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Kiara

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Kiara was my November 2010 novel – and the first time I won Nanowrimo! It was also my attempt to write something that was interesting. I began to feel that my stories did not contain enough adventure, so Kiara was my attempt at an epic. Unfortunately, although I denied this for a while, it just ended up as a romance. Although with editing, hopefully the adventure will come out more. 🙂 When Nanowrimo ended, I had over 50,000 words and was more than 2/3rds through the story. I set it aside because it needs a lot of work, and it is now designated as the story I am currently editing. That is, whenever I do edit and write. Which is…. never. But hopefully someday I will get this story complete and in a good enough state to offer for friends to read. 🙂 Til then, I just have some neat scenes I can pull from it to make me sound like a writer.

Excuse the poorly written synopsis – I lost the one I wrote earlier and I’m terrible at writing these things. 😛

Synopsis:

Kiara is a young woman who lives with her grandfather on the Shodjur Steepes, and longs for more than the flat hills and life of a sheep herder. When the opportunity comes to travel to the great city of Hulan with a renowned hero, who united and saved their country many years ago, Kiara is wild with excitement. Finally, she gets to see the world! Two grave news-bearers, a sudden ambush, and a powerful khan with cruel intentions will turn her adventure into a dangerous and long journey that will demand courage, with everything she loves at stake.

Prologue:

Do not scoff at my words as I am yet young – and though I have learned much about the world in these past months, I still know very little. But I think to each of us, at a moment in our life, there comes a call to something greater than ourselves. Something greater than the ordinary life we’ve been living. To some people, the call comes in the way of a choice. To me it came in the way of a yearning, a tug on my heart that could not go unanswered. It would take me far from my family, my home, and everything that had made up my existence.  It would yank me so hard and fast I fell out of myself, and did not know who I was anymore.

I had wanted an adventure. But sometimes, when you are granted what you had pleaded for, you find you want to go back to the earlier days. And you can’t. I couldn’t. My childhood days were gone, and suddenly I was called on to be more than a woman.

Every trial I faced was worth it, however, because in the end, I gained more than I lost. So very much more.

This is my story of myself, a young woman who learned to stand with trembling knees. And who saved her country with one desperately shot arrow.

Excerpt:

Glancing at Byrn, I slow ever so slightly until I am behind him and among other soldiers. The girl follows me like a baby lamb following its ewe. Bending down, I lift her onto my shoulders in one quick swoop, and hug her ankles with my hands. Her arms circle my neck, warm and skinny and trusting. The soldiers give me dark looks, but the Khan must have made it clear no one was to touch me, because they say nothing.

“Hello,” I whisper to the girl.

“Hello,” she whispers back. Her voice is as breathy as a bird tuning its voice in the morning.

“Were your feet hurting? The soldiers are walking very fast.”

I can feel her shake her head, her dark curls brushing against my neck. “I could have walked much further,” she says stoutly, then hesitates. “Although… my feet did hurt a little. Thank you.”

“My name’s Kiara, what’s yours?”

“I’m Neti, and I know who you are.”

I’m caught off guard. “You do?” She must have been listening to Byrn talking, and caught my name.

“Ay. There was a man, calling your name like an animal gone wild. I didn’t know he was calling for you, though, until that soldier that carried you on his horse named you to the leader.”

“What man – that was calling for me? When?”

Her body starts shaking and can’t stop. “In the battle.”

I can do nothing but rub my thumbs up and down her ankles soothingly, until she has calmed some.

“In the battle,” she repeats, voice shaking. “When people were running, screaming through the streets. I was running to the weaver’s house, in the middle of the city – that’s where the Council told the children to go if we were ever attacked. There were so many people, though, that I was afraid of falling over and being trampled. I was stopping in a doorway to rest, and a man came charging through the streets yelling your name. He tried to go out the gates, but the soldiers wouldn’t let him.”

“Why was he calling my name?” My heart is thumping faster than the soldiers’ boots around us.

Neti shrugs. “We could all see you on the hill on that soldier’s horse.” She nods at Byrn in front of us, who is preoccupied with leading his tired horse over the rocks and has become oblivious to me. “Before he blew the horn, your voice carried clear down the valley.”

“Tomas?” I whisper. “Could he have heard me?”

“You should have seen his wildness!” Engrossed in her story the girl is no longer shaking. “Who is he? A brother? Your husband?”

The tips of my ears redden. “I have no brother or husband.” I pause. “Neti, are they all… the city of Hulan, all of the people, are they still alive? How were you captured?”

Her thin arms begin trembling again and she can’t speak for a while. “They broke down the gate, and all of us girls were hiding in the barracks. They killed the soldiers watching over us, but rounded us all up like a herd of goats.” A hint of pride steals into her voice. “The Negasi overpowered our city for a moment, but we were stronger and they had to retreat because too many of their men were dying. But when they retreated they took us, and no one could stop them – there weren’t enough soldiers.”

Neti buries her face in my shirt and is still for a long moment. I can feel an ache starting in my arms from holding her, but I just hug her legs against my waist and force my weary legs up and down, up and down, keeping with the army’s relentless march.

Finally she lifts her head again. “Why did they bring us with them? Are they going to kill us?”

The same questions have been running through my mind, but I can find no answers. “I don’t know, Neti. But they must want to keep us alive, at least for a while longer, otherwise they wouldn’t risk slowing down their escape with so many young girls.” I try to make my voice soothing, like Grand-da’s always was when I twisted my ankle, or woke from a nightmare. “And no matter what happens, Neti, I’m here, and I’m going to do my best to watch over you and the other girls. The soldiers’ won’t lay a hand on you or hurt you, not if I can help it.”

I can feel Neti relax, like an animal calming. She is so frail and light, like a wisp of the wind, calmed for a moment and resting on my back. Anger twists in my stomach against the foul men that make her tremble so from fear.

“Neti,” I whisper urgently, and she lifts her head slightly. “So the city of Hulan – it’s not completely destroyed. Are some people still alive?”

I feel her head nodding and, like someone has taken a heavy pack off my shoulders, our situation suddenly feels much better. Hope stirs within my chest like a hibernating animal waking with the spring.

“I don’t know how many of our soldiers died.” She pauses. “A lot. There was a lot of blood. A lot of bodies in the street. But a many soldiers were still alive when the Negasi took us away.”

“The man calling my name…” I hesitate. “Is he still alive?”

She shakes her head and whispers, “I don’t know. But if he is, he might just run without stopping to the Negasi city, to set us free.” There’s a smile in her voice. “You should have seen how desperate he was, to be let outside the city when he saw you on the hill.”

I can feel a dumb smile curving my lips up. Tomas was frantic. He was concerned about me – he heard me calling for him and tried to come save me.

Maybe there are enough men left in Hulan that they’ll come after us, to set us free. Do they even know that we’re still alive? That the Khan has not slaughtered us and left us for dead?

We are drawing closer to the lake, giving me the queer feeling that we’re shrinking instead of it’s getting bigger. The trail we are following dips low to border the lake’s shore, so that a high rock wall rises on one side and a rough cliff drops down to the water on the other.

The men come to a near halt, as the path narrows to admit only two horses riding abreast, so that we are a long line strung out along the lake. I wonder if we can be seen from the other side, a mass of armored men and barefoot children. As we’re waiting for the army to squeeze through along the precipice above the lake, Byrn turns and sees me holding little Neti, and grins.

“Became a horse for one of your own kind, eh? Are you people so weak you can’t walk on your own?”

“She’s only a girl,” I hiss back, furious. “And she’s barefoot, cold, and starving because your Khan’s army snatched her from her home. Yet you expect her to keep to this grueling pace?”

“If one of our soldiers can’t keep up, we live him behind to die,” Byrn answers. We begin to move along the lake, its cold waters slapping against the rock below us. “And so the weak fall aside, while only the strong survive. That’s why our army is strong.”

Neti is silent and curled against me, her body warming mine. I hug her to myself and feel her heart beating fast.

“The strong and the cruel,” I shoot back. Why did I ever think this man was handsome, or kind? He’s the ugliest, most malicious man I’ve ever known!

Byrn just grins. There’s a girl plodding beside us, her eyes glazed over with fatigue. Her bare, bleeding feet drag on the ground and she just avoids falling and getting trampled by the soldiers around her.

Byrn grabs the collar of her red deel and yanks her near the edge, making her eyes fly wide open in terror. I stifle a yelp and control my instinct to jump to help the girl, conscious of Neti on my back. There are angry yells as the army jostles to a stop behind us.

“Let go of her, Byrn,” I say through clenched teeth, but he’s clearly enjoying my anger.

“Now this rat is one of the weak,” he says, giving her a shake and drawing a whimper from her mouth. “Instead of prodding her along until she inevitably drops of exhaustion, we could save the time she’ll waste and just throw her over the edge now.” He shakes her so her feet dangle over the edge and she screeches, clawing at his arm and scrambling with her feet for a foothold.

I tap Neti’s ankles and let her slip down, so she lands on her feet behind me. I take a step closer to Byrn.

“Put. Her. Down.”

His eyes don’t leave mine as he grins and lets go.

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