Yesterday was the 1 month birthday of More Than I’ve Been! It seems weird to think I’ve been blogging for a month; in some ways it seems longer, but in others that sounds really short. It’s already my 5th Throwback Thursday post, so in celebration I present…
Wish Upon A Star!
Can you tell I like stars? I don’t know why I picked this one. No particular reason, if you were hoping for deep meaning. I just couldn’t get this story out of my head last night and decided to feature it today. It was a head story I wrote in May of 2013, and I was branching out into radical plot innovations, like magical talismans and semi-creepy destiny-type creations like the Blood Tangle (don’t worry, it’s all unseen 🙂 ). And it all started with a simple inspiration.
What would it be like if you had no emotions? Riley got to find out. She is 15 when the story takes place, but she has never had any feelings in her life. She has never known anger, but she has never known joy. Morals consist of what she was taught was right. Empathy is a joke, if she only understood humor. Fear and friendship are both alien to her. On this particular continent where our story takes place, there are two kingdoms, the kingdom of the Kadorians (ka-DOHR-ee-enz) and that of the Ithine (ith-EEN). Riley doesn’t know which kingdom she comes from, but she doesn’t care.
She is an Errand Rider for Kador, posted at the last outpost. The Errand Riders’ job is to carry messages from army units to higher command, or carrying and delivering royal missives to their recipients, or to carry urgent messages in general to the King or whoever in command must receive them. Sticking strictly to their route, they pass each message or letter along to the next Errand Rider like the Pony Express (though they allow more time for the passing). As Errand Rider at the last outpost on the border of Ithine, Riley’s job is to take messages across the border to the Castle of Ithine, a few miles in, and deliver it there to be dispersed to wherever it is to go, or passing on messages sent from the Ithine. Since it would only be urgent matters that must cross the border, Riley is never very busy, which is exactly the way the Kadorian King likes it. He distrusts her because of her lack of emotions and suspects her of more sinister motives and possibly sorcery.
One night, Riley receives an urgent message that was passed all the way from Castle Kador – a satchel containing the most prized possession of the Kadorians: the Crystal, a magical stone that shows those who look in it things past, present, and future, that has something to do with the viewer. She is told to take it to the King of the Ithine and give him the message, “look, and see the need we have for you. If you doubt our words, have faith in the Crystal; it lies to no man”. She carries it to the Castle, only to find out from the guards there that the King is off fighting bandits on the far border. Without hesitating, she continues on to the Ithine army’s camp and delivers the Crystal to the King. He looks, sees something that he finds alarming, and gives Riley back the Crystal, telling her return to her King and tell him that he would make arrangements to come with as many men as he could spare as soon as time allowed.
Back in Kador, Riley is set upon by ruffians, and she and her horse turn off the path toward the sea to escape. She reaches the beach, having thrown the unsavory men, and stops to let her horse rest. All of a sudden, a figure comes out from the trees behind her and addresses her. He introduces himself as Rumor Freelancer. As he speaks, something pulls at her senses that she can’t identify, a strange feeling like a hook in her gut being tugged, though less painful. She recognizes his name from vague whispers in villages of a Freelancer, a loner who fends for themselves and might be spy or fighter or anything else but is in service to no one, who was rather a hero of the people. He seldom appeared to anyone if he could help it but still helped those in trouble. He tells her that he has a feeling about her, and if she would mind if he asked her some questions. She agrees, as long as he is willing to do it on the go.
They ride together for a while, but then Rumor suddenly has to leave because he finds out (via the Star Path; long story I won’t cover here. Just know you can tell when a person is in trouble because of the stars) that a friend is in trouble. Reaching an old ruined fortress not far from Castle Kador, she decides to look in the Crystal. A long time ago, the Crystal was open for all to come and look in, but then a greedy King locked it deep in the vaults for royal use only. But Riley decides that since she had received no orders to not look in the Crystal, and it was rightfully (complicated laws – I really get into those, but I won’t go into them now) free to all people, she has every right to use it. While looking in the Crystal, she has her emotions perfectly intact.
She sees a woman performing dark rituals over a baby, and then, when the child is still a very young boy, abandoning him in the woods. The same woman, performing rituals on a second baby, the second one being left in the snow when only a few months old, and the same little boy, older now and clearly having spent the intervening time fending for himself, finding the baby and carrying it to the doorstep of a cottage and leaving it there – the cottage Riley grew up in, raised by an old woman. The woman was going it on a third baby, and Riley dreaded what would come. But instead of the child being abandoned, the witch raised her hands in triumph over a young boy. “Two of my children have failed me, but you, my son, are the crown of my work and the pride of your mother.”
She sees more but little she understands; Castle Kador in an earthquake, the Castle in ruins, and the Crystal on a pedestal. She was unsure what was past and what was future, but she knew the first part was clearly her own story. So she had two brothers? Riley changes her plans to take the Crystal back to Castle Kador, since if it really was to suffer an earthquake that would leave it in ruins the Crystal might well become irretrievable. So she hides it in the ruined fortress and sets off for the Castle, but is apprehended by the Herots, the servants of a Sorcerer who has proved slippery to locate. She is captured and knocked out, and when she wakes up, she finds herself in the power of the witch who she saw in the Crystal and who is apparently bent on fixing whatever she deemed broken in her first attempt on Riley. Riley’s first sensation is one of fear, which startles her because she has never felt fear before. The witch sees she awake and tells her, when Riley asks, that she had to undo her old “mind walls” that blocked off Riley’s emotions so that she could put in new ones, that only allowed for feelings like anger and hatred to reach the mind. Riley breaks free and escapes the witch’s power, and in her frantic run to flee the witch encounters Rumor again. This time she feels the pull more strongly, and recognizes it from stories as the Blood Tangle (quick note: the Blood Tangle is an inborn sense in a person that recognizes kindred blood and gives a draw to the other person. The nearer the person is related to you, the stronger the pull). She also recognizes Rumor as the first little boy she saw in the Crystal. Rumor then admits that the reason he had wanted to “ask her some questions” was because he “had a feeling about her”, by which he meant the Blood Tangle, and he wanted to confirm it and see if she felt it too.
Hiding in a secret hideout of Rumor’s, he tells her the information he’s discovered so far. Their other brother, Raman, the witch’s third son is the Sorcerer, and his Herots were poised to take Castle Kador. The Sorcerer plans to rule the lands of the Kadorians and the Ithine. The two part ways and Riley goes to the Ithine to urge for swift and full aid and to explain the latest news to the King, and Rumor goes to warn the Kadorian King of the danger. He finds the Castle in the hands of the Sorcerer and the people taking refuge in an underground stone cavern, and they tell him that the Castle was taken after a short battle, but the witch was, at least, killed. Riley learns from the Prince, left in charge of Ithine while the King wars, that they are barraged from all sides by Herots and they can barely spare a man. But he is under no instructions to remain, so he and his guard of twenty men go to help.
Long story short (ha!), Riley and Rumor and the Ithine approach Castle Kador. They sneak in and Riely and Rumor attack the Sorcerer in his room while the Ithine chase down the Herots in the Castle. After a fierce struggle, he uses his sorcerous powers to shake the earth and bring the Castle down. Riley realizes just in time that this is what the Crystal had showed her and shouts a warning into the halls of the Castle. She and Rumor escape with the Ithine and the wreckage of Castle Kador buries the Sorcerer. The Crystal is retrieved from the ruined fortress and made free to the people once more, who were now able to come out of hiding. The Herots were hunted down and finished off, and the two kingdoms were always friends. And they all lived happily ever after.
Okay, I took a long time with that one. Now maybe I can sleep tonight instead of being mentally bludgeoned by this. 😀 I feel so relieved. I didn’t get to share much of the journey of Riley learning to handle emotions or the awkward situations it got her into (“I have a question; I have this feeling but I don’t know what it is, could you identify it for me? It’s like being all tingly inside and almost afraid, but different, and it’s like having an itch inside that you can’t scratch. Do you know what it is?” “Umm… This is awkward. I guess you’re feeling nervous, maybe?”), but that is too hard to convey in a summary. ;P Plus, I think I’ve bored you long enough. 🙂 Hopefully I’ll be back here soon with a post on bandits. See you then!