Camp NaNo Excerpt: Fall of Baris

Chaos. That’s my life until the first of August. I’ve a mountain of work needing done and so when I committed to drafting yet another novel this month I vowed I’d finish it by the 31st. Silly me. It’s running longer than expected, the problem one I’ve already identified and that’s a relatively easy fix in the editing stage.

Another "place holder" cover for NaNo. Cover: CA Hawthorne

Another “place holder” cover for NaNo.
Cover: CA Hawthorne

Yeah, and I still haven’t finished editing Bk1. This, in case you don’t know, is Bk4. Another vow: no more drafting novels until revisions are done on two or three novels. If I get the drafting bug I’ll write a short story.

All of which leads to my blog post this week which is, yet again, an excerpt from the book I’m currently working on, Traversing the Astral Plane. I feel like I’m living on it lately. I’m at 116K, eating meals at my desk, and squeezing every available minute to make 5-6K/day so I can finish. I have a daily plan and so far I’m keeping up with it.

Anyway, this is from early in the first draft and is a pivotal moment in the story when Nate and Amatha meet for the first time (there’s been a long distance, across the Astral Plane connection, but that’s a long explanation—and the book). The city of Baris is under attack. To save a little girl who’s fallen out of a wagon, Amatha leaves her horse, Tempest, with her friend Prayleen to scoop up the child and return her. For clarity, Bandy is a gargoyle…

A fireball seeking death descended upon a nearby wagon. People’s lives flung into billowing smoke waiting to swallow decency. Horses rearing. An arrow whistled past and struck the wagon ahead. She bent lower, clutched the little girl tighter. The burning wagon cut across her path and Prayleen disappeared in the melee. Was it Prayleen yelling something about east? There were other words, but they were drowned out amidst the hundreds of cries for help or loved ones.

She caught up to the wagon ahead and shoved the little girl inside. “Stay down, okay?” The child nodded and disappeared. Smoke wrapped around her shoulders, engulfed the wagon as she slowed, and kept heading north. Behind, a gray fog hiding the source of the whistling projectiles indiscriminately downing people in the street.

Bandy descended, one small piece of familiar sanity.

She extended her hands to the sides. “Where are the others?” Still hovering, he gestured. “East?” Of course, it was Prayleen calling to her. The aunts must have turned that direction. “Show me!”

Bandy flew ahead. Lifting her skirts, she followed at a run. On the right, a side street appeared. He rounded the corner and she followed suit.

A collision with a broad chest stole her air and entangled her in large, grasping hands. Thick smoke stinging and watering her eyes, she swung at thick arms that were everywhere at once. Was it to be the attack in the alley all over again?

“Hey, stop it!” A baritone that was either her attacker or someone seeking to help?

Still swinging, she stumbled sideways, surrendered to gravity, and collided with the pavement. Was there no one to help? “Bandy!”

A big hand caught up with one of her own. Fire! Burning exhilaration racing up the arm. A vice crushed her lungs flat, the words forming inside escaping through open lips in silence.

Sacred spirit of Ilyana, who could cause such a reaction? Icy blue washed over her skin to cool the heat. Like waves, rather, the description of waves Teacher had told.

She dug soot out of her eyes. A man maybe several years older. Short, brown hair. Dark eyes. Cuts and bruises. Strange clothing.

An all too familiar vibration.

The name came to her lips, the soft sound of it swept away in the surrounding bedlam. “Nathaniel…?”

How was it possible? But it was possible. The parted lips and widening eyes on his face said it absolutely possible.

He recovered his voice. “You! It can’t be.”


He pulled her to her feet with ease. Were her feet still touching the pavement? And where was the air?

“Your name, what’s your—” His hand found the necklace and turned it. “Amatha?”

A fragile smile and hesitant nod. It wasn’t possible. Was it? But his strange clothing suggested he was from somewhere—distant. Had he found a way to come for her?

She brushed at the hair in her eyes, the headscarf having settled about her shoulders.

Nathaniel was in Baris and squeezing her hand. All the bad, all the killing, all the fear, were fading into the background. He’d found a way to come to her. It was impossible, but he’d managed it. Nathaniel had come to rescue her.

“We have to get out of here.” His gaze moved across her face to the side of her head. “The damned soldiers and freaking—”

She slapped a hand over the exposed ear. Brushing at her hair was too little too late. He’d noticed. Worse, he hadn’t approved. He’d seen her for the first time and found her wanting, found her to be something less than human.

“No, I’m not a freak. I’m not.”


“You called me a freak!”

“What? No!”

She jerked her hand free as Bandy appeared out of the swirling smog. A horse nudged her back. Tempest.

Prayleen arrived, glasses askew. “There you are! If it wasn’t for your flying nursemaid I’d have never found you. Come on, the aunts are waiting. We’re going east instead.”

He reached for her, but she ducked to the side, grabbed at the saddle, and reached Tempest’s back. She wouldn’t cry. She wouldn’t. People were suffering worse. It was simple. He’d seen the deformity and found only disgust for a reaction. If only he’d been different. If only.

“No, Amatha, I didn’t mean what you—”

She spurred Tempest into the mass of refugees heading for the east gate.



One Reply to “Camp NaNo Excerpt: Fall of Baris”

  1. Pingback: Camp NaNo Excerpt: Fall of Baris | Christina Anne Hawthorne

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