At the end of last semester, the teen/college age writer's forum I'm a member of, CleanPlace, had an extra-credit project called Adopt-A-Plot. It was the third time they had offered this particular ECP, and I was really excited to do it because members who'd been on there several years had done it before and it looked really fun! Everyone who wanted to participate posted three or more plots for other members to choose from, and then you chose someone else's and wrote a six-part short story, with each part being between 800-1000 words.
Since it was at the end of last semester and I was under a time crunch with schoolwork, I ended up not being able to finish the project by the deadline, but now I'm working on it as I have time. I'm enjoying it quite a bit! It's fun to develop a fantasy world. :)
I decided to share the first part of my story on here. :)
The last low notes of Petehjas’s panpipe hovered like a resonating mist in the warm, airy moonlight over her head. Sarahi lay on her side in her narrow cot under the open window. Marirya told her that even as a young girl when she first came to them that she’d curled up in this little corner of the attic.
Nestling under the colorful, roughly woven patchwork quilt, Sarahi wriggled in her homespun shift. She liked its grainy feeling—it sometimes made her think of those blurred early memories of going to the coast land with her parents and rubbing her bare toes along the sandy shore.
A pair of pattering feet scuffed against the narrow wooden ladder leading up to her room. The fifth rung creaked a little. Marirya peered up into the loft. Her dusky brown hair, sprinkled with gray, was bound up in a braid extending over the shoulder of her dull, ashen-colored wool cloak. “Sarahi?” she whispered.
“Yes, Mari?” Sarahi answered.
Tiptoeing up the last two steps, Marirya crept across the room, bending so she wouldn’t hit her head on the low thatch roof, and then plopped down on the end of the bed. Marirya cleared her throat, then paused. She said, “There is somethin'…that you must know. I canna avoid telling you any longer, even though Petehjas wanted me to wait until the mornin'. But then it might be too late.”
Sarahi caught her breath.
The older woman said, “Canna you remember your mither and faither?”
“You were not more 'n three years old when he—they—brung you to us, all bundled up in a sheepskin.” Marirya’s eyes grew watery. “Now you’re a lady.”
“Mari, I’m only nineteen—” Sarahi said.
“—at your age, I was married to Petehjas,” the matron said.
“You’re not saying I need to marry, are you?”
“No, lemme finish. You're not who you think you are. Your parents were of noble blood, and you have kinsmen in this country. Last week, they sent us a message saying they’ll be comin’ for you this week—to take you home.”
Sarahi’s stomach felt like it was being turned on a spit over an open fire. “But this is my home.”
Marirya shook her head. A drop rolled down her crinkled face. “Petehjas and I always knew all these years that we couldna keep you forever. You, dear, have grown too big for this little village.” She struggled to unbend her stiff knees and stand up, then bent over to kiss Sarahi's cheek, and edged out of the moonlight toward the wooden ladder.
“But I want to stay and help you and Petehjas. Who will gather the spices in the garden and take the pots into town to sell at market for you?”
Marirya wiped a shadowy hand against her cheek. “It's not us you must be thinkin' about now.”
Sarahi listened to her slow footfalls fading into the darkness. A nightingale trilled some distance off in the forest, echoing over the hillside. She rolled over and over on her mattress, trying to find a cool spot.
The air hung close and heavy like her woolen mantle in the winter. Sarahi could never remember afterward how long she lay there until she fell asleep.
Sarahi’s nose burned. She rubbed it with her hand. Her lungs ached, and she choked on dense air. Was it smoke? Maybe Marirya burned the breakfast porridge. She opened her heavy eyelids. Silver moonlight streamed in through the window, but the room was filled with thick gray curls floating upward in the breeze.
Jerking back the quilt, the girl snatched up her cloak and scrambled to the ladder. She couldn’t see down into the hut past the smoke, but livid flames rippled down the side wall and along the far end of the roof.
“Petehjas! Mari!” she shrieked. No one answered. Stumbling down the ladder and into the main portion of the hut, Sarahi’s eyes darted around the room. The fire cackled above her.
Then she heard the voices. Rough male voices speaking in a guttural tongue. Could the Lawrshans be invading? The border with Lawrsha was only a few miles from her village, Evandav, but their last raid in this area had been more than eight years ago.
A man yelled, “Alendravich khrizarleb!" She knew enough Lawrshan to understand he was saying, "Find the girl!" Someone kicked at the wooden door. It cracked, but didn’t give way. Sarahi dashed back up the rickety ladder. Clambering over to the window, she looked down into the garden. She didn't see anyone there yet. Gulping in a breath, she leaped.
The ground came up at her much harder than she expected. She lay among the herbs for a few minutes, gasping for air.
Sarahi noticed a faint bittersweet fragrance beside her. Gavrilwort! she thought. She snatched up a clump of the healing herb and stuck it in her pocket.
Heavy footsteps thudded around the corner of the hut. Her heart skipped. She crawled among the garden plants into the tall grasses and underbrush several paces from the house before glancing back.
Brawny, armored men with long spears, carrying shields that glinted in the moonlight, marched around the flaming huts in the village. Her insides sank like a millstone in a river. Where were Petehjas and Mari?
One of the men, who appeared to be a leader, said, “Search the woods! There be a handsome reward for the one that finds her!”
Sarahi crept toward the line of trees a few feet away and then bounded through the tangled forest. Brambles clawed at her legs, and she kept falling and cutting herself on jagged stones.
After she had gone almost half a league, she spotted a thicket of alder trees and underbrush and crawled beneath it.