As I said in a previous post, I have been trying to decide what project to use as my NaNo challenge this year. It’s my sixth year of NaNo, the first five projects are all on sale.
Hopefully, whatever I do this year will join them. Once again, I have to commit to writing 1667 words a day, every day. The fact that I’ve done it before gives me confidence. To be honest, I manage to write that amount most days anyway. Apart from the fact that they all have to be part of the same story, what could possibly go wrong?
I’ve looked at all of the possible projects that I could work on and come to a decision.
Will it be a sequel, a continuation to one of my existing stories?
Or will it be the short story that’s crying out for expansion?
Or the new idea, in a genre that I’ve never written before?
And the winner is,
The new idea. The Syk’m, a fantasy quest. It’s so new, I haven’t even got a cover concept yet.
I thought why not? I’ve never written fantasy before, lets give it a shot. If nothing else, it will stretch me and make me divert a little from the stuff I have been writing. A new challenge is always exciting.
Here, in case you missed it last time, is the start.
They were the threat of my childhood, the thing that made us all obedient. Behave, or The Syk’m will come and take you away, we were told. And it worked, we went to bed, put out our lights, stopped our shouting. Because we were young, we believed in The Syk’m, creatures who watched over us and could do unimaginable things.
Now I’m older and wiser, I know that they are everywhere in the city. Among the crowds that thronged our streets and markets, there were those who didn’t belong. The Syk’m were real, and they had a plan for us. I was starting to find out what that was, and the truth of everything connected to my existence.
The Syk’m looked as we did, at least that was the view of themselves that they let us see. Dressed like us, in robes and suits, they could have been us. Your best friend could be a Syk’m, you would never know.
I found my first Syk’m when I followed a particularly interesting girl into a side alley. My intentions were honourable, I might have been a source of annoyance, even despair, to my parents but I was never as bad as they imagined me to be. I say followed but looking back, I think it’s more likely that I was led.
That day, I was walking the market-place in Skandir, a poor suburb of the city, looking for a gift. My mother was soon to celebrate her birthday and the market was known for selling the things that she collected, hand-made ornaments and jewellery. I had shaken off my peers, they would have mocked me, called me a motherling or some other word for a man who they thought was too attached to his mother.
I was scanning the stalls when I happened to glance up, at the same time as she looked straight at me. As our eyes locked, the strength of her gaze did something in my mind. I felt myself go suddenly cold, then hot. Her face was framed by dark hair and the hood of her cloak. Some might say it was a plain face, in honesty, who knows why anyone takes a fancy to the face of another? There was a strong brow, heavy lashes perched over bright eyes, the blue colour enough to mark her out as someone special.
She was as tall as I, the long robe billowed around her as she walked, giving no clue as to the figure underneath. Her step, in the polished boots that showed between the hem of her robe and the dusty road was firm, purposeful. The tread of a warrior; or at least of someone with places to be.
As she passed, I felt her stare, the eyes seemed to say, ‘follow me and I’ll show you the secrets of the universe’. So, naturally, I did. She turned off the street into an alley between two high brick buildings and I stepped after her into the gloom.
As my eyes adjusted to the darkness, she stood in front of me. Now it looked as if she was encased in a glowing cloak of rainbow colours. It was a trick worthy of the best entertainments at Kauron’s palace. Perhaps she was a theasp, an illusioneer, or should that be illusioness?
Hearing my footsteps behind her she turned and looked back at me. I couldn’t see her expression, just a flash of bright teeth as she stepped sideways, into the wall. It accepted her, she was gone.
That was impossible. I ran to where she had been and looked at the bricks. They carried a faint glow of rainbows. Gently I reached out to touch them and watched in disbelief as my hand vanished deep into what should have been solid.
One small step was all it would take to follow her. I didn’t hesitate, had no thoughts of right or wrong. Where was I going, how would I return? It never crossed my mind.
As my face passed through the brick, instead of the inside of the building I saw a grassy plain, stretching away to the horizon. The sky above was the deepest blue. Small clouds borne on a breeze made shadows on the sward as they passed under a red-gold sun. It was late autumn in Skandir, here it was mid-summer, the air was warm and sweet.
The girl was facing me, ten yards ahead. Her hood was down, her hair thick and cut short.
I looked behind me, there was no wall but I thought I heard, briefly, the sounds of Skandir as a ripple on the breeze. Or perhaps it was just the grass rustling?
“Come on,” she said, drawing my gaze, “no time to waste.”
She shrugged her shoulders and the robe fell to the ground. Underneath, she was dressed as a warrior. A simple tunic and shorts. Muscled arms and shoulders, a flat stomach. Her torso was adorned with crossed leather straps, a collection of blades hung from a wide belt at her waist. Both arms had leather coverings from elbow to wrist. Her legs were encased in long boots, extending to mid-thigh.
But that wasn’t the strangest thing. I watched as huge wings unfolded from her back, gossamer-thin with white ribs, they extended and beat the air.
“That’s better,” she said, “they’ve been folded away too long, if only you had been easier to find.”
I stood, rooted to the spot. The journey through the wall had been enough, without this new revelation. I knew then that the Syk’m were real and that I was at their mercy.
She frowned and moved towards me, “no time for doubt, Hors Lawis,” she said, taking my wrist in a strong grip. Without thinking, I did the same, locking our arms together. “Hold tight,” she whispered.
The wings flapped, before I knew how, or could even think of which question to ask first, we were riding with the clouds.
Laid out below me was the land of the Syk’m.
I’ll be keeping you up to date with my progress, the finished product may bear little resemblance to what you’ve just read, as I have no idea where this will go yet. I just hope the voices in my head want to play on November 1st.
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