Now that I’ve got a few opinion posts out of the way, I thought it would be a good time to start sharing some of my writing. This and most future posts in this category will just be snippets from larger stories I’m working on, and they may be made private at some point if the story is accepted for publication somewhere. Most excerpts will be works in progress, and feedback is always appreciated.
Today’s excerpt comes from a novella I’m working on inspired by a painting a friend gave me for Christmas. Working title is Ice Forest.
By now Illya had grown used to the Elders’ strange appearances; they were unique creatures whose ancestors and direct descendants had long since gone extinct. So when Bruen lumbered from the forest first, his hulking mass no longer surprised her; she barely reached one of his knees, could easily be impaled by one of the tusks that protruded from either side of his elongated, bear-like snout. Bruen was not a bear, exactly, but that was how Illya thought of him. He shook ice from his light gray, matted fur as he approached her.
The other Elders followed, all gigantic but elegant in their strange way. Some looked like hybrids between moose and foxes, or birds and reptiles, or rabbits and bobcats. As if an imaginative child had created them and given them life. Soon, the giant beasts surrounded Illya, but there was no sign of the other human.
“You have failed us,” Bruen said with a bit of a slur; his tusks made speech difficult, and the human tongue was not the language of the Elders. People said that if a human were to hear the Elders speak their ancient tongue, her ears would bleed. None of the Guardians, including Illya, had ever heard it. “The sacred forest is meant to be untouched by humans and their filth, yet one has come, deep to the heart.”
“I am here to retrieve it, if you’ll allow me,” Illya said, giving a slight bow; if she wanted to keep the human alive she had to be careful, so careful. “And I will take whatever punishment the Elders find sufficient for my lapse.”
Bruen sat back on his haunches, shaking the ground, and Illya stumbled. The other Elders were undisturbed, and they all exchanged some glances. Then Bruen nodded.
“Bring him forward,” he said, and one of the fleet-footed Elders, Jukob, bounded back into the trees at the edge of the clearing, emerging a moment later with a man hanging limp in her jaws. She looked like a mix of deer and cat, and she moved more carefully now, holding the man in her mouth as a mother cat might hold one of its kittens. Still, as Illya watched, she saw blood snaking down the unconscious man’s right arm and dripping from his mangled fingers. It stained the snow by Jukob’s hoofed feet.
“He’s bleeding,” Illya said when Jukob rejoined the circle. With a motion from Bruen, Jukob opened her mouth and deposited the man onto the hard-packed snow without ceremony.
“It is not our fault humans are so delicate,” Bruen said, and Illya let it go. While she was human herself, she found over time that her sympathy for both the humans and the Elders waned. The man had trespassed in the forest; the fact that he was still alive was miracle enough. A few scars would remind him of his mistake.