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Work in Progress - GREEN GIRL MAGIC (previously called The Hero of Esk)
These pages contain illustrations which gave me the inspiration for some characters and locations for this fantasy. Scroll down from the pics to a synopsis and the first two chapters.
The island shown on the right is the island of Esk.
On Esk one in every hundred babies are born with coloured skin. These children are sent to the Academia to begin apprenticeships. Those with purple skin study to be medical pothecaries. Those with blue tattoos become inventive techs. Green children train as spellbinders, the only guild with magic. Sorcha, the main character, has green skin and amazing magical potential. She is fast-tracked into the Academia, the youngest apprentice ever. Being so young and celebrated, she takes herself very seriously and makes few friends.
Green Girl Magic begins when Esk is attacked by the tyrant Rom Baro and his allies the treacherous Fey. The Fey witch Drabani predicts that four will try to stop Baro: one who is wise, one who is foolish, one who is kind, and one with royal blood.
Academia apprentices are banned from joining the battle. Annoyed that she’s being treated like the other ‘lesser’ apprentices, Sorcha disobeys the directive. She fires an Ignition Curse at the enemy which saves the life of Tamin, a Pantheran cadet, and is indirectly responsible for the capture of Rom Baro and the end of the war. Sorcha becomes a hero to the warrior Pantherans who are a cross between cats and meerkats. However her own guild, the spellbinders, are not impressed and she’s reprimanded for disobedience. Feeling hard done by she storms out the Academia.
It isn’t long before the Fey capture her and two other apprentices – Gabi, a bossy pothecary, and Pendlebury, a stiff and solemn tech. The Fey announce they will free the apprentices if Rom Baro is released. Sorcha et al believe that if Rom Baro is set free he will continue the war. They work together – something Sorcha finds initially difficult - and manage to escape. Deceitful Drabani pretends she still has the apprentices to trade.
Meeting up with Tamin, Sorcha and her (now) friends travel to where the prisoner exchange is to take place. Sorcha toboggans down a massive sand dune, exposes the fraud, and knocks Rom Baro over. Enraged, he seizes her. Sorcha realises that her magic is strongest when it’s used unselfishly to help others. She draws on all her power and transforms into a pillar of green fire. Rom Baro is burnt and beaten.
During the adventure the apprentices display all the qualities mentioned by Drabani. Tamin is the ‘one with royal blood.’ Sorcha and the spellbinders are reconciled. She’s come to understand that there are other things just as important as being good at magic, and sets off for a long overdue visit to her blood-parents.
At the moment the manuscript is 35,130 words. Here's a preview of the first two chapters. All the paragraphs and dialogue are indented in the original ms. I can't work out how to do it in this format. Sorry if it makes reading difficult.
A WINTER PROPHECY
The witch Drabani tossed the bones in her filthy hands. ‘Speak. Ask your question.’
‘I am not sure…’ The King hesitated. He rubbed a hand over his mouth. His teeth were rotten and ached painfully. ‘I can’t decide…‘
‘…if we should help Lord Rom Baro?’ the witch completed his question.
‘Yes.’ The King was growing old. ‘Throw the bones, Drabani.’
With a grunt Drabani lowered her massive body to the earth floor. Her torn satin skirts spread around her like a muddy puddle. She began to sing moving the bones from hand to hand quickly at first and then slower. She threw. The bones landed, bounced, rolled and formed a pattern.
The King leant forward, batting away smoke from the miserable fires in the cavern. ‘What can you see?’
‘Patience.’ Drabani took her time reading the bones’ message. She paid particular attention to a tiny bird bone that had landed upright. Finally she heaved herself to her feet. ‘Some things are clear. Others stay hidden. Yes, we should show Lord Baro the way through the swampland. He offers us a way to regain our lost powers. As to success…?’ She stared at the bones and frowned. ‘Four will stand against us: one who is wise, one who is foolish, one who is kind and one with royal blood. But they are young short-lifes and we are the Fey, the Shining Ones, the Lords and the Ladies.’ Drabani’s protruding eyes glittered maliciously. ‘There will be a great battle. Dark days are coming for Esk.’
Sorcha was snapped awake by the beat of drums. Bam! Bam-bam Bam! Bam! Bam-bam bam! She pulled open the embroidered curtains around her bed. The other third years were busy getting dressed, fluttering like excited butterflies.
They called to one another, ‘That’s the alarm from the observation deck!’
‘Rom Baro must be sighted!’
‘Quick! Let’s go see!’
As usual no one giggled and chatted with Sorcha. She took herself far too seriously for that. Sorcha was the youngest apprentice spellbinder ever admitted to Esk Academia. The Enablers believed she had immense magical potential. They called her ‘the prodigy’ and Sorcha did her best to live up to the title.
If Lord Rom Baro had arrived to invade the island she definitely wanted to go see.
It took Sorcha no time at all to slip on a soft tunic and tweek her hair in the mirrored wall. As colour children aged, their colour deepened. Because she was so young, Sorcha’s skin was a pale apple green which contrasted nicely with her greeny-blue hair and large brown eyes. Although she was the youngest apprentice, a recent growth spurt had turned her into one of the tallest, all awkward elbows and knees.
Knobby elbows were great weapons. She used them at every opportunity, ducking, diving, shouldering her way through the crowds climbing the stairs to the observation deck. This massive octagonal space was one of her favourite places in the tower. It had a domed ceiling and see-through walls. In the centre were screens covered with maps of Esk and diagrams of the phases of the double moons. Drums, as tall as Sorcha, made of Ur-beast hide, rested in a corner, silent now their message had been received. The drummers stood about in small groups, chewing tobacco. They were city folk, without colour, and had impressive muscular arms.
Positioned near the transparent walls were sky scopes, a clever invention of the techs. Each scope had a seat and the whole machine could be swung in a complete circle. Already there was a line of spellbinders beside the scopes waiting their turn.
Dame Masselina, Sorcha’s Enabler, hadn’t had to queue. As a senior spellbinder and important member of Esk Council she’d been seated first. Already her scope was pointed firmly in the direction of the swampland.
Sorcha elbowed her way to the front of the line. ‘Massey, it’s me. Can I see? It is Rom Baro? Is he coming through the swamp?’
Her Enabler looked down. ‘Sorcha, join the queue please. Wait your turn.’
‘But, I’m here now!‘
‘Join the queue, child.’
Sorcha swore under her breath, ‘Crab shells and little fishes!’
There was no point arguing when Massey had that preoccupied look on her face. Groaning with impatience Sorcha did what she’d been told. She filled in her time staring out the transparent walls at the city below.
Sorcha knew every wide street and narrow alleyway of Ultima-Esk, the island’s capital, every bright hall of entertainment and busy market. Rising above the city’s tiled roofs were the towers of Academia housing the three guilds. The tech tower was slim and straight, aerodynamically engineered. Around it clustered a jumble of oddly shaped sheds housing random pieces of machinery: levers, pendulums and giant screws that the techs might (one day) find a use for. Pothecaries lived in a smaller tower surrounded by enclosed gardens, near the animal barns.
Spellbinders were the only guild with magic and magic had helped build their tower which rose higher than the other two, shining green and silver. Balconies with viewing platforms circled every second floor like necklaces, glittering in the spring sunlight.
‘Sorcha, it’s your turn now.’
Massey held the seat steady while Sorcha scrambled on. Hurriedly adjusting the lens, Sorcha had her first clear sight of the enemy.
Across the swampland they came, in their hundreds, Rom Baro’s army: gaunt, tattered slaves from the outer islands, paid mercenaries from Brae, disgraced soldiers from Panthera. Painted fighters rode battle birds, tall creatures that had their beaks sharpened to a killing point. Through the mass, Ur-beasts stamped and roared, dragging sections of huge wooden war machines.
The idea of war hadn’t been real before. Now she could see the enemy, shivers of fear chased up and down Sorcha’s spine. For whole of her short life Esk had been at peace. Now it seemed the city, her wonderful tower, the whole island itself – was under threat. She made a decision:
I must stop Baro!
Then, because she thought that sounded a bit big-headed, she changed the decision to:
The spellbinders, the Council, Massey, and I must stop Baro.
Massey took hold of the scope and moved it to the left. ‘I want you to look over here, child.’
Sorcha twiddled the lens for a sharper view. On the outskirts of Baro’s army was a group of skeleton-thin red horses. They were ridden by figures with flat, triangular faces.
‘That is the Fey, child. They are cold, cruel creatures who live three times as long as we do. Know what they are and stay well clear.’
It was the first time Sorcha had seen the Fey, the subject of so many childhood horror stories. They had pointed chins, small mouths and bulging eyes with no eyelashes. In a strange way they reminded Sorcha of insects, the termites who built great underground nests near her home at Lake Treganowan. Under her breath she whispered the rhyme all Esk children were taught:
‘Don’t trust the Fey when they call you,
Don’t trust the Fey when they’re kind!
Always be wise
Don’t meet their eyes
They want to steal your mind!’
‘The Fey are guiding Rom Baro through the swampland. I can’t imagine what he has promised them in return for their help.’ Massey’s skin had turned olive, almost black, much darker than usual, a sure sign she was seriously worried. ‘Many years ago the Fey had a power of enchantment called thrawl. They misused it. That’s why they were banished to the swampland.’
Sorcha looked up. ‘Thrawl? What’s thrawl? How did they misuse it, Massey?’
‘Some things are best not spoken of.’ Massey’s mouth tightened, a sign she didn’t want to talk about it any further. ‘That’s enough now, child. Let someone else use the scope.’
‘No, because I---‘
‘Oh, if I must…’ Mumbling under her breath Sorcha scrambled off the seat.
‘Now pay attention,’ said Dame Masselina. ‘I have to make an important announcement.’
With a swirl of her ankle-length skirt Massey stepped to the centre of the room and clapped her hands. Everyone respectfully moved away from the scopes to listen.
Unlike the younger spellbinders who wore filmy tunics, Masselina sported a stylish ensemble in black and grey. Her hair was elaborately braided and styled to give her extra height.
She put her hand to her heart and bowed. ‘In view of the impending conflict, the Council has decided that the Academia will close. All classes are cancelled.’
No more classes?
She loved learning magic, feeling the buzz every time the words and sigils combined in a new spell or charm. And of course she was always top of the class when it came to the show trials.
Massey continued, ‘¾and apprentices from the other two guilds will move here to stay in the spellbinder’s tower.’
What??? Surely Massey doesn’t mean we have to share with the unmagical guilds, the grubby pothecaries who always stink of herbs, and pompous techs?
‘The Council will do everything it can to protect you,’ Massey assured the anxious faces. ‘When you entered the Academia we promised your blood families to keep you safe. The next time you hear drums it will mean Baro’s army has reached the city wall. From that moment apprentices must remain inside the tower, well away from the fighting.’
Sorcha thought this was very sensible.
Apprentices should stay safe inside the tower. Ordinary apprentices, that is. Massey couldn’t possibly mean someone extraordinary like me.