As you can (hopefully) see from the picture above, I achieved the goal I stated yesterday of breaking through the 20,000 word barrier, even if just barely. As you can probably imagine, I am absolutely delighted with that, and despite the lateness of the hour, it’s inspiring me to just keep on writing more this night. that should mean that tomorrow, I will at least have 1,667 words added to tonight’s total.
What surprised me about today’s word count was that it was nearly all based on flash back scenes, two of which I’m including as excerpts below. In the present, one character I had conceived as a lifelong singleton has been reminded of a lost love that I never knew he had. So, he’s taken to reminiscing about this relationship. I’m just writing what the characters tell me, not creating it at this point. Not entirely sure where these’ll fit in the structure of the novel, but that’s what December and editing is for…
Nikolai had been young then, barely through his fourteenth summer. He had lived on the family farm with his mother. His father had been drafted into the king’s service as a militia man, and was fighting for an inconsequential strip of grassland that the king’s seers had deemed vital. That was the old king, Cenwalh, who had been the first to spread the Faith of Satiada beyond the great steppes of Harmel.
It had been early in the morning, and Nikolai was sent to the lower field to collect well water for the cook pot. As he drew the bucket from within the deep well , and transferred the pail to carry it forth, he had seen the girl leaning against the well, crying.
“What’s your name?” he asked her.
“Anna,” the girl answered.
“Well, Anna, this well belongs to the Milton farmstead. Why are you here?”
“I wanted to surprise my Momma. She’s very sick. I think she might die.”
“And you think water will help?”
“I don’t know. But she says she’s so thirsty, and I didn’t want to go to the river, that water’s filthy and muddy. The water in the well here is clean, and you can see through it.”
Nikolai knew he’d catch serious trouble from his own mother for what he did next, but he didn’t care. “Well, I can’t let your Momma go thirsty, Anna. Show me the way, and I’ll bring her the water.”
“Thank you, Mr-“
“Nikolai. My name is Nikolai.”
True to his word, Nikolai took the water to Anna’s mother, who lay abed. Her skin was grey and sickly, and her eyes had the glazed look of someone more than halfway into the next world. The woman burned to the touch, and was only able to croak, rather than speak. Still, when she heard Anna’s voice telling her that she had brought water, her mother’s ashen face broke out into a grin.
Nikolai filled a wooden cup by dipping it into the pail of water. He handed it to Anna, who gently poured the liquid between her mother’s lips. The older woman’s face transformed into a mask of tranquility, and she whispered “Thank you,” to Anna.
“Anything for you,” Anna said, softly.
“Who’s your friend?” her mother asked.
“Nikolai’s a boy who works at the Milton farm. He helped me bring you the water.”
“Actually, I’m the Milton’s son; it’ll be my farm one day,” Nikolai said.
“He seems nice,” Anna’s mother said.
“He does,” Anna said, and flashed Nikolai a smile. Nikolai reddened and looked away.
“No need to start getting shy now, boy,” Anna said.
Nikolai stammered “I, I need to get back to my mother with water for the cook pot.”
“You do that. Oh, and Nikolai?”
“Don’t be a stranger.”
Nikolai never knew how it started. He had snuck off to spend some time with Anna, and the two of them had spent a wonderful afternoon together. They had been doing that more and more lately, and Nikolai had felt a little guilty about neglecting his duties upon the farm. After giving Anna a farewell kiss, he jogged back towards the farmstead when he saw smoke.
It was a lot of smoke, more than would be produced from a fireplace. Nikolai picked up his pace and broke into a run. The thatched roof was aflame, and black smoke was billowing to the spring sky. The fire crackled loudly as Nikolai’s home burned. The fire had spread to the cornfields, and the dry stalks ignited instantly. The few animals that were on the farm were panicking, and running away from the flames. Nikolai ran to the well and quickly filled a bucket of water. He knew it was a futile effort, that his home was now gone, but he had to try and do something.
He threw the water at the fire, and there was a hiss of steam. The water did dampen some of the flame’s ardor, but it was barely enough to matter. All that Nikolai could do know, was pray that the fire burned itself out before spreading to neighboring building and fields. He was grateful that he had spent much of the last summer building stone walls to denote the boundaries of the Milton farm, rather than the dry, flammable bracken hedges that had served that purpose in year’s past.
The commotion and roaring flames had drawn the attention of the community, and a small cluster of townsfolk had watched as Nikolai’s life and livelihood blackened and crumbled to embers. They had half-heartedly started a bucket chain to quench the flames, but it was readily apparent to all present that such measures were not going to work.
One person Nikolai didn’t see in the knot of townsfolk was his mother. Nikolai looked at the smoking ruin that had been his family home, and could not bring himself to look. Fortunately, old Vlad Melburn, who claimed to have served several kings in battle, and had seen towns razed by marauding soldiery went and looked for Nikolai.
“Is she in there?” Nikolai asked Vlad.
The old man nodded.
“Did she suffer?” Nikolai asked.
“I’m sorry, lad,” was all Vlad would say. “So very sorry.”
Nikolai bit his tongue to keep from crying. He was almost a man now, and men did not cry, no matter how much they might want to. He surreptitiously ran a hand across his eyes to wipe away any tears before they had a chance to fall. The only person who seemed to notice was Anna, who came to him and squeezed his shoulders. She leaned in to whisper in his ear, and he felt her hot breath against the side of his neck and face. He never wanted it to go away.
“I’m sorry, Nik,” she said, “but you can stay with mother and me for now.”
“You don’t havea room for me.”
“You can share my room.”
Nikolai liked the sound of that. “Thank you so much,” he said. He embraced Anna and pulled her to him, and then he surprised himself by leaning down to kiss her. She surprised him more by kissing him back, her tongue parting his lips and her arms pulling them closer. Nikolai never wanted the moment to end, but it end it did.
“About bloody time,” Anna said, and flashed him the ever-so-slightly crooked smile that made his heart melt every time.