Sunday, February 10, 2013

Chapter One

Below you will find the First Chapter of my novella, my purpose other than to hopefully entertain is to also engage. Engage with others as to the readability, flow and building of the chapters. Does this openings feel like too much too soon? Is the picture painted with the delicacy of a chainsaw? All comments are encouraged.

In Dreams The Solitary Road  A Novella By S.I. Hayes

Copyright 2013 Shannon I. Hayes

Chapter One

   Some are born to happiness, others to sorrow. Some are affected by circumstance, while others rise above it. Yet out of the darkest beginnings a flame can begin, which can burn far brighter than any sun.

   The Isle De’ Corlen, is small, and cut off from the rest of the continents, the only way to approach is by boat or air, and neither are permitted without invitation. Its claims to fame were not its white sandy beach, or lustrous blue rivers, but a high cost commodity. The Isle is home to a venomous insect called Hymenopteria, which expel froth while tending to their rocky hives. This is collected and used to create Trialade. A naturally sweet additive, sold the world over. The Isle being the only place in which these insects thrive, has made them into a creature of faith. The people see them as a source of divine intervention, and as their High Priestess is in complete control of them, she too is venerated.
   This is a place where if it walks like a duck and quacks like one, it’s probably a chicken, here nothing is taken at face value and every action hangs upon the will of the High Priestess Rosaline Decon. Her word is law and to break any of her laws was to be punished in a most cruelly unfair fashion. Especially if you were unfortunate enough to have been born male, or worse, her child.
   A daughter was born to Rosaline Decon, on the night of the fullest and largest moon the Isle had witnessed in more than twenty years. The labor was hard, and long, but that did not bother Rosaline, what kept her screaming was the commotion. Outside, the sky was blackened by the feathers of ravens as they swooped amongst the Hymenopteria, blue blood rained down soaking dirt roads. The birds numbers were uncountable, and no one could stop them. The huntsmen and the guards tried in vain, but for every raven they took down with their bows, three more would fill in its place.
   Then, as Rosaline pushed for the final time, and the child let out her first wail, it stopped, the birds settled into the trees and on the eaves of the Stone shingled building.
   “Give me my daughter.” She demanded, but one look at the child and Rosaline pushed her away, for on her delicate little head was a patch of raven’s blue-black hair. She mumbled that it was an omen, that the child would never be a Decon.
   Although her body was weakened by the birth, she pulled herself out of bed and withdrew from the room, leaving the child in the arms of her midwife, Beatrice. With a hardened face, the woman shoved the baby into the open arms of its father Jeremiah, so she might chase the High Priestess.
   The baby wailed, but as Jeremiah rocked, she quieted. “There, there, your muma’s just upset. Its okay, Amara, I’m your Dad, and I’ll always keep you safe”
   “Make that we, and if she’ll not be a Decon, give her your name, make her a Dagon.” The voice of an older gentleman broke into the room. When Jeremiah looked up, he saw his father-in-law, Nathan, with a smile across his face, with him was Amaranth, Rosaline’s mother, Amara’s namesake.
   “Yes, you strange bird, we will be here for her, no matter what.” Amaranth promised.

   Amara was outwardly a very happy child, bright and eager in her studies, but her nights were filled with terrible dreams of fires, and a shadowy demon, that caused fits of screaming, which Rosaline left either her parents or Jeremiah to deal with. In fact, unless it was to scold her Rosaline rarely ever occupied the same room as Amara, who wanted nothing more than her love and approval. Keeping with their promise to protect Amara, as Rosaline’s patience with her was thin as skin upon milk, Nathan took to teaching Amara a rhyme to help keep the dreams at bay.
   “Dreams of sorrow, dreams of pain, shall not linger in the light of day. Should darkness unfold in memories untold, nothing shall haunt a child bold.”
   This was the last gift she would receive from her beloved grandfather. For unfortunately, life has a way of breaking the most sacred of promises. By the time Amara was five, Nathan was gone. Having disappeared on a fishing voyage, just before she was to begin her studies as a Priestess initiate. His demise sent his wife Amaranth into a despair from which she has never recovered. This left Jeremiah, as the only protector to a young girl who was often made to feel inferior, by the woman who was supposed to love her most of all. Rosaline never forgave her for bringing the Ravens, or for the color of her hair. Both, atrocities for which she blamed Jeremiah as well. She often clamored that had she known, that in his youthful days he too had the omen color, she would have never allowed their coupling. On several occasions, Jeremiah had to put himself in between Rosaline and Amara, because the woman would often smack her just for being in the room. For his kindness and his nature, Amara loved her father dearly. He was a large man, almost six feet four inches tall, just one of his hands could encase both of her own, but for all of his imposing, he was the gentlest man she knew. With him in her life, she could withstand the scowling of her mother, and the poisoned tongue of her teacher Beatrice.
   He made her want to be the daughter Rosaline expected, good, honest, loyal, and obedient. He told her tales of places far off, of cities underground, filled with neon lights, and mirrors that brought the sun’s light to the darkest of places. Places she vowed to see one day. These stories made her happy; they were the only thing, which brought her solace once he too was gone. By the time of Amara’s eighth birthday, she had failed in her initiation task of calming the Hymenopteria, which called for their appeasement in smoke and blood.
This was the isle’s way, so said Rosaline, according to her Priestess texts, which were conveniently translated by Beatrice. Stating that if ever the insects failed to calm in the presence of a High Priestess it was because the Divine Goddess wanted a libation. In the past this had been done regularly, to keep the flow of Trialade in check, but the last time was more than sixty years ago.
   A choice had to be made, either it was to be the blood of the initiate, or the blood of the father. Since Amara was an only child, and Jeremiah had forfeited his previous life to become High Priest, he knew it was his duty to keep Amara safe. He would keep his promise to her, in the only way he could. He sacrificed himself, so that she would be spared. He never dreamed that Rosaline’s cruelty could go so far.
As part of the ritual to appease the Divine Jeremiah was beaten, first publicly lashed by Rosaline and Beatrice, while Amara was forced to watch. Once this was done, he was taken away by guards who finished beating him. Once the pyre had been created, he was dragged to its base, lugged up the steps, and tied by guards a few of whom were visibly in tears.
   In the time of Nathan, and Jeremiah, the treatment of men, was by far more fair. Before them, stories were told of atrocities as the one now witnessed happening on a far larger and more frequent scale. The entirety of the Isles people were gathered as the ritual played out. Amara was held tightly by Amaranth, and handed a torch, she was to be the one to light the fire. She was pushed forward, the torch in her hand, as Rosaline chanted, the words escaping her as she looked into her fathers bloodied face. She couldn't do it, even as the man nodded, giving her permission. Amara collapsed, hoping that this would end it, but she was dragged away screaming for her father. Rosaline, glared at her, took up the torch, and finished it, instantly ending the kindness of Amara's world...

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