I completed this novella just in time for the end of Camp NaNoWriMo. This story was quite the challenge to write, and I can definitely say it isn’t my best work. Being written from the perspective of a man with multiple personalities who is also the son of the Nightmare King, it was quite the challenge. Especially since when this character was first conceived he seemed more like this mystical, mysterious magic person, so showing him with flaws was more difficult, though it was obviously worth it for the sake of good character development.
This excerpt is taken from chapter 3, going from the beginning until around the middle of it. Up until this point, the story is more of a magical fantasy with gypsies and nature and stuff, but after this chapter it turns darker, going into the stuff with the Nightmare King and the rest of the dream world. So it shifts dramatically between chapters 3 and 4.
(Note: this is a rough, unedited draft)
It was when the wolves left that I decided it was my time to move on as well. I hadn’t been keeping track of the time real well, so I’m not sure how long I had been with the Vernost camp. But I had seen the wolf pups grow. It wasn’t until after all of them were fully grown that they all decided to leave, find their own mates and make their own packs. Their parents decided to go with them.
Rasajna wanted to have a celebration ceremony before they left. It was partly a harvest ritual. She asked me to join in with them, and I obliged. It would be a test to show how much power I had gained while studying with them.
While they could make wheat and other plants grow and mature all at once if they needed, they preferred to let it grow naturally. When we had arrived a year ago, it was during the harvest season, so Rasajna had grown mature wheat already for them to use. During the next spring, she planted a field and let it grow naturally. Now was the time for its harvesting to get through a new winter. They had a special ceremony for this harvest.
After cutting down all but one stock of wheat, the entire Vernost camp would gather around the field and sing their song of harvest, which was a spell to keep the land fertile and rich for the coming year. Essentially, it was a blessing to make sure the next harvest would be grand and that there would be no complications with the crops. I’m sure farmers envied their power just as much as I envied their ability to bond with animals.
“During this ceremony, the entire camp does sing, but there are two people who will sing special parts,” Rasajna explained to me as we were harvesting the field in preparation. “Soloists, if you will. I’m always one of the ones who sings these parts, as I am the matron magic user.”
I smiled a little and nodded. It was rather an amazing concept that she be the matron, considering she seemed so young. True, she was older than me, but she didn’t seem like she was old enough to be that powerful. I thought back on my mother, though. She was our matron magic user. I hadn’t really thought of it before, seeing as she was my mother, but I suppose she seemed rather young as well.
“I would like you to sing with me,” Rasajna told me. I blinked at her.
“Why me? Shouldn’t you be getting someone skilled from your camp to do it?”
She smiled at me, a warm, sweet smile. “Think of it as another test for your skills. I trust that you can do it. You’ve made great strides in your training, Dantes. I’m quite impressed with how fast you were able to learn all I’ve taught you. Your skill would suggest you’ve been with this camp since your birth.” She got a strange look on her face then; not quite a frown, but not a happy smile either. “Perhaps you will be able to achieve your goal faster than I had anticipated.”
“Does that trouble you?” I asked her. She merely shrugged her shoulders without giving me a straight answer, then she stood and carried the wheat she had cut off to the pile. I followed her with my own bundle of wheat.
“The thing about this ceremony is that we have to be perfectly in tune with each other when we sing this song and cast our spell. Do you think you can do that?” She looked at me with her shining eyes. I smiled at her and nodded.
“I think I can manage to keep up.”
“See that you do. You’ll be reprimanded if you don’t.”
I chuckled at this but nodded my head. “Is there anything else we have to do in preparation for the ceremony?”
“Yes.” She glanced toward the field and saw that most of the wheat had been cut at this point. The others could handle it without us, so she took me by the hand and led me to her tent. “We have to become in tune with each other.”
I blinked at this, glancing around at her tent, and then blushed. “Do we-”
“Not like that,” she said, her wolf ears folding back as she curled up her lip to show a glistening fang. “We become in tune with each other the same way you become in tune with nature.”
“Oh, right, of course.” I blushed even harder than before. Rasajna rolled her eyes and turned away from me, leaning down and opening up a trunk. Her tail swished from side to side, and I watched her, still feeling heat in my face. She straightened a moment later and turned back to me.
“We have this special paint that we put on ourselves for the ceremony. Only the two soloists wear it. Let me put it on you.”
I stood still, keeping my eyes shut as she applied the paint over my face with skilled fingers, though I felt the tips of her claws against my skin more than a few times. When she told me to open my eyes, she was holding up a small mirror for me to see into.
Several different colors of paint adorned my face in intricate designs on my cheeks, forehead, jaw, and around my eyes. There were both white and black marks lining my eyes, which seemed to bring out their vibrant violet color more. I smiled a bit at that.
“Do you need me to do the same for you?” I asked after I was finished admiring the markings.
“No, I can do it. You wouldn’t know how to, anyway.” She set the mirror down on her trunk and settled down in front of it, beginning to rub the paint over her face. I sat down on her bed pallet and watched her.
“How do you feel about your brother leaving?” I asked after a while. “About the whole wolf pack leaving.”
“It was only to be expected,” she replied, never stopping in her work. “Wolf packs always move on when they find the need to grow. Though I will be sad at his departure, I am happy to see they are growing and able to be on their own. They can’t stay with us forever. They have to make a life for themselves.”
I nodded my head and sighed a little. That’s just the reason I left, after all, wasn’t it? The wolves had told her they were going to leave after tonight. I hadn’t yet told them my plans for leaving, though. I wondered if she suspected my intentions.
“Finished.” She stood and turned to me. I smiled at her.
“Those markings look beautiful on you.”
“And you enjoy flattering me,” she said with a smirk. “Now, we have to become in tune with each other. Come over here.” She held her hands out to me, and I stood and took them in mine. We closed our eyes and breathed together at the same time. Soon we could start to feel each others’ pulse, just from holding hands and breathing in unison. It gave me a strange feeling that made my skin crawl.
She opened her mouth and whispered, “Speak as I do.”
I obeyed, and as she started to sing a soft, quiet song, I sang with her in perfect harmony. Its as if our hearts’ songs were connected. Though we knew not what the other was going to sing, we sang the exact song at the exact same time. I did it without even needing to think about it, as if the song were taking over my body. I was free to observe everything around us and think of things other than the song.
Our voices sounded beautiful together. I gazed upon Rasajna, her eyes closed as she sang. She looked beautiful. My heart swelled with the beauty of this little moment, and I wished it could last forever.
We performed the ceremony just before the sun set. The Vernost camp stood in a circle around the field as Rasajna and I held hands and sang and danced the spell, plucking the last of the wheat out. I gazed into her eyes as we sang and she gazed into mine. Though this was supposed to be a celebration, I saw a sadness in her eyes.
The spell was complete and the whole camp celebrated with a feast and dancing. Even the wolves joined in, running about the camp and playing with the children. It was a happy sight to behold, and I wondered if everyone would dance all night. I didn’t get the chance to find that out, though, as once I had finished eating and drinking, Rasajna pulled me aside.
“Come back to my tent,” she commanded. I followed her without question, and as I went in, she shut the flap of the tent to make sure no one else could come in. A shiver went up my spine, making my whole body tingle.
“What’s going on?” I asked in a hushed voice.
“I should be asking you the same thing,” she responded, crossing her arms over her chest. I blinked at her. She merely frowned. “You’re leaving, aren’t you?”
So she had figured it out. I sighed and nodded my head. “I am. I was planning on going in the morning.”
“And what, you were just going to leave without telling anyone?”
“No, I was going to tell you I was leaving.” I paused, seeing the expression on her face, then I turned my eyes away from hers. “I suppose I should have let you know what I was going to do a little sooner, shouldn’t I?”
“Yes, you should have.” She let out a sigh, and with that sigh some of her anger seemed to dissipate as well. “Do you really think we have nothing left to offer you?” she asked. “You think you’ve mastered our magic enough that I have nothing left to teach you?”
“I don’t know. What do you think?” I turned my eyes back to hers, searching for an honest answer. It was hard to tell what she thought; it had always been difficult to discern what she was thinking, though I could do it well enough with most others.
“I think there’s one last thing I have to teach you that you don’t yet know. Granted, anyone could teach you this, but…”
“What is it?” I had an idea of what she was saying, and I felt myself begin to blush. Rasajna reached her hand forward and stroked my face, scratching away some of the paint she had put on me.
“Would I be correct in assuming that you’ve never made love to anyone before?” she asked in a quiet voice. I blushed harder, my thought of what she was offering being correct.
“You would be,” I admitted. “Is that all you have left to offer, though, as far as teaching me goes?”
She pressed her hand against my cheek and gazed directly into my eyes. “No, I don’t believe I do. I’ve taught you our magic. You’ve learned as much as you can under me. All you can do now to grow in that power is to continue to use it. There’s nothing more I can do in helping you with that, though.”
I pressed my hand over hers, sliding it against my lips and kissing her palm before murmuring into it, “And you wish to make love to me? Now that you know I’m going to leave you? I may never see you again, you know.”
“Why do you think I’m asking you now?” She narrowed her eyes at me, a serious look on her face. “This is the perfect time to do it.”
“One could say otherwise. It may be even harder for you to see me leave afterword. It might make you miss me even more.”
“You’ve never done such a thing before, so I don’t think you have room to say such things.”
“No, perhaps not. I would just assume that would be the case, though.”
“Does that mean you’re refusing me?” Her fingers slid up the side of my neck and over my head, claws stroking into my hair and against my scalp. I shivered, but enjoyed the sensation.
“Not at all. It’s like you said, what would I know of such matters? I do find you quite attractive and beautiful, Rasajna. I just want to make sure you’re not going to regret it later.”
“Believe me, I won’t.” She cupped the back of my head in both her hands and pulled me in for a deep kiss. I blinked then slowly wrapped my arms around her, kissing back just as passionately. Her tail curled around my leg and I stroked her soft wolf ears.
She showed me how it felt to be loved for the first time that night. We slept held in each others’ arms until the first rays of sunlight broke through the sky. I got up quietly and dressed myself, careful not to wake her, then I went back to my own tent. I paused at the edge of the camp and saw the wolf pack gazing at me. I nodded to them once, then they gave me a look of understanding before bounding away on their own. It would be my turn to do the same.