Monday, September 17, 2012

Novel Sample Week: Crossbreed

Welcome to the first installment of Novel Sample Week.  In a month or so, I plan on posting a novel here, one piece at a time.  I just need your help picking which one to work on this year.  So, read this week, and pick next week.

Today, the sample section is from a novel called CrossbreedCrossbreed is a fantasy novel about a dozen different species being used as pawns by the gods.  I came up with the concept in junior high; I wanted to make a role playing game like Dungeons and Dragons.  However, over the years, I came up with so many story ideas, I figured It'd make a good novel.

The hunt had gone well.  Shess had planted her arrow in the back of her prey's skull with such perfect accuracy she knew her ancestors above had guided it.  She had prayed her thanks to the stars below and fed quickly, gorging herself on the pale flesh of her kill.  Then, she had slipped the bow over her head, climbed the nearest tree, and begun the long flight home, flitting from tree to tree as fast as her wings could take her.
Shess immediately knew something was wrong.  She was winded after only a few dozen flits.  A tingling started in her abdomen and turned into pain.  She stopped and clung with her feet and hands to the trunk of a tall tree, hanging out sideways like one of the branches, and rested.  As she licked the last traces of blood from her mandibles, she tried to calm herself, but couldn't.  Shess wanted to stop, to drop to the forest floor and curl up into a ball until the pain went away.
Then she realized what tree she was clinging to.  It was her wombtree.  The tree whose lucious sap nourished her when she was still inside her egg as it had her mother and grandmother and her ancestors back to the time when the village was founded  Shess climbed down a few feet to where the ring of ovals that circled the trunk ended and ran her fingers over them.
“Murr,” she said, instinctively knowing the name of each ancestor who left each ring.  “Neera.  Vess.  Doonark.  Henst.”
Soon, she would add one more oval to the tree.  Her child's egg would burrow into the bark, drink the sweet sap, grow strong, hatch, and make her a proud mother.
Shess's strength returned and she flew to the next tree and the next and then...  Then the village was there, below her.  Relief flooded through her as she glided down.
The village must have been waiting; before she could even fold her wings, they were upon her, hugging her, touching her, congratulating her.  Bel stood at the back of the crowd, almost sheepishly waiting her notice.  Shess felt a swell of love at his uncertainty and ran to him, kissed him warmly, and held his thin body her arms.
Behind them, someone cleared his throat.  Shess turned from Bel and saw Madoc standing at the entrance to his elder's hut.  He was huge, standing nearly two inches taller than any of the others, and gazed down at them with his milky eyes.  Shess never could tell if he could see her or not (Some of his eye's facets had to be blind, but how many?), but always felt transparent before him.
"Shess is back," Bel said to Madoc, bending his head back to look straight at the older man's face.  "She's made her kill."
"Then she must enter the Spiral," Madoc said, not taking his eyes off of her.  "Come, Shess."
She disentangled herself from Bel and, as the entire village watched silently, followed him into his hut.  Inside, a sputtering, pine-needle fire filled the entire hut with oily, grey smoke.  At Madoc's bidding she sat across the fire from him.
"Does it hurt much?" Madoc asked, indicating her abdomen.
"Yes.  How did you know?"
"Has no one ever told you what happens when a woman makes her first kill?" he said, surprised.
"Just that she's able to mate.  My father always felt that talk about the first hunt was... Unseemly."
Madoc nodded.
"Your father never liked hunting; I seem to recall his mother fed on stoat blood.  It fits.  Well, whatever the case, it's time you know.  Our people need blood to have children.  The blood you drank drained out through vents in your stomach, stimulated glands that caused you to ovulate, and is now pooling in your uterus.  When you have mated with your chosen-"
"Bel," she said.
"Bel," he said in a voice that was either annoyance or disappointment.  "When you mate with Bel, that blood will go into the egg with your child.  The wombtree will nourish the child, but the blood will provide its character.  The more fierce the animal was, the more hunting spirit the child will have.  The blood will also determine if it will be a male or a female."
"Well, I killed a-"
Madoc raised a hand and stopped her.
"That is for the Spiral."
Madoc grabbed a thick hide under the sputtering fire and yanked on it.  Smoldering pine needles flew in all directions and extinguished on the ground.  Underneath the hide was a small hole leading into a tunnel underneath the hut.
"The elder's hut was built over the Spiral, many generations ago.  It's so large, you can almost see it at night above our village when there's no moon.  Come with me now.  Come enter the Spiral."
Madoc dropped quickly into the dark hole.  Shess swallowed nervously, then slowly descended after him.  The light from above barely illuminated the rock walls around her, which curved away into the absolute dark, darker than the night, darker than she had ever experienced before.  Panic gripped her, and she started to claw her way back up, but a light appeared in the darkness.
Madoc appeared before her, a small flickerling in his outstretched hand.  As Shess watched, he held the light up to the nearest wall.  There, carved into the rock and illuminated with white chalk was a crude drawing of a beetle, the kind that fed on dead leaves.
"Did you kill a leaf beetle?" Madoc said.
Shess laughed, and Madoc gave her an angry look.
"Not everyone is as blessed with the hunting spirit as you.  Some of your ancestors lived in times of great famine and war with the other races.  They ate the first animals they came across so they could mate quickly and often.  The children born from beetle blood are born male and without the wings, but they can still be useful to the community.  My great uncle was a child of beetle blood."
"Apologies Madoc," Shess said, bowing her head.  "I misspoke.  I didn't kill a bug.  I killed a-"
Madoc held a hand up again, then beckoned her forward into the cave.  After a few steps, they came upon another picture on the wall, this time of a different insect.
"Did you kill a grasshopper?" Madoc said.
"No."
They walked further into the curving walls, stopping every few steps.  Madoc showed her snails and squirrels and birds.  He showed her opossums and weasels and sloths.  The further they travelled, the larger and more formidable the creatures became and the tighter the curve of the walls.
"I've never come this deep into the Spiral," Madoc said, with an impressed smile that was obvious even in the dim light of the flickerling.  "Either you've killed something tremendous, or a new creature has entered the forest in the dozens of generations since our ancestors etched the Spiral.  Sabertooth tiger?"
Shess shook her head.  They walked on past mastodons and embolotherium.  Suddenly, the walls widened out into a final, round chamber, the center of the Spiral.  Madoc held the flickerling high so all the walls were visible.  On them were etched the most terrifying monsters Shess had ever seen.  There was an Uwatu, one of the demons from the old myths, an undead with cold eyes, a shapeling, a wisp, and then, in the very back...
"There!" Shess said, pointing at the sketch.  "That's what I slew."
Madoc walked to where she had pointed.  The etching was of a bird, with a thick, curved beak and large eyes surrounded by teardrops of bare skin.
"Although, I don't know what it's doing here," Shess said.  "I mean, it was large for a parrot, almost as big as me, but it was just sitting there, digging in the ground.  It's not like it was dangerous.."
She trailed off as she realized Madoc wasn't listening to her.  He was running his fingers over the carving and muttering to himself.
"No," he said, his voice a whisper.  "No. No. No."
He turned quickly, the flickerling flaring so brightly in his hand that it crackled and burned out.
"What?" Shess said.  "What was it?"
"Dragon!" Madoc said, his voice echoing in the darkness.  "May the ancestors protect us, you killed a dragon!"
Shess clambered after the sound of his echoing footsteps, crashing into walls and groping blindly until she found the opening into the elder's hut.  Madoc was throwing the door of the hut open and opened his mouth to scream, to warn everyone to run as far and as fast as they could.
But it was too late.  Before he could make a sound, a sharp, pounding pain filled his mind and the minds of everyone in the village.  It was a word that struck them inside their heads like sparks from flint hitting rock.
"Murderers.  Murderers.  Murderers."
The air was filled with the sound of giant, feathered wings all around them.

2 comments:

GM said...

What kind of creature is Shess?

Matthew Kagle said...

They're two to three feet tall, humanoid, with greenish skin. They have eyes like bugs (multifaceted, red) and dragonfly wings that let them fly very short distances. They climb trees and then fly between them because they can't do long distance flight, even gliding.

Their magic is rather odd and so is their religion. Of course, the same is true of all the other races in the book.

Their name depends on whom you ask. Each race calls themeselves "people" and has a different name for each other race. Those Shess would call "Dwarts" call them "Helfs." The "Demons" call them "Spicy Crunchies." The "Undead" call them "Sentient 2." Tolkein would have called them "elves."