The Art of Mirriam Neal

The Sunder Gate: Some Snippets (+ a side of insomnia. and a sketch.)

Here’s a fun story. About a week ago, I developed a massive headache/flu combo that’s been going around, since a lot of my friends across the state have it. It came with a lovely side effect – insomnia. Eating grain-free has really helped my sleep patterns, but this bug swept through and took all my progress and hid it in a box somewhere. (I imagine insomnia as looking something like the grim reaper, complete with cape he flings around just because he can.) It’s been getting steadily worse – at first, I was up until four, then five, and last night I didn’t get to sleep until six. I slept through to 2:45 in the afternoon.

Now that I’m quickly becoming nocturnal and life is something of a fog, I haven’t been writing quite as much as usual, which is annoying because I’ve just delved into the rewrite of my first-ever novel. It’s eight years old, and it carries my firstborn – the first character I ever truly loved, the one who set the precedent for all of my most-loved characters ever after. Some of you remember the arrogant, thunder-born Eristor and some of you don’t, but he’s very dear to my heart. When I first watched The Hobbit, I gave a small gasp when Thranduil appeared, because he was Eristor. Everything but the hair, as Eristor’s hair is black, and the hand; as Eristor is lacking his right one. I asked (read: begged and wheedled) a friend to photoshop a couple pictures of Thranduil into Eristor, and he obliged. The pictures are stunning, and when I look at them, I occasionally cry because being able to see exactly how I always envisioned my firstborn is almost surreal.

So, since I haven’t been writing as much as usual but I have over 10,000 words in a novel you haven’t even gotten a peek at, I figured I’d draw back the curtain and give you some snippets. Enjoy, and send out some prayers I can get a decent night’s (read: night’s. Not MORNING’S) sleep!

SunderGate Cover

There was something supremely peaceful in the sound of rain; a chorus of little notes, bass and treble, depending on where the raindrops landed. The window created my favorite tone, and I think this is why I decided to put my desk right up against the wall to the left of it. When I got home from work at the library, I would make a cup of black tea (two teabags, cream, and honey), turn my desk lamp on, power up my laptop, and write. I had often wished for the discipline to write everything by hand, but my impatience refused to allow more than the act of jotting down an idea here or a phrase there before I had to type it up. My mind was too fleet for handwriting.

____________

I stood up and moved from my desk chair to curl up by the arm of the sofa. “What have you been up to? Isn’t it your lunch break?” I glanced out the window at the darkness, the rain illuminated by the orange glow of the street light.

“Yep.”

“Is it a healthy lunch, full of nutrition and protein?”

“Usually. Today it’s a sandwich and a bag of potato chips.”

____________

My decision to move had been seen as unexpected and illogical by everyone but Alec. There were no prestigious colleges – not that I could have afforded one. Everyone was a stranger. My only reason was because I wanted to go there. Since I was small enough to think crayons were food and faeries really did hide in rose petals, Scotland had seemed like a magical place. It was a bed for myths and legends, of bonfires and wolves howling on the moors. I had never seen a wolf (or heard one howling, for that matter), but Scotland had not disappointed me. I felt meant to be here, and that was enough.

____________

“Oh, and by the way, there’s some guy here who asked for you.”

I blinked. “A guy?”

“Of the male persuasion.”

“Who asked for me?”

“His exact words were, ‘does the girl with the green eye work here?’”

“Oh.” I sat down on the edge of the sofa, confused. “That’s…a weird way to ask for me.”

“Tell me about it. I said no, you weren’t, but if he wanted to hit on you, he’d better not do it by addressing your condition.”

“Heterochromia,” I retorted, “is not a condition. It’s actually very popular right now in young adult novels. It’s cool.

“Whatever, trendy miss. It’s cooler when you can see out both eyes.”

She had a point. I had never been able to see well out of my green eye. I needed to wear a contact lens. My Optometrist had told me he’d never seen anything quite like it – I had no cataract, and I wasn’t near or far-sighted. I was just a little blind in one eye, for no good reason.

____________

He could be a debt collector,” I theorized, keeping my voice down. The stranger’s hands were folded in his lap and his posture was rigid. He was wearing a gray coat and the only way I could describe his face was ‘grim.’

“I think you’d have to be in debt for that to be a plausible theory. He could be Jacob Marley. A younger version.”

“That’s your idea of plausible?”

____________

I rubbed my arms for a little warmth and took a look at my surroundings. Glass bottles, carved wooden boxes and leather cases held mysterious contents. My nose still had not grown accustomed to the smell; it was like I had fallen into a cup of herbal tea.

____________

I swallowed and sought out the elder, which was not difficult. The woman in the white robs looked as if she must be nearing a hundred years, but there was an ancient beauty to her, like that of the oak tree behind her. Her eyes were clear and dark and her white hair was unbraided, falling down her back. Her hands were folded in front of her; she needed no staff or walking stick to support her.

____________

I noticed the twins, standing near the back of the crowd. Toryn’s hood was up, obscuring most of his face, but Findias had his around his neck and was watching me with intense curiosity. To the left of the crowd, standing maybe fifteen yards away and away from the rest, stood Tylir, alongside a stranger I only recognized thanks to the most embarrassing half-second of the year.

Tylir was tall, but this man was taller, as graceful as a bow with posture as straight as an arrow. His black hair hung down to the middle of his back, and – although I knew it must be the way the torchlight reflected off his eyes – he seemed to have no irises, only pupils. He was watching me with an expression that did not think much of what he saw.

____________

The better part of me did not want this role. I never asked to be the heroine, the ‘catalyst,’ in anyone’s story. I wanted to read and write about them in the safety of my Linlithgow flat, or on breaks at the library.

But somewhere deep inside me was an insignificant spark that demanded my attention, whether I wanted it or not. One that wanted more than to sit behind piles of books and cups of tea. One that wanted to do, not just dream about doing.

 ____________

Findias’s eyes grew wide. Without a word, he swung up onto the horse, still staring. “Toryn, help her on.”

“Right. Put your foot in the stirrup,” said the less-friendly twin.

I knew what a stirrup was and so I obeyed, and Findias grabbed my arm as Toryn pushed. I settled behind Findias and felt, again, like I was about to fall over the side.

“You can hold onto me, if you like,” said Findias, a laugh hidden somewhere in his voice. “I won’t break, but you might if you don’t.”

IMG_2500

Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email