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Today's story is one of the many shorts that offers some insight into the backstory of the fantasy series that I'm currently working on. In fact, it's a kind of world building story, in the sense that it (once it's as finished as it can be) will offer a glimpse into a major aspect or two of my created world.
To date the process of writing this series has been drafting it book by book (as a "discovery" writer) to figure out how the world works. However, after taking a fair bit of time off from writing this series during my MA, I've gotten to the point where the discoveries made by writing the larger books need to be refined through shorter stories. These shorter stories will also, ideally help me to see how these aspects of the world I'm creating can feed back into the five books of the series.
This story was written based on a prompt at the local writing group, and just evolved from it. The prompt was to write a story in which each paragraph starts with a colour. It's still a draft of sorts, but much of what the story is is already here.
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Blue bricks are a rare sight but still seen. The walls around the island city of Shev have them near their bottom, though other sailors said they were just turned that colour by the sea.
Ermina believed instead what some of the Shevites themselves told her. That the blue bricks around the bottom of their city's wall were made of the purest stone found in all the caves that wended through the cliffs over which the city sat. Caves where the more superstitious among them said they would never dare to tread. But even from her place at the top of every ship she ever sailed in, Ermina had never seen anything beneath the city's walls but breaking waves. Part of her wondered about the stories she had heard in the city's inns where the crews she had been with stayed. She believed what she would about the bricks, despite the evidence of her eyes, but the stories were always such a deep red.
She knew that red stories were not necessarily better than any other, but she loved them the most. They almost never moved at a slug's pace. Since she was a child the red stories always moved faster than gulls diving for fish, and their heroes and villains always came up from the plunge with their prey.
Ermina watched such gulls now. They looped and glided, all immaculate white tipped with grey, yellow and orange. Not the kind found around lakes but the sort that would give dull old hawks fair competition - the sort found by the sea, flying between white sails, white masts. She wondered why the place where she stood, her arms on its railing, was even called a "crow's nest." She'd never seen any crows flying out at sea, or even heard stories of such things.
The gulls's cries drowned the waves' crashing against the ship's side. The ship's sides that were still the colour of the meadow honey they made on the Kael Isles, despite recent layers of pitch. While the familiar sound of someone climbing rung over rung snuck in beneath that of the gulls she imagined herself back on those Isles.
“We’ve only just reached the green water and already this one is off beyond the Crumbs.”
Ermina stirred. “Oh, Cyril. There’s not as much to see out there as you and yours’d like to." She didn't bother to turn or straighten from her place at the nest's edge. "What’s got you up here?”
Cyril looked back down the way he had come. Beneath him the ship’s sides rose and fell. “Just to remind myself that even green has its limits.”
“Your maps'd tell you that just as easy.” She turned back to the water. “What’s the real reason?”
"We are bound for Shev. I thought you should know."
Ermina hunched her shoulders. "I already know. I'll get another look at those blue bricks, and hear some more stories about the creatures or gods or demons that gave them."
"And?" Cyril fingered a loose thread in his sleeve.
Ermina said nothing. Why does he press me on this? "And I'll be sure to shout down real loud when I see it all."
Ermina heard Cyril's leather jerkin creak before she heard any of his footsteps back to the ladder. She refused to look back, though she knew that he would linger before heading down. When she finally straightened and turned, she could hear him back down on the deck, giving commands and sending orders. She tried to think of the best red story from past voyages to Shev, but could only fear that with Cyril along the only one to be told would include them both.
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Check back here on Friday for Part Three of Shocktober, a peek into the perils of Silent House. For mid-week stuff, check out Tongues in Jars on Tuesday (Latin) and Thursday (Old English).
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