Hello and welcome to draft one of my Writer In Motion story.
As always I have feelings, but I’m going to put those at the end so as not to overshadow anyone else’s opinions. The story drafted out to roughly 1600 words, so before the 15th I’ll need to cut at least one-third of what’s written.
As always, over the next five weeks I’ll create an image blend for the story. The base layer is the featured image with a sepia filter and says so much about my character. But maybe it’s time to let you meet Braygen, a man of two worlds.
CITY WITHOUT LIGHT
I dreamed of her again last night, the woman who started a war none of us could escape. She’s been burned into my thoughts since birth, and when I stepped into hypersleep all those years ago, her picture was the only thing of value I had left.
Braygen clenched his fist, the familiar pain digging into his bones. A month ago it centered in his hip, but today the ache buried itself in his arm, and he’d never be able to aim properly if he couldn’t hold his bow.
“We can do this tomorrow, brother. Those fires will burn for a few days yet.” Marco clapped him on the shoulder, mud splattered across his russet brown hand. His friend had a point. Green forge fires burned inside the steel monolith, a giant orb with long legs holding it high.
Braygen would rather be warmed under Marco’s gentle touch for one more night, but the siren song of the woman’s soft brown eyes tugged at his soul.
He slipped the faded image from his pocket, the soft lines of her jaw so faded he could barely make out her features. Braygen was desperate for a new image that would never fade, one that could only be found with pixels and light. “No, it has to be now.”
Ignoring the pain in his arm, he pocketed the woman’s image.
Sumra, Marco’s half-sister, joined them, her dark umber skin practically invisible under a starless sky. “One hour until shift change.”
“Let’s move.” Braygen slipped from the alley into the crowd. Darkness lay over the metal city, vivid green light tracing the seams of several tall statues around the central squid-like monolith.
The citizens here couldn’t destroy the Guardian statues, so they overlaid them with black cloth and built over each one to honor their great queen. Braygen may not give two shits about the other guardians, but as he passed Herana, the woman from his dreams, he grabbed the rough cloth and tugged it down to expose her face.
She was the only Guardian who mattered.
“Hey you!” one of the soldiers shouted, the skull on his breastplate faded in the unbearable darkness that had covered the southern lands for centuries.
Slipping between the statues, he pressed between two large men and slid an arrow from his quiver. Pain screamed in his arm and he had less than an hour before his body shut down with stiffness. He may not be able to hold his bow, but he could sure aim the sharp end of his arrow.
With Marco and Sumra shadowing several steps behind, he didn’t have to worry about watching his back, only the black-plated armor covering the city’s Fueler as they raised their hands.
“Today we honor our great hive queen,” the Fueler shouted to the gathering crowd. “The itharäth have trapped us here, but we will destroy their world and build our own with the blood of their bondage.”
The fuck was this looney talking about? Braygen didn’t quite follow the meaning behind the Fueler’s words, but something deep in his soul uncoiled a bitter anger, a need to drive his arrow into the man’s eye and let him drown in his own blood.
Biting back the unbidden rage, his eyes traced to the bins stacked on the platform, each one stuffed with shield panels, weapons, and old starship technology. If only he could get his hands on those bins, he’d cart them far north where the darkness could never find them again.
Those were his heritage… his home.
A sharp whistle from Sumra told him to get his ass moving, but Braygen would only take one item with him today, a datapad he so desperately needed. Grabbing a firemark from his pocket, a small glass orb that fueled all human starship technology, he blew until the microscopic bacterium inside glowed orange.
The Fueler turned their back to the crowd and picked up a long, steel weapon: a rifle. By the Guardians he could use one of those, but his heart hammered in his chest as he spied the flat steel of a datapad right next to the man’s knee. It was now or never.
As the Fueler slid the rifle into the green forge fires, Braygen hastened forward and slid to one knee, driving the dagger into their calf. He grabbed the datapad and tucked it against his chest, yanking out his weapon.
The forge fires burned sweltering hot as he bolted across the platform under the great metal queen’s heated belly, sweat dripping into his beard by the time he reached the far side and dove into the crowd.
His arm locked up against his chest, a small tremor moving through his arm. Fuck, this wasn’t good. He had to get somewhere safe before the rest of his body followed.
Pain pulsed through his limbs. Citizens stood on their toes to try and catch the commotion at the platform, but Braygen ducked his head and plowed through them searching for a nearby alley.
Soldiers with skulls across their breastplates forged through the crowd, forcing him to slow his pace and turn back to the platform. His heart pounding in his chest, he stepped backwards one achingly slow step at a time until they breezed past, several of them slamming shoulders with him.
Still, these people had no idea the lengths he’d go to for his Guardian. As he reached the edge of the crowd, he whirled out of the masses and hastened toward a stack of urns taller than his head.
Braygen circled behind the stack and scooted into the deep shadows along the alley wall, waiting for his companions. One arm still locked up with stiffness, he sheathed his dagger and pressed the firemark into the small hole at the base of the datapad. “This better work.”
Orange lines of light traced across the screen as Marco howled and dropped to his knees. A long, grayish tentacle had him by the throat.
“No!” Dropping the datapad, Braygen dove at the pulsating limb covered in mucus. They were near the sea, but not close enough for a squid to come crawling out onto land.
The Fueler stood behind Marco, blood dripping from their nose, lifeless eyes staring at Braygen. “Your queen sleeps, but soon she will wake and we will unleash her power.”
Braygen charged the Fueler and slammed his shoulder into the bastard’s gut. Pain shot into his shoulder as they hit the ground, the bastard’s metal armor digging into his chest.
He gripped the man’s throat. “You will not touch Herana.”
As he dug his fingers into the soft flesh, no pulse thrummed beneath his fingertips. Gray ooze slid along the ground, tentacles grasping the stone and pulling the orbitous mass forward.
Marco kept opening and closing his mouth as if trying to speak.
Scrambling off the already dead Fueler, Braygen raced to his friend’s side, one arm still locked up against his chest. He tried to rip off the tentacle, but it squeezed tighter.
The creature slammed one of its limbs against Braygen’s cheek, a poisonous sting pulsing through his skin. “Marco!”
Pulsating squid tentacles drove into Marco’s back, sliding deep into his spine as blood pulsed upward through toward the orbitous mass.
As Braygen hastened to his feet, his ears ringing, the creature slid deeper into his friend’s body, dissolving tissue and flesh into one until it disappeared beneath the skin.
Marco blinked and gasped for air. “Stay back!”
Like he was going to listen. Braygen grabbed his friend’s cheek. “You’re alive.”
But a cold malice lingered where once Marco’s eyes were a soft hazel. Then a shadow crossed, leaving fear in its wake. “Itharä.”
Throwing back his head, Marco howled a high-pitched scream that sent waves of agony through his ears. Braygen tried to cover his head, but each sound hit him like a tidal wave as he scooted backward, his leg brushing the datapad. “Marco!”
His body couldn’t handle the pain, slicing deep into his bones as his bones shifted, something alien trying to break loose. But the stiffness in his arm traveled through his chest as each piece of himself slid apart into a bevy of otters.
Soft fur pushing through his skin, each piece of himself scrambled over one another, burying noses under bodies as the small pile of his shifted otter form tried to protect the datapad from the horrendous screeching.
A strong hand gripped him, but Braygen’s paws clutched the datapad. “Dammit, it happened again.”
Sumra’s strong voice soothed him as she picked up all his pieces and shoved them into a small knapsack. “That’s the last time I listen to you, Braygen. We should have waited.”
He poked his head out of the bag as Sumra nocked an arrow and pointed it at her brother’s head. “My brother is lost, and this is your fault.”
But her arm held steady. She couldn’t release it, just as he wouldn’t have been able to either. A lonely ache weaving through his heart, Braygen pulled his head back into the sack and curled up on his precious datapad, the screen glowing a bright orange.
It still worked. He pressed his paw against the bottom corner, the software reading his biometric energy until he saw the familiar welcome screen. He had what he’d come for, now all he had to do was trust that Sumra wouldn’t kill him the next time she opened her bag.
I do not love this tale… yet. While Braygen’s quick journey has been brewing in my mind for a few days, when I sat down to write it out, things took a weird turn. Here’s what’s immediately bugging me:
- This is only a glimpse of Braygen, and I didn’t really pull out his deeper character
- At the end, he has to be saved
- There’s no real explanation of what happened to Marco
- Sumra feels like an extraneous character apart from the saving
- There’s no final ‘yes, he found this image’ feel at the end
- He switched weapons partway through
- Honestly… it just doesn’t feel right yet
- His zankata (crow-like bird) never made it into the story
To be honest, all these feelings are indicative of how my drafts are these days.
I also took some chances on elements that were a bit challenging, something I’m learning right now with my RevPit story. My hope is that they drew the right vibe and picture in a subtle way, without shining a heaving spotlight on the wrong pieces of the story.
Basically, the story’s there, but with some extraneous cutting and stronger word choices, and maybe dropping a character, I can trim this sucker down and pull out more of the goodness I really want to be part of Braygen and his journey.
I’ve got a full schedule next week, but I’m already excited to dig back in and do the story right. Braygen is such an important character, not only to the book I’m working on, but for the greater series and a few one-off tales. He’s a lonely soul, a badass with a weapon, and he’s got a strong heart that will someday be ready to face the truth about what he really is and where he fits in the greater universe.
Until next week!