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Meet Wynne

Posted Nov 14 2008 2:23pm

I did promise this, and though I'm sure none of you are likely to care, I figured it's halfway through November, and I'm just over halfway done my NaNoWriMo word count (25.5k!), so here it is: novellish blurb.

It's nowhere near done (so no line-editing, please), but I've tried to cut out most of the throat-clearing and the expository bits that are relevant only if you're going to read the whole thing, and pared it down to just the bits that introduce you to Wynne, one of my main characters.

Besides the prohibition on line-editing you're free to make any comments you like on style, content, who you think Wynne is, if I "got" her or not, and what you think might happen to her. Or not. If you're very bored you could even cut and paste it in an email to your friends and make fun of it. It's up to you.

This introductory bit is in the omniscient third voice, but afterwards it jumps into limited third and stays there. So the tone of the blurb after this one will be quite different.

It was an atypically overcast early August day, prematurely chill, as if the weather were forecasting what was to come in November. The skies were low and grey, and a bitter mist fell, a cold rain so fine it felt more as if the air were wet. The followers of the Seer, each priest and priestess and acolyte, from the newest and youngest child member to the eldest and most frail, and including those from Glade and other centres of worship around the country if they could make it, gathered around the Oracle's pond and joined hands. It was a huge mass of men, women, girls and boys, a thousand or more; only a fraction of them were in front and could see the pond with their own eyes. They knelt their heads and recited the prayer in the old tongue and closed their eyes, waiting until the energy from the combined magic was so strong that it vibrated from hand to hand, from arm to arm, the entire chain of linked humans shaking like a chain of paper dolls, and then looked into the perfectly still mirror of the pond, looked to see who the replacement would be. Always it was a single image, and they knew it was true when a blue flame appeared over the chosen one's head, then flickered out.

In the pond that day was a child's face, Wynne's, looking perplexed and anxious. The gasp from the followers at the front might have been heard back in the city. The blue flame appeared over Wynne's head and flickered out; and so did Wynne, as distressed as she was, only to reappear and disappear again in half a dozen different places, ranging from her bedroom back at the temple, to her parents' kitchen, to an old park she liked to play in before having been called to the Seer, back to the circle, to her mother's bedroom, and then to the Oracle's stone in the centre of the pond. When she landed there and stayed, she burst into tears.

"She can't do this on her own. She's only a child," said Eyr, who was promptly volunteered to be Wynne's guardian and caretaker until such time as she had learned the ceremonies and rituals, mastered her anxious flickering, and possibly had learned how to sleep through the night without clutching her stuffed coyote. Despite their skills in precognition, not a man or woman there could understand what the Goddess might be up to.


Her life changed unrecognizably over the following twelve hours. Her few belongings were moved from the dormitory she shared with other acolytes to the High Priestess’s quarters; from having only lessons every day and ample time to play, she had both lessons in the magic of the Seer for the morning and then lessons in the duties of the High Priestess for most of the afternoon, followed by trying to actually fulfill them with Eyr’s help. Wynne no longer had time to spend with her friends; she worked from the moment she rose in the morning until she was laid half-asleep already in her bed at night, and in between every moment was spent with an adult. The evenings were the worst. People would come for an oracle. Wynne had to give them one, it was her duty. She would sit in the High Priestess’s chambers and let the visions come when she did not yet have enough strength to keep herself present nor enough maturity to understand or deal with what she saw. Would the baby live? (No, it wouldn’t; it would be dead in six months’ time.) Would the ship come back from its voyage to Nibier? (Yes, it would; but missing half its crew after a vicious storm.) Should my son marry Maild? (No; she will hurt him; within five years he will be sick and lost and die.) Eyr had a cot set up in Wynne’s new room to be with her overnight and offer some comfort, for the new High Priestess would often cry herself to sleep.

Sometimes, when she had crawled into Eyr’s bed and it hadn't helped, and she was still shaking and crying hard, sometimes, she would close her eyes, wish herself at home, and flicker into her mother's bed. This was easier than it used to be. At first her mother had been scared by the sudden appearance of her traumatized daughter in her bed in the middle of the night; but now these visits had become, if not normal, then common, and she would reach out her arms and pull her little girl close, stroke her hair and kiss her head, pull Wynne’s wet face to her shoulder, and murmur softly in her ear. What difficulties she faced each day to send her home this way so many nights she ached to ask but never did, instead doing what she had learned to do since Wynne was a baby and having a hard time sleeping, even then flickering in and out of air when she was sad and crying. Hold her close, calm her down, let her sleep. Kiss her hair, stroke the tears from her cheeks. Try to keep her from flickering away again. Give her something solid to anchor herself to.

She’d dredge all of her memories of Wynne as a baby and toddler and young child through her mind, looking for the clue she had missed, the sign she should have realized meant that her unprepossessing youngest child was meant to be anything other than a highly distractable woman given to making too much out of little things. Wynne was never precocious in the way some children are, she showed no early aptitude for letters or numbers, she was not unusually advanced manually, not especially coordinated. Her only unusual trait—besides, of course, the flickering itself, the tenuousness of her corporeality, as if she were not convinced she was real—was her immense sensitivity. Wynne cried often, many times over things no one else understood. Clearly she would one day be called to the Seer because of the flickering, that was obvious. She would serve as a priestess. But she’s not special, she felt like arguing with the universe. Wynne can’t be a High Priestess, she’s not special. It felt treasonous to think this as her mother, but it was true.

Her husband would wake at the sobbing and roll over to see their daughter in his wife's arms again. Scared for Wynne and feeling impotent, he would pull the hair back from his daughter's face, and watch her, wishing he could wrench her back from the temple and bring her home to have a normal childhood. But what could they do? If she resisted the call she would only end up in the asylum. Eventually Wynne would fall asleep, face still buried in her mother's shoulder, small hands clenching her mother’s nightclothes. Eventually, her parents too would fall asleep, staring at each other over their daughter’s head.

In the morning, when they woke, Wynne was always gone.

Things I already know about:

-occasional word repetitions
-no physical descriptions of characters yet
-it's not very good. It's a first draft, ok?

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