Woke up this morning and my head was relatively clear, which was a relief — I’ve been waking up with pounding headaches from this cold, which is very not conducive to diving into writing.
So I actually just woke up and started writing — I have a middle-grade novel I started a long time ago and only got two scenes in; I re-read it all out loud, doing minor edits as I went, refreshing my memory.
And then I drafted a new scene. I haven’t done any new drafting since…oh, summer? Between my service commitments, my day job, and the sudden eldercare responsibilities that showed up this fall, I just had no mental space for drafting new work.
It’s nice to have it back; I feel more like myself.
Here, have a new scene, fresh-baked. Shanthi is twelve, and kids read up, so I think I’m aiming for roughly a 10-year-old reader.
It seemed an endless time later that the unicorn finally slowed down. The baying of the hounds had faded. They’d come to a thicket of shrubs and trees grown so tightly together that Shanthi couldn’t see any way through. The unicorn stopped, and after a moment, Shanthi slid down, though she couldn’t resist leaning against the unicorn as she did, feeling the warmth of its silky side. Shanthi had once met a sambur deer, in the hill country at World’s End, one that was so used to tourists that he would sometimes let you pet him. Rajah was beautiful, but this creature’s pelt was so much softer, like the hair on a baby’s head. And like a baby, it smelled like vanilla and sunshine.
“Do you have a name?”
The unicorn whuffled, a funny sound almost like a human chuckle.
*Humans are obsessed with names. Names and lineages. You may call me Tarth.*
“Tarth?” The voice that said the name was male, and young – Shanthi swiveled around to find that a section of the thicket had somehow disappeared, and a white boy stood there. About her age, she thought, although it was harder to tell with white people; she didn’t see them in the flesh very often. Tall where she was short, skinny where she was round. It was a little scary, talking to a stranger, but maybe he could explain some of this?
“Hi – Tarth brought me here. I’m Shanthi.”
He ignored her, speaking to the unicorn instead. “Tarth, are you all right? What were you doing outside the sanctuary?”
*There was a need for me; I went.*
“How are we supposed to protect you if you keep running off like this?”
*That is for you to figure out, young Guardian. Isn’t that what your grandfather would say? Unless you mean to make me a prisoner…*
“No, of course not.”
“Excuse me,” Shanthi said. She was scared to speak, but the questions were bubbling up so fast and furious now, she felt like she had to. “What’s a Guardian? What’s a sanctuary? Who are you? And where am I?”
The boy finally met her eyes, and huffed a sigh of clear exasperation. “I’m a Guardian. This is a sanctuary. My name is Eric, and you’re in England.”
“Well, that was a little helpful.”
He shrugged. “You don’t need to know anything else. We just have to find my grandfather, and get him to send you back to whatever corner of the world you dropped out of…”
“I’m from Negombo. In Sri Lanka.”
Eric sighed. “Definitely a problem for Grandfather. Come on.”
He gestured towards the opening in the thicket, and when Tarth started walking through, Shanthi followed. She wasn’t too impressed with this Eric, but if she knew anything right now, it was that she wanted to stay with Tarth as long as possible. As long as she kept her hand on his flank, she seemed to stay warm, despite her thin school uniform and the snow under her bare feet. Once they were through, Eric did something with his hands, and suddenly the thicket was solid behind them again, as if it had always been that way.
Magic. Shanthi let out a startled breath. Of course, unicorns were magic too, obviously, and you didn’t travel instantaneously from Sri Lanka to England without magic. But seeing a boy her age actually doing magic – that was something else entirely.
A little seed of excitement flared to life in her chest. Could she learn to do magic? She’d never have to be afraid of anyone again…
(Pictured below, nenes.)