Author's Note: Boy, this rewrite just keeps dragging along! Not totally lagging to the point that I'm just making up random stuff to fill in the empty spaces, but everything I want to put in is all of a sudden taking so much longer! But I figured it was high time for a "draft-off", a comparison between two similar sections of the novel.
One of the biggest changes that I see affecting this draft more than I thought it would was the way I rearranged the events of the story. When I was writing Draft 1, I thought that the order of everything made sense just the way it was, and that I could not possibly see it another way, even if I tried.
Applying the Story Circle to The Last Inkweaver helped me see beyond just the events themselves, and discern the meaning behind each part that happened, and therefore, I began to see the events not for what they are, but for how they affect my main character, Callista. Therefore, the scenes themselves may be similar, but they represent a very different phase along the journey for Callista/Shereya and the others.
In the case of Draft 1, Shereya and her friends had just gone from receiving a Told lamp from a Talesmith in Criansa, to intervening on behalf of three abandoned orphans in an unnamed town--and finally confessing the truth to Belak about what the three girls were doing so far from home, and what they had been following on this journey. In that sense, this business with Tark the Trafficker kind of came out of nowhere, an idea out of the blue that I just tossed together when I couldn't think of what else to do, because it was a chance for Shereya to flex the "storytelling muscles" she didn't know she had, and a way to fill the time until they would reach the enigmatic Moon Valley.
In Draft 2, on the other hand, I had the confrontation with Ronni the Bounty Hunter happen just before this, and in light of the coup they just staged, and the new information Callista received there bolstering her confidence, along with a new sense of respect from Matthias--she hadn't told him everything just yet, but she'd made some things very clear, and promised him the rest at some point. They encounter Tark on their way past a village they had heard of from one of Ronni's prisoners--unfortunately, it had been abandoned after his capture, so there wasn't anything in the village for our intrepid protagonists. Enter Tark, who very well could have been their savior, but ended up quite the opposite, and through her experience in telling a contrived story, Callista learns some important concepts that will help her as they move on to the three orphans--and that part of the story, I recently finished, so the only part left is Moon Valley, which I hope won't change all that much from the first draft... I'm so very nearly done!
Enjoy this look back!
The bandit dragged me all the way back to where Tark waited on a stump in front of a fire.
The bandit stirring a pot of soup hanging over the flames looked up, and I gasped. I had thought the whole group had been a bunch of burly men, but this was a woman! The woman sauntered off at a cue from Tark.
“What have you got for me, Japheth?” Tark growled.
I did not laugh, but it was very difficult to squelch the urge. What was a dirty, ignorant thug doing walking around with a name like that?
Japheth tossed me on my knees in front of the big man.
“This one wants to talk,” he announced.
Tark eyed me. “Bag Girl,” he identified. “Are you ready to tell me how your little frog-sticker works? Or the bag that we can’t open?” He gestured to the knapsack that sat upon a stump near the fire. The proximity of the knapsack was not as disturbing as the fact that it clearly had a huge axe buried right through the center. Had they in fact managed to destroy the tapestry?
Tark saw my horror as plainly as if it was written across my face, and he grinned. “My boys have tried everything possible to open that sack.” He stood and reached the stump in two paces. In a burst of strength he hefted the axe straight out of the log. With his free hand, he picked up the knapsack and hurled it at me. I caught it, feeling the voices tickle my ear just the same as they always had. I searched every inch of the knapsack for the enormous gash I felt sure had come from the axe—but there was not a mark on it except the natural wear from our journey thus far.
I looked back up at Tark, who studied me with his arms folded across his chest. I knew that Greyna would be working her way out of her bonds by now, so I had a limited time to capture and hold his attention so that they could escape in peace.
“I can explain,” I told Tark, “but it concerns this very special journey that we are on, and the tale is a long one.”
Tark glared at me. “I don’t suppose you can give me the short version?”
Not if I can help it! I thought to myself, but on a burst of inspiration I said, “If I do not tell this tale, the knapsack will not open.”
Tark’s face twisted into all sorts of angry shapes as he worked over his greed to get at whatever valuable treasure we must be hiding in the knapsack and the impatience for such things as stories. I had to convince him that listening to my story was really in his best interest—even though at just that moment, I had not the slightest clue what that story would in fact be! I was a bit sore from huddling on the ground like I was, so, with my eyes fixed on Tark to watch for any sign of disapproval or foreboding, I inched my way over to the log he had just been sitting on.
“Have you not heard of the Wordspinners?”
Tark snorted. “Of course I’ve heard of the Wordspinners! Everybody’s heard of them!”
“Do you know how they work their craft?” I challenged him.
His derision disappeared and he regarded me dubiously. “What does that have to do with you?” he demanded, as if expecting me to come out and confess I was one of their number—as if!
I gestured to the knapsack in my lap. “This knapsack was made by an Inkweaver; she told the story to lock it up, and if I can tell the story correctly, I can unlock it again.”
Word Count (total): 72, 163
Friggo tossed me on the ground like a sack.
"This her, Boss," he said, bobbing his bald head like an apple in a water-barrel. "This the bag girl wot had the stuff."
Tark kept his arms folded, an angry sneer contorting his features. "Sit her up, Frig. And take her gag off. I want her talking."
The henchman did as he was bid--yanking me upright by my hair and jerking my head back to wrench the fabric from my mouth. If it had still been tied tightly around my head as it had before, his movements would have probably dislocated my jaw.
Tark held my gaze with a grim expression as he sat down on the stump behind him, resting his elbows on his knees and bringing his hands up in front of him with the fingertips resting against each other.
"Now then, girl," he said. "Supposing you tell me what sort o' magic you have in these fancy pieces you carry." He gestured behind me, and Bert kicked over a few coals. In their midst was Rowinna's lamp, by all appearances cold and empty.
"Exhibit The First," he announced, like an actual peddler displaying his wares, "a lamp that won't light--won't even catch fire, the blasted thing!" As if to emphasize the point, Bert picked up a half-charred log from the fire, lit its end, and held it against the sloshing lamp--but nothing happened.
"And over here," Tark continued, gesturing of to the side, where Naten's exquisite sword lay among bits and pieces of twisted metal and splintered wood, "we have a sword I can't draw." He picked it up and tossed it on the ground in front of me.
"Oooooh!" Friggo jeered, still pulling unmercifully on my hair.
"Which brings us to this," he pointed to the stump between us. "The bag I can't open." He lifted the axe out, and I fully expected the satchel to separate along the cut--but it slipped off the stump, wholly unscathed. Had he really tried chopping it open already? I shook my head as my first thought had not been "How is that thing still intact?"
All my thoughts vanished when Tark suddenly sent the axe swinging right for my face. I flinched, but the edge of the blade hovered a hairs-breadth from my nose.
"So what is it, girl? Are you some kind of witch? You think this is some kind of joke you're playing?"
Friggo gripped harder on my hair, and tears sprang into my eyes. I saw Tark's sneer deepen, as if he thought the tears came from fear and not pain.
Tell him the truth! My logic exclaimed. What could it hurt? After all, everyone thinks the Wordspinner craft is a kind of magic, anyway. Why not give in to his expectations? Tell him it's magic, and be done with it!
"Well?" Tark advanced so the rough edge of the axe blade rested on the tip of my nose. "Are you going to undo the spell or not?"
Spell? There was no spell... My scrambling thoughts coalesced into a simple scheme--simple as birdsong, one might say.
"All right," I gasped out, "I'll talk! I'll tell you everything you need to know!"
Tark withdrew the axe, and waved at Friggo. "Go take care of the horses. I'll handle it from here."
Sweet relief flooded over me as Friggo released my hair and stumbled off toward the wagon. I watched him go, willing Matthias and the others into action as soon as he moved out of Tark's sight. I hadn't seen the brothers at all, but I didn't doubt they would be around somewhere.
"So!" Tark's voice interrupted my surreptitious search. "What can you tell me about these things you carry?"
I looked him in the eye and told the absolute truth, "They are made by Wordspinners." I spoke the name with heavy reverence. "Have you heard of the Wordspinners, sir?"
The ruffian snorted, laying the axe across his lap. "Of course; a bunch of storytelling folk, ain't they? What do they want with swords and lamps?"
I nodded slowly. "It is said that Wordspinners' Tales make things, and that things made by a Wordspinner's Tale are generally more than they seem."
He squinted, his manner cooling a bit. "What's that supposed to mean? What nonsense are you spouting, girl?" His grip tightened on the axe shaft.
"Please! I am telling you what I know, I swear!" I begged, leaning forward as best I could with my hands still tied behind my back. "A Wordspinner designs objects meant only for someone who could hear and understand the Tale they tell. Only those who could hear and understand the Tale would be able to use the gifts."
His dirty brow furrowed. "Hear and understand? What do you mean by that?" His lip curled. "Are you telling me you know this Tale that will enable me to draw the sword and open the pack?" He lifted the satchel and shook it. "You've got treasure in there, girl! I know it--I can hear it and feel its weight! That'll be the price for eating my soup and sleeping in my wagon last night. Tell me what I want to know!"
I sighed heavily, as if yielding my secrets with great reluctance. "All right... I can tell you the tale for these gifts, the way the Wordspinner told it to me when she made them." Lies, all lies--mostly.
Word Count (so far): 134, 272 words