Icayleis (chapter one, first-ish draft)

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    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>Icayleis — </span>Sarah King

    <i><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>chapter one:</span></i>

    <i><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>whether or not the fairytales are true?</span></i>

    <i><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>and a conspiracy or two.</span></i>

    <i><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>some death and some trespassers,</span></i>

    <i><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>mayhaps a knifey situation.</span></i>


    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>Arien knew she could use the Vast. She knew the old stories were true. </span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>She never mentioned it, of course. Icayleins had too many superstitions about Vastians. Some great-grandparents would still tell stories from their childhood, back when the superhumans lived in relative harmony with the rest of the population, but their children would roll their eyes and remind them that times have changed and those witches are long since gone, and good riddance.</span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>Besides, nobody would believe her anyway. When it came to Vastwork, Arien was useless. She couldn’t reshape boulders or freeze water with a wave of her hand. She couldn’t change her eye color or take the form of a fox. She couldn’t jump over a ten foot wall hear whispers from the far end of the road. </span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>But Arien could do things with her mind. Sure, she couldn’t count on her abilities to work all the time; they came and went as they pleased, refusing all her attempts to tame them. But on the occasions she could use them, she knew they were nothing ordinary humans possessed. </span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>When she was four, and some nasty government people had come to take her away from her family, she had prayed that they would leave her alone. No sooner had they announced their mission, then, than they had randomly decided to leave, never to return. Little Arien had wondered if it was because of her or not. Then she had gotten the feeling that her father was hiding something from her, so as an experiment, she willed him to tell her. And he did — he said it was high time she learned that she technically wasn’t one of his own kids. </span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>She didn’t think of herself as particularly extroverted or amiable, but she’d never had trouble making friends. Whether it was working in the shop or attending trade school, Arien could just… choose for people to like her. Again, sometimes nothing happened. But if there was, say, a bully around, or some other continually annoying situation, sooner or later the problem would mysteriously change its mind and stop being one. Leif and Mareit even joked Arien was their good luck charm.</span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>And just a few days ago, when some creepy drunk guy had kept asking if she was the sky, and she’s told him to go home and rethink his life, he’d blinked confusedly and done just that. The going home part, at least.</span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>As neat as her powers seemed, and as thankful for them as she was, Arien couldn’t help but wonder where the others had disappeared to. Her powers were straight out of bedtime stories. Her adoptive mom wasn’t one of those superstitious types; she would tell all her kids about Lalorik the Navigator, Ivein of Aloneis, Sir Ranfyos-Eagleheart, and all sorts of famous Vastian heroes. All of them had powers more impressive than anything Arien’s imagination could ever come up with. And a few of them could do the same strange mind tricks as Arien. But they could also do more. Whenever they did something Arien could do, it was always as a little sidenote, something not very impressive compared to their main abilities that they used to save the day. So as Arien got older, she searched far and wide for answers. For the solution to her unusual problem.</span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>The problem was that on her right forearm lived a metal bracer, clinging onto her skin, a latticework of wire and restriction. It had haunted her since before she could remember, mocking her, probably draining her powers away or locking them somewhere deep inside her. She didn’t understand how it worked, but her theory was that if she could only remove it, perhaps her true Vastian powers would awaken. Nobody had been able to do so. And yet it seemed to grow with her, never feeling too tight or loose. She vaguely remembered that her birth mother had put on her, but not how or why.</span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>But, assuming that flicker of a memory was correct, Arien still didn’t know why her mother would have chosen to do it. After all, if Arien was a Vastian, at least one of her biological parents must have been. Well, not necessarily. Her research had turned up all kinds of situations — in fact, one of the funnier and more convoluted royal family conspiracy theories said that the Queen Mother was one herself, which was supposed to explain why she hated them so much.</span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>Oh yes, Arien had done her research. The hobby was never-ending. She looked everywhere, not just in popular culture, for clues about the Vast and its users, wielders, keepers.</span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>She had started with the bracer, of course. Etched into the metal, tucked away at an angle she could barely see herself, were two words. A name. </span><i><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>Kyari Calo</span></i><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>.</span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>She’d only seen the name Calo in three other places. First, in one of her favorite books, </span><i><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>Legends of the Vast,</span></i><span style=”font-weight: 400;”> a collection of fairytales from back before Icayleis had driven its natives into hiding, when those who could and couldn’t do Vastwork lived together. Arien considered herself lucky to have found the book in the first place, and she treasured it above all her other possessions — even the weird necklace thing her birth mom had left behind — because, nowadays, the only people who remembered that age and kept anything from it were dying themselves or watching as their peers did.</span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>The villain of one of the stories said to the hero, “You’re even worse than those Calos!” And the hero laughed and promptly foiled the enemy’s plan.</span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>This led her to believe her family must have been well-known at one point, at least within Vastian circles. The book gave no other explanation, just assumed its readers would know about the famous Calos. And if the evil antagonist didn’t like them, maybe they had been especially brave or heroic or powerful.</span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>Second, she’d happened upon the name by accident on a trip to the snowy northern province of Fyareis. Under an enormous evergreen, on a lone weathered gravestone, were two bone-chilling carvings: another name, </span><i><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>Rinfyan Naifel Reit Calo</span></i><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>, and under it, a familiar, four-sided, asymmetrical shape: an outline of the pendant that hung around Arien’s neck. The locals knew the grave as “The Second Resting Place of the Tinted-Lock Warrior,” but that was the extent of their knowledge. It hadn’t given her any more leads.</span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>Third, on a loose page of a sketchbook, folded and tucked as a bookmark in volume II of </span><i><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>Icayleis, a History</span></i><span style=”font-weight: 400;”> in a small bookstore. On the paper was a two by two chart, with a word in each box: </span><i><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>Laridda, Mayar, Fulin’aam, Calo</span></i><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>. And above the chart ran some strange letters that a historian had identified as Ancient Zakdomayi. But they hadn’t found anyone who could translate it, and like that Arien was out of luck.</span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>After eleven years of boring existence and seven more of dedication and research, Arien was still alone. She wouldn’t dream of admitting it, but the hope of discovering some underground group of Vastians or Calos had started to fade slowly. Surely Arien wasn’t the last of either. But with every passing year, finding others seemed impossible. She might not have had any success. But she had determination — as well as folders and boxes and piles of books and papers and notes.</span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>Until one day, when she didn’t.</span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>”Oh,” said Arien. “This is less than ideal.” She held the door open for Leif to see inside the room.</span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>”What?” He looked over her shoulder and gasped.</span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>The first thing one usually saw upon entering the study was the impressively large bookshelf directly across from the doorway, and then the sturdy wooden desk under the window on the left. But this time, both sets of eyes went immediately to the floor.</span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>Strewn about the rug was everything that was supposed to be organised on the shelves. Her desk, one which usually sat quills and ink and her current projects, was bare, its toppings scattered across the floor as if someone had swept them there with a broom or an arm. </span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>But as cluttered and messy as the room now looked, Arien noticed that if the bookshelf was completely empty, there should have been a lot more on the floor. She knelt and began sorting the mess as well as she could. The intruder hadn’t just made a mess — he’d stolen things, too. Her most precious possessions were nowhere.</span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>The trespasser had taken all her books on Vastians. The history of ancient Icayleis — gone. The supposed and controversial biography of a man who killed Vastians for a living — gone. </span><i><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>Legends of the Vast</span></i><span style=”font-weight: 400;”> — gone.</span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>Gone were her beautiful notes, handwritten and treasured, and the folders in which she had so meticulously organized them.</span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>“Who else works here?” asked Leif. He visited Arien at her office every now and then, but hadn’t gotten to know her coworkers much at all. “Maybe someone across the hall needed to find something, or… Is anything missing? Like did someone break in and steal stuff?”</span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>Arien set down the papers and looked up at her friend. “All my Vastian research is gone. Everything else is fine.”</span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>He blinked. “But who would… I mean, no offense, but nobody else cares about that stuff.”</span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>“Exactly,” she said. “Technically it could have been anyone — the doors were all locked, but that’s the extent of the security around here, ‘cause we don’t have anything to hide, or anything valuable.” She frowned and kept sorting papers into stacks. “And even if we did, you’re right, nobody cares about this weird stuff like I do. And, even if they did, they could just ask and I’d be more than happy to tell them all about everything I’ve learned.”</span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>“So… do you think they were, like… professionals?” Leif wondered aloud, trying to help by taking the stacks of papers and placing them carefully back in the bookshelf.</span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>”Professional what? Burglars?”</span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>”Well, maybe not. Professional something-elses. I mean, since they only bothered with papers and boring stuff, it’s as if they were after some bit of information that you’re not supposed to have. Normal burglars would take all sorts of valuables and whatnot.”</span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>Arien frowned. “But what would they have wanted? Just some notes on Vastians? That’s not exactly burglar-worthy.”</span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>”…Maybe.”</span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>It hadn’t been an accident, clearly. But there was no-one on whom to put the blame. Arien just sat there on the floor, staring at it all, until Leif spoke again.</span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>”What’ll you do now?”</span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>Arien shrugged. “Do the meeting anyway, restart my collection, and hopefully find whoever did this.”</span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>Leif nodded absentmindedly. He’d been following along on this quest for a few years, and knew how much those folders had meant. They represented years of research and hunting for information, and not all of it had been easy to get.</span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>”But for now,” Arien continued, “Let’s get back to the house.”</span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>The IIA had a tradition of putting their new recruits in boarding houses with peers of all different interests. Not including their host, Arien shared the house on Fyutarudixie Street with three others: a shy courier boy, a forlorn illustrator, and a cute redheaded warrior who fancied Leif, who, a few years older than Arien, had already joined the program and was stationed on the other side of the city. Today was an off-day for him, so he had spent it bugging Arien. She welcomed the company. The past few days of moving in to her new home and unpacking had blurred together into a stressful mess. And now this. </span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>The two left the more-nearly-back-to-normal study behind, locking the door for good measure, and exited the office building.</span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>“Do you smell that?” asked Leif, pausing as they made their way down the street. A gust of wind blew through the city. Arien brushed a strand of reddish hair out of her eyes, and a few greyish snowflakes landed on Leif’s nose. But they didn’t all melt.</span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>Dreading what they might find, they sped through the alleys. Ash and snow swirled through the winter air, beautifying and polluting the streets together. </span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>Turning the final corner, the two froze. Fyutarudixie was aflame. Or at least had been recently, and some of the remnants still were.</span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>A large crowd was gathered just in front of the two newcomers. Far enough away from the danger, they whispered and sobbed in equal parts. Arien and Leif scampered over and located their friend Mareit, an older lady who had been housekeeper of the destroyed building. She saw them coming over and jumped at the sight.</span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>“</span><i><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>Kmaya?</span></i><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>” she exclaimed. Then she blinked and said to herself, “Oh, it’s just…”</span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>“Mareit!” called Leif. “Are you okay? What’s wrong!”</span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>”Leif — yeah, yeah, I’m fine. I, uh… Arien… thought you were Kmaya at first.”</span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>”…Who?” asked Leif ashamedly.</span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>“The other ginger girl. She didn’t make it out.”</span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>“…Oh.”</span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>Mareit was too out of it to notice or care about what Leif clearly thought was embarrassing. She sighed deeply, eyes unfocused, and then her attention switched to some other bystander in need of assistance. </span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>Leif shook his head and turned back to Arien. “Someone’s sure got it out for you,” he joked, not for the first time. He wasn’t trying to mock others’ pain — humor was his way of dealing with tough things, and she knew it.</span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>But along with the disappearance of her folders, Arien began to wonder if his comment might have been true.</span>


    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>\\\\</span>


    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>Xyphir’s Dunahir eyes tracked the travellers below as they rode up the mountain pass. He didn’t recognize either of them, but that wasn’t too unusual — Kerensia took in Vastian refugees from all over. On guard duty today, it would be he who would go down to meet them and welcome them to what he hoped would be their new home. Xyphir remembered his life before he’d joined the Choir and his Verse, and the memories were not happy ones. So he empathized with all the newcomers and gave them all second chances.</span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>He ducked under the elegant metal fence — the “anti-Outsider ring,” as Cor and Vin called it — and made his way down the cliffside. It was nearly completely vertical, but that had never stopped him before. He was a Dunahir, after all.</span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>The travellers looked to be two middle-ages men, maybe brothers. Neither one had any MA that he could see, but they were also wearing heavy cloaks and gloves, so maybe it was just hidden. Xyphir himself took off his scarf, even though it was a little chilly, so they’d be able to see the scattering of blue dots and specks that had spread across his neck and the side of his jaw. Manifestational assimilation was by far the easiest way to tell if someone was a Vastian.</span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>He took one more leap and landed on the path a few yards in front of the two men. They’d seen him coming and had paused awkwardly. Then just as he opened his mouth to greet them, he heard one mutter to the other, “Now who’s this bozo?”</span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>Xyphir grinned and said, “The name’s Xyphir Vantair, lieutenant of the Choir Kerensia. May I be of assistance?”</span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>He knew the answer would be yes, but he didn’t know their stories, so he cut them some clack and didn’t mind the salty looks they gave him. They could have gone through all sorts of trouble just trying to get there.</span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>”Out of our way, punk.”</span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>Xyphir raised an eyebrow. “I have to bring you to Laksil to check-in,” he said. “That’s just how we do it. I’m sorry if —”</span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>”Look here, my buddy,” one of the travellers snapped at Xyphir, and hopping off his horse, “I don’t know what you think you’re up to, but the two of us are headed through this range to Aloneis, and no long-haired blue-face with bare feet and a flimsy crossbow is gonna stop us!”</span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>Xyphir’s mind did a question mark. He hadn’t thought anything of it, but the two had been speaking Zakdomayi, the common tongue, instead of Icayli, that of the Vastians, the natives of the land. They also clearly didn’t know what MA was, and claimed to be going to Aloneis, not Kerensia.</span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>Xyphir glanced at the fence up above. It looked fine. He couldn’t feel it, of course, but he knew the kimite should be radiating the same field of Vast it always did that kept the Outsiders away. Only Vastians should have been able to approach within four miles of the secret valley.</span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>For a moment, Xyphir stood frozen. He didn’t like the most likely conclusion. What if he was somehow wrong? Had he mayhaps insulted them?</span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>”Lötel’rï käan?” he asked, just in case.</span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>”You try my patience, young sir!” exclaimed the man still on horseback. “To fisticuffs!” And in sync, the rider charged, and his companion on foot produced a multitude of knives and sharp pointy weapons from the folds of the cloak.</span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>Xyphir went into combat mode.</span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>Time seemed to pause for a few hot seconds as he quickly contemplated his options. The first order of business was to dodge the oncoming hooves — but no, what if the man with the knives knew how to throw them?</span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>Xyphir sidestepped to the left, putting himself on the opposite side of the rider as his friend. Safe for now from any potential projectiles, Xyphir grabbed ahold of the horse’s reins and, in a single motion, yanked hard to make the horse halt in its tracks and spin towards the opposite direction, thus causing the rider to nearly fall off, and jumped up from the ground onto the horse himself, shoving the man in the saddle onto the rocky ground and into the side of the cliff.</span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>Meanwhile, the knifeman’s knifecraftiness was getting him nowhere. He had been ready to atack, to throw or slice, and then of course paused when the victim had hidden behind his friend’s horse. Then a strange blur of something happened and, at any rate, said friend was out of sight himself, and the opponent was back in.</span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>Xyphir had of course planned this all, and as the knifeman whirled two blades right his back, he unsheathed two of his own from where he had kept them strapped to his thighs, and knocked them each out of the air, away from him and his horse, without so much as turning to look. He could — he was a Duna, after all.</span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>By this point Iydalo had noticed the commotion and swooped down from the sky. He was a Kösiven, and spent most of his days patrolling the savehaven’s borders in the form of a large bird.</span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>Today it was a Red Echo Eagle that descended into the scene and transformed back into a human. Feet on the ground now, he had arms around the knifeman’s neck in an instant. He didn’t bother with knowing the reasons behind the fight — at Kerensia, coming to aide took precedence. </span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>But although the knifeman and his delirious cohort had not seen the shapeshifter arrive, both their steeds had. The riderless horse took off in a frenzy at the sight of a bird morphing into a man, the one under Xyphir bucked wildly, confused about everything. Xyphir fought to regain control of the creature, not wanting it to accidentally trample its original rider underhoof.</span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>Iydalo wrestled the knives out of their owner’s clammy grip and held one to his prisoner’s throat. Xyphir had always admired his friend in that aspect; Iydalo didn’t have the natural and powerful strength that came with being born a Duna, but his work ethic was such that he was determined to become competent and useful in all aspects of life. Xyphir could have disarmed the knifeman without a thought, sure, but Iydalo still got the job done.</span>

    <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>The weaponless foe started screaming, and that didn’t help Xyphir’s equine situation much at all. He resorted to tumbling off the horse in a jumble and dragging the man on the ground out of the way. Iydalo managed to get his cloak over the screamer’s mouth, and the noise was muddled some, but at this point the horse had lost it. It lashed out in anger and who knows what else and nailed Xyphir, bent over trying to move the fallen man, right on the Duna’s unprotected forehead.</span>



  • #7894


    Right, so after I copy and pasted this onto a document, and replaced all the errors in coding with nothing, and read my own legible version of the draft, I have finally come to a conclusion (don’t worry, I deleted the legible version once I finished reading)I like where the story had headed, but not the way it got there. It may be personal preference, but I feel like the first bit is a bit of an info dump. I feel like it would be better, at least in my opinion, if there was more…action rather than talk of action. Take Marissa Meyer’s Renegades for example on that. She starts with a proluge that gives the past situation (in your case, the older Vastians) and opens up the first chapter with the main protagonist’s situation (like her walking into the break-in). This would add more fluidity to the piece over all. Then again, this is just advice, and you don’t gotta follow it.


    Despite that, I like the basis of the story, probably because it reminds me of Renegades and I really enjoyed that novel, and am excitedly awaiting book two. Also, Xypir’s scene ROCKS! I really enjoyed it. 🙂

    • #7898


      @ladylucs Thanks for going to so much trouble just to read it! I totally get that the beginning is slow and too much exposition, and am trying to find other ways to start it. I say I hate info dumps but then I find myself writing them… One of my ideas was just to swap the two scenes: open with Xyphir instead, and have some confusing magic stuff, and then go back to Arien who’s like on the outside of it all. Do you think that might help? In the meantime I’ve still got the rest of the book to keep working on, so there’s plenty of time for me to figure out the beginning 😛 thank you again for your advice!!! 🙂

  • #7913


    I rather like it. I liked the way it was written and I laughed at the Star Wars quote. Score one for you! I’m with LadyLucs, though-kind of a splat of information at the beginning.

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