Over at Frame Tale, Kate did a challenge post that she had come across that I just had to give a stab at myself. I love these little games, where you get the chance to showcase a little bit of your work. It’s also pretty useful for those days when you don’t have much else to write about, either.
So here’s how it works:
Take your current manuscript and find the first instance of the word “look”. Then post the surrounding paragraphs as an excerpt of the book on your blog. Lastly, tag five more blogging authors who you think would be a good choice for the game.
What I have typed of Serpent in a Cage right now is a hot mess; I’ve been doing my thing where I inflate the paragraphs to whittle down into more concise words later, but it didn’t seem fair to skip it entirely since a variation of the word “look” appears in the first page. However, I didn’t want to leave it at just a really rough draft, so I’m including Bowlful of Bunnies to it, too. Which also has a variation of “look” right at the beginning. Perhaps something I need to look into not doing so much…
Anyway, without any further ado, here’s a little snippet of Serpent in a Cage‘s rough draft, built around the word “look,” which so happens to be the beginning prologue, heavy and dense as it is in its current unedited state:
“When she pulled her arm back, tearing the blade away from the soft, warm body, she just wanted it to be over. She wanted to collapse and close her eyes and finally rest, letting the weight of her steel drag her down to the floor, where she wouldn’t have to get up again until she was good and ready. The sweltering heat of the fire was almost as suffocating as the thick smoke that filled the air and choked her lungs, made her eyes sting and start to water. Overhead, the rafters strained with a loud, threatening crack, struggling to keep the roof held under the intensity of the heat. Underneath, there were pitiful groans from the scattering of bodies left for dead. It was a nightmare, something out of a hideous dream, and she just wanted to fall back and let it finally end. Close her eyes and perhaps, when she opened them again, it turned out it was all just a figment of twisted imagination after all.
But she couldn’t stop. She had to keep focused, she had to keep moving. She had to find the others and make sure they were safe. Auferrix Ferrore gave her sword arm a quick jerk, shedding off some of the wet blood from the blade before it started to stick. Splatters of it landed in the fire and hissed like serpents.
“Kadue!” she lifted her voice, calling out over the chaos and destruction. Smoke rushed into her lungs, and she gasped from the sudden pain, fighting against a cough. Scanning the area, looking for him, was useless; her eyes were so damp from the stinging smoke that they rendered her blind. She staggered forward, exhausted but determined. If only she could find a way out! In the fresh air of the cool evening, she could collect her thoughts and her wits. She could breathe and begin to see more clearly.
The smoke was so dense, so thick, that she didn’t even notice the big, hulking man in front of her until she had practically collided into him. She stopped just short of contact; he has his arms lifted over his head, ready to plunge his axe down into a figure on the ground. Panic swelled inside of her as she realized she had no idea if the attacker was one of her own or one of the enemy, but if she did not act, the person on the floor would be just as dead. She moved on instinct, trusting her gut feeling and praying to the gods that she was right. It was justice; it was defending those who could not defend themselves, not matter what their position in this crazy war might be.
“Firae, give me strength,” she whispered, as she always did before she braced herself for an attack. The axe started to fall, but it didn’t get far. Every action except the bulging of the man’s eyes stepped suddenly as Auferrix drove her blade firmly through his shoulder blades, through his heart, and then out on the other side. The tip dinted against his armor, and she yanked her blade out again.
A moment passed where the man seemed to be suspended only by the last thin thread of Life, and he fell into a crumpled mass at Auferrix’s feet. She looked down on the poor, lifeless bastard, feeling only a small bit of pity while the heat swelled behind her with a crackle of fallen wood. After nudging the body with her toe, he thrust out her hand to the cowering person she had just saved, hoping she had slain the right one.
“Come on,” she ordered, firmly, but hurriedly. The smoke had cleared enough that she could now recognize the face gawking up at her. Not his name, but definitely the person, the owner of the tavern they were in, the owner of the tavern burning down into a bloody rubble around them. She closed her eyes a moment to thank the gods and pushed her hand closer when he didn’t grab it. He was in a state of shock, that much was clear, having expected to be cleaved in half by the man between them. Auferrix barked out her next words to get him back to reality. “We have to get you out of here.”
And, as a bonus, here are a few paragraphs surrounding the first instance of “look” in Bowlful of Bunnies, which happens at the beginning of the first story, Dragon Rising, which means it’s nothing special because it’s exactly what you’d read in the book preview, lol:
Possum, Rabbit, and Prairie Dog had all gone to the river to do the washing, and I had followed to watch them. The sun was bright in the cornflower sky, and hot, so after they had dunked the clothes in the gentle rushing stream, after they had scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed, they laid them out on the big flat rocks that had been soaking up the sun’s heat. There, the clothes would dry, basking like salamanders, and the girls would splash around in the water themselves, laughing and playing, tossing handfuls at each other until they were drenched and cooled. Then they, too, settled down in the long grass, turned their browned faces toward the sun and soaked it up.
Quiet and still, I crouched next to a boulder too tall and round to be used for drying, underneath a fern for further shelter. I curled my tail in, which was the only way I could prevent it from twitching happily at the serenity of the scene. They had no idea I was watching; the three of them were such pleasure seekers that they had none of the carefulness and caution of their friends, who would have surely caught me. Rabbit was perhaps the most skittish of them, and her bright brown eyes flicked my way on occasion, her pert little nose wrinkling as it tried to pick up the scents carried on the wind. Mostly, though, it was just the sweet grass and the soap still floating by on the river, the fresh linen and the lavender flowers from up the hill.
She looked at me at least three times, straight at me, without seeing me. My ears pressed back with the pleasure of my successful camouflage. The others wouldn’t even believe me when I told them that I was peering into the intimate, quiet respite of these three bright-eyed girls, knowledge so valuable that I would instantly be skyrocketed up in their ranks. If only Deer and Fox had laundry duties today! They, out of all the girls in the village, were easily the most eagerly sought after. Next time, perhaps I should try my stealth in the kitchens or the temples to see what other wonderful things girls did when they were alone, but I couldn’t imagine anything as splendid as their splashing and laughing, their hair catching in the sun as they tossed it freely around.
And then they began to talk.
So there you have it. Apparently, “look”s appear pretty quickly in my work, and I hope you all enjoyed this…look (ah-ha!) of Serpent in a Cage. Don’t forget, I’ve got a really cool scary story/mystery contest running until the end of September. I’ll even give you a new prompt with the following picture, found at favim.com, accompanied with the word “clandestine“: