MF: High School Edition: Tessa’s Turn!

Note: this is the first chapter of part two of the first novel I ever finished. It was 1998 and I was a senior in high school. I read a LOT of high fantasy. Which is no excuse. The novel was called SHADOW KIN and after revising a little, I actually inflicted it upon some editors. Two of whom were unbelievably kind enough to write back personal rejections. Now, I suspect it’s because I gave them something awesome to pass around the office and giggle about.

My annotations are in bold. I seriously restrained myself, too. There’s just so much wrong here, if I pointed out all the horrendously purple prose, everything would be marked. *shame*

She sat hunched over the worktable, staring intently at the book in front of her. (because usually staring isn’t intent.)The woman was lithe, with rose-gold hair that was chopped off at her chin and pushed behind her ears. Voluptuous gray robes enveloped her slight form and she bit her lip in concentration, making her seem younger than she was. The eyes that stared so intensely at the bizarre pictographs on the cracked pages of the ancient book were dark golden, with tiny flecks of red. (How many adjectives was that in ONE SENTENCE?)

Her brows creased with irritation and she muttered soft curses under her breath, then abruptly slammed the book shut, blowing dust into her face. She sneezed violently and shook her head in disgust, rubbing her nose with the back of her hand. She looked grim as she stalked to the far wall where row upon row of shelves sat. They were covered with all kinds of arcane items, from bags of powder and colored stones, dried flowers and parchment paper, to ink and quills, daggers, sheaths, leather workings… and jars of preserved eyes. The eyes were of every shape, size, and color; green, yellow, slit-pupil and round, giant horse eyes and tiny squirrel eyes, human and elvish eyes. (But not any marmoset eyes.)

The woman took an empty glass jar and went to the window where a small tin plate held a round object that glowed muddy red.

“Disgusting, Me’Riah!”

Me’Riah jumped back and just barely stopped herself from impaling the red gargoyle-like creature who popped his head into the window. (Too bad, that would put us out of our misery, too.) She closed her eyes and gritted her teeth. Slowly, she put the dagger back in its hidden sheath beneath her sleeve. “Haven’t you learned not to startle me like that, you silly imp?” He crawled in the window and sat next to the plate, swinging his legs playfully. He grinned up at her, revealing a full set of sharp, white teeth.

She tried to stay angry, but the picture of the bright red devil poking at the eye on the sill with childlike curiosity was too much even for her. And it had been so long since she’d had a visit by this particular fiend. She shook her finger at him and said mock sternly, “I would have thought that after being ground-bound for three months when I sent a blade through your wing membrane, you would not sneak up on me anymore.”

He stuck his bottom lip out. “KierLorne should have healed that for me.” Then he grinned and looked at her as innocently as he could with that draconic face. “But I trust your reflexes enough that I do not fear your ever mistaking me again. Besides, you know deep down that no one not meant to be here could possibly penetrate KierLorne’s defenses.”

Me’Riah’s face darkened. “There are exceptions to every rule.”

His little red claw accidentally poked too hard and he grimaced as the glow dimmed and the eyeball gushed around his finger. (I still like this part.)

“Melmarcenus!” Me’Riah cried in dismay. (Not in glee? Are you sure it was dismay?) She cast a quick preservation spell to salvage what she could. (I wonder if that would work on my yogurt?) “It was very difficult to get a hold of a dragon eel eye.”

“Is that what is covering my hand?” Mel asked disgustedly as he transformed into his short human form, fully decked out in scarlet and silver, except for the large pink feather in his cap. Unlike most of his kind, whose natural shapes were human, Mel had to shift into his man form. His natural gargoyle form was the cruel joke of his maker.

Me’Riah frowned as she carefully scraped the ruined eye up with a long, flat tool and slid it off into a jar filled with yellow liquid. “What do you want?”

Mel pretended to be hurt. “Why should I have to want something in order to come visit?”

All she did was raise an eyebrow.

He sighed and plopped down on her work bench. “Actually I delivered a gift for KierLorne. I am just stopping in here on my way out.”

“Ah. What, pray tell, have you brought our dear friend?”

“A child he wanted.”

Me’Riah reflected (OMFG) that it was interesting how little such a statement affected her after so much time with KierLorne. “I have been meaning to thank you for the last specimens you sent my way. They were so perfect that I simply had to use them. And the man was near enough to scum that I felt no qualms at his unfortunate demise.” (Translation: Me’Riah cuts out people’s eyes and sticks them in her own head. I’m going to write a real story about this someday.)

Mel pursed his lips distastefully. “Yes, I thought you might like them. And now you don’t have another need for months and months.”

“I am always on the look out for a nice new pair, you know.” Me’Riah watched Mel attempt not to look completely revolted. She never would have expected that he would have such delicate tendencies.

Mel turned towards the table and opened the book Me’Riah had been reading, glancing over a few pages. His eyebrows rose and he pointed his finger at a certain line. “Me’Riah.” She came over to him and looked at the book.

“Yes,” she said, “Yshen is the name of someone who Eriel encountered in the Shadows once. I have not been able to obtain any more on him. Not location or other information pertinent to finding him is given. KierLorne says he has never heard of him. For all I know he is dead, or was never even alive.”

Mel gazed at her. “I know his name.”

She turned sharply to him and grabbed his shoulders. “What?” she asked intensely.

“He is a Faerie. Like KierLorne. I have never met him, and I don’t know where he is. Yshen left the Faerie city before I was created. I think that KierLorne gave Lucias a book called Breaking Magical Bonds, Spells, and Barriers by a man named Yshen.” (I was a totally winner of names.)

Me’Riah abruptly released Mel and he nearly fell from the bench. KierLorne lied to me. He said he didn’t know an Yshen.

Ignoring Mel to the point that she didn’t realize when he flew out the window, Me’Riah quickly changed from the drab gray and into the black ensemble KierLorne had given her a few years ago. It consisted of raven black form-fitting pants, a tight black shirt, and a black fitted tunic with small red-garnet buttons. Black leather boots came to mid thigh, but she preferred to wear them folded down to just below the knee. Everywhere on the outfit were invisible pockets, and her legs and arms were covered with hidden sheaths. The inside of the tunic was covered with thirteen thin throwing daggers. There were additional tiny daggers disguised in the hair clips she used to braid up her short hair. Overall she had on her person thirty-one blades. She and KierLorne had spent days designing it, and both were extremely pleased with the easy access she had to each knife and the near invisibility of them. She put on her plain gray cloak, holding in her mind the image of the new cloak she would make in Antyme with the Faerie cloth she’d get from Lucias. (Ok, so when I was 18 and my mom read my book the only crit she gave me was that I described people’s clothes too much. It made me really really mad that she couldn’t come up with anything else. But I can kind of see her point now. Kind of. SORRY MOM.) (But I swear she had a reason for needing all that stuff.)

She packed two saddle bags with medicines, Eriel’s three shadow books, one change of clothes, a few extra knives, and her custom made multi-pocketed bag with spell-guarded seals of preservation. It was unbelievably handy. Me’Riah included a journal of her own, a pen, wax, her seal, and a few candles. (I used to think if I didn’t tell you what a character had, you wouldn’t believe me in act four when she pulls out her pen to defeat the bad guy.)

Hefting the sacks, she left, locking the door, and wondered how long it would be and what would happen to her before she saw the inside of this room again. (I think this line is like NaNo filler.)

On the way to bid farewell to KierLorne, she grabbed a bit of food from the kitchens, although she would be able to better provision herself in Antyme. (This one, too.) As she approached the great hall – throne room, more like – she heard KierLorne speaking softly. She hadn’t realize that anyone was visiting. Me’Riah frowned and hoped that he wouldn’t want her to stay and help entertain the guest. When the side door opened for her, she saw a sight she was accustomed to.

KierLorne was for once not decked out to the fullest. He wore simple brown pants and a flowing green shirt in a style much like her own. He looked as immaculate in his casual clothes as he did in the center of a dinner party. His hair was braided back and his fangs glinted while he smiled at the boy. (My faeries always used to have fangs. The better to eat you with, my dear.) Me’Riah’s eyebrow rose as she saw that the boy with whom the Faerie was so unabashedly flirting was a virtual well(did you know in this alternate medieval world the word “virtual” was well known?) of magical power. Then she remembered that Mel had been here. The child looked terrified, as any sane person would be. When KierLorne caught sight of her, he called out, “Ah, Me’Riah. Just the person I wanted to see.” He gestured her over. “Come meet my new friend. His name is Josif.”

She approached the throne and dropped her saddlebags, keeping her expression blank as she scrutinized the boy. He was a young human with blonde hair just past his ears. His soft brown eyes were watery and highly emotional. This was a scared child who had never been away from home and was quite distressed at finding himself in the presence of a being such as KierLorne.
“May I have a private word with you, milord?” She asked KierLorne in a tone that was less a question than an insistence.

He smiled at her. “Why of course, m’dear.” He gestured to a shadow standing in a corner. A two-foot human looking thing hobbled over. “Now, Josif,” he continued gently, “go with this gnome and he will feed you and take you to a nice room where you can get some rest.” When the boy hesitated, he added, “Do not worry, he is just a harmless little gnome. If you need anything ask him and he will provide. His name is Narl.” He turned his attention back to Me’Riah.

She watched Narl lead the child away, then turned back to KierLorne. “I really can not believe you sometimes. He cannot be more than fifteen years old.”

The Faerie looked at her uncomprehendingly.

“A mere babe, KierLorne.”

He laughed softly. “Me’Riah, Me’Riah, when everyone you meet is over a millennia younger than you, what difference does twenty or fifty or five years make?” (Clearly, my ideas about faeries and inter-species romance are one thing that has NOT changed in the intervening years.)

She closed her eyes in resignation.

“Besides, he is terribly pretty, and you know I never hurt them. (That makes it ok, then, K.) He has enormous potential but would have been lost if I had not acquired him.”

That was true. Often KierLorne brought home strays, and he did take good care of them.
Usually these orphans were very young, and KierLorne raised them in the Tower. There were always a few children running underfoot. Some came when older, and often KierLorne amused himself with them, but Me’Riah could not think of a single case in which the object of the Faerie’s affection had not survived completely intact and none the worse for wear. And he did allow them to choose the life that they wanted. Many of the men and women were adept at magic, and wished to continue their training, or perhaps they wanted to study something else like history or music. KierLorne always provided well. They could go anywhere in the world, and were set for life. Me’Riah had to admit that most were better off having met KierLorne. He was always their friend afterwards. (I don’t think I knew how creepy this is.) It led to his numerous worldly connections. She sighed.

He lounged in his tall, black throne. “Now, I do not suppose you came down here just to lecture me about my habits.”

“No,” she stated simply, “I am leaving.”

His face registered no surprise.

“I have exhausted your library. There is nothing more I can do here.”

“I have been expecting this for sometime. Do you have any idea where you will head?”

“First to the Archmage. His knowledge is extensive.”

“Yes, I taught him well.”

Me’Riah smiled. “I hope to find the man named Yshen.” She crossed her arms over her chest.
“Mel stopped in to see me,” she said, raising an eyebrow. “He mentioned that he knows of a person named Yshen. A Faerie, to be exact. And I have to wonder, how could Mel know of this Faerie and you not?”

KierLorne shrugged. “We both know many people.” (I think I named KierLorne because it means Dark Prince or something according to my baby name book.)

Me’Riah stared at him. She knew from nearly ten years experience with him that KierLorne would never admit to knowing Yshen. She’d never attempted to cultivate the relationship between herself and the Faerie, but she’d always expected him to be truthful with her, especially when it came to rescuing Eriel.

KierLorne stood and stuck his hand into the air. A silver ring appeared in his hand. It was composed of three twisted strands that wound around the finger and cradled an oval blood red ruby. “I took the liberty of attaching a few protective and offensive spells to this.”

She took it from him. “It is beautiful. Thank you.” She turned to go. (I hope I never have to read this again.)

One last note before I chicken out and post something that isn’t so embarrassing. I took my LJ username from this book. Eriel Everflame is a character in it, and I named myself after him for these reasons: I wanted to remember my first completed novel forever, I wanted to keep myself honest about my fantasy background, and Eriel was strong, brave, and passionate, which are things I also want to be.

picture by tylluan, via flickr creative commons

59 thoughts on “MF: High School Edition: Tessa’s Turn!

  1. It’s definitely not the worst I’ve ever read, but it does make me grateful that you discerned the difference between descriptive passages and purple prose, ’cause this was so purple it made me giggle. Boy, you were really into what people were wearing!!

    Thanks for sharing! It’s awesome to see how far you have come.

  2. On the other hand, you certainly would have made it easy for fans to cosplay your characters! I’m surprised seam allowances aren’t listed.

    *grins, ducks, and runs away*

  3. Please, bring it on. I have no illusions about this. Also, I’ve just decided that my obsession with what they wear and have on them is the fault of my D&D GM when I was 15. I got into so many fights about what I did or didn’t have with me and what I could or couldn’t use in a spell that this over-description probably became my default.

    I can’t even be mad at him though, cuz I totally cheated whenever I could. I was a bad gamer.

  4. She keeps coming back for more. She’s a literary masochist, begging her friends to flog her with their words.

    Or, as Tess would have written it in high school:

    “TessRyleihMel hunched dejectedly over her computer keyboard, running her hands frantically through her wild, short, blonde hair. Staring intently at her monitor with her impossibly blue eyes, she pondered her continued acquaintance with her merciless friends, whose taunts rang in her ears like the cry of a mournful dove in the vast echoing Hallway of Secrets. Frustrated, she shrugged on her snugly fitted hoodie, which contained carefully conceled pockets each containing an exquisite custom designed writing implement. She stood from her desk and ventured forth into the night, ready to exact her revenge in the best way she knew how.”


  5. O_O. That’s actually . . . the first paragraph that Tess sent me to critique when we first met!!!!!!! HOW DID YOU GET THAT!?

  6. I shall never reveal my sources! Not under threat of pain or death or noogies or…okay, it was my little impgoblin friend.

    Darn you, Maggie, and your devilish powers of persuasion!

  7. I couldn’t resist.

    Hey, this has been remarkably handy in keeping me from getting stupid nervous about my lunch date. It was good for that, at least.

  8. I was just thinking this, that the propensity to describe everything that could possibly be useful sounded like filling out a character sheet at the beginning of a game so you could later say, “No, man, I TOTALLY had that ON me!”

    This may be because we gamed with some of the same people…

    I compiled exhaustive lists (“One twenty-foot length of hemp rope, one forty-foot length of Elven rope, ten yards of twine, six hair ribbons in varying lengths and colors…”), until I ran across a GM who looked at my list, looked at me, and said, “This is ridiculous. Write down clothes, weapons, armor, and weird shit, nothing else. If you want weird shit later, you get luck rolls, and I’m just going to assume you have a freaking bedroll and a pot to make beans in, OK?”

    That’s my current approach, both in gaming and in writing.

  9. Heheh, that’s a better attitude.

    Poor Chris Sinclair had to do things like write down what I’d written down the first day, so that if I added something later he’d know I’d cheated.

    I was awful.

  10. I believe this is, in fact, what you read a large chunk of on that road trip to Ohio, because I remember thinking at the time, “What the hell is the deal with the names? It’s like she swallowed Mercedes Lackey and all the e’s from her Scrabble game and just started spitting out things to call people.”

    Of course, I also remember thinking at the time that I’d rather be hearing your story than listening to people obsess over certain books by a now-deceased author who shall remain nameless.

  11. Overall she had on her person thirty-one blades.

    For some reason I keep coming back to this line. How did she not clank when she walked?!

  12. LOL. You compared me to Nameless Guy! Who I didn’t like for some reason. But yes, I was a Lackey Ho. In every way.

    Aw, baby Tessa was so proud of her bad writing. AWwwww.

  13. ….I really wish Google didn’t automatically include pictures in search results. Like, say, the search results for ‘enucleation’.


  14. I am having two reactions to these posts containing early work. First, I am horribly grateful that my first attempt at a novel was drowned by the wisdom of the gods when the basement flooded several years back, or I might be forced to follow suit and post an excerpt from the dreadful thing. Second, I am trying to decide if I would prefer as a critique the snark you and Brenna have applied to your own work (and which I fully expect from Maggie on Friday), or the kinder, gentler, “you don’t suck as bad as you might” version. Good thing the decision isn’t mine to make!

    This is better written than some fantasy novels I’ve read, especially those written in the 1970s.

  15. I love that she has an outfit that conceals 31 blades – love it!

    I had feedback once (not that long ago) which pointed out to me that I kept saying, “I thought to myself.” I mean, who the hell else am I going to think to *slaps self in face*

  16. Aw, the 70s. It was a putrid time for a lot of genres.

    Also, this snark is pretty much how the three of us critique each other – like, the things we’re writing NOW. It’s like we’re all in 4th grade snapping each other’s bra straps because secretly we’re crushing on each other.

    To put a good spin on it: if I can laugh at my mistakes, they don’t hurt so much. And people who don’t take themselves too seriously live longer. (I made that up, but I hope it’s true.)

  17. Hahah, that’s a great one. “I thought to myself.” I’m sure Me’Riah and her friends do that all the time. They reflect upon thinking to themselves, too. πŸ˜‰

    Yeah, I don’t remember why it was exactly 31. PROBABLY I had a diagram and actually drew knives in to where I thought they’d fit. The extra one is probably in her hair or something. *eyeroll*

  18. You know, that outfit’s got legs (*snort*) – I really think it’s a great idea (I thought to myself).

    I’ve also struggled to let go of the outfits, some of my descriptive passages were really like a dry cleaning list.

  19. I’ve mostly stopped describing what people wear unless it’s revealing something about the narrator.

  20. … custom made multi-pocketed bag with spell-guarded seals of preservation.

    I SO want one of these!!

  21. Most of the GMs I’ve known keep a copy of your original character sheet for just that purpose.

    I can’t imagine you as a D&D cheater…

  22. I think the snark is preferable to trying to suss out the meaning behind bland notations that still translate to “WTF, dude??” because it cuts out the middle step.

  23. Yeah, “cuts” is the right word! πŸ˜‰

    It’s important that everyone involved has the same kind of humor, though, otherwise huge badness could ensue. Heh. I wouldn’t recommend jumping straight into snark.

  24. “When his date walked into the garishly painted Mexican restaurant, Alex rose from the tiny booth that had until then barely restrained his 6’5″ frame. Contrasting with the faux terra cotta and aquamarine walls, his bright yellow and black horizontally striped polo shirt made his torso appear to hover above the chips and salsa like a radioactive bumblebee bent on appetizer domination. His jeans were remarkable in their unremarkable-ness, excepting only for the five cleverly concealed pockets containing a wallet, an iPhone, and a pack of chewing gum missing three pieces. Brown leather shoes encased his feet, and a smile graced his lips as he invited the young woman to sit down.”


    It was a nice lunch date. Whether it will be more will remain to be seen.

    And as much as I pick on you about the purple prose in this piece, I feel I must point out that two of my favorite authors are Anne Rice and Stephen King, and if there are more purple mainstream authors, I don’t know them.

  25. WIN! Srsl. Total WIN.

    And I had read all of Anne Rice’s work by the time I wrote this book. Several times. Heh.

  26. I am soooo happy others view Stephen King as a prattler. I read his work sometimes and just think, “I get it, he is wearing a red plaid shirt. If I can’t wrap my brain around that without a one page description, I should not be reading. Move on Stephen”

    I wish I could be tease and joke about the writing, but I just can’t. I am in the same boat. Actually, a different boat. And mine does not look as good as yours. I joked with my friend at lunch today about my writing. I told her about this ‘story’ I wrote for my high school literary mag. I read it the other night and I was like, WTF! What is this about? I am sure at 17 it had some deep adolescent angst agenda that compelled me to inflict it on others. Jeez!

  27. As a psychologist, I will say this is true. Optimistic people live longer (I think I read that somewhere in graduate school). I know that people who laugh heal faster and live longer (provided the laughter is not drug induced, in which case the hazards associated with drug use voids the benefits of laugher).

  28. LOL. Some days I’m glad I don’t really remember everything about being a teen.

    I find strength is being teased. But not everybody does, alas. πŸ˜‰

  29. I too am cynical and snarky. But I learned early on that given my propensity to fall upstair and run into doors, the ability to laugh at myself was a priceless gift. So, I don’t take myself too seriously.

  30. I think it says something about me that this is the point I googled that word.

    *draws the veil, man. draws the veil*

  31. You know I only read this five years ago, right? I’m amazed you weren’t too embarrassed to share it this as critical as you are now! And you can say what you want about your growth as a writer (all true) and style and characterization and purple prose and whatnot, but I still think it’s a damn satisfying story.

  32. Aw, yay.

    When I think about the… heart of the story, I agree. There was drama, danger, romance, and I like to think genuine feeling. (I did also pick one of the easiest parts to make fun of. Since that was the point of this exercise. It’s mostly all bad, but not all *this* bad.)

  33. Melenka, I never snark unless it’s Tess and Maggie, because they expect it. And would do the same to me. In other words, I’m the Nice One.

    I’m not, actually–it’s just that snark isn’t my first language πŸ˜‰

  34. That’s true! Maggie and I are kind of set to “default snark” but you have to be nudged into it. Hee hee.

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