So this is my first week participating in Snippet Sunday, where writers share bite-sized chunks of whatever they’ve got on the go – a work in progress, something from the drawer or something almost ready to send out into the world.
Tonight I’m sharing a short excerpt from the story I’m working on at the moment, The River’s Dark, a YA fantasy novel. This is currently a first draft. (Which is one step forward from the zero draft I wrote previously!)
Some quick background on my selection:
Lyria and her younger brother Bray are Varin. They live on the Metkara River in a tight-knit community led by an Essena, an older woman who is greatly respected. All Varin, on reaching adulthood, go through a rigorous training before having their names written, after which they are available to be contracted. Varin do things that other people, non-Varin, can’t or won’t – they lie, steal, kill if needed, but strictly to the terms of their contract and without their actions being tarnished by strong desire or emotional attachments. Bray has an illness which Lyria fears will prevent him from completing his training, and which she has decided to try to hide from Essena.
‘Essena was looking for you,’ Fynn, their cousin, called to them before being tackled by a larger boy who threw himself at Fynn’s feet in an attempt to unsettle him. Fynn dropped and shifted his weight, making a motion with his arms that Lyria recognised as a complex throw, and a moment later the larger boy was on his back, on the edge of the raft, a fingers-breadth from the water. Fynn raised his arms and made fists of victory, to the cheers of the other boys.
For a moment Lyria felt an ache. Bray should be out there with them. His life should be no more than a play-wrestle, with the worst that could happen a sudden dip in the cold. She looked back to him, and saw the strain beginning to show on his face.
‘Can I help?’ she asked quietly, and he shook his head. She recognised that expression. Stubborn as a carp, her brother.
By the time they reached the outer vessels that marked the edge of the village, she could see he was straining, could hear him jagging on every breath, like he couldn’t get enough air.
She bit her lip. Essena would blame her, Lyria knew. She always did. Like Lyria could stop her brother from doing exactly whatever he chose.
‘I’ll make you some tea,’ she said, ‘I’ve got some Fairbane leaves left. We don’t have to tell anyone.’
Bray nodded but didn’t say anything, and Lyria’s heart sank.
As much as his constant chatter drove her crazy, when her brother stopped talking it was always a bad sign.
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