Monday, June 3, 2013

Prompt: Frozen, bread, quality, sweep, rain (use at least 3 of these)

The rain fell in sheets, pummeling Aileth’s shiny black raised crest and carapace and drenching his tender flesh beneath. His eyes shrank on their stalks till he could hardly see the ground under his claws, and he shuffled with tired steps towards the shelter he had skelted an hour ago. Fortunately the path was already imprinted in his mind, but he still preferred to use all his senses when he was out of the hive. He wouldn’t be able to skelt anything in this downpour. Not that anything was likely moving out here anyway. Nothing could be so foolish, so desperate, so resolved as he was.

The Queen had swept her eyestalks back and forth over the hive. “Who will save us?” She had demanded in the silence. “Who will leave the hive on this perilous quest?”

When her eyes fastened on Aileth, he stepped forward before caution could freeze him in place like his brethren. He folded his legs and lay on his belly before her. The Queen had tapped his carapace on both sides of his head and walked around to tap his sides and tail. “Yes, Aileth, you will go. Hive strength and speed to you, young warrior.”

Aileth had swelled with pride at his sudden rise in rank, from worker to warrior, until he remembered with a sudden flash of fear why that was. The Queen skelted his fear and touched his crest with a gentle claw. “Yes, Aileth, you should be afraid. If you were not, I would know I had made the wrong choice. See Bedreth. He will prepare you for your quest.”

And that was that. Aileth could barely remember the blur of motion through the hive as he prepared to leave. When he was ready to leave, the Queen called for bestings, and they flooded the hive, filling him with energy and resolve.

The feeling lasted for two days, until he met his first karpen. The beast had come out of nowhere, before Aileth had skelted anything. His escape from its diamond-sharp claws was sheer luck. His killing strike on the base of its tail as it leapt over him was nothing short of a miracle. Aileth lay trembling in his carapace until his hearts calmed their frantic pulsing. Then he skinned the karpen with his claws and ate his fill of meat, wishing he could carry more with him. He draped the skin—trophy of his first kill—over his carapace to dry as he marched on.

The karpen saved him twice as it turned out. Two days later, he vomited the last of the meat at the broad, furred feet of a chanpon, leading his family caravan across the desert on a quest similar to Aileth’s. The chanpon’s young scrabbled over the food remnants until nothing was left but faint stains in the sand, and a little fresh blood when one of the young bit another’s leg in its enthusiasm. Aileth travelled with them for two weeks, the young constantly jumping on his carapace and begging him for more food. He’d spent his fair share of time tending the hive nursery, and he was rather fond of the young ones, though he kept up a gruff façade to maintain his warrior status. When they reached empty warrens, the chanpons decided to stay, and Aileth continued on his own.

By then, the karpen skin was soft and supple, and Aileth wore it proudly, sleeping under it every night. High in the mountains, he was buried under it one moonless night, when he skelted a band of twelve peelits. They were too close for him to escape, and he froze under the skin, hoping they might miss him in the dark. Skelting with all his senses, he heard them pause, then one whispered. “Karpen. Think it sees us?” Another whispered. “It sleeps. Let’s kill it.” The first said, “There are only twelve of us, you fool. Let’s hope it stays asleep.” Aileth heard them moving away, and he couldn’t resist a small stretch of his crest. He flooded the air with bestings as the peelits ran in terror, then he settled back under the karpen skin until sundawn.

Aileth longed for the skin now, as he forced one weary step after another through the punishing rain.

TBC (perhaps)
Dogs in house:

Rachel Portman, Chocolat

Time writing:
45 minutes

June word count:


  1. Prompt: Frozen, bread, quality, sweep, rain (use at least 3 of these)

    Uncle Bill sopped up the last of his soup with his bread. "It's quality, not quantity," he said, mouth still full.

    Amy frowned at the pile of ragged books to the left of Bill's bowl. "_That's_ quality?"

    "My girl, you must understand, these aren't just old books. These are _magic_ books."

    "Uhuh," Amy said. Her father had warned her about his eccentric brother, when she told him Bill had left a message on her dorm phone. _Don't buy anything from him_, Dad had said. _Don't bargain, don't barter, and above all, don't 'try something out.'_

    "You don't have to make up your mind now," Bill said. "How about you take 'em home, give 'em a read. A lend, like. People do that with books, right?"

    "But I thought you were in town just today?" Amy asked.

    Bill lifted his bowl, as if hoping to find more soup under it. "Well, just today starting tomorrow, that is."

    "Right," Amy said. She turned and saw the diner's waitress crossing near. "Check please!"

    "Here." Bill pulled a book from the middle of the pile and thrust it into her hands: a smaller one, with an olive green cloth cover that was fraying along the spine and warped, as if it had been left out in the rain. "This I got for you anyway, a welcome-to-college present. Look at it tonight. We can talk more at lunch tomorrow. Or, breakfast?"

    "I get breakfast in the dorm," Amy said, examining the book despite herself. Her Dad hadn't warned her they would be _books_, though.

    Time writing: 15 minutes

  2. Nice evocation of a very different creature. A little difficult to follow quite so much new vocabulary, but I'm also up late and tired! I get a nice sense of the MC and that he's had an adventure.

    Also a point I struggle with: it might be that more of the flashback should be in past-perfect? I also tend to fade into past tense a few sentences into a flashback, but without a scene break I wonder if it is confusing when you return to the "present" of the story.

    1. Good point on the flashback tense question. I'll ask my grammarly peeps about it, but I agree with you - it's pretty tedious to write in past perfect!

      On this story, I shared w/my writers group and they suggested starting at the beginning of the flashback, then moving the 1st part to the end, so it all flows in chronological order. Which I agree is the way to go. Sometimes we have "fancy" ideas that just don't pan out as well in practice!

      Thanks for your thoughts!