Yeah. That said... Yo, this is Charli Rae. For those of you who don't know, I've been challenged by my mom to complete a novel (I've only finished one, and it's missing some important parts... like a plot) and write/send out a book proposal (which I have never, ever done) in three months. I chose to write Riding Orion, which some of you know as 'Boredom Book'.
...It's not going so well. I've used up one of my three months, and I have a little over 16,000 of the 50,000 word goal.
So, anyway, here's part 1 of chapter 1. Hope you enjoy; I would love to 'hear' your thoughts.
No creature draws the awe and admiration of human hearts the way horses do. No matter how tame, horses possess a quality of freedom that appeals to the human mind. They move with fluid speed, agility, and grace, manes and tails whipping through the wind, eyes alight with fierce spirit. Each step is determined, sure. Each toss of the head is unwavering.
Orion was even more awe-inspiring. His black coat was always shining and his long legs beat the ground in perfect rhythm. His Morgan bloodlines held his neck arched proudly and gave him a sturdy stance. Though he was sometimes skittish and prone to impatience, he was quiet and loving. He was every rider’s dream horse.
In this case, he really was. Naya knew she was dreaming, and although dreams often left her with a feeling of despair, she longed for him to such a great extent that she let the dream flow.
She recognized the scene as one from four years before – the mountains surrounding her hometown. They were starting out on a trail ride, a reward for Orion’s good training. He wore no saddle, only a thin blanket kept him used to the feeling, and Naya’s only control came from the makeshift reins attached to his rope halter.
He responded well to her touch and started forward at a canter, but the tension in his neck let her know that he wanted nothing more than to gallop. With a pat on his neck, she thanked him for being patient.
The moment she took her hand off the reins, a shout thundered above her.
Orion bolted, and Naya tumbled backwards. A hand on her shoulder woke her before she hit the ground.
“What?” she mumbled, struggling to open her eyes.
“Where were you last night?” The voice no longer contained thunder and was actually rather breathless.
“Foraging,” Naya said through a yawn. She arched her back and stretched her arms high above her head, but as she did so, a headache exploded behind her eyes. She sank back down and eased one eye open. It was barely light out.
She fixed her eyes on the boy crouched beside her. This had better be important to wake her before sunrise on her resting day. “Why? What’d I miss?”
Kenyon’s voice was as calm as ever, but his black eyes were alight with excitement. “They spotted a Tyronian boat. Just a little fishing dinghy, but it had two people on it. They killed the older guy and brought the kid here.”
“He yelled and screamed and whacked up a few guards, but I’m pretty sure it’s all an act. He seems happy to be here.”
Bitterness flooded the back of her throat as she frowned. Akeldama was the worst place possible for a Tyronian child to be. “He must be crazy,” she muttered.
“Who knows?” Kenyon shrugged. “Maybe he really didn’t like sailing.”
Naya grinned and punched his shoulder.
Kenyon smiled back, but it slowly slipped as his eyes wandered over her face and settled on a spot high on her left cheek, almost touching her eye. “Does it hurt?” he asked softly.
She couldn’t pretend not to know what he was talking about. She touched two fingers to the wound and glanced at them. Puss had smeared away. Naya sighed as she wiped her hand on the hem of her gown. “I think it’s infected.”
“But does it hurt?”
She paused, then nodded once. It wasn’t the first time she had been struck; it was unavoidable as a slave. But it was normally with the back of a hand or a swift tug on her braid. This time it was with a crop.
“What was it for?” Kenyon asked.
Naya shrugged. He had already asked, but she hadn’t answered. She brought her hand to her side to wake the little girl curled against her, but Illisha, her seven-year-old charge, already had her blue eyes wide open and fixed on Naya’s mouth.
Kenyon huffed and turned to look out at the slave yard. The guards were opening the gate to admit the breakfast pot. “It’s just ‘cause you’re pretty,” he said, anger worming its way into his voice. “People think that since you’re pretty, you must be easy to push around.”
Naya sighed. He had no idea how close he had come to the truth. “Can we stop talking about my cut? Where is he?”
Kenyon looked puzzled for a moment, and then he remembered. His eyes swept quickly over the forming line and he pointed. “Dark hair, white shirt. Sticks out like a sore thumb.”
Naya found him easily. He stood in the middle of the line, several inches taller than those around him, though it seemed as if he was trying to make himself small and inconspicuous by hunching his shoulders and crossing his arms.
Illisha tugged on Naya’s sleeve and asked with a flash of her hand if they could get in line. Instead of signing back, Naya stood up, pulled Kenyon to his feet, and swung Illisha up onto her hip.
The newcomer stood to the side of the cauldron after he received his meal. A look of revulsion briefly crossed his face as he looked down at the mush in his bowl, but he tested a little bit of it, anyway. He managed to swallow, but held his bowl further away from himself and went back to staring at the children in line. Naya averted her eyes as he looked her over.
The mush was clumped in the bottom by the time they reached the big pot. A guard moved forward a bit when he saw Naya, but she shot him a glare and pointedly served bowls for Kenyon and Illisha. Kenyon glowered as she passed a bowl to him; he knew she was on food restriction, but, again, she wouldn’t tell him what for.
The guards didn’t seem to notice that no one but the newcomer had eaten from their bowls, and the moment they had wheeled away, everyone streamed towards Naya’s corner. Another line formed in front of her as she took a maroon colored bundle into her lap and selected a pouch from it. As each bowl was passed to her, she sprinkled a cinnamon mixture into them.
“He’s coming over here,” Kenyon warned as the last slave left.
“Who?” she asked, dropping her pouch quickly back into the bundle.
“The new kid.”
“Oh,” she said with a sigh. “I thought you meant the guard.”
“Well, for all we know, he could be an undercover one.”
Naya rolled her eyes and turned to Illisha. As she turned her head, she caught one quick glance at the new boy. He wasn’t looking directly at them, but there was no doubt that their corner was his destination. Naya pulled a scrap of feed sack out of her bundle and wiped Illisha’s mouth, then she put her arm around Illisha’s shoulders and inched closer to Kenyon.
“Are you scared?” he asked, slightly bewildered.
“No,” Naya answered truthfully. But she was nervous. She had never really met a teenaged boy – in her mind, Kenyon didn’t count.
Illisha noticed the newcomer’s approach and pressed against Naya’s side. ‘Who is he?’ she signed with small movements. Naya shook her head to indicate that she didn’t know.
He stopped in front of them and smiled at Naya, flashing a dimple in his left cheek. “Hey. I’m Robert.”
If Naya’s coloring had allowed her to blush, she would have. But instead her right index finger twitched. “Hi,” she said softly.
Robert’s smile stretched to a grin. “Can I talk to you for a moment?”
Naya’s face grew warm, but before she could answer, Kenyon stood up, yawned, and stretched. “Sorry, man, but I don’t really feel like talking right now.”
Robert stared at him blankly. “Was that supposed to be clever? I thought it was kinda obvious that I was talking to her.”
Naya could sense Kenyon’s response and jumped to her feet. “What do you need to talk to me about?”
Robert frowned at Kenyon, who tossed up his arms and started walking away. “I’m out. Scream if you need me, Naya.”
The dimple came back. “Naya?” Robert asked. “That’s a pretty name.”
She nodded slightly as she tried to work up the nerve to speak, then suddenly realized that her response was rude. “Thanks. I get that a lot.”
Robert opened his mouth, but then looked down at Illisha. Naya worked hard to keep her face from showing anger as she said, “She’s deaf. She won’t hear a thing you say.”
“Can she read lips?” he asked.
Naya put an arm around Illisha and hugged her close. “A little.” She didn’t bother to tell him that Illisha had been deaf since birth.
Robert shifted from one foot to the other and looked both ways, then he moved a little closer. “Well, this is important. Me and my partner took a ship up the river a little ways from here. We were sent to free you all.”
Naya frowned. “If you’re supposed to free us all, why are you trying to keep it a secret?”
“I don’t know if there are any informers or anything. And I’m pretty sure that if I were a slave for a long time, I’d choose a few good meals.”
Naya pursed her lips. “Well, for all you know, I might be an informer. After all, I’m pretty hungry.”
“Hey, no need for sarcasm,” he said, putting his hands out in a peaceful gesture. “I know you wouldn’t.”
“Really?” Naya cocked an eyebrow. “How?”
“I don’t think they’d do this to an informant.” He reached up and gently touched her wound.
Naya jerked back, the area of skin aflame. “Maybe they would, maybe they wouldn’t. How do I know you aren’t just a trap?”
He considered this, lowering his hand back to his side. “Good point. If I showed you the ship, would you trust me?”
She paused, her bravado front fading. “I… I’d have to talk to Kenyon.”
“Who? The kid?” Robert said scornfully as he turned to look for him. “You sure he wouldn’t run for the Damans? He looks kinda scrawny to me.”
Naya scowled and pushed past him, taking Illisha with her. “Scrawny? Maybe. Run? No. Kenyon doesn’t run to or from anybody. You better watch your back around him.”