excerpt from Initiate, book one, draft 2 of chapter 2.
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The branch wobbled and bounced, but I pressed forward, chewing my lip. I was breathing hard from the excursion and tension when I reached the dip, carefully shifting around, one arm clinging to the branch on the back. I settled comfortably, and my racing heart slowed. I was quite steady now, settled on my branch, one arm behind me, other resting on the branch below me. I smiled, kicking my feet. The branch bounced gently. I looked around my surroundings again, and my smile faded. It was dead silent.
Well, not completely dead silent, the trees continued to whisper, and the creek roared, but all the birds had gone silent. I frowned, ears straining. I heard a small crack from behind me, and I almost fell, whipping my head around. I could just see a figure striding purposefully between the trees, following a narrow trail to my clearing. I readjusted my grip on the branch, watching him draw nearer. It was a boy, with long-ish dark hair, and his path would take him right below me. I considered saying something, but decided against it. He hadn’t seen me yet, I would wait until he got closer. See how much I could startle him. I held back a laugh, he was getting nearer, and still hadn’t looked up. He was almost beneath me now, and I let go of the branch behind me, leaning forward to keep a better eye on the newcomer.
I slipped, my heart leaping into my throat, bark briefly scratched the back of my legs, my hands clutched desperately at thin air, I tried to scream but my throat was too tight, I was falling falling falling—
I hit the ground with a thud that rattled all the teeth in my head, completely knocking the breath out of me. My vision blurred and I struggled to breathe, my lungs felt completely empty. Which came first? Inhale? Exhale? Did it matter? I had to do one of them, and quickly, my chest was burning, somebody was saying something but I couldn’t tell what it was, I needed air— my struggling finally came to fruit and I drew in a long, shuddering breath. Oh, much better.
“Are you alright?”
I blinked, my vision clearing. The boy was looking down at me, frowning slightly. I realized he had been the one speaking, and I coughed, ribs twinging painfully.
“Yeah,” I gasped. “I’ll live.” The corner of his lip twitched up to the tiniest smile.
“That’s good.” He extended his hand, and I took it, gasping again when he pulled me up as if I weighed nothing.
“Thank you,” I said, and he nodded.
Owww, my ribs.
He had a stare that was hard to meet. I pretended to ignore him as I readjusted my glasses, brushing the dirt off my clothes, running a hand through my hair to clear out a few leaves and blades of grass. My knees and elbows were scraped, my hands raw, and my ribs felt like they’d been pummeled with a sock full of sharp rocks, but other than that, I’d escaped my fall in good shape. The whole time he simply stood there, watching me quietly with dark, almost black, intense eyes. His hair was about the same color, falling straight, cutting off sharply at his jaw. I carefully coaxed some dirt from a scrape just below my elbow, studying him from the corner of my eye. He was a good bit taller than me, tanned, and dressed like an extra in a medieval movie. He had what my mom would call an eagle nose. Overall he gave me the impression of a hawk.
“Do you need to wash those off?” He asked, nodding at the scuffs on my elbow, which had started to ooze a few drops of blood. His accent was interesting, I’d never heard anything like it before.
I started slightly when he spoke, it had been quiet for at least a minute. “Oh, no, it’s prolly fine, I’ve had worse.” I smiled at him, and he nodded slightly. He was quiet, that was okay. I didn’t have to worry about carrying on a conversation.
“Matheo?” it was a new voice, and he turned as I looked up, to see a young girl emerging from another tiny path through the trees.
“I thought I told you to stay put?” he said as she drew nearer.
“You were gone a long time,” she was very fair, with long, milk chocolate curls. “And I still don’t see why you had to go alone.” She glanced at me, pale blue eyes curious. I waved, and she smiled shyly, waving back. When I had first glimpsed her I had thought she was around eight years old, but now I saw that she was closer to eleven.
The boy, Matheo, was not impressed by her statements.
“Meira, Da said it’s dangerous to come up here now, and you know it.”
“At night, yes,” Meira was a pretty name, it fit her. “but not in the daylight.”
“What’s so dangerous?” I asked.
“Hopefully nothing, it’s just rumors,” he said, looking at me again. “But you still shouldn’t be out once night falls. Wherever you came from, you should return soon.” his entire tone was very chill, but was that an edge of hostility at the end? Or fear? Or both? The girl was studying me shyly, winding a curl around the tip of her finger. She carried a covered basket, forgotten on her elbow. Her sweet, timid demeanor was almost the complete opposite of Matheo, but the way they interacted made me wonder if they were cousins, perhaps.
“Where did you come from?” she asked, finally meeting my gaze. I paused for a moment, not actually quite sure how to answer that.
“She fell from the Whispering Tree.”
Was that a hint of amusement in his tone? I glanced at him suspiciously
“Well first I dropped through a hole, then I went climbing, then I fell. See?” I circled the massive tree trunk, stepping carefully around the roots. The girl, Meira, had Matheo called her? Followed me immediately, the boy hesitating for a moment, before sighing quietly and following as well.
My bedroom ceiling was right where I left it, half of the ceiling fan visible through the corner of the lightning gash. Hadn’t I left it on? I could have sworn I had. Huh. Oh well. “Ta-da.” I waved my hand through the hole and the fan started spinning again, slowing to a stop when I retracted my hand. “Woah.” That was weird. I glanced back uncertainly. “Did you guys see that?”
The girl’s jaw had dropped, and her already wide eyes looked about ready to pop out of her head. She shuffled a little closer, trying to peer inside without actually getting near enough to touch the surface. “That’s the ceiling of my room,” I explained, waving my hand in and out, watching the fan start and stop. “I don’t know why the fan is doing that.”
The girl was whispering something under her breath, twisting the edge of her shawl between her fingers as she watched, enthralled. The boy had drawn closer, one hand placed protectively on her shoulder. He was frowning, studying the portal with the intensity equivalent to set it on fire. I glanced at the portal again, then down to my outfit, then back to their historical clothing, and mindblown faces. I started to wonder if this might have been a bad idea. The girl, Meira, stared at me with awestruck eyes.
“Who are you?” She asked, tone way more respectful than I felt the situation called for.
“I’m just Aidene. Nobody special, really.”
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Meet Meira, Aidene’s best friend, and her older brother Matheo, an interesting fellow with interesting decisions. 😉
ain’t they cute
You may notice in this image Meira has lost her freckles and Matheo’s hair is too long and blond-tipped but this is where I have my rant about finding face claims so I’ll just leave it at this. :’)
Till next time,