A long, slow crawl tonight through another completed — but very loose and messy — section, which managed to bring my totals up considerably:
I still have one more previously written section to edit (I miscounted earlier thanks to an 00A section), and then everything will be from scratch with my handy dandy outline!
Snippet: I’m still terribly afraid that the voice for this story isn’t quite right. Fantasy, I keep reminding myself, not “historical.” I’m never going to sound like a British native–and that’s okay! I can fine-tune the dialogue and narration later once I’m steady and sure of the voice. Here’s the first complete section — first draft only — subject to revision.
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a powerful woman with seemingly fearsome abilities is quite often burned at the stake as a witch. Lady Nocturna had regretfully come to the realization that perhaps such punishment might be justified in her case.
The intruder now gripping her throat so tightly that Lilias could neither breathe nor scream surely regarded her as no threat at all; it was she who quivered with dread, her mind a frantic whirlwind of terror.
With all the magics of Nocturna Castle racing to her defense, she certainly could burn her assailant to a smear of ashes, if only she dared use that birthrighted power. Instead, she pried at the fingers squeezing her throat and in her other hand, she clutched a silver candlestick against her skirts, waiting for the opportunity to bash in the man’s head.
I swore to never kill with magic again.
Her snuffed candle smoked on the wooden floor of the Great Hall, and the only light came from the dimmed red glow of the banked fireplace. Well after midnight, it was too late to pray the servants might hear the scuffle, and she daren’t scream for fear of waking the precious few students sleeping upstairs.
The man’s breath was hot and rapid against her face, his jaw chaffing her cheek. A blade glinted red in the banked fire’s glow and he began whispering guttural words that sliced her mind like broken glass.
Her heart pounded so hard she feared she might lose control and reach for the crashing magic thick in the cavernous room. A mage. He had to be a mage intent on stealing the Castle’s power for himself. Her stomach clenched, bile burning her throat. There was no known darker magic than that wrought by blood.
Power flows eddied like a mighty river around her legs, calling sweetly, begging to be used. She could light a raging blaze in the fireplace, wrap this murdering black mage in bonds of air he would never escape, and wrest his blade from his hand without exerting a single muscle. Salvation awaited, readily at hand, if only–
The coals glowed brighter and a tiny flame leaped with excitement. Shuddering, Lilias pushed the thought from her mind, burying it beneath a mountain of cold stone and iron chains. The charred ruin of the North Tower was a daily reminder of the dread weapon which she might wield; she couldn’t risk burning the entire castle to the ground with her sister and students trapped inside.
Something crashed against the window, black wings beating the air and claws screeching against the glass. The mage jerked her around toward the threat, his voice rising with alarm but not ceasing his chanted spell. It was only some poor befuddled bird, but she used the distraction. She clawed backward, snagging the cloth of his shirt. Soft linen tore. That was certainly no coarse peasant’s shirt.
His voice growled louder, each word slamming into her brain like a physical fist. His face was too close to hers, so she slammed the candlestick back into the man’s ribcage. The satisfying crunch confirmed she’d at least cracked a few ribs. His breath whistled out and the vise of his fingers lessened on her throat.
Whirling free of his grip, she raised the heavy silver weapon to slam into his head. Her emotions blazed high, fury and fear feeding each other.
He would have done worse than kill me; he would have stolen my life’s blood to wrought horrors I can only imagine. Strike him down. Kill him now!
The fireplace blazed to life behind her, breaking the seductive call of the magic. The man hid his face in his greatcoat and raced for the door. His shirt hung open, torn linen trailing like a white flag of surrender. She glimpsed a dark tattoo at the base of his neck. A dog’s head, she thought, but it was too dark to be sure.
The flames quieted to a soothing crackle, but she continued to tremble. Her jellied knees dumped her to the floor, and she sat shivering before the cheerful fire that should have been nothing more than banked coals while her mind tormented her.
The fire frightened her worse than the blood mage assassin.
Memories paraded through her mind: flames engulfing the tower, her rage blazing to the heavens, screams, and the scent of charred flesh. Pressing her hand to her mouth, she fought down the urge to sick up on the floor. A sound escaped her mouth. Laughter? Or relief?
Her mother had been utterly mad when she died. Lilias had only been fourteen but she still remembered the crazed sounds of laughter and horror tearing from her mother’s throat. Trembling, she forced herself to her feet. Her cold fingers trembled so badly she fumbled the candle, smearing cooling wax on the floor.
Mage madness ran in her family. The villagers whispered that her father was mad before he’d died last year, that he’d started the fire himself.
If they only knew the truth, they would seize their scythes and torches and march to the castle, a mob of hatred and fear in this enlightened age of steam power and Lord Byron’s poetry. They’d burn Nocturna Castle to the ground while shouting the word she hated above all.