Thursday, January 24, 2008

Friday Snippet, January 25, 2008

I thought I'd go back and post some of the scene from when the drowned Water Witch was found. It closely follows this post.

First draft. Please do not quote or repost anywhere. Thanks!

Quick synopsis. Anabelle Sturgis is the Special Examiner to the King. She's also a Fire Witch. She's named the fire elemental who keeps her company Flicker. She is investigating the murder of a family member of one of the Fifty (the nobility in this world), a Water Witch who has drowned--an impossibility that puzzles Anabelle.

“Do you have any idea who she is, Chief Porter?”

“I do not, Special Examiner. I thought you might.”

Anabelle grimaced where he couldn’t see. He thought the woman was one of the Fifty. So did she, for that matter. Despite the mud and pallor, she could see the well-cared-for nails, the remnants of an expensive haircut. The woman had come from money. Anabelle gave her head a small shake. Once, she would have known all the Fifty by sight, but the younger set – she’d lost touch.

“Chief Porter, it’s best if you and your man step out of range,” she said in a voice with all emotion leached from it.

“What are you going to do?” Porter asked.

Anabelle gave a sharp smile. “Why, question our only witnesses, of course.”

A glance at Porter’s face revealed a great deal. Distaste and speculation warred for prominence. She sighed.

“The woman is, or was, one of the Fifty. It’s best we find out who she is before we have a Patriarch questioning why we failed to note our dead body was his wife, or daughter, wouldn’t you agree?”

Porter blanched at the thought of being questioned by a Patriarch. He quickly turned and motioned to Collins. Both moved off about a hundred paces. Anabelle felt no surprise. The very idea of facing the head of one of the Fify Families of Aponia had been known to turn even the brave pale.

Anabelle opened her bag that sat nearby and extracted a curious device, resembling a circular bowl with a long horn attached. The horn appeared to loop back upon itself. She set the device at her feet, then withdrew a piece of ordinary hardwood. She shook her sleeve, and a bright flame jumped onto her hand and danced inquiringly.

“Flicker, I must ask you to make yourself scarce,” she said in a soft voice. “They will not talk to me if they know you are still here.”

She placed the end of the hardwood on her palm, and Flicker consented by leaping to the end of the piece of wood. She thrust the other end into the ground well away from the water’s edge, satisfied. Flicker would be occupied with the hardwood for hours.

Anabelle picked up the device. She hesitated before wading into the edge of the lake. The cold water in her half boots and the soaked hem of her walking skirt against her legs gave her the shivers. Water and Fire did not mix well.

As soon as she submerged the device into the water, the water elementals surrounded her, eagerly jumping and splashing and bubbling, but avoided touching her. The sheer number of them amazed her. Elementals squirmed and jostled for space. Obviously, she would have no problem coaxing one to speak to her.

An elemental slid into the bowl part of the device. Anabelle immediately lifted the device out of the water.

“Air is life, Water is spirit, Earth is flesh, and Fire is soul,” she said formally.

Both she and the water elemental waited patiently. Anabelle ignored her discomfort as she stood in the chilly lake water. Presently, a troubling in the air rewarded them. The air elemental indicated its willingness to act as intermediary by puffing into her face and entering the horn on the device. The air elemental whistled shrilly through the horn. Anabelle had expected this, so she did not flinch or drop the device.

“Fire Maiden.”

The thin, shrill sound that emerged from the horn brought a glint to her eyes.

“I am here, Water Spirit,” she replied. “What would you say to me?”

“You will restore the balance?”

“I am here to find justice for the Water Maiden,” she said, cautious. Elementals found the concept of justice difficult to grasp—their notions of right and wrong were not human notions.

“The Water Maiden walks distant shores,” the water elemental said. “You must help us.”

She drew a breath. “What must I do?”

“Air and Water and Earth are disturbed. Fire Maiden, the balance must be restored.”

“How?” she asked.

“Find the river of leaping and the water of silence.”

Done with the conversation, the air elemental exited the device with a hissing shriek, leaving the water elemental mute. Not surprised at the air elemental’s capriciousness, Anabelle gently dipped the device beneath the water’s surface and allowed the water elemental to leave. The water elementals rapidly circled her until the current they generated nearly pulled her off balance. As quickly as they began, they fled into the middle of the lake, leaving her alone.


Joy Renee said...

are these elementals related to the Oracle at Delphi? They seem to speak the same language. :)

IanT said...

Curiouser and Curiouser!


Anonymous said...

I like it! Annabelle's a neat character, and I adore the ingenuity of needing an intermediary and a device to speak to the elementals.

I have a probably silly question - what's your difference between spirit and soul? :)

Anonymous said...

What fun -- I really like the elemental magics you're setting up!

Renee M. Solberg said...

I really enjoy these glimpses into your story and continue to be impressed with your imagination and writing voice. The mysteries, characters and world are solidly conceived. I'm very intrigued. I have all sorts of questions about the position of Special Examiner (including is there more than one at a time? Are they all witches of a sort?). I have to do more catch up, perhaps. :)

Keep going!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the comments! Jess, it's a fine distinction here --Air represents the medium Life moves in, Water represents the Spirit that flows from everything in Life, Earth represents the Body that contains everything in Life, and Fire represents the Spark that feeds everything in Life.

Ann said...

Ooh, very cool. :)