slept really hard, to forget everything, Shereya."
I set down the apple, still trying to adjust to what amounted to a new reality of some sort.
"I did sleep deeply," I said, "but I have not forgotten what happened because—wait," his words suddenly registered with me. I stared at him with wide eyes. "What did you call this place?" I gasped.

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 
-"The Invisible Gift" and "Forward Unto Danger" 
-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
-Confessions
-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