Lullabies

A Balance of Souls Book 2

 
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Writing Sample 1 (with minimum Book 1 spoilers)

I read the letter two, three, half a dozen times before digesting what it says, then promptly banish all thoughts of it from my mind.

It’s unlike him to beg. Insulting.

The snow-damp wrapping of his gift wears at the corners, worried from the friction of my fingers. I peel apart what paper remains, flicking away the pulpy entrails which cling to my nails. Rows of delicate Felkin script gleam silver across the darkened wengewood frame of a music box. A healthy coat of oil shines along the grain. It’s been recently cared for. It smells of my island.

I wind the key, a tree-shaped carving in birch and iron, and the lid opens with a snap. A melody pierces through the wind’s raging howl, simple, elegant, and haunting, an ancient lullaby that forces shivers through my skin.

Writing Sample 2 (with a bit more Book 1 spoilers)

My meadow was once a great courtyard. The stones of it, smooth, polished, and glistening, form beneath my feet as I walk. A sprinkling of moss grows impossibly fast, its spongy texture encroaching between the pattern of stones and my toes. The courtyard’s upkeep must have been neglected during the Felkin’s last week alive.

Careful to keep a good grip on Kyhauna’s diary, I jump from one stone to another as if it’s a game. Each step I take is a hazard, a challenge of both balance and perception. The stones are slippery, the rain blinding, and the entire structure of the courtyard appears only as I approach it, disappearing obediently behind me after I pass.

Members of a faded jury take their seats at the edge of my vision. The benches beneath them don’t entirely exist yet, so I make my way closer, forcing them into stability with my presence. I study the shadows under each juror’s hood, searching for a face, but there are none. They’ve been forgotten, even by the dead. I move on.

Winding my way through an arena of benches and platforms, I come upon the king’s throne. Maisen Sheikaih stares back at me. His face suffers, worn clearly with heartache and pain. His expression is hopeless, hateful, melancholy. He can’t see me, but still stares as if through my very soul. I follow his gaze but there’s nothing to see, not yet.

I hop down from the rows of onlookers and cross the courtyard once more, following his eyes’ direction. On either side of me, phantom shadows form and fade with each step. I focus my concentration and force whispers from their half-formed throats, the echoes of a grievance long since passed. Their thoughts flow through the air like an army at my heels.

How has this happened?

What have we done?

We’ll die here for his sins, for our pride.

At last, it’s over.

My toe trips over a loose chain—a real, physical remnant from the past—and I land heavy on my knees. Though the ground beneath me looks like stone, its impact causes no pain. Soft grass cushions my fall instead.

Confronted by the sudden risk of harm, my senses re-acknowledge that the courtyard isn’t real. The scene around me unwinds into nothing, flowing across my skin like a breeze as it goes.

The last bit to leave is a woman chained before me, a near mirror of myself. Kyhauna has my exact hair and eyes, though her skin seems darker. Spiraled black markings, not unlike vines, tattoo her face. They frame her left eye and weave across her forehead.

A second before she dissipates completely, a streak of red mars the beauty of her face. She lifts her eyes toward the blood rain, watching it with all the emotion of an ignorant, amused kitten. Then the memory is gone.

I want more, more clarity, more truth. I want to taste the memories, to smell them. I want to immerse myself in the past, relive my father’s death, Dominoe’s touch. I want to escape in it. Analyze it. Judge it and my own foolish weakness.

One step at a time.

I’ll try another day.