Ah, makeover–the word every girl loves to hear, even me. (if ironically).
This month, I’ve decided to add what will hopefully be 40K to the novel ‘Ah-Seti-Ten The Dread‘; an epic high-fantasy drama that’s pretty dark, all things considered. I mean, it starts with the main character being sold into slavery; even Game of Thrones waited until Book 5 for that!
Hopefully this will bring the novel’s wordcount up to a total of… 40K, because while I’ve already written five thousand words of ‘Dread’, I’m afraid I’ve just looked over those words… and most of them have to go. Yes, the beginning of ‘Dread’ is getting a makeover, so for comparison, here is the original first page of the story:
“Lot thirteen—seventeen-year-old female, Nietszentine!”
Well, that was me.
I took one last desperate look at the carriages behind me to see if I could see Orinetph; if he’d poked his head out of whichever cart he was stuck in when he heard my description, but I didn’t see a thing before one of the auctioneer staff grabbed my shoulder and pushed me towards the stage. He wasn’t exactly rough about it, but he could hardly be called gentle either.
It was a cloudy day. I saw many umbrellas among the crowd, and now I was outside I could tell it had been raining earlier. The man who I think had been the one to buy me from the Keian army—it was either him or someone he worked for—stood at the front of the crowd, facing them rather than the stage. He glanced up at me and rubbed the bristles of his moustache with a frown.
The crowd themselves were a colourful bunch. I recognised the Keians easily enough, and Farsuchites; the natives of the city we were just outside of, they made up the most of the gathering. There were even some of my own people, most of whom scrunched their faces up, in some cases turning their backs on me entirely. I saw two women from Gestyen (judging by their jewellery) notice this and laugh.
If the customs of the Nietszentines amuse you, buy me, I thought. I’d rather them then have one of my countrymen decide to increase their standing with T’hiea by buying one of her fallen servants and restoring their honour. I preferred my head on my shoulders, as it turned out.
“A priestess of the temple of Tee-yah,” said the auctioneer, “trained to work with textiles and suitable for most domestic labour. Forty jeahl!”
Forty. He did say forty. It had been only three months since my enslavement, so I’d yet to fully grasp the Farsuchite language, but I was pretty good with numbers. Jeahl was the currency, I’d known that much for years, and I was pretty sure he’d said ‘textiles’ and ‘domestic labour’ so from that I could quite clearly tell what he’d meant.
I suppose what I could do could be described as working with textiles to an outsider. I could do other things too, of course. It was a little annoying that that was the extent of his sales pitch.
“I have forty,” said the auctioneer.
I’d seen the five who went before me brought onto the stage, so I knew what to do by now without being manhandled by the staff. After the first bid, you turned around slowly, arms outstretched. I did so.
“Ah, she learns fast! She learns fast!”
Those words were easy to recognise, the overseer had said them to me several times when we were being taught to speak Farsuchite.
“Forty-five!” called someone.
The crowd was too big for me to see who was calling, I could only hope for the best.
And here is the revised introduction to this universe, wherein I do things like… try to make the writing good. Or at least good-ish. I don’t know, leave your opinions below if you like.
(1st comment: “I liked the first one better!”)
Or just go and celebrate Canada day. Stupid Canadians–bet it’s not thirty-five degrees where they are. Stupid hottest day of the year–you can see it’s influenced the makeover!
The stage was set for my performance—banal and empty as it would be; a raised platform still seemingly sturdy after its timbers had started to turn grey with age and at the corner nearest to me where the thick posts rose above the platform the little round head of the nails that had joined each length to their supports had rusted dry-blood red, like the stain on the wood next to it that had soaked in who knew how many years ago?
Despite everything I couldn’t help but feel a kind of thrill when they called for me to take up my new role and be judged.
“Lot thirteen; Nietzentine female, fifteen years old!”
I hesitated. I’d been seventeen since the last autumn and for a moment it made me wonder if that meant the auctioneer had been referring to the girl next to me, but the attendant at the foot of the rickety-looking steps took my upper arm in hand and dragged me forward.
“Stupid girl,” I heard him mutter. His fingers grazed my kalsehschin marks and sent a shudder across my shoulders, as if it was still sacrilege for them to be touched after everything that had lead to this moment.
Well, if it hadn’t been me they’d meant then it was their own fault. I was not foolish enough to want to give them any reason to add my blood to their stage.
The dust that clung to by feet scraped slightly on the steps as I forced myself to climb them; I found myself trying to brush them off as much as I could even though my legs shook whenever one of them carried my entire weight. The sun disappeared into a sea of ash-like cloud as soon as I reached the top. I was thankful for that. My nose was already sunburnt today.
“Quickly, quickly!” ordered the auctioneer, though by the sound of his voice the only hurry he was in was to be doing something more interesting than this. He was a stooped and elderly man, thin, his hands a somewhat yellowish colour with their fingers wrapped around a small leather crop.
I was a slave now, so I supposed I’d have to do as he said until someone else bought me. I watched the wood beneath my feet for holes or splinters as my shaking legs carried me front and centre where I’d seen the girl before me stand. The cotton shift felt heavy on my shoulders, damp with sweat; the collar shifted uncomfortably against my neck as I raised my head to take my first look at the crowd.
Before that moment, I’d only been able to see part of the front row, and then only after I’d come to the front of the queue closest to the stage as my fellow chattel and I were hidden from our potential masters behind linen screens. I’d been able to hear their chatter, but perhaps I wasn’t used enough to the sound of large numbers of people after the isolation of temple life to have accurately guessed their number.
There were far more of them than I’d thought there to be. A hundred and fifty at least, maybe two hundred; mostly men with some professional-looking women in their number, mostly native Farsuchites with some lighter, northern faces dappling the crowd; Keians, Barasi, Noryens, Soloese, and a few darker to make it calico. Their clothes were more varied in their style and value than I could properly comprehend at a glance, and all along the edges there were carriers of various sizes and colours, sparkling with the wealth of their owners encrusted along their edges—telling you what you needed to know about them since they hadn’t deigned to show their faces. They probably watched me through a slot in the front of the contraption—my father’s wives had owned such equipment.
That’s the post for today, everyone–I blog less in hot weather. Happy camping, comrades!