Hi everyone! As promised, today I am posting the first draft of chapter 3 of my work in progress YA Fantasy novel! Please read and share! And please leave any thoughts you have, I’d LOVE to hear what you all think! Thanks!
Note from the author:
Sparr’a is Sparrow without the “ow”
Kya is pronounced Ki-ah
By morning, Kya’s wrist was stiff and the edges of the A3 were puffy. She wore the same clothes she came in with – the last comfort of her old life. Her duffle bag had been returned to her at some point during the night, but as she searched frantically through it, she felt her heart drop when she realized what was missing.
“What did they take?” Nick asked as he retrieved a clean shirt from his own bag.
“The picture of my brother is gone.”
“Surprised? After what we know about this place now, they probably don’t want us to remember what we’re fighting for.”
“Bastards,” Kya growled.
Moments later, Sparr’a hauled open the rolling door and prepared to lead her clan out. “Keep your eyes open and your mouths shut out there, newbies. New kids don’t talk to other clans unless they’re addressed first. Do not use your powers, either; last thing we need is a rival clan to know what you can do before your first test. Stick close to us.”
Cota, Arda, and Sparr’a lead the way out, forming a sparse semi-circle ahead of the others. They walked up the gradual grade, the same way they’d come in the night before. This time Kya noticed that they passed other sliding doors. At the top of the incline, Sparr’a made a sharp right turn, practically doubling back. Immediately after the turn was a huge crowd of people. Groups ranging from 4 to 10 people stood clustered together. Some were louder than others. A few hung close to the walls, cradling their freshly stamped hands with a mixture of confusion and terror on their faces.
Sparr’a led them down the hall with her head high, like royalty sweeping through the masses. Just ahead, Kya spotted what she assumed was the mess hall. Several clans were already seated inside and there appeared to be an order of entrance.
As they reached the wide doorway, a lithe figure moved smoothly in front of it. “Wouldn’t be trying to go in ahead of us, would you, Sparrow?”
“We’ve been here for two years, Baine,” Sparr’a answered icily. “Do you really think my memory is that bad or are you too stupid to know when it’s your turn to go in unless we show up?”
The shadowy figure stepped into the light. He dressed similarly to Cota, but jet-black hair fell across one side of his face, giving Kya the impression of someone peering out from behind a curtain.
Baine let out a growl of annoyance. “Just wondered how the mighty Clan Bronwyn is doing after their recent…losses. Cota ready to come back to his old clan yet?”
Cota glared at Baine, “I’m doing just fine where I am. And in case you haven’t noticed, our ‘losses’ have been replaced.”
One of Baine’s clan stepped forward. He was tall and muscular with cherry red hair. Several pendants hung from a chain around his neck and various rings adorned his hands. He smiled wolfishly at Sparr’a, “You mean you were actually trusted with new blood, too?”
“Looks it, doesn’t it?” Leo muttered irritably beside Kya.
Baine’s head shot up, “What was that? Which one of you said that? Who talked back to Mitch?” His one visible eye showed rage. Other members of the clan shouted and beside Baine, his companion’s eyes flashed red, almost matching his hair.
Leo’s face flashed panic.
Cota clenched his jaw and Arda’s eyes showed regret and pain as she bowed off to the side. “Well?” Sparr’a said quietly, as she turned to her clan.
Leo started to step forward, but Kya jumped ahead of him without a thought, “I said it looks it, doesn’t it? Maybe Sparr’a is right – must not be as smart as you look.”
Mitch’s face twisted into a snarl. Too late, Kya remembered that these people were already allowed to use their magic, but she didn’t back off. “You let new kids talk like that, Sparrow? All right, kid; welcome to your first test!”
Sharp fingernails swiped across Kya’s face. She winced, but kept a steady gaze on Mitch.
“Sparrow, I challenge your kid to a fight! She challenged a superior clan on her first day!”
Sparr’a sighed and turned to give Kya a brief, appraising look. Finally she nodded. “Very well. But no magic, clear? If I see so much as a wisp come from you, the rest of us will rip you to shreds.” She waited until Mitch agreed, then turned back to Kya, “Here’s the deal: physical combat, prison rules. No magic permitted. You lose when you’ve been put face down on the floor twice. Your clan mates may speak now,” she paused to address the others, “but do not jump in with her! We don’t need this to get any worse!”
With that, the crowd formed a circle around Mitch and Kya. For a few short seconds, Kya wondered what signal started the fight, when all of a sudden she felt a powerful blow strike her temple. She fell to her knees; she vaguely heard Leo and Nick yelling something. The floor in front of her shifted back and forth and her vision blurred as she remembered that she could only fall all the way twice and she was already part way down. Her head cleared and she climbed to her feet, only to have Mitch punch her in the face. She reeled away as his fist made contact and she waited for another blow to knock her to the floor, but it never came. He’s dragging it out, she thought, he wants me to hurt. He had two years of experience in fighting this way. But Kya had an older brother. A plan sprang to her mind as she recalled all the ways her brother had taught her to protect herself.
She swung around fast and aimed a kick at his crotch, but Mitch grabbed her by the ankle. “Didn’t really expect that to work, did you?” he sneered and flipped her away. Her face smacked against the stone floor and she tasted blood.
Mitch leaned down over her, “Ain’t your regular fight, is it sweetheart?”
Kya brought her head up with all her strength. She jumped to her feet as Mitch’s hands flew to his nose, now spurting blood.
“Atta girl!” Cota yelled.
Before Mitch could straighten up all the way, Kya ducked in close to his side and punched up into his liver.
“Arhh!” he yelled, doubling over.
Kya took the opportunity to kick the heavy heel of her boot into the back of his knee, effectively dropping him to one knee. Wasting no time, Kya came up behind him and slammed her elbow into his back. Mitch fell face-first onto the floor.
Kya stood, panting and eyes ablaze as Mitch struggled back to his feet. He turned and looked at Kya with savage red eyes; she saw those eyes and remembered the scratches on her face. Mitch’s power must be morphing – he could turn into a cat!
“You fight bloody, newbie,” his voice was low and deadly, but Kya raised her own voice.
“Like a she-cat?” she taunted.
His eyes widened and he let out a genuine hiss of rage. The next thing Kya knew, she was falling backwards with Mitch on top of her, but she managed to hold her upper body up as they landed. Mitch clamped his hands around her throat, trying to shove her all the way down. Kya gasped and grabbed his arms. She couldn’t breathe. She couldn’t move her body. She was sitting up underneath him, but his weight was keeping her pinned down. As her vision started to spot, she saw a target close-by and too beautiful to pass up. She let go of Mitch’s powerful arms and punched out in front of her.
Mitch howled and rolled off Kya, clenching his legs together.
“Sure…seems like…it worked,” she panted as she turned away from him so she could catch her breath. At that moment she heard Nick scream for her to watch out. Then needles were tearing through the back of her neck and she heard a feral snarl.
“No! No, get off her!”
Then Sparr’a and Arda were there, yanking the weight off her. She saw a leather-clad arm snake around her waist as she was lifted from the floor.
Sparr’a was livid. “Baine! He broke the rules! He used magic on a newbie! Clan Larkin forfeits the fight!”
Kya woke up on her bed. She opened her eyes to the anxious faces of her clan mates.
“Ah, you’re okay,” Nick let out his breath.
“What happened?” she asked groggily.
“You passed out and we brought you back here. Arda stitched you up.”
“Thanks,” Kya mumbled, trying to search out Arda’s face.
Nick’s stomach rumbled and Kya remembered that she caused everyone to miss breakfast. She and Nick hadn’t eaten since before the truck picked them up the day before.
“We’ll live,” Cota said cheerfully. “I’ll slip out and get us some grub, maybe a cake for our victor.”
“She picked a fight with a second in command on her first day,” Sparr’a pointed out. Kya couldn’t tell if Sparr’a was mad at her or just disappointed that a new member was hurt already.
“She punched Mitch in the balls,” Cota laughed. “I’d call that worthy of a celebration!”
Kya smiled at him. “Careful there, Cota. When you all asked me to do something last night to demonstrate my power, I seriously considered hitting you in the balls.”
Arda burst out laughing – the first time Kya had even seen her smile. “Gotta be a first for you, huh Cota?”
Cota glared at Kya, but a smile broke through, “Guess I can rule out the soul mate possibility with you, huh Snowflake?”
“I’d refrain from calling her that,” Nick warned as Cota slipped out into the hallway.
“Soul mates?” Kya asked as the door closed.
Arda nodded, “If you fall in love here and you are proven to be true soul mates, you two get your own room and you’re exempt from certain tests. S.M.s usually have the same power and it works together stronger than apart, that’s why they’re coveted and somewhat more protected. Faster way to the top.”
“I sensed a lot of heat down one of the halls we passed on the way back here today,” Mac commented.
Sparr’a nodded, “Soul mate wing.”
“And Cota is seriously looking for his?” Nick asked skeptically.
“Boy, you and I both know that’s not how you find one. Easy lays to take the edge off this place, that’s all Cota is after. And a guy who can read a girl’s feelings is pretty well set.”
Sparr’a and Arda stood and drifted away to their own beds.
As Mac wandered away too, Leo stepped in closer. “Kya, I -,”
“’S okay, Leo.”
“That was my fight, I started it.”
“There shouldn’t have even been a fight. And Baine started it. Look, I won and I see no reason to tell anyone what you said.”
Nick nodded in agreement.
Leo relaxed. “You know, I knew he was going to morph before he actually did. Guess my power is stronger than I thought.”
“Guess so,” Kya smiled.
“Now you know how we can use it,” said Nick.
“Better go tell the others,” Leo said, leaving Nick and Kya alone.
“Way to almost get killed on your first day, Snowflake,” Nick tried to joke, but Kya saw pain in his face.
“I’m kinda surprised you didn’t jump in to help me.”
“I’d have been more hurt than help. Do you want everyone to think you need help in a fight?”
Kya groaned as she sat up. The back of her neck still stung, but her headache was going away. “Yeah, I guess you’re right.”
A silence fell between them until Nick stood up and muttered something about wanting to talk to Leo.
Kya felt whipped enough to sleep, but decided against it; she ought to try to do some good today. She got stiffly to her feet and made her way over to Sparr’a’s bed.
“Bored are ya?” Sparr’a asked without looking up. “Hop up,” she offered, making some room on her bed. Nail clippers, files, and a bottle of black nail polish were moved aside.
“Nail polish? In here?”
Sparr’a shrugged and straightened up from her work. “Higher ranking clans have privileges, such as trading fight points in the Store Room. Our clan got pretty high up in the ranks once. Arda traded her points for that army jacket she’s wearing. I was tired of living in a colorless world and got some red nail polish. When we got knocked back down, Arda was warm and I felt like a fool. But,” she blew lightly on her nails, “a fool in style. Have some?”
Kya nodded and reached for the bottle. “Where’d you get the black polish?”
“To be honest, it’s nothing more than resin glue and ink. Traded with some people for it. Fair warning: when you take it off, your nails will be stained for a while. Me, I’m never without it anymore; it’s become sort of a trademark. But it’s the little things that bring the humanity back to this place.”
“So how did you get so high in the ranks?” Kya asked slowly as she concentrated on getting the polish on. “And how come you’re back here?”
Sparr’a sighed. “Going up is easy. We excelled at the tests. Going down was sudden. It was the members before last, so not the people you’re replacing. It was an endurance trial. Basically, it is to see how much someone can withstand. But in some cases, you’re tested by a member of another clan.” Sparr’a paused to help Kya paint the nails on her right hand. “The testing clan was Larkin, who we’d already made enemies of, and the tester was Cota. Baine wanted him to go beyond testing. He wanted Cota to kill the kid; he said Cota’s loyalty was questionable because he’d already disobeyed Baine’s orders regarding a new member of their clan. Anyway, there they were in the trial, and Calvin – our clan – came to his breaking point. Baine and the rest of Larkin was screaming at Cota to finish him off. But Cota backed off. Baine kicked him out on the spot. Loners are made either when they quit a clan or are forced to leave. They may choose to live alone – if they are confident enough that they can survive – or they may accept an offer to join another clan.”
“So that’s when he joined Clan Bronwyn?”
Sparr’a nodded and screwed the lid tightly back onto the bottle. “He spared a life from our clan.”
“But what put you back down in the ranks? Because Calvin lost?” Kya prompted.
“Baine killed Calvin,” Sparr’a ground out. “He was in his rights; his second in command disobeyed his orders in front of a trial audience. He killed Calvin to save face. If we coulda gotten the kid out of the room, he would have been ok, but…” her voice trailed away and Kya was sure Sparr’a was remembering that trial as if it just happened. How could she lead her clan knowing any one of them could be killed so easily?
“We accepted Cota unanimously and I made him my Second. My previous Second had been gone for three weeks and Cota has never failed me. He would make an excellent leader, believe it or not, albeit not always likable.”
“You seem to like him though,” Kya tapped at her nails, finding them dry. “And I don’t imagine you like a whole lot of people,” she smiled, but it faded when she saw Sparr’a’s face.
She looked serious and appraising. “If I can, I try to find something in each of my clan mates that I like. It gives me something to hold on to, so I can protect them better. But between you, me, and the brick wall, I do like Cota. And Arda. And you.”
“Me?” Kya asked doubtfully. “Even after what I did this morning?”
“You scared the crap outta me today,” Sparr’a admitted, “I’m responsible to keep you safe. I didn’t want our clan to look any weaker either. But you proved yourself. Solidly. I’m proud of you.”
Kya paused, her thoughts whirling. There was far more to Sparr’a then she thought. Again she tried to wrap her mind around the intensity of this place. Now she understood what her father used to say about 90% of a war being fought in the mind.
“Speaking of trials, you’ll see your first endurance trial today,” Sparr’a commented. “Make sure you eat when Cota gets back. No telling how long a trial will take. Depends how Monica is feeling today.”
Sparr’a made a sound like a hiss. “Real piece of shit, she is. Monica is in charge of this whole sick show. Everyone who works in the Fortress is under her command.”
“And she’s always at the trials?”
“In case things aren’t moving along fast enough or the crowd can’t come to a decision. Or if the trial has something to do with a Leader or Second. It’ll make more sense once you’ve seen one,” she waved her hand dismissively and ended the conversation as Cota slipped back into the room. Kya sat on the bed a few moments, letting Sparr’a’s words set in.
Thanks for reading!
Please let me know what you think! Favorite characters so far? Any characters you don’t like?