Snow – Chapter 1 – Part 6

Welcome to the final part of Chapter 1 of Snow! Last week, Finley and his soldiers arrived in the village, threatening to take Snow away. There was an explosion right as Kiska attacked Finley, and that’s where I left it hanging! Speaking of Kiska, Snow originally didn’t have a dog. I came up with the idea after we went over to a friend’s house. The family had this big, husky dog that actually looked like a wolf. As soon as I got home, I knew I had to write a dog like that in for Snow.

“Kiska!” I shout, as I watch my dog fly back from the blast of the fusion rifle and fall to the ground. Dropping to my knees beside her, I press my hands against the wound, trying to stop the blood from pouring out. “You can’t die! You just can’t!” No matter how much I plead with her nor how hard I push, the bleeding won’t stop. She lays motionless in the bright red snow, and I know she is gone. I cradle her in my arms unable to believe my best friend is dead. “How could you kill my dog? How could you kill Kiska? She was just trying to protect me!” I ask, tears running down my face. Looking up at Finley, I am overwhelmed with rage, and I scramble to my feet. “I hate you! I hate you all! Get out of my home!” Unable to stop, I launch myself at Finley, and land a solid blow to his already bruised jaw before the soldiers yank me back to the ground.

Finley laughs and rubs his jaw. I push myself up off the snow, my fists clenched by my sides, longing to hit him again. My eyes rest on the ripped coat sleeve on Finley’s arm. I wish Kiska had done more damage.

“Why do you want me?” I demand, swallowing down some of my rage to force the words out.

“You really don’t know?” Finley asks, raising an eyebrow. At my blank expression, he sighs. “You’re one of them. And by them, I mean the Katari. And you better be worth all this work because I hate the cold.”

“And just what is a Katari?”

“Enough!” Finley commands. “Will you come voluntarily or not?”

“Leave my daughter alone,” Dad says, pushing himself up so that he’s hunched over, leaning against the stone. “Take me instead.”

“You instead of a Katari? Please. That’s hardly a fair exchange. Your daughter is worth ten times as much as you to NAUFA.” Finley glances at me. “Will you come voluntarily or not?”

“Never,” I snap back. I don’t even need to think about my answer.

Finley’s green eyes betray anger for a moment, but a bored look quickly replaces it. “Then, I will offer you one final deal.” Finley begins pacing as he explains his offer. “See, I can leave this horrible, cold village without my friends,” he gestures to the two soldiers. “They can stay behind, burn the village, and arrest everyone here. All of you will be relocated to NAUFA prisons.” Stopping to face me, Finley adds, “Well, you won’t be in prison. You’ll be with me at a different facility.”

He continues, “Anyway, I’m sure even you can figure out what will happen to your father and neighbors there.” He holds up his hands as if weighing his options. “I take you, the Katari, and I’ve eliminated a threat to NAUFA. A good deal for NAUFA, a good deal for me.” He pauses and shrugs slightly. “Not such a good deal for you.”

Finley puts his hands in his pockets, and turns to look straight at me. “Of course, I could promise not to do that. But for me to agree to that, you’d have to give me something in return.”

“What is it?” I demand, already guessing at what he’s going to say.

“You’d have to come with me voluntarily.” Finley holds up his hand as if stopping any protests. “That’s my deal. So, which will it be?”

Thanks for reading!

~ Kayla

Snow – Chapter 1 – Part 5

Last week, a man from the government showed up in the village. This week, Snow finds out who it is. Okay, okay, I can’t stand it any longer! I’ve got to say who it is. His name is Finley, and he is my male MC. I actually still remember the exact moment I came up with him. I was brushing my teeth and trying to decide where I should take Snow’s story. I knew I wanted to add in a second main character, but I wasn’t sure who. Suddenly, I had it. I remember thinking, “I should have a really arrogant guy be the second main character who comes to Northolt and takes Snow for the government.I was so excited I ran out of the bathroom, grabbed a green index card and scribbled the idea down in purple colored pencil. Finley’s evolved a lot since he was just a scribbled note, but he’s still arrogant and believes he’s perfect. 😉

I step closer, just enough so I can make out my dad and three other figures in the fog. Two of them are large and tall, imposing dark shapes in the blur of the frozen cloud. They have to be NAUFA soldiers. The third figure in front of the others, is shorter and smaller but strangely seems to be in charge. He steps closer to my dad and says something so softly I can’t hear, and then I see my dad’s arm fly out and hear the sickening sound of fist hitting jaw. The man reels back. The two large figures rush forward and grab my dad. The one strikes him across the face, and Dad stumbles back. The other brings his rifle down on Dad’s back, and I see my dad fall. Kiska barks and runs forward charging the soldiers. The one soldier swings his rifle around and knocks her in the head, and she runs off with a whimper. I cover my mouth with my hand, suppressing a cry. The soldiers continue to hit my dad, even though he’s on the ground. “Enough!” the man’s voice stops the beating.

“What do you want?” I hear Dad’s voice through the fog, his figure doubled over, kneeling in the snow. “I’ll give you anything. Just leave my daughter alone.”

The man’s laugh is full of scorn. “What could you have in this pitiful outpost that NAUFA would want? Besides, she’s not your daughter. She belongs to NAUFA, and I’m just here to retrieve what is ours.” The soldiers roughly haul Dad to his feet, and I know I have to do something. I can’t watch them hurt my dad anymore.

I run from my hiding spot over to my dad. “Let him go!” I shout. “Let him go!” I look at my dad’s face, bruised and bloody, his one eye swollen shut, and I feel anger seethe up in me. “Snow, no,” I hear my dad say but I don’t pay attention. I run at the one soldier and push him with all of my strength. He lets go of Dad, more out of surprise than from my blow. The soldier moves to grab hold of me, but the leader laughs and waves him away. I turn to face this man, ready to fight him, too. He has an ugly bruise forming on his jaw, but his eyes flash triumphantly. He smiles slightly. “Ah. Just who we need. Looks like you’re coming with us, girl.”

“Who are you?” I demand.

“The name’s Finley, and NAUFA assigned me to your case. I’m here to take you away from this godforsaken place.” He pushes his bangs back, and adjusts his oversized, grey coat.

“I’m not going anywhere!”

Finley smiles reassuringly. “We’d really prefer that you’d come voluntarily. It makes the process so much easier when the subject cooperates and does as she is told” He adds, “But you really do not have a choice. You’re coming with me.” Finley takes a step forward and grips my arm. From the fog comes a deep growl. Kiska, her head low and teeth bared, advances toward Finley, snarling at him low and deep with a ferocity I’ve never heard from her before. Finley lets go of me and backs up slightly, startled. Kiska barks and lunges towards him. Finley scrambles backwards, but not fast enough, and Kiska’s jaws grab his arm. Suddenly, there’s a bright flash of light, and a deafening explosion fills the air.

Thanks for reading!

~ Kayla

Snow – Chapter 1 – Part 4

Last week, Snow and her dad had just returned home from hunting. In this scene, there’s a part where Snow is outside and there’s ice fog everywhere. I remember checking if fog can form in the Arctic and learning that it gets so cold in the Arctic that the water droplets in a fog cloud will actually freeze. It’s rare in the Western USA as it almost never gets cold enough, but up in Northern and Central Alaska, it can actually be quite common. I thought the ice fog was so cool (pun intended) I decided to let it hang out over Northolt for this scene! 😉

It’s past midnight by the time I’m in bed. Though my body is exhausted, I can’t sleep. Every time I close my eyes, my mind is filled with the whirling of the drones searching for me. I finally drift off and jeering villagers pursue me, chasing me out of my home. Jamin’s face is bigger than the rest, and his shouts fill my ears, and I sit straight up, heart pounding, awake again. By the time I do actually fall asleep, it’s early morning.

I open my eyes. The room is dark, and there’s no light reflecting through my window. Kiska is gone off my bed, and I assume she’s with Dad. I groan and turn over, not wanting to get up. I shut my eyes, trying to drift back off. It’s no use. I’m too awake at this point. Sitting up, I run my fingers through my messy blonde hair and push the blankets back. Sitting on the edge of my bed, I shut my eyes, listening for the typical sounds of morning. The house is completely silent. Wanting to see where my dad is, I slip off the edge of my bed. My feet patter across the floor, out into the living room.

I call his name softly, but only my stomach rumbles a response. I step into the kitchen looking for him and for breakfast. Taped to one of the cabinet doors is a note, and I yank it down, reading the messy handwriting. “Gone hunting. Meet me by the Stone at 0930.” I look up at the clock and realize it’s 0920 now. Changing quickly, I slip on my jacket and boots and head outside. An icy fog hovers in the air turning the snowy ground grey. As I walk, it becomes increasingly hard to see, but I know the way well, and my boots creak over the frozen path. It’s a short walk to the Stone, and as I near it, out of the grey blur I hear voices, and a dog’s bark and growl. I guess that the dog is Kiska, even though she never growls as she knows everyone here. Something doesn’t feel right. There’s a sense of impending doom hanging thick like the fog that surrounds me, and I don’t like it. I hurry on to get to Dad, telling myself it’s just a feeling, even though my sense of dread grows.

“I will not comply!” the shout shatters the silence surrounding me. The voice is Dad’s. I start running towards the sound. What’s going on? Are the hunter drones back? Have the villagers finally had enough of me and are trying to kick me out of the village?

“I’m afraid you don’t have much of a choice.” The voice is a man’s I’ve never heard before, and it’s accompanied by Kiska’s growl. My heart quickens. Oh, no. They’ve found Northolt. It’s over.

“She’s my daughter!” cries Dad. “I won’t let you take her!”

“She is not your daughter. Clearly you’re not understanding me. Like I said before, I’m afraid you don’t have much of a choice,” the man’s voice repeats, irritation dripping from every word.

Thanks for reading!

~Kayla

Snow – Chapter 1 – Part 3

Last time we left Snow, she and her dad had heard a drone in the forest and were heading back to the safety of the village. When I first wrote this scene, it was completely different. I’ve taken Chapter 1 through multiple revisions, and whenever I edit something new, I always send the results to my friend who’s my beta reader. She’s also the founder and only member of the Snow fandom. 🙂 Thanks so much, Julia, you’re a great friend! 😉

“Don’t worry. They’ll never find us,” Dad promises in a low whisper, squeezing my hand. We have been evading drones for years; the village hunters dodge them on a regular basis. My dad, as both hunter and leader, probably has the most experience of anyone in the village in dealing with them. Still, as the light whirring becomes louder, I can’t help but feel fear rising up. I take a deep breath and slowly blow it out knowing what’s coming. I watch my dad who is watching the sky. Suddenly, Dad pulls me to my feet, and we take off running. Away from the river, deeper into the forest we run silently. We duck under branches and over snow mounds, making our way to the village, to safety. As we run I know my dad is listening and calculating, carefully planning each path we take. Finally, Dad slows and holds up his hand for us to stop. I notice the whirring has grown fainter. Dad leans against a tree trunk and puts a finger to his lips. We stand there, listening to the ever fading whirring of the drone as it moves on to another area. The forest returns to its previous undisturbed silence. Dad opens up his hunting bag, pulls out an old, faded yellow map and spreads it out on the tree trunk.

“What pattern is the drone using?” Dad looks at me, motioning to the map. He’s been training me for years to recognize the search patterns used by the drones.

I look over the lines, thinking. “Grid Pattern A?”

Dad smiles. “Good job. And which drone usually uses that pattern at that altitude?”

I look at the map, and then close my eyes, remembering the buzzing of the drone. When you hear one, it’s a sound you never forget. “It’s a surveillance drone, and it’s traveling from east to west.”

“Actually, it’s coming from the northeast, but close. Recommended course of action?”

“It’s moving away from us now so we can continue hunting?” I turn my answer into a question, hoping to salvage the rest of what was supposed to be a peaceful afternoon with my dad.

Dad doesn’t answer and stands there looking intently into the sky. “You’re right, Snow. Normally, we would continue, but something doesn’t feel right to me. We’ll head back to the village.” With a single movement, he folds up the map and places it into his bag and begins the hike back home. I follow behind him, wondering about his uneasiness.

After a few minutes, I break the silence. “Dad?” The aurora glitters above us, now a dark, blood red color that turns everything around it the same bright hue.

“Yes, Snow?”

“Jamin was right. The drones are never out this time of the year.” The words stick in my throat, and I feel sick just saying them.

“Like I told Jamin, we’ll get through this together.” Dad flashes me a defiant look. “We’ve hidden from the drones for sixteen years. We can make it through another one.”

I can’t help but think of a few years earlier when three of our hunters were killed by a drone attack. That winter had been hard, too, but we made it through. Dad is right. We can do this together. That still doesn’t answer the other question I’ve had for a long time – the one I’ve had since I realized the drone searches started once I was found near the village. “Why are they hunting me, Dad? What do I have that they want?” I ask, my voice catching.

Dad looks at me, his brown eyes glinting. “I don’t know,” he finally admits. “I really don’t know.”

We continue trudging through the snow, until we’re on top of the ridge above Northolt. Here, I’m able to see Northolt spread out before me. The village is shielded from the drones’ sensors, making it the last safe place in the forest. The villagers here call it a town, but it’s really just a collection of ten white domes peeking out of the snow, arranged in a circle. I sense the breeze across my cheek, and although it doesn’t feel cold to me, I instinctively know the temperature is dropping.

“I’ll make sure I warn the other hunters to be extra careful for the next few days until drone activity dies down,” Dad says, more to himself than to me. “Come on, we have to get back to Northolt before it gets much later.” Dad starts down the slope.

I glance behind me one last time, for a moment thinking I can hear a drone. All I see, though, is the peaceful edge of the forest, utterly still and silent. I start down the slope, half-sliding, half-walking into the village. The only sign that anyone lives here are the footprints leading into the domes. I follow behind my father, my feet stepping into the holes made by his boots, as we return home for the night.

Thanks for reading!

~Kayla

Snow – Chapter 1 – Part 2

Last week, I posted the first part of chapter 1 of Snow which you can find here. You may have noticed I wrote Snow in first person, present tense. When I started the story, I had an idea for the ending and after doing some research decided that present tense would be best. When I finally wrote the end of the story, the ending was completely changed, but writing in the present tense was such a habit that I decided to leave it like that. Even though I’ve finished the story, I still catch myself slipping into present tense when writing my new story which is supposed to be written in the past tense!

“You know, sometimes I wish I’d never moved up here. I thought I’d be free from NAUFA and its drones, but what do I find? A drone magnet!” Jamin slaps his gloved hand against the Stone.

“It’s too beautiful an afternoon to talk about NAUFA,” says a voice. I look up to see my dad walking towards us. Kiska barks and runs up to him.

“Hagan.” Jamin nods a greeting at Dad, his face suddenly red.

My dad smiles. “Hello, Jamin. How’s the hunting today?”

Jamin scowls. “The hunter drones scared most of it off.” He looks at me as he says it, and I avoid his gaze, looking over at Dad.

“Well, that’s too bad. But this village has survived tougher times than these. We’ll get through this like we always have,” pausing, he holds Jamin’s eyes in his and finishes, “together. Snow and I are on our way out and will bring in some fresh meat,” Dad says, laying a hand on my shoulder. I smile up at him.

“Good luck,” Jamin says, his tone sarcastic.

My dad lifts his hand in a good-bye wave and whistles for Kiska.

We tromp through the glistening snow, the crunching of our boots on the frozen powder the only sound to be heard in this white world. Finally, Dad breaks the serene quietness. “You don’t have to feel guilty, Snow. Don’t listen to Jamin.”

I don’t say anything. I want to believe him, but I can’t convince myself that Dad is right. I glance over at him, his furry hood up over his head so I can’t read his expression. Something Jamin said is still bothering me, and I just have to know. “Dad?”

He looks over. “Yes?”

“Would you turn me over to NAUFA?”

He’s silent, his eyes hard and cold. I swallow hard, afraid that I’ve hurt him by asking the question. “I-I-I’m sorry,” I say, my voice shaking a little. “I didn’t mean to – ”

“No.” The word cuts through my stammering. “No, I’d never turn you over to NAUFA, Snow. You’re my daughter, and I love you.” He takes my bare hand in his gloved one and squeezes it.

“I love you, too, Dad.” Then I smile slightly and say, “I wouldn’t turn you over to NAUFA either!”

Dad laughs at the thought. “I’m glad you wouldn’t, Snow,” he says, still smiling.

We trudge on through the snow in silence again. The twilight sky reflects off the snow, the few sunrays that can reach us casting their semi-golden light over everything. We walk by the glassy river that shows us a perfect reflection of ourselves in its mirror-like surface. Snow covered pine trees line the bank, while the first flicker of the northern lights flash across the sky. We stop, still silent. Dad slips his bow off his shoulder, and I follow his example, both of us completely quiet. Even Kiska stops her playing, as she knows she has to be silent or she’ll scare away our prey. My grey furry boots crunch down into the snow as I creep forward as noiselessly as I can, my breath coming in quick, short bursts as I try to breathe quietly. The sky above finally shatters into the brilliant colors of the northern lights, and they reach down to dance across the icy surface of the river and the previously monochromatic white land. I crouch down in the snow behind the pine tree, reaching up and gripping the icy blue feathers of my snow-white arrows. There, by the riverbank, is a white fox. His glittering black eyes gaze back at me as I notch the arrow to the string of my white bow and slowly start lifting it up. Dad’s arms come around me, helping me to line the shot up, the silver tip aimed at the fox. The moment is dream-like, just me and my dad, surrounded by perfect stillness. Suddenly, the dream is broken by the whirring of a drone. I feel my heart start to pound against my chest.

“Snow,” comes Dad’s whisper by my ear. “We need to get back to the village. Now.”

Thanks for reading!

~ Kayla

Snow – Chapter 1 – Part 1

I’ve been talking about posting this for so long I can’t believe I’m finally doing it! This is the first part of the first chapter of my second novel, Snow. I remember I was taking a shower (where all writers have their best ideas) on Christmas Eve when I just started narrating a story in my head. That story was completely different from the novel Snow is today, but that was the beginning of this project. It took me about two months to write the rough draft, and it pretty much wrote itself. It was the first completed novel I’d written without an outline, and to this day Snow is my favorite project to work on. Without further adieu, here is the first part of the first chapter of Snow. Enjoy!

Chapter 1

Welcome to my home, Northolt. It’s pretty much at the top of the world, so the thermometer is usually way below zero, and it’s always snowing. Most of the villagers can’t even remember what grass looks like at this point. Even so, it’s a nice town, if you can get past the howling winds and the constant blizzards. Perhaps the best part about Northolt is the fact that it’s almost free in our very controlled world. There is virtually no government presence. Well, except for the hunter drones. And that’s my fault. A fact that’s reflected in the eyes of everyone I pass by in Northolt. I accept their silent accusations without anger because I know they’re right. Those hunter drones would never have been sent if not for me.

“Come on, Kiska,” I call to my dog, as she follows me out of the village, trotting along loyally. My bow is over one shoulder; my quiver over the other. My dad made them for me since all that we use here has to be made by hand – so that means our weapons are knives, bows, and spears.

“Dad’s taking me hunting today,” I tell Kiska, as if she can understand. She dashes out in front of me on her own hunt, chasing a white hare.

“Kiska, heel!” I call, and the repentant dog comes running back.

Dad said to meet him by the Stone. It’s really the only sort of landmark we have up here in the white wilderness, and it’s considered the town meeting place.

Kiska and I arrive beside it a few minutes before Dad said we were leaving. There’s a boy, older than me, leaning against the smooth grey rock, probably waiting for someone, too. My stomach tightens when I see him. I know he doesn’t like me, but something about him makes me especially uncomfortable. His grey eyes narrow when he sees me, and he stands up a bit straighter when I walk over.

“Hey, Jamin!” I try to keep my tone friendly, always in the hope that I can convince someone that I’m not so bad after all. Today is not my day though because Jamin shifts over slightly, not even looking at me. “How’s hunting? Snag any game yet?” I try again to start a conversation.

Jamin keeps his eyes straight ahead. “No. Too many hunter drones.” His voice is full of irritation, and his response is clipped.

I look down and scuff the ground with my boot. No matter how many times Dad tells me that the drones are not my fault, I can’t help but feel guilty about it. “I guess it is a warmer day,” I say finally.

“It’s in the negatives out here. The drones never used to come in this kind of cold.” Jamin finally looks over at me. “I guess you wouldn’t know about the cold, though, would you?”

I look down at my waist where I’d knotted my lightest jacket around me. It wasn’t easy trying to hide my strange immunity to the cold. Even on the coldest day, I am often too hot with a light jacket on. “Guess I’m just used to the weather up here,” I laugh trying not to sound nervous, rubbing my sweater-covered arms as if I am cold.

Jamin snorts and returns to the previous subject.“NAUFA’s technology is getting better.”

“You think so?” I ask, and then immediately regret asking the question.

Jamin just glares at me. “Since when have you ever seen drones in the forest this time of year?”

I feel scorn in his gaze as he stares at me. “I guess you’re right,” I finally respond.

“We’re behind on food reserves since the drones have scared the game away. I heard Hagan say he’s worried about having enough meat for everyone.” Jamin shakes his head. “All this for a girl like you. It’s a wonder Hagan hasn’t turned you over to the Administration yet.”

I bet you’d turn me over to NAUFA wouldn’t you? I thought, looking down at my boots.

Thanks for reading!

~ Kayla

 

Homeland – First 1,000 Words Part 2

Last week I posted the first 500 words of the first 1,000 words of my very first NaNoWriMo novel. That’s a lot of firsts! If you haven’t read the first part, you can read it here. Today is the second part of those first 1,000 words.

I pulled away, shaking my head. “No, no! I can’t, I can’t!”

Jace twisted on the fence so he could look straight at me. “Look Tessa, if you don’t climb this fence yourself, I’ll do it for you.” He grabbed my arm and started to pull me up with him onto the fence.

I gripped the chain link, my hands sweaty and shaking from fear. “I-I-I can’t –”

“Yes, you can.” Jace kept his hand on my arm as I gripped the chain link tightly, afraid that I’d fall.

He scrambled up a bit more and started to pull me up as well when his hand slipped. I watched in horror as my brother plummeted to the cold concrete below us. “JACE!” I screamed. He lay next to the fence, quiet. “JACE!” I screeched again, hoping for any response. Seeing him lying there, gave me the motivation I needed to release my grip from the fence and drop to the ground. I knelt beside him. “Jace, are you okay?”

He groaned, but seemed fine. I helped him stand up slowly. Suddenly, I heard a noise on the other side of the fence. I peered through the chain link holes, and in the darkness, I saw something move.

“What’s wrong?” Jace asked.

“I-I-I-I saw something move on the other side,” I whispered.

Jace looked past me, past the cold metal of the fence. “There’s noth -” he stopped and stared.

“What is it?” I whispered, my eyes fixed on him, and then I turned to look for myself. A figure stood at the fence, and though it was dark, I could still see that it was a man. I kept close to Jace.

“Who are you?” Jace demanded.

The man on the other side lifted his arm and stood waiting.

Jace walked over, still suspicious, and the figure adjusted his wrist so that it was visible. I took a step forward as well, curious despite my fears. It was a picture of the earth, crudely tattooed with blue and green ink. Every citizen of Earth knew what that mark meant.

“You’re one of the Defenders?” Jace asked, slightly awed.

It had been my brother’s dream to join the resistance against the Primarins, but I held him back. He wouldn’t dare leave me alone at night to participate in the Gatherings. The figure didn’t speak, only produced a tool which he used to snip away at the wires that connected the fence, creating a hole and providing a way of escape.

Hearing shouts, I looked behind me to see three Primarin soldiers standing at the entrance of the alleyway, plasma guns drawn.

“Jace! They’re here!”

Jace twisted around, and seeing the soldiers, shoved me through the hole in the fence. “Go, go, go!”

I stumbled over the cut and twisted pieces of wire, obeying him without even thinking. The Defender, seeing that I was through, took off running. Glancing back at Jace for a moment, I wondered whether he wanted me to follow or not. Jace waved me forward, and then dove through the cut fence as well. I took one last look back at the three soldiers, then at Jace, and then in the direction the Defender had fled and raced after him.

Thanks for reading!

~ Kayla

Homeland – First 1,000 Words Part 1

Tomorrow is July 1st which means Camp NaNoWriMo starts! YEAH! *throws confetti* In honor of my third NaNo, I’m sharing the first 1,000 words of my very first NaNo novel, Homeland. Here’s the logline for the novel:

Returning after 150 years, alien invaders make a second attempt to take over the earth, and a brother and sister pair, caught behind enemy lines, are left to grow up alone and to defend their devastated city against the alien authorities, and in the end find out a disturbing truth.

A few months ago, I entered these 1000 words in a Go Teen Writers contest. While I didn’t win, my entry was in the top 40 out of 200 entries which I was pretty excited about. Anyway, here is the first part of my 1000 words. Enjoy!

Foolishly, I chanced a look over my shoulder, my feet pounding, my heart thumping. They were still behind us. They would catch up to us soon, I knew it. I shouldn’t have taken that second to look. My breath came in short steamy puffs as I tried to keep up with my brother. The traitorous moon tried to penetrate the dust and give away our location as we ran through the city streets. Fortunately, its dim light did little to cut through the black night. As black as their uniforms, I thought. That picture made me push my legs even harder.

“Jace!” I cried out, hoping my brother would answer, hoping for some reassurance that we could get out of this mess. He didn’t answer. He only kept running. I tried to concentrate on moving my feet and legs faster and faster, even though my muscles were burning, because I knew what would happen to us if they caught up.

“Tessa! Down here!”

I followed my brother into a small, dark alleyway. At the end, we stopped dead, my feet at last still but my heart racing on, pounding out of fright and exertion. I longed to be safe in our apartment more than anything at that moment.

“Jace, what happens if –” I whispered into the darkness.

Jace’s growl cut me off. “Be quiet, Tessa. You’re not helping.”

I bit my lip, knowing Jace was right. I hung close to his side, waiting for him to tell me what to do next.

“I don’t know how we’re getting out of this,” Jace muttered under his breath, as he gazed upwards. I followed his eyes up to the top of the tall, gray, chain link monster blocking our path. It was at least twenty feet tall. Feeling caged in, I spun around certain they were right behind us. There were flashing lights nearby – no doubt the glittering torches the officers wore on their wrists –  but they hadn’t found us yet. It was a dead end road, though, and we had nowhere to go. We are going to be captured and tortured by the Primarins. I tried to push the thought out of my head, to stay brave like Jace, but I wasn’t my confident brother.

Jace reached up, gripped the chain link, and started climbing.

“What are you doing?” I hissed at him.

“I’m getting out of here!” he whispered back. “Start climbing!”

“I can’t!” I choked out the words, as I felt the tears start to fall.

Jace slipped down the chain link a few feet, and I gave a scared yelp thinking he was falling. He grabbed my arm. “Come on, Tessa! You are climbing it!”

Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for part 2 next week.
~ Kayla

Edward – Part 2

I hope that you’re not quite ready to leave Victorian England yet! Last week, I introduced you to Edward, my 19th century gentleman who, with his friends, had just heard a terrible scream. This week, I’m introducing you to Jeannine. So read on to find out who/what the scream was and who Jeannine is!

No one moved, each of us frozen to the street by the horrible sound. Even Abbott, the consummate adventure-loving outdoorsman, stood stock-still, shock apparent in his face. I felt my own heart pound. Fear made my legs tremble, and my feet desperately wanted to take me running in the opposite direction. Despite my small size, I had always fancied myself a hero, as in the books I read, and had desired an opportunity to demonstrate it. An opportunity was at hand but reality reminded me of my not-so-heroic temperament.

Abbott reacted first and without a word charged down the alley towards the screams. I knew what a hero would do and thus what I should do. Taking a deep breath and mentally forcing my feet in the direction of the alley, I dashed down the dark passageway, slightly behind Abbott, my shoes slipping on the slick cobblestones.  The grisly screams continued, and this spurred us onward. I could see Abbott come to a sudden halt, and he stared down into the pool of golden light cast by the gas lamp above him. I caught sight of a group of three men as they dashed off into the darkness, and there was someone small left kneeling on the cobblestones, sobbing and moaning. I slid to a stop by Abbott and looked down. My face assumed the same, horrified look that was on Abbott’s, for before us lay the lifeless body of a man.

Abbott raised his eyes to mine, and said, “He is dead!” We stood, staring at the body, unable to fully comprehend the scene before us.

Suddenly, our attention was diverted to the small figure in the middle of the street as it cried out, “Mon frère! Qu’ont-ils fait pour vous!”

I stepped around the body, and dropped to my knees beside the figure. I realized she was a young lady. Her face was covered with her hands, and her reddish brown hair was in disarray.

“Miss, are you hurt? Who are you?” I asked.

“I am unhurt,” she answered slowly and shakily, in a slightly accented voice. Looking up and meeting my eyes she further responded. “I am the Countess Jeannine Abrielle Cadeau d’Orleans.”

I glanced over at Abbott, wondering if he, too, had heard the girl’s surprising reply. By the amazed look on his face, I assumed he had heard her name and title.

“Lady, are you sure?” I asked stupidly, for I could not recover quickly enough to think of anything else to say.

“I know my name, if that is what you mean!” she protested.

Our companions’ footsteps echoed behind us, and Morrison and Blackwell appeared in the alleyway with us. “What in heaven’s name is going on?” cried Morrison.

Abbott gestured blankly to the body, shaking his head.

Blackwell and Morrison said nothing for a moment, shocked into silence.

Morrison recovered first, and then looked at me and the crying girl. “Who is this?” he asked me, looking from her to me.

“I am Countess Jeannine Abrielle Candeau d’Orleans,” she repeated her name to Morrison. Upon hearing her name, Morrison looked skeptical, and then thoughtful, as if he were trying to place it.

I got to my feet and offered her my hand. She gingerly took it and stood up next to me.

“Do you know this man?” asked Abbott.

The girl wiped her eyes. “Oui. My brother, Pierre. He came with me from France three years ago.”

Blackwell looked around at each of us and then at the body in the street. “We must go to the authorities immediately and report this. Do you know anything else, miss?”

At the word ‘authorities’ the Countess’s eyes lit up fearfully, and she backed away from us, waving her hands back and forth. “No, no, no! Please, don’t. You can’t!” she cried. “You must not, please, please, they will arrest me!”

Blackwell looked at Abbott, then back to me. “Why, miss, don’t tell me that you have some part in this grisly crime?”

“Oui, oui! It is all my fault! If I hadn’t insisted on coming, Pierre would be alive. Oh, mon frère!” she cried.

“Countess d’Orleans?!” cried Morrison suddenly.

She look over at him, startled at his sudden outburst.

“I recognize your name. It was in the newspapers several years ago–” He stopped and stared at her, suddenly realizing who was standing before him.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she denied nervously.

“Men, do you know who this is?” cried Morrison. “Three years ago, a French nobleman was murdered. The police never solved the crime, but she,” Morrison pointed at the Countess, whose green eyes grew wide, “was the prime suspect!”

Thanks for reading!

~ Kayla

Edward – Part 1

Today I’m offering a trip back in time. Well, all right, you won’t actually be going back in time, but you’re going to read about someone who lives in a different time. I’m posting the first part of a story set in Victorian England, which at this point (for alas, it has no title) is simply called by the main character’s first name, Edward. I originally had the idea to write this story after watching BBC’s North and South (highly recommended! It’s sooooo good). I decided that perhaps it was time for me to try my hand at a story set in the Victorian era as well. And thus Edward was born. I don’t have much written so far (only about the first chapter) because he’s been a side project to my other rough drafts. Anyway, grab your top hats and parasols, and join Edward and I for a trip back to Victorian era England!

It was a cold, damp London night, and the drizzling rain dripped off the brim of my top hat, which had until recently been my father’s, and down into my eyes. I pulled at my frock coat trying, without success, to keep out the chill. My companions and I were returning from the local theater, as was our custom to visit every Wednesday night. Despite the dreary weather, we were a merry bunch, having enjoyed that night’s entertainment and anticipated a warm drink and a lively discussion of the play.

Oscar Blackwell was the oldest of my friends and the natural leader of the four of us. He was the tallest and considered quite handsome (or so my sister once confessed), with dark hair and eyes. John Abbott was a slightly younger, slightly shorter version of Oscar, and had a fair complexion and jolly personality. He was a crack shot and enjoyed hunting, something I was never very good at nor did I really enjoy. Simon Morrison was the last member of the group, and had sandy hair and blue eyes and spectacles that were always perched on the end of his nose. Although he appeared the scholarly type, and truly, he was quite intelligent, he was not at all quiet. In fact he was very outspoken, and was channeling all his energy and opinions into the study of law. And I? I was not like any of my other companions, for I lacked Blackwell’s handsome features, Abbott’s lighthearted personality, and Morrison’s passion. With my light blonde curls, green eyes, and small stature I could easily be mistaken for one of my friends’ much younger brother. And although every Wednesday evening was spent with my three friends, I would have almost preferred to spend my evening reading, tucked away in my family’s home.

“How did you enjoy the play tonight, men?” inquired Oscar Blackwell.

“I must say I had hoped this play would have had a bit more adventure in it,” said John Abbott in front of us, starting to walk backwards to see the rest of the company.

“You always prefer a spirited performance, Abbott,” laughed Blackwell, twirling his cane. “Our dear Mr. Dalton, however, is more than happy with a slightly slower, more, shall we say, meditative story line, eh, Dalton?”

I hadn’t been following the conversation, for I was thinking about this very play and wondering what I would have done in the protagonist’s place. Now, hearing my name, I pulled myself out of my reflections. “I’m sorry, my dear fellows, my mind wasn’t on the conversation.”

Blackwell, Abbot, and Morrison laughed together. Although good-natured, their laughter still left me feeling slightly vexed. Suddenly, I started, gazing down the dark alleyway on my left. “Did you hear that?” I questioned.

“Did we hear what?” returned Morrison.

“That sound. It almost sounded like a cry for help, did it not?” I asked.

“I believe Mr. Dalton is imagining himself to be a hero,” Blackwell jested.

The others chuckled their mutual agreement. I turned red under their badinage. We had been friends a long time, and our temperaments were well-known to each other. They had informed me on more than one occasion that I spent too many hours reading and dreaming. I paused for a second, hoping that the accusation was incorrect, still listening for the sound. I finally realized that Blackwell was right, and that the sound was just my imagination, nothing more. “Perhaps you are right. I must have imagined it,” I admitted, stepping away from the mouth of the alley, as our little party continued on its way.

Suddenly, an ear-piercing scream filled the alleyway and the street we were on. I turned to my companions, each of us startled by the ghastly shriek.

Thank you for reading!

~ Kayla