Thursday, August 28, 2014

Kedar's Tower: Prologue: Draft 1

I saw her for the first time in June.
She wasn’t more than five years old, and small for her age. Propped on a high log overlooking the riverbank, she appeared even smaller.
The maid’s skin was tan and blotchy--considered cursory in her country--but I thought it was sort of becoming. She was fair-looking, with hair the color of acorns, bangs sitting slightly below her eyebrows, and sharp blue eyes that looked as if they could snap real well if they had the need. We called her Kedar. She was innocent, and I guess we all felt the need to protect her.
I leaned against a tree to watch her, feeling a cold sweat trickle down my forehead. Her purple sundress ruffled in the breeze. It was grave, seeing her face break into a grin when she spotted her fairy friends tumbling through the woods toward her. I saw what was ahead for her, the slash of a whip, the strike of a rod. If only--
But I couldn’t do anything. To discover love, she first had to discover sorrow.
I tore my gaze—and my heart—from the girl and opened my mouth. “Hey, Addie…” I called to one of the tumbling fairies heading down the path towards me.
My throat felt scratchy and rough. I massaged it, not recognizing the newly deepening--and squeaky--tones bursting from its vibrations.
Addie’s eyes brightened, and she buzzed over, dropping herself on the ground like a playful kitten in front of me. She collapsed in some attempt at a baby-kneed bow. “Your Highness.”
Her voice was squeaked, too--though, not such as mine--and two octaves high, easily giving away her young age.
I greeted Addie with a smile and nodded at the little girl on the log, now surrounded by other baby fairies who had come to play. “This is Kedar.” It wasn’t a question.
Addie nodded. Her blonde baby curls would have bounced, but they hadn’t grown long enough yet. She sprang up on her miniature toes with the kind of bubble only a baby fairy could possess. “Isn't she fun?”
I stared down at Addie, bright-eyed with excitement and equally captured by the charm of the little brown girl and nodded my solemn agreement.
“The Fairy Queen,” I began, trying to act and feel as prince-ly as possible, despite the frog in my throat, “tells me that Kedar doesn't associate with her brother's kind. Instead, she remains here, pursuing words of truth. Is this correct?”
I knew it was.
“Yes! Oh,” Addie clasped her chubby hands. Fairies were fluent in Sotk, the language of Light Country, by their second week of life… so Addie’s vocabulary didn’t surprise me.“The Queen teaches her everything—more than she teaches me!—She can grow fruit from a rock!”
I eyed her.
“Well, practically. And her vineyards are as beautiful and well-kept as the Queen Deborah’s herself! She knows how to prepare her grapes for the winery, and the tea she brews from the herbs in her garden is to die for. ”
Addie continued, “She does everything Queen Deborah tells her to do, and doesn’t even listen to her brothers—or her father, even when they threaten to beat her. She's even said something virtuous about you—in front of the whole Kingdom! Wasn’t that good of her? I know she's been dying to lay eyes on you. Should I tell her you’ve come?”
I knew how much Addie wanted to make the introductions, but I couldn’t let her.
“No,” my eyes traveled back to the river, “I’d like to introduce myself.”
I satisfied Addie’s sweet tooth with a basket of fresh figs from my Father’s Country before sending her to fetch the Queen for me. Then I took off my hat and turned to Kedar.
“G’day to you.” I stood on the bank and leaned my elbow against the far end of the log she perched on.
She grinned at me, clearly enthralled to hold the attention of someone so old—and, likely, good looking—as myself. “Hi!”
She had square baby teeth, evenly spaced.
I leaned closer. She didn’t seem as if she had much to say. Kedar only stared at me with those big, icy eyes, blinking every few seconds.
I crossed my arms over my broadening chest and stared right back.
“Stop looking at me!” she ordered, but she was giggling, so I knew I’d won her over. “Close your eyes.”
I obeyed, and no sooner had I bowed to the order than a great surf of wetness slapped my face, running down my shoulders and arms, engulfing me.
My eyes popped open, and I rolled up my breeches with a charge. The little maiden shrieked with delight, sending another wave my way.
I dipped my arms into the cool foam, and pushed the body of water, fully engulfing both perch and maiden. She tumbled back in surprise, over the log, and into the oncoming rush of water. Laughing and sputtering, Kedar submerged, pushing tangled wet hair out of her face. Her cursed skin glowed in the sunshine. “That wasn’t very polite,” she teased, grabbing her soggy hat and wringing it out.
To make up for the splash and tumble, I helped rinse the mud off her, and pulled her out of the water. “What’s your name?” It wasn’t like I didn’t know.
She squeezed a mess of brown curls and let water drip from her fingers onto the path we were standing on. It pooled under her feet. “I’m Kedar.” She crossed her arms. “My brother says it’s a boy name and that my father named me Kedar because I’m ugly like dirt.” She looked contemplative. “But I like it.”
“I like it too.” I fished around in my riding satchel and produced a towel that I draped over her shoulders.
“Who are you?” she wanted to know.
I left things vague. “A friend. Do you spend a lot of time with the fairies?”
Her face lit up, unaware that I’d averted the question. “Tons! Addie is my favorite—she’s like my sister, except, well…” she dropped her hands and sighed. “she’s a fairy, and I’m...” Kedar shrugged. “But I like Queen Deborah just as much. She always says good things to me, and she teaches me everything she knows! There’s a little baby fairy named Timothy, and he’s so cute! His mama lets me carry him around on my hip as long as I want, even though he’s almost as big as me. Timothy and I play house in my garden— Hey,” she interrupted herself, pointing to me. “I like you. You’re nice.”
Despite every effort to keep a stone face, I felt my lips dissolve into a smile. “I like you too.”
The girl cooed, diverting again. “Isn’t this lovely?” She bent down to pull a stone from the sand. The towel slid off her little back. It was flat and glittery black with a stripe of cream.
“It’s a perfect skipping rock,” I said.
Her huge eyes found mine. “Can you skip it for me please?”
I took the rock from her outstretched hand and hurled it into the water. It jumped five times.
Her head bounced up and down with each skip. When it dropped into the water for the last time, she stared intently at the opposite shoreline, as if expecting it to pop up again. When she finally seemed to conclude it wouldn’t submerge again, Kedar tumbled back into the stream to retrieve it. The rock slipped into her pocket and out of sight.
“Here,” I picked up another flat stone and handed it to her. “You try.”
her tongue stuck out in concentration and she pulled her arm back to let the stone fly. We watched together as it skipped to the other side of the bank. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight. She clapped her hands. “Did you see that? I’ve never skipped a rock so many times!”
By now, the towel I’d given her was in a rumpled pile on the dirty ground, but she was still dripping and shivering from her second plunge. She didn’t seem to mind, though, and I liked that about her.
“Kedar is an awful big name for someone as little as you. Does everyone call you Kedar?”
“Yes.”
“Can I call you Ke?”
She chewed on her bottom lip seriously, then erupted into a laugh, surprising me. “Sure, I like Ke.”

I knew Ke was special. I also knew her fate. Due to her browning skin--a threat to her people-- and the love she so openly held for the fairies and me, her father, ruler of Dark Country, was plotting to use the maid as a human sacrifice, or sell her as a concubine on her eighth birthday.
The Queen, Addie, and the rest of the fairies had been telling me about Kedar from the day she was born. But I hadn’t broken away to meet her... until I found out about how she stood up for my father and me in the King’s court, risking her blood, merely to purify our names.
I shuddered, thinking of her crushing future. And I was already in love with her.
“Do you know you have dove eyes?”
She stared at me.
I offered my hand to help her up, but she didn’t understand, and gave me a high five instead. “Really?” She got up on her own.
“Really. Doves are faithful animals. Even if they’re miles and miles apart, they’ll always return to the ones they love. I believe that even if you were miles and miles apart from the fairies, you’d do everything to return to them.”
“I would. But I’ll never be away from the fairies. I’m going to live with them until I die.”
I shrugged.
She tipped her head and pulled a leaf from a nearby tree, twirling it between her thumb and index finger, and staring at it with her dove eyes.
I popped my question when she was concentrating. “What do you think of Light Country?” I pointed the top of the mountain, semi-hidden by the forest trees. “The King and his Son? Even if you were far away, do you think you could be faithful to them, too?”
“What do you know about the King and his Son?” She dropped the leaf and crossed her arms over her chest, not fully trusting, but answered me anyway. “I love them, and I would do anything for them.”
“Have you met the King?”
“No. But I hope one day I can journey to Light Country and shake his hand. I’d like to live there, too, if Addie would come with me. I don’t like it here.”
I caught her accentuation and use of the word journey. It was obvious she was trying to live up to Addie’s vocabulary. I also caught a flash of a purple and red welt on her upper leg when she shook her dress to dry it.
“I don’t like it here, either.”
“Have you been to the Light Country?” she wanted to know.
I nodded.
She clasped her hands together. “Is it grand?”
“Extremely.”
“Could you take me there someday? Please?” She tugged at my shirt sleeve. “I’ll be good, I promise, and I won’t complain. I won’t even eat any of your food, I’ll just starve all the way up the mountain.” She was completely serious. “Oh, please would you?”
“But you can’t be willing to follow me. A stranger?”
She looked me over from head to foot, seriously considering the prospect, and finally gave me her answer. “Are you friends with Addie?”
“Yes,” I said.
“Any friend of Addie’s is a friend of mine.”
I tried to hold back my sheepish grinning.
“Why are you smiling like that? Will you take me, please?” She tugged again. “I’ll get my things! I’ll follow you--right now!”
“How about this.” I got down on my knees so that I could look straight into her eyes, and I took one of her little brown hands. “Have the fairies given you a vineyard all of your own to take care of, Ke?”
Sotkyr was rich, vineyard land, and every worthy citizen kept a vineyard, no matter how young. The Country you chose to harbor your piece of farmland determined your loyalty. As long as she continued working in Safe Country, the middle ground occupied by the fairies, she’d be alright.
Kedar nodded, in answer to my question, her wet hair drying in a plaster on her forehead.
My eyes and heart crinkled. “I’ll tell you what. If you promise to take care of your vineyards and keep them clean and healthy, and if you promise to always be faithful, and never work for your brother’s vineyards, I will come back for you one day… and I will personally journey with you to the Light Country.” I added, “And you can eat as much of my food as you want.”
Her eyes popped gloriously. “Oh, I promise! I promise! I’ll go take care of my vineyards right now, I—”
She started to run off, tripping over the towel, her bare feet kicking up sand behind her. But Addie strode up to us just then and stopped her.
“Silly girl,” she said, “Why are you running from the Prince?”
“The Prince? What Prince? The only person here is him—” Kedar pointed, her feet running in place, itching to take care of the vineyards.
“He’s the Prince, you goose.”
I gave another sheepish grin. She took a step back. The world stopped.
“Are you really the Prince? And you didn’t tell me?” she demanded.
I scratched the back of my head. “Yeah.”
Addie was staring looking from one to the other.
Kedar appeared angry, then sentimental, then confused, her face twisting crossly from one emotion to the other.
I knew she had to leave. Before allowing her to burst into some form of emotion neither she nor I knew she possessed, I shooed her away. “Go,” I said, giving her a command, and morphing into the high-standing chap most knew me as. “Have fun in your vineyards. Desire cleanliness, Kedar. Desire the good things. Don’t follow the path your brothers have chosen for you. Labor well in the vineyards you’ve been gifted with here in the Safe Country. Be diligent until we meet again. I’ll come back for you, just like I promised.”
And though one day you’ll be so broken and dirty that you won’t remember yourself, I wanted to add, I’ll love you. And I’ll keep you safe. I promise.

4 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing this excerpt! It is well-written, and the characters are realistically portrayed as well. I thought the little things Kedar did perfectly capture her character. Excellent job showing why Kedar is lovable, without just saying she is. I also sense a metaphor in the makes ;) Can't wait to read the whole story!

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    1. Thanks, Isaac! I can't wait until the whole story is ready to read! Little Kedar is so cute. It's kinda sad when she grows up...but not really. :P She's pretty fun. Metaphors...ooh, don't you love them? Thanks for the comment!

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  2. This is such a wonderfully written excerpt; thanks for sharing it! Even though it's longer than most excerpts that I've read on other blogs, it pulled me right in, and I'd love to read more. It sounds like the type of story that I would read, and I love the baby fairies concept. It's also great that I'm already seeing some allegorical references to the Bible.

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    1. Thanks so much, Ana! Yeah, it is a pretty long excerpt. I have a tendency to post most things that are too long...but...I just pray it's entertaining enough. :) Isn't Addie cute? I'm kind of a fan of the baby fairy thing too. I want one.
      Yep, it's definitely an allegory! There's much more of that to come in this story.
      Thanks for your comment!

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