Monday, March 08, 2010

Opening to the new novel

(Just started this, and it isn't even titled yet. All names subject to change... and edited to fix a gender problem)

Crossing the Alanius River, the last real obstacle between Neelin and the human's capital city, turned out to be a fiasco that bordered on a disaster. Parklyn pointed out the problem, saying nothing at all as she waved a hand toward the sign by the ferry that had started loading.

Humans only.

If he hadn't already traveled well over five hundred miles at the request of the human king, he might have just turned around and headed back home. Nothing a human had to say to him could be worth this much trouble and annoyance.

"Hey, you. No Feykin here," the ferryman said, as though they'd come closer. It made everyone turn in their direction, of course -- a good many unhappy faces to find fey anywhere near. "You ride with the animals. Down there."

He pointed down river to where someone was fighting a half dozen sheep onto a flat-bed barge. Neelin looked back at Parklyn, his personal guard, and didn't dare say anything at all. Grey and Lith said nothing at all as they all turned and walked down the muddy path, stinking of sheep, horses and cattle.

"He can't possibly have anything this important to say," Parklyn finally mumbled, walking close by. Her eyes had narrowed and her hand rested very, very close to the dagger at her side.

"We've come this far," Neelin replied, but his voice didn't sound any happier.

"And we can have a nice journey back home. Maybe raze a couple human villages and wake up a few dragons along the way," she said with a snort. But she pushed ahead and started helping to get the recalcitrant sheep aboard the barge. The old man who ran it looked half blind. Maybe he didn't even know he had feykin on the rotting bit of wood and rope.

Crossing the river turned out to be a fiasco that bordered on disaster. The other ferry had gone nearly all the way across before they even had the last of the sheep aboard. And the sheep didn't want to go across the river on the floating pile of logs. Wise sheep. The young shepherd, who glared at the feykin and looked ready to leap into the river if they came too near, huddled at the far edge, one leg already in the water. The half-dozen sheep, left without someone to keep them in line, started milling about, knocking over a crate with chickens, moving far too close to the edge of the barge -- all of them at once --

They started to tip.

The shepherd slipped, flailing as he started to go over. Two sheep landed in the water. The chickens were about to follow and probably all they feykin as well. The old man shouted and leapt up and down, as though that would help.

And somewhere, over on the human ferry, he heard the sound of laughter.

Damned if he was going to let the humans laugh at him, the animals, and the shepherd who was likely going to drown if they didn't do something.

He heard the whisper of his Uncle's voice in that moment: Don't do anything that is going to cause the feykin trouble, Neel. Don't use magic at all where they're around. Be wise."

Wisdom said he should fall in the river, let the animals and the people drown, never mind the chickens trapped in the cage.

"Neel --" Parklyn said, her voice rising in worry. She caught his arm, and he wasn't going to go over unless the entire barge did. But the shepherd lost his grip and the sheep were already starting to go under --

"Not going to let it happen," Neel said, pulling free from her. She gave a hiss of anger, but when he brought up his hand, she did as well.

There were shouts now from the other ferry. Sounds of surprise and worry, but not about the magic. Not yet. The shepherd had gone under and didn't come back up. Apparently they all thought the joke had gone far enough.

Neelin did. He pulled away from Parklyn and went to the edge of the barge -- and leapt into the water.

It was the only way he could find the boy. Down into the cold, dirty water -- one of the damned sheep kicked him in the head -- and not a moment too soon. The boy was already lifeless, heading downstream --

Neelin grabbed him with a rope of magic -- it probably glowed very prettily through the water -- and grabbed the boy. He yanked him closer, fed him magic and tried not to drown himself, all at the same time. Not an easy task. The damned sheep were still there and another knocked right into the back of his head.

He surfaced, pulling the boy up with him.

"Get -- get these damned sheep out of the water before they kill me!" he shouted.

That brought laughter from Parklyn, at least. Lith and Grey were pulling he sheep in, praise the gods. And the boy was breathing -- he could feel that with his arm wrapped around his chest, trying to pull him back to the barge that was still moving across the river.

"Got him," Parklyn said, coming close enough to the edge to grab the boy and pull him up. The sheep were all there, along with the chickens. Lith kept the animals in the middle of the barge where they belonged and the old man was moving as fast as he could to get them across the river.

Neelin pulled himself up out of the water. He unexpectedly heard shouts of approval from the ferry that had nearly reached the other side of the river. Well, not all bad, then, though he felt half ill.

"Alright, Prince Neelin?" Grey asked, kneeling beside him and offering his flask of ale.

"I've had better baths," he said with a sigh. He sipped the ale with a nod of thanks and handed it back. They were, finally, pulling up on the far bank.

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