So I did some thinking. Part of me was debating if I wanted to post this, what with the thought of the possibility of future publication, ect, ect. I decided to go with the thought of good faith. I’ll post oh, say the first few days, get you folks nice and hooked (or bored out of your skulls…you know, whatever) then stop posting. Or maybe I’ll just keep updating in the spirit of November as an exclusive thing, then take down the posts at the conclusion. I’m undecided. In any case, if I decide to publish this one, there will be lots of edits. NaNoWriMo is all about word count an just getting everything on paper. It’s 50,000 RAW words, not 50,000 finished words. I maybe did spellcheck along the way. MAYBE. So…yeah. Read Merlyn’s Amulet just for kicks and giggles. And tolerate Day 1. I didn’t do an outline, I didn’t do a plot summary, I didn’t even do a single character profile. I NAMED them on the fly, k? So, read Day 2 before you decide.
Stopping my nervous jabber.
I present Merlyn’s Amulet.
“It has to be tonight,” rang Jericho’s voice in my head when he talked to Thomasina, “they come in the morning.”
I woke, wet and shivering, under the eaves of a hut. Below me, a carpet of powdery snow reflected the muted shades of the predawn sky; there were no footprints from last night. Jericho and Thomasina had not passed my way; on one hand, I was glad I had not slept through their arrival, but on the other hand, my stomach turned into a sour knot at the realization of what that meant.
I was trapped in the here and now.
I didn’t know when or where the here and now was.
And that wasn’t the worst part.
The worst part was that I had in the lining of my coat, a trinket imbued with the magic of Merlyn and carved from a unicorn horn using a knife from the same smith who had created Excaliber. Or so everyone around me believed, and if they believed it, the truth did not matter. And when the town woke up, I would be much too close to the crime scene to have any chance of escaping.
I had no idea where to go. Thomasina had been my lifeline to get out of here, and I’d relied on Jericho’s greed to make sure they came for me anyhow. He would not have passed up a chance for the amulet. One of the other robberies must have gone awry. I tried to decide what to do, but with the cry of a horn, my world morphed again.
Men’s yells came from the river: a cacophony of hoots, cries, and shouts, the call of the horn sounding again, vibrating off the mountain, rattling mud off the hovel I cowered beneath. In the time it took me to drop down and bolt for the village barn, the raiders were entering the far end of the town.
I wasn’t running for a horse; I couldn’t ride. I was running to get a pitchfork. Two heartbeats later, I wrenched open the barn and was faced with fifty or so eyes staring nervously at me. Good thing I wasn’t after a horse, because only goats and sheep milled around the floor, the goats being more creative and having leapt upon whatever crates were around. Finding the pitchfork, I gave it a skeptical sigh. No metal tines. Of course not, was I really thinking that people living in huts covered in mud had metal items?
Two wooden tines stared at me, covered in sludgy grime. However, it was easily taller than I by a couple feet. Casting open the main door, I spied villagers pouring out of their huts, armed with brooms and wooden swords. No one looked my direction, so I daintily stepped around the barn with the intention of making a dash for the treeline.
“Wo-man!” cried one raider when he finished a downstroke that hacked a villager’s arm off. The raider charged for me, and I knew I would not like what would happen if he caught me. Instead of running, I planted my feet and breathed deeply.
His sword was heavy and dull and he threw his entire body behind each stroke, I knew. If I could dodge his strokes, I would survive. When the man strode up to me, gave me a smile of black teeth, and gave his sword a playful swing, I hopped aside and raked his face with the tines. Jericho’s acceleration spell was still working, I noticed to my relief.
The raider’s friend stepped up, and I rammed the other end into his groin.
All too soon, my way was cut off and I was surrounded by raiders who thought me a game or a challenge. Laughter rang around me as men crossed into my circle to fight with me, only to duck back into the ranks when they were finished. The spell was only meant to be used in bursts, and so I grew slower and my body gained nicks and scratches and scrapes.
They played with me until my body was chill with sweat, my muscles were torn and burning, and my throat was ragged with panting. At last, a brawny man confronted me with hands only, yanked away my battered pitchfork, and seized my arms up behind my back.
“Who owns this one?” his voice shook through my ribcage.
“I could do with a slave,” yelled one, then others yelled about who would “get” me since it was a community effort to “tame” me.
I knew the eventual consensus would be to share me. Tossing the last of my strength into the man’s belly,I knocked the air from him and rolled between his legs then started running. It was pointless, I thought. The last of the speed spell aided my flee, and there was soon a widening gap between me and the men.
Hopeful for a real escape, I trudged harder through the snow and down a slope I wouldn’t have been able to navigate if my parents hadn’t insisted on raising me on hiking trails.
The men did pretty good themselves on the hill, and when I hit flat ground I hoped none of them had bows; I was panting too hard to hear anything above my breath and the sudden yells coming from behind me.
A shadow of a giant bird hit the snow all around me, a shadow four times the length of my arms. Panicked, I turned in time to glimpse two outstretched talons, a golden eagle head, and a lion tail. Yanked by my armpits, the dry grass sticking out of the snow blurred beneath my kicking legs as I gained altitude. The grypon brought us higher and higher with each pump of his wings until we were facing down the treeline; we weren’t going to make it. Three hard pulses, and we almost cleared the tree tops. Afraid of falling, I helped by lifting my legs so they wouldn’t drag through the branches.
Arrows buzzed by us, and I stifled a yelp as one dug into my arm and another clipped my ear. Glad as I was that I was not going to be brutally violated and then sold into a life of slavery, I was also suspicious of my sudden fortune. What did the gryphon want? Dinner? To sell me instead? How smart were gryphons anyway? My heart hurt, and while I would like to think it was from the strange last two days, I knew it was from the bashing my body had gotten recently. I hung like a soaking dish towel from the gryphon’s talons, and the sting from my armpits didn’t sink in past the superficial ache.
“Whooo! Sven did not like us doing that!” a man’s voice came to me from the top of the gryphon.
The gryphon grunted in response, then craned its head down to look at me. I couldn’t tell what gender it was; it had piercing brown eyes and a seemingly permanent scowl written all over its beak. It studied my various scratches and the arrow in my arm.
“How do you fare?” it asked, surprising me with the proper and prim enunciation largely devoid of emotion.
I responded before my mind caught up to the situation, “Got an arrow and some nicks.”
The gryphon did not immediately respond, but looked upward to the sky as though choosing a path to take. The man said something, but the wind carried his voice away from me. When I was quiet, the gryphon gave me a look that I thought should include a raised eyebrow—except, of course, gryphons had no eyebrows. I raised my arms to show my confusion.
“What is your name, Woman?” The gryphon repeated for me.
As seemed to be happening a great deal around this gryphon, I responded with all the conditioning of years of simply giving my name out. “Gayle Reynel.”
“You are out of time,” said they gryphon with a snort.
Ignoring the stiffness from the arrow, I seized the talons so the creature couldn’t drop me. “What?”
It gave me an unreadable look, then cocked its head to the side, “You are not from this time.”
“Oh.” I said, feeling more comfortable knowing that I wasn’t going to plummet to my death. “How do you know that?”
“The name Abigail does not become common until the 1500’s.”
I had to assume the gryphon—and possibly the man—were also out of time. “And…who are you?”
The gryphon watched the air around us as she answered, “I am called Atalanta. My partner is Atticus Sumner. We want to know what you are doing here.”
“I wish I knew,” I said sadly. Still in shock, I supposed. I still thought I was living one of those dreams that never seemed to end. The memory of Thomasina and Jericho was fading from me the longer we were separated, and the memories I had were vague points and random at best; now that I thought of it, I wasn’t positive those were their names or if I had accidentally named them. The last several hours were vague, I remembered something about a threat or a promise, something else about not getting caught, remembering that I needed the amulet, then I needed to wait.
The sky spun before my eyes, my stomach flipped, and I was suddenly disconnected from my body, as though I were floating, just barely tethered to my body. The pain was gone, or nearly gone. I closed my eyes, but I saw more than ever before. I saw the wind like water boiling and rolling off Atalanta’s wings, parting about her beak. Up ahead I saw current in the sky, a current she was heading straight for. Not only did I see air. I saw the living glow from the rocks and trees and earth, and I felt a tingling heat radiating from Atticus and Atalanta. It was comforting, it was powerful, it was more than I ever thought I could see.
I wanted to hold my paint brushes again.
For the first time since the Incident, I wanted to hold my brushes. Suddenly, I saw the symbols again, and I knew—I needed to record them. The symbols were back. I was too weak, too tired to even make my mouth move when the gryphon pestered me for a response. I was a soul tagging behind them like a balloon beating and drifting in the lush emptiness of the air and magic around us.