I’ve been up to my elbows lately, learning how to balance writing + art. I’ve always had a kind of mental block when it comes to doing both – apparently, I can only handle so much creativity at once and have to pick which area through which to channel it. Fortunately, I think it ‘clicked’ the day before yesterday – for the first time, I both wrote a chapter and drew a commission within the span of twelve hours. Now I think I can get back into the swing of blogging (although I never really stopped; I’m just busy writing for The Fangirl Initiative twice a week as well). Still, as I surpassed 50,000 words in Kenna (I usually reach 50,000 words much quicker, but I am required to put an extra amount of thought into this particular novel, resulting in a more ‘slow and steady’ process) I decided to celebrate with snippets!
Surprise surprise, right?
Kenna unlatched the fence and pushed it open, singing a soft battle-song. She knew it had a history of blood and violence, but it had been reshaped, used as a lullaby to soothe her when she was small, and it seemed to work just fine on the goats.
She was not young, but she was commanding, with sharp features that spoke of a dangerous beauty not yet entirely stolen by age. “You,” she said, with a thick, winding accent prominent in just one word. “Girl. What name have you?”
The woman did not look impressed. “A boring name. Will give you something better.”
“My name is my name,” Kenna repeated. “Even if you give me another, it will be a lie.”
There were no guards, but no guards were needed – crow’s cages were inescapable from the inside; a contraption of steel bars and no way for anyone inside to reach anything that would help them pick a lock.
One of the men inside was curled up against the far side, his knees up to his chin. His eyes were closed, his face half-obscured. He was so covered in mud that he was almost featureless. The other man wore some kind of leather armor, and had taken advantage of the holes in the cage – one leg hung out the bottom, one arm was hooked out the side. His head leaned against the wall of the cage, and his eyes were closed. He looked as peaceful as it was possible for someone in a crow’s cage, awaiting starvation and the elements, to look.
“I promised my mother I would die in battle or not at all.”
Kenna was well aware that she had lived a sheltered life, raised away from the public and its customs and behaviors, and she knew that this man most likely expected her to free him in exchange for his help. She was surprised when, instead of asking again, he only leaned his head back against the bars and closed his eyes, as if settling in for a nap.
“You’d better hurry,” he murmured, his eyes still shut.
Kenna knew her time was almost gone. “What did you do?” she blurted.
He opened his eyes a little. “What?”
“Why are you being punished?”
Again, he smiled. He did that a lot for a dying person, she noticed. “I can tell you that the punishment is unequal to the offense.”
He was strange-looking; more like a caricature of a person than a real one. It was as if his face had been removed and replaced with someone’s idea of what a face should look like, resulting in something that was not exactly unattractive, but looked neither male nor female. He held a black fan in one hand, and tapped it against his arm as he looked at her.
“I don’t know. A man in a crow’s cage,” said Kenna, glancing at the silent girl. She did not look at all related to the strange doll-man, yet he had called her his child. It was difficult to tell the man – Mereen’s – age, but was he old enough to have a child this old? “He was Eastern.”
“A kinsman!” said Mereen, looking pleased.
“In a crow’s cage,” Kenna repeated pointedly.
Mereen waved his fan dismissively. “If it’s who I assume it is, there is no need to worry. Was he asleep?”
“He was before I spoke with him. And after, again,” said Kenna.
The man nodded his head and brushed a long strand of silken hair back behind his ear. “It was Wol Shina, then.”
“Wol Shina,” Kenna repeated, the name rolling off her tongue like a wave. Wol Shin-a. “He was a strange person.”
“Yes,” agreed Mereen.
She sat down on the floor with her back against the wall, and watched the small flame flicker inside the glass lamp. “Elah,” she whispered, “please let Einar be well. And Ingimar, and Farr, and Fagel.” She blew out a breath, and watched the flame dance as the air filtered through the open top of the lamp. “Do what you wish with the wizard.”
“Now,” he said, adjusting his flowing robes and tossing his hair back over his shoulders, “you may ask your questions. Shall we start with the last one you asked?”
Kenna felt just embarrassed enough that she averted her eyes and instead focused on the worn wood of the table under her elbows. “Well, I do want to know about your face.”
He absentmindedly traced the curve of his own cheek with a finger. He managed to look thoughtful, almost sad, in spite of his smile. “Is something wrong with it?”