In April of last year I spent the entire month flashing around the blogospere in something I lovingly called: the blogstreak. I wrote 30 flash fiction pieces for 30 blogs and let them pick the genre. It stretched my writing muscles, I can tell you.
Well, you know me by now. I’m all about character. (OK, so sometimes I DO read the odd escapist bit of fiction for the pure story of it. The Sookie Stackhouse series comes to mind, and then I realize that it’s characters that pull me back time and again in that one too: that Eric. Yum. LOVE that character–OK. I’m digressing again)
So to get back to the point, one of those little pieces I wrote during the blogstreak lodged in my writer’s teeth so to speak like a bit of popcorn kernel. Or rather: the character did. I had no idea what her name was, but she planted herself in my consciousness so solidly I am now writing out her full story–which I THOUGHT would be a novella, but I now fear will be a novel AND: I’m realizing it just might be a series.
Water Witch is coming along nicely. I even created a cover to propel me visually forward.
As a novella, I believe it’ll be ready by April. If it continues to stretch, I fear it will be far longer. I’m just not sure where to cut the durn thing and am editing like crazy.
For now: since this is a character blog, I thought I’d at least introduce you to Alaysha as I first met her. (And tell me, honestly, wouldn’t YOU have to explore her deeper than a flash?)
Let the Rain Fall
The scene was a sickening one, and in her early days, she would have been bothered by such gruesome images of war. Now, 40 years after she’d ridden her first beast to battle, she was hardened to all the death. Hardened like the blade she carried on her back — not that she needed a blade to take a life.
A water witch needed nothing to aid her in killing.
She could draw the fluid from a man’s body in three seconds, count the time with barely a breath between each before they collapsed into a pile of leathered skin with bones so brittle she knew they crumbled to sand inside the left over husk. The eyeballs turned to blackened raisins that fell from the sockets and plopped onto the earth.
When she was young, she thought they were the seeds of a man’s soul, that some god would rejuvenate them. She expected to see another body sprout from where they had fallen.
They never did.
So she hardened herself to all those deaths she’d caused — all those seeds left unspent in the ground. All for the safety of a runt of a man who had never bothered to learn her name.
“Witch,” he called her. “Witch, I need you,” he’d say when he wanted to vanquish an enemy. And there were many enemies.
I need you. I want you. I want you and need you to kill, and so she had without question for years. A girl always obeyed her father, after all.
She remembered her first battle. All of those images that she stored away from her spot in a hanging basket slung like a saddlebag from her father’s war beast. She was young — just seasons old, but a water witch had a long memory to go along with the gift — a necessity if she was to draw water from a vessel. There would need to be a vivid account of pathways and exits. And so she could still see that first pore, that first tear duct, that sweat gland — and deeper, that cell membrane that protected the precious water. She found that if she was significantly hungry, she could speak to those portals and pull fluid from them with an ease that almost hurt her.
Killing was ugly business for a soldier let alone a two-year-old. Her father assumed such ugliness was part of her nature.
“Will it,” he told her. And she did. So strong was her power over fluid that men dropped to their knees in droves, the raisins from their sockets plomping onto the ground like raindrops on thirsty earth: seeds waiting for nourishment.
Storm clouds gathered as the last enemy fell and pelted those left standing–those behind her father–with hail, but no new men sprouted to replace those she’d taken. A hunger rumbled with a terrible ache in her belly and left it feeling like one black cavern that food could never fill — not ever again after that.
She lived in fear that one of those seeds would trail like a pumpkin’s stem and turn into a man’s arm that would sneak forward through the years to reach her finally and strike her down.
And then she wished for it.
And then she prayed for it.
So this scene, nearly 40 years after that first battle was especially gruesome. She sat her beast instead of being side-bagged on it. Her father, furious at his serfdom for a rebellion gone horribly wrong, yelling, weeping, spitting his revenge at their audacity.
“Will it,” he told her.
She drew water from them — each of them — soldiers, peasants, men, women — and yes, even children. She watched every living thing from plant to bird to man in this, her father’s serfdom, become petrified in an instant. All that remained were stones of different sizes and sand of different piles, and a hundred thousand little raisins peppering the arid earth as if it was a spicy bannock for a meal never to be eaten.
And in that moment she knew some men should never come back. That, that was the secret the gods kept from her. Those seeds, those raisins, should never sprout for they’d had their season.
The storm clouds gathered above her. Her father grunted his anger; it wasn’t enough, this revenge. They deserved worse, not this quick, painless death he’d ordered. He should have done more; she should have drawn the water slower, made them suffer.
She looked at him, felt the drops of water from the clouds plop onto her shoulder. The rain on her cheeks felt hot, then cold as it evaporated. The clouds sucked back into themselves, afraid of the power of the witch that could thirst the water from the very sky.
“I’m hungry,” she said to him as she climbed down from her beast. The earth felt good on her bare feet. She’d never been allowed to have shoes.
“Eh?” Her father gave her a sharp look. She’d never deigned speak to him except to answer yes to his whims.
Even as his mouth opened to deny her, he spilled from his beast, so many particles of sand running into his boots as they hit the ground, dumping into the sidesaddle she’d spent so many months in while they were at war. His ice green eyes shriveled and fell as tiny raisins to the earth.
She knelt to one knee and scooped them up, giving them a quick study, making sure they were indeed the seeds of his soul.
And then she popped them into her mouth, chewed. And for the first time in her forty years, she felt satisfied.
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