This novel is halfway done. Somewhere around Chapter Eleven, I lost my way. I think if I threw out about 10,000 words, I might be able to finish this one. This snippet is somewhere around Chapter Five.
First draft. Please don't quote or repost anywhere, thanks!
Background: Minna is the illegitimate child of a deceased landowner in Tiberus. Her mother was from Kalibarra. She has come to Tiberus to claim her Birthright. Birthright is land magic that chooses its next owner and keeper from among those people presented to it. That means an illegitimate child half breed has just as much chance as a blood child to inherit an estate. The question is, does Minna have what it takes? FYI: Barr-Thorn is the name of the estate she has come to claim. Teo is Barr-Thorn's Foreman. Serenity is her half sister, the blood child.
Minna struggled to place a sandbag. The brown sacks lined the earthen levee at the lowest point of the field she and Teo had inspected earlier, like so many soldiers lined on a battlefield. She gave the river an anxious glance. Was it higher than it had been? What were these people going to think of her if the river didn’t rise? What if she and Teo were wrong and she didn't have Birthright?
A young indentured servant, about sixteen, passed her another sandbag. Minna gave her a keen look. The girl’s face was white and pinched-looking. She moved as if she felt a great deal of pain. Minna managed to brush the girl’s hand as she took the sandbag. A sudden vision of a whip rising and falling, and a wash of pain, transfixed her.
Anger colored Minna’s face a heated red. How dare that person! She despised anyone who would mistreat a servant just because they could. By God, this estate, and everyone on it, was her home, her family! Anyone who caused her family pain caused her pain.
Minna drew in her breath. Passion. Where had that come from? Passion usually came from others. Her ghost-like life in Kalibarra hadn’t engendered deep feelings. She slammed the sandbag home, marveling. When had she started to care that deeply for Barr-Thorn's inhabitants? And yet, hadn’t she come here with the express intent of caring? She’d been looking for family when she came.
When the girl returned with another sandbag, Minna gave her a smile. The girl smiled back, tremulous and uncertain.
“What’s your name?” Minna said, her voice soft and gentle.
“Guia, ma’am,” the girl said, giving a little bob of a curtsey.
“That’s a pretty name. My name is Minna."
"I know who you are, ma'am. Folks say you have Birthright now."
Minna searched the girl's face. "Guia, I’d like you to come to the main house and see me. I think we can find something for you to do in the house. I’ll make it right with your master. Do you understand?”
Guia looked up with fear and a wild hope in her eyes.
“Do you mean that, ma’am?”
“I don’t usually say something I don’t mean.”
“Thank you, ma’am. If you’ll give me a chance, I promise, I won’t let you down.”
A rumble of thunder brought Minna’s gaze up to the sky. Clouds lowered overhead. The first large drops of rain fell, cold where it struck her heated features.
Shouts up and down the line of people placing the sandbags greeted the rain. With a sense of racing against time, Minna reached for the sandbag Guia held. Soon, she slipped and slid in the mud created by the rain, her hair plastered to her face, the muddied, soaked hem of her skirt slopping wetly against her legs. Doggedly, with aching back and shoulders, Minna took sandbag after sandbag and helped build the fragile protection between the river and the lowest sugarcane field.
The rain came down in sheets of water. Minna could barely see the people next to her, and all but loud voices were drowned out by the sound of the rain. She turned to take another sandbag, but Guia had not yet returned with another. Minna paused to catch her breath, rolling her head to relieve her stiff neck and shoulders.
A dark figure loomed out of the rain. She squinted, and blinked water from her eyelashes, trying to see who stood there. A sense of extreme danger made her heart race. For an instant, the face she had seen in the crowd gathered at the bell materialized in front of her. Minna caught her breath, eyes wide, and then something glinted in his hand.
Just as Minna realized the glint was a knife, the man slashed outward, lost his footing, and slammed into her. Both of them fell in the mud, Minna struggling and kicking and trying to scream. The man’s weight drove her into the thick mud and standing rainwater. Minna tried to open her mouth to draw air into her lungs, but all she received was a mouthful of dirt and water. Bright lights burst behind her eyes as her air-starved lungs strove to inhale.
A full-throated scream rent the air, and the man’s weight left her. Coughing, choking, confused, Minna rolled to her hands and knees. Someone struggled with the man, and Minna realized Guia had returned.
“Guia--” she said, her voice a hoarse croak. “Run!”
The knife slashed, and Guia slid into the mud, limp.
Horrified, Minna tried to gain her feet. The man leaped at her, and viciously drove the knife into her side. Minna gave a gasping grunt, transfixed with the pain.
Teo’s voice seemed to come from a long distance. She lay, staring up at the weeping sky. Rain blinded her; she heard the quick exchange of blows, fists thudding flesh, the grunts of pain; then she drifted outside of herself and seemed to sink into the ground.
Birthright swept her up like a bright light, cradling, holding, trying to anchor her. As her blood spilled on the ground in a crimson pool, the magic that tried to sustain her bubbled up and coursed through her blood. Minna knew she could rip this magic from the ground and live—but if she did the ground would die and become nothing more than a piece of dirt with no life left in it. She hovered on the edge of taking the magic to save herself, the will to live strong.
A memory of Barr-Thorn as she had first seen it surfaced in the murky depths of her mind. Her father’s land. Serenity’s land. Her land. Her life.
Minna felt more than saw Teo fall on his knees beside her. “Minna! Don’t go! Stay!”
With a sob, Minna let go of the magic. She would live or she would die, but she would not live at the expense of her land and her chosen family.
She spiraled down into the blackest night.