I’ve finished the rough draft of Bone Chills, and it is definitely rough. I’ve made tons of notes on how I’ll be editing it and changing it later, but for not I’m just going to celebrate that I’ve finished another draft after struggling the past few months with starting several stories and never finishing them. So this feels like a good accomplishment to me.
Here, I’ll be sharing an excerpt from chapter 16, which is the next-to-last chapter of this draft. It starts halfway through the chapter and goes until the end. I decided to do this excerpt because it is a good “revelation” sort of chapter and I just like how it came out. Please enjoy.
(Note: this is an unedited rough draft)
No one came back to see her. She stayed in that cell for a long time with nothing but silence to greet her. At some point, she pulled the edges of the blanket away from the pile of hay and curled up inside of it to keep warm, though the blanket was old and somewhat scratchy. It was still better than nothing.
She tried to sleep, and did manage to doze off a few times, but her sleep was plagued with bad dreams. She started to cry into the blanket, burying her face into it. “I’m sorry,” she whispered. “I’m sorry. I’ll never complain about having to stay at Aunt Fleur’s again, if only I could go back home. Please, I just want to go home. I don’t want to die here…”
“I think I can help you with that,” a quiet, familiar voice said. Asroe sniffed and looked up to see the familiar tall figure of Helleborus in one corner of the cell. She gasped softly and sat up. He smiled at her and moved to her side, kneeling down by the bed of hay.
“What are you doing here?” she asked, gazing up at him. “How did you even get here?”
“I have my ways,” he said, shaking his head and waving his hand dismissively. “This isn’t the first time I’ve visited the castle before, either.”
“Are the others safe?” she asked. “That panther lady said she was going back to ‘take care of them’, and then she said they weren’t going to bother them anymore. She didn’t hurt them, did she?”
“No, she didn’t,” he replied. “She just used some strong intimidation tactics on them and West bent under her like a reed in the wind. But, it isn’t important right now. I’m here for you.”
“Do you think you can get me out of here?” she asked.
“Oh, I could get you out of here quite easily, but there’s something else we need to do before we get out.”
Asroe blinked up at him. “Like what?”
Helleborus slowly settled down beside her and put an arm around her. “You see, Asroe, I was the one who opened the portal in your world and brought you here. You remember all those strange flowers you saw around your aunt’s house, and at the cemetery? I put those there.”
Her eyes grew wide as she heard this. “You… brought me here? But why?”
“Because there’s something I need to do, and I don’t believe it’s possible without a human to do it. I want to end this accursed winter once and for all.”
“End it? But how are you going to do that?”
“The king has this jewel,” he said. “It’s called a fire opal. It has magical properties which give him control over fire. It was decided a very long time ago that whoever possessed the stone was the rightful ruler of the land. Fire and warmth are precious to us, so it makes sense that the king should have the ultimate tool for it. So, I want you to steal it from him.”
Asroe stared at him for a long moment. “Me? You want me to do that?”
“I’d do it myself,” he said. “In fact, I have done it myself once before, but its power wouldn’t activate for me. I suspect it has something to do with my being undead. So I figured that the only ones who could operate it would be living creatures, like the king. Or a human.”
Asroe frowned at him. “Wait, so you’re saying anyone could do it, not just a human?”
“You have to understand, Asroe, that the people of this world follow their king and would never betray him, even if it meant ending this wretched cold. Plus, they would never trust something like me. I didn’t know where else to turn, so I opened up a portal to the human world and brought you here.”
“Why me?” she asked in a quiet voice, looking away from him. “Out of all the people you could have chosen, why was it me?”
“Well, that’s the thing about it, isn’t it? I didn’t choose you. The portal opened in a random place, in a random time. I had no control over it. I didn’t even think I could succeed in opening the portal. But it did. You were the one who followed my clues. Heh, no one else even seemed to notice them. Your aunt didn’t even notice the flowers until you showed them to her. You stepped into the portal, and then it closed.”
“So, it was just happenstance, is that it?” she mumbled, hugging her knees to her chest.
“That is correct. But you shouldn’t feel bad about it, Asroe. You’ve lasted this long, and you’ve made a bunch of great friends who truly care for you. West might not be able to send you back home, but if you help me, I can.”
“So you won’t send me back if I don’t help you?” she asked, her voice edged with anger.
“No, it’s not that. I don’t believe I could if I tried. The spell to open the portal into your world was tricky and it wore me out, and as I said, I had no idea where or when it would open up. So if I managed to open another portal, it could very well send you to another country entirely, and in a completely different time period as well. But if we get the king’s fire opal and activate it, we can get another portal opened, one that’s more accurate and precise.”
Asroe looked up at him, feeling rather skeptical of the whole thing. “Are you sure about this?”
“We have no other choice,” he said. “If this doesn’t work, you’re going to be on the run from the king for the rest of your life, until you’re either captured again, or you drop dead somewhere else. So, what’s it going to be?”
Asroe let out a deep breath and flopped back onto the bed of hay. “I’ll help you,” she said. “Just tell me what I have to do. And promise me you’ll be there to protect me if something goes wrong.”
“I promise,” he said, resting two fingers on her forehead before moving them down to her lips. “You shall not be harmed while I’m around. Now then, I have a plan for what we can do to get that jewel away from him. You’re going to be brought before him before they take you away to kill you. That will be your opportunity to act. You need to keep him distracted.”
“How should I do that?” she asked.
“The king has a favorite flower,” he said, a wide grin on his face. “If you give some to him, that may subdue him for a time. Oh, one other thing. When you’re brought before him, you should tell him your name. Your real name.”
Asroe blinked. “What for?”
“Because you are named after a flower, and in this world, such names are considered to be sacred and only for those in high standing, like the king himself, or his captain. This is why West thought it would be better to call you by something else.”
She stared at him, feeling skeptical again. “Are they going to be mad if they hear that, then?”
“Possibly. But perhaps it will placate them for a few minutes and buy us some time.”
She let out a deep breath and nodded her head. “Okay. Where do I get the flowers?”
“I’ll provide you with them. Just hide them in your jacket until you get there or something. Trust me, once you give them to him, that jewel is as good as yours.”
“I really hope you’re right about this.”
It was several hours before anyone returned to the cell. Helleborus had gone by then so she was alone in the cell when the panther stepped in to look her over. Her nostrils flared as she gazed at Asroe, and she opened the door to the cell.
“Come along, little morsel. The king has been eagerly waiting to meet you.”
Asroe hugged her arms around herself and slowly stepped out of the cell. The captain of the guard pushed her forward and walked behind her as she led Asroe to the king’s throne room. Asroe couldn’t stop shaking as she walked on, and although Helleborus had told her he would be watching over her, she couldn’t help but feel like she was about to walk to her death.