Monday, November 30, 2009

NANO--Last Day

I didn't make 50,000 words. Far from it. I clocked in at 20,000, but that's good for me. I'll take it.

This snippet is from Chapter Five. Something is about to get in the way of Katie's plans to rescue her sister from Old Man Winter. First draft, and rough. Please don't quote or repost.


For awhile, Katie just skated and was pleased enough not to think about all the things that perplexed her. She was content to just be.

A woman screamed. Katie jerked and almost lost her footing. The man and woman down the lake stood, looking up at the sky.

The sun disappeared.

"What--?" Katie began, but Hulaf's grip on her arm tightened to the point of pain.

"Skate," he said in her ear, intense. "Skate like never before."

Katie obeyed. The world moved by in a dizzying whirl as Hulaf drew her on, faster and faster. As they skated, the day grew progressively darker. Katie wanted to look behind her, but Hulaf didn't give her enough time. He nearly threw her up on the bank when they arrived.

"Get those skates off!" he said. "Quickly!"

Katie fumbled with the straps. As she worked, snow whirled through the air and flung itself straight at them.

Hulaf gave a little sound that sounded like a groan. "Hurry!" he said.

The last of the straps gave way and he seized her hand, dragging her up the pathway toward the Hall. "Run, Katie Medina!"

And Katie ran. The fear she heard in his voice infected her as well. She thought she heard something large moving through the air behind them. In near panic, she fought to breathe in the sudden gale. Snow fell in sheets so thick that the Hall became invisible, although it had loomed large before.

Hulaf said something, but his words were lost in the gale.

"What?" Katie yelled.

He yanked her close and shouted, "I'm not sure we're going to make it! Don't let go of me, whatever happens."

Snow and wind became something that conspired to hold them back no matter how hard they struggled to move forward. Memory of the abandoned town she and Treyga had visited rose in her mind's eye. She could feel the malice in the wind that blew in their faces, nearly drowning her in snow.

Now she couldn't see Hulaf even though he held her arm. Nor could she hear him. The wind whistled and moaned like a live thing. The cold pierced and bit, savage and searing. It became conceivable that she and Hulaf would die out here, lost, within shouting distance of the Hall and its people. She reached into her pocket and her fingers closed around Mel's image.

"I'm sorry, Mel," Katie whimpered.

And, in the midst of the snow and the wind, something grabbed hold of her upper arm and pulled. It felt like a helping hand. Katie followed, pulling in turn at Hulaf. He did not resist. The tug at her arm persisted for several long moments, until she stumbed on the first steps of the Hall.

With a cry of relief that was immediately snatched from her lips, Katie hauled Hulaf onto the steps with her. She could barely see him even now, just a dark figure in the whiteness of the air.

Moving against a wind that tried to push them off the steps, Katie and Hulaf struggled up the steps, and searched for the doors with fumbling, frozen fingers. Eons later, Hulaf found a latch and the door fell inward, dumping them on the floor.

Attendants surrounded them at once. A couple of them forced the door shut against the wind, and the howl immediately reduced to a low rumble.

"Did we make it?" Hulaf said, confused and exhausted-sounding.

"We made it," Katie said in a hoarse voice.

She lay and let the attendants take her outerwear and wrap her in a blanket. Warmth began to steal over her, and her numb face and hands tingled awake. The attendants rubbed her hands, giving them much-needed warmth from the friction.

Katie blinked as the room resolved itself into the entry hall. The chandelier hung directly overhead. They had come in the front doors.

Hulaf reached out and touched her face. "Are you all right, Katie Medina?"

"I think so. What just happened?"

"You saved our lives," Hulaf said.

Katie turned her head and saw his dark eyes, blinking and serious.

"If you hadn't found those steps, we would still be within the frost drake's reach," he added.

"The frost drake is here?"

Hulaf stood and gave her a helping hand. "Yes."

Wind rattled the doors. When Katie listened, she thought she heard roaring behind the wind. She shivered. Memory surfaced and she clutched at Hulaf's arm. "The other two people. What happened to them? Where are they?"

"They might have made it," he said, but he didn't really believe it, she could tell. The look on his face said it all.

Katie gave a great, gasping sob. All the pain she'd felt when her father told her about Mel came flooding back and pooled in her chest. She felt like she couldn't catch her breath.

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