Back to Basics

Three for three so far. That is three stories rejected by three different places. Two were professional and mailed me to let me know, the third was an online writing competition that didn’t even let me know any results. I had to visit the site to see news items. Guess which won’t be getting any of my words again?

And I’ve got bogged down thoroughly on the novel length story I’ve been working on. I’ve even completely rewritten parts twice and it still doesn’t work. But at least I’ve admitted the reasons to myself now and it’s time to address my problems.

I wanted so desperately to get the ideas out of my head that I ignored planning, so far for each thing I have worked on I have had an idea, and I have started writing…but I have no training, no skills and no practice, I ust poured out words. And then I looked them over, tweaked and submitted. Almost no review by others. I was setting myself up to fail I think,

So, now is the time to research, to look at the basic concepts of my stories and as they all currently share a common history and set of central characters I need to take the time to create my world, to give birth to my characters and give them life and personality. Once I have this done I can begin the hard work.

Planning, even for a short story is the next important step, each scene I build needs to be choreographed with care, each character needs to interact with others in just the right way based upon exactly who they are. Each chapter has to agree with all of the others without contradiction or the whole story fails to do it’s primary job of telling a history.

I have a long way to go now before the story of the world of Karanthia of Ynys Mon is properly told but at least now I have found the correct place to begin this journey.

And for those that have gotten this far through this post here is the latest of my rejects, watch this space for the improved version that I shall one day share.

 

Whisperer in the Dark

By Emily J Roe

Camp had been exciting this year, five nights on the North of the Isle overlooking the sea with the rest of her class. As usual the boys were always trying to spoil it, especially now that awful Johnny McAllistair had started at the school. Their tutor had told them that he had been found in a place called Glasgow a long way to the North in Hibernia. They said that he had promise, that his Gift was strong but he needed training. All Karinthia Reynolds knew was that he had a nasty streak, and a very sharp tongue. There were rumours of fights in the boy’s rooms after dark and she had seen bruises and black eyes several times. And she had heard complaints from some of the girls too about his heavy handedness. She tried to keep out of his way but suspected that it was only a matter of time before she came to his attention

The best part of the camp for her was the Fireside Feast on the last night. The tutors and assistants allowed them to stay up until midnight eating a barbecued food around camp-fires and singing. At the end of the night, before fires were doused and everyone made their way back to their tents, the stories began. And the tutors always told the best ones.

#

Karanthia woke suddenly. She lay listening while her eyes adjusted to the faint light of the crescent moon shining through the window. She could hear nothing but the faint susurration of the breeze moving the leaves of the tree outside her window. Her eyes, now fully adjusted saw nothing out of place in her room.

She turned over and closed her eyes ready to return to her sleep. There! In the room, she could hear a whispering sound, it almost sounded like words coming out of the darkness.

Snapping her fingers she drew up energy from her body and used it to make the atoms of a small volume of air to fluoresce forming a disc of light. She was quite proud of this effect, the tutors had only shown them how to modify the state equations for a lightball a few days ago and she was still the only one of her class who had succeeded in collapsing it from three to two dimensions. Using movements of her hand she moved it all around the room but there was no sign of anyone, and the whispering had stopped. Maybe it had just been a dream. With a flick of her fingers she unlinked the disk and it snapped out. Darkness returned to the room.

Something whispered again from across the room, it seemed to be coming from near the window. Setting the equations again in her mind she clicked her fingers and brought the light back into existence. She concentrated on a variable and increased the brightness until the whole room was lit brightly. Looking around carefully she climbed out of bed and ran across the room to close and lock the window securely, then darted back to bed. She was starting to feel the strain of running the light this bright as it was feeding it from her own body reserves of energy. Turning it down low she reached for her power pack on the bedside drawers. Her fingers met empty space where her charging cradle should be and she remembered that the pack had developed a fault and she had needed to send to the workshop. She lay there for as long as she dared with the light turned low and then extinguished it.

Again! Where was it coming from? She created another disk and looked around nervously. Maybe it was invisible, maybe it was hiding, maybe it was both. Under the bed! It had to be there, she maneuvered the light down to the floor and slowly, carefully lay on her stomach and looked under the bed. Just dust bunnies. Relieved she sat up sharply and looked around, still nothing. The wardrobe? She crept across the room looking around desperately for something to use as a weapon, her eyes lit on her guitar on its stand by the wall. Picking it up she approached the wardrobe. The door was slightly ajar so she carefully hooked her foot underneath and pulled it open while raising the guitar over her head. Nothing!

#

Her thoughts jumped back to the last night of camp a few weeks ago, when Mr Evans stood up to tell the last story of Feast Night. He had gathered the children from the other fires too, so that all of them were facing him across a single blaze. The flickering of the flames made the shadows in the trees behind him shift as if there were living creatures flitting between the trunks.

Gather around children, make yourself comfortable and I will tell you the story of the Whisperers”

Every one had groaned, they all knew this one, the tales of the group of men who had roamed the Isle three hundred years ago, stealing children and selling them as servants on the mainland. “Stay close to home or the Whisperers will get you,” had been a warning from all of their parents when they were little.

Mr Evens waited until they had quietened down again. “No, I don’t mean that little baby story used to frighten small children, this is the real story.”

They looked at each other, a little fear starting to grow in their minds, they all shuffled a little closer together, several of the girls started to hold hands.

This story goes back to the early days of the Isle, before even our Druid ancestors arrived here ahead of the Roman Legions. In those days a few farmers tended herds and grew their crops across Ynys Môn. No one knows how long they had been here but the oral tales speak of many lifetimes. And they worshipped their own gods, gods even older and darker than the ones of our ancestors.”

He paused and looked around the circle at the faces of the enthralled students, his own face breaking into a crooked looking smile in the flickering light. Some of the children shuddered.

And then the Druids came, and with them their followers and the first War of the Strait began. During this time the farms of the first islanders were taken and used to provide food for the newcomers. The Druids and their Gifted adjusted the weather to extend the growing seasons and the islanders were ‘persuaded’ to grow more food to feed everyone. Then came the Persecution when the islanders were forced to worship the our gods. Any who tried to continue with the old ways was punished, in extreme cases by death. After the second war and the third had passed an uneasy truce developed between the newcomers and the old inhabitants and a small amount of ‘appeasement’ was allowed to the old dark gods.”

Again he paused in his narrative and watched the young faces around him, he could see the tension building up and that was good.

But this wasn’t enough for the Old Gods, they had been receiving offerings and prayers from the farmers for so long that the loss of the worship had angered them greatly and they now wished to inflict punishment on the invaders and their upstart gods. And so, one night in the deep winter, just after the Yule celebration a sound was heard in the encampment where most of our ancestors still lived after their arrival. A whispering, almost words but not quite recognisable. It was heard inside huts, inside the temple and outside in the rough streets, but none could find it’s source. The sound continued through the night disturbing sleep for many. And when morning came a great wailing sounded through the encampment, in many of the huts a child had vanished!”

At this last Mr Evans voice had risen suddenly from a whisper to almost a shout and several of the girls squealed in fright. The tutor’s face again seemed to twist into a distorted smile for a second, but that could have been the fire light.

The menfolk searched high and low through the encampment and into the surrounding countryside but nothing was found of the missing children. The Druids prayed and made sacrifice to their gods but that did not help. The only clue to the disappearances was the small patch of disturbed ground by each dwelling where a child had gone from, and in one of these a small straw doll, which was confirmed by the mother as belonging to her young daughter, was found half buried. After this the Druids agreed to let the islanders continue their worshiping but started to encourage and then enforce the intermarriage of the two peoples and slowly over many, many years the old practices died out.”

He stopped and again looked at the children, he could see that he had them now, time for the last little piece before it was time to send them to bed. He really loved this part, and it always served it’s purpose.

But, even to this day, the old dark gods are jealous and despite the loss of their powers when their worshipers deserted them they still have a power within the world. And every ten years just after the Summer Solstice they send their Whisperers out to steal children in revenge for what our ancestors did.” He paused for a few heartbeats and then almost too quietly to be heard, “the last unsolved child kidnapping was ten years ago.”

Alright everyone,” boomed a voice from behind them. Everyone jumped and there were several shrieks of terror. They all turned sharply to see the stern face of Master Davies, one of the observers from the College, “It’s time you all went to bed, we break camp and return to the school in the morning.” He clapped his fingers loudly and ignited several light balls to illuminate the way back to the tents. “Lights out in ten minutes so lets hurry along.”

All of the children jumped up and ran along the lighted path back to the tents where they quickly changed into nightclothes and dived into their sleeping bags. Karanthia was one of the first into her tent and soon had the sleeping bag pulled up tight around her, making sure she was in the middle of her friends, she might like them but the Whisperers could have them first!

#

Maybe the old stories they had been told round the fire on the summer camping trip were true, the Whisperers in the Darkness really did exist and they came for children in the night. She dived back to her bed and pulled the covers over her head. The lightdisk illuminated the little tent she had made for herself. She was safe in the light. But she was tiring, the light drawing on her reserves now, she had to let the light go. She relaxed and the disk faded into darkness. Silence, maybe the Whisperer had decided to go and pick another child, she was safe.

It was next to the bed this time, the whispering directly in her ear. She screamed and threw herself across the bed and on to the floor. Shaking violently in terror she managed visualise the equations she needed and snap her fingers. Not a disk this time but a ball fully 10 inches across and powered not by the small reserves in her body, for she had managed somehow to pull on the heat of the room to power it. The light blazed out like a miniature sun, banishing shadow in a brilliant white light. The temperature began to drop steadily and then plummet towards zero. And still she saw nothing, not a thing in her room that could make such a sound. Was she going crazy?

Frost began to form on the inside of the window, she was shaking more now and not just from fear, the temperature was now below freezing and still dropping. And still the light blazed out. Then faintly through the thick walls of her room she heard the faint sound of boys laughing… and Johnny McAllistair’s voice. And then the whispering was all around her and she knew it for what it was. For a few moments the light doubled and then tripled in brightness as her anger flared. Then she clamped down hard and dismissed the lightball.

Sitting there in the darkness, shivering still as warmth slowly returned to the room, Karanthia Reynolds felt a cold darkness seep into her mind. She would find a way to repay Johnny McAllistair for his cruelty. She would make all of them pay for this.

 

 

 

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