If you’re new, here’s a link to my first post explaining the linkup. And here's the link to the new linkup for this month. Inte...

Story Snippet Saturday: Monthly Linkup: Zephyra of the Wind



Interestingly enough, I came up with the beginning paragraph in church. We were doing praise and worship, I was rather near the drums, and that line just popped into my head.

I liked it, so I put it in my Random Sentences doc, where the words sat for a while, storyless but not forgotten. Around the beginning of the summer, I heard about a short story contest and decided to try expanding on the sentence. I didn’t end up submitting to the contest, but I did start this piece, and I must say I rather like it.

So without further ado, my story, Zephyra of the Wind.

***


Bum, bum, bum.

Each strike of the drum shoots straight to my heart, the sound pulsing in my stomach, and every instant of it makes me want to run more.

But when I flinch, the guards grip my arms tighter. Stabbing their fingers into my skin, they drag me to the man in the middle of the crowd, the man in front of the bonfire. In spite of this indignity, I force myself to stand straight, make myself look into his eyes. But they're as cold as this night, expressionless as the clouds over the stars, the only light coming from the flames between us.

I will receive no assistance from my uncle.

“Zephyra of the Wind,” he says, “you stand accused of betraying your home, your people, your family, the noble tribe Azani. How do you plead?”

I don't want to answer this question. I can't answer this question, so my eyes dart about to the former friends on my left, to the family on my right, as if one of them will tell me how to reply. Half of my tribe looks away, and I hear their cries hidden in fake coughs. The other half stares straight at me, eyes as cold and dead as my uncle's – my judge and executioner should I prove unable to validate my innocence.

But the twins, Emerich and Emeryn, they are not like the others. They do not turn away, but their eyes are not cold. The firelight dances in them and moisture glistens on their faces – but they do not attempt to hide their tears.

My love and my best friend. They should act like the others or they will end up like me.

“Zephyra,” my uncle says, a hint of emotion creeping into his voice. But it's not heartbreak – that would give me hope – or even anger – that would mean he is human. It is just impatience.

I clear my throat, try to force a sentence through it, though I've had nothing to drink all day. “I... I am not guilty.”

Whispers and murmurs surge through the crowd: “What did Zephyra say?”

“How can she lie in this fashion?”

“Did she just tell a falsehood to our leader?

“I am not guilty,” I say again, “of betrayal. What I did, I did for Azani and Azani alone.”

A bit more emotion from my uncle, this time incredulity. “You say you joined the enemy's side for our tribe?”

“If you had gone to war with the Koraks, there would have been slaughter,” I say, and my uncle's eye twitches. He knows it. “If I was in their compound, you would not attack. You would all...” I gasp, trying not to look at Emerich, as a sob burns my throat, “you would all be safe.”

He scoffs again. “So you claim your actions resulted from cowardice?”

Fury starts to simmer, usurping my fear, but what can I say? He will turn all of my words against me. Perhaps the rest of the tribe – my jury – will find me innocent.

“Even if I believed you,” my uncle continues. “Banishment would be the kindest punishment I could bestow.” He grabs my chin, jerking it up, and a strangled protest emits from the guard on my left – my uncle's brother. My father.

He cannot protect me now.

So I look into my uncle's eyes, burning with fury, burning with hatred, burning with the tiniest grain of hurt now that no one can see him but me. “There is no place for cowardice in the tribe Azani.”

He pushes me away again, and the mask falls back down. “Have you nothing left to say, Zephyra?” he asks, his eyes on the ground, his back to me.

I rack my brains for something, anything I can say in my defense. But they all know the details of my defection, my supposed betrayal, and now I have stated my reasons: my tribe would not attack the Koraks if they knew I was there. I stopped the slaughter of my friends, my family – and of the few companions I've found on the enemy's side.

Any further words would only hurt my cause, so I shake my head.

“Very well.” My uncle looks up, this time at all the people we have both spent our lives with. “The tribe will vote.”

My tears gone, I face my people with the pride that befits my family. Whether I live or not, I have saved all of them from certain death. The Koraks moved on yesterday; they will not return for centuries, maybe never. My loved ones will be safe.

“All who find Zephyra of the Wind guilty of treason against the Azani, give the affirmative.”

“Aye!” The shouts rise into the night. So, so many of the people I would die for clench their fists and slap their right hands over the left sides of their chests. But enough of them stay still to give me hope.

Until a few, straggling, quieter noises rise into the sky along with the dying sparks of the fire. Several more lay their hands gently against their chests, struggling as if an unseen force is pushing them down. But in the end, they too give the affirmative, sometimes shooting me an apologetic glance, other times refusing to meet my eyes.

I look over at Emerich and Emeryn. Their eyes are the same, though their cheeks are wetter than ever.

“All who find her not guilty,” my uncle shouts, a full minute after the last affirmative.

“Nay!” The rest of the tribe shouts it high and loud, slamming their left fists over their hearts with such force I'm sure they will all bruise later. Emerich and Emeryn are among the hardest hitters; across the fire, their eyes meet mine, and I see hope flickering along with the flames. My supporters' shouts were deafening, booming farther, roaring louder than my opponents'. Perhaps the Koraks even heard them, far as they must've traveled by now.

My father's fingers twitch, but he does not release me. My mother on my right is the same. Neither of them have given an answer either way. Do they think they will escape?

My uncle's eyes sweep over the crowd, then dart to us, noting his brother and sister-in-law's hesitance. For a second, I wonder if he will force them to choose.

But then his eyes return to roaming the crowd, counting in his head the right fists and the left. My stomach clenches, my heart racing faster than the deer when Emerich and I are on our hunts.

Will these be enough?

“With a count of fifty-six to fifty-five,” my uncle says, “Zephyra has been found guilty.”

***
So whaddya think? Feel free to be as honest as you like. Contrary to popular belief, constructive criticism is very good for you!



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6 comments:

  1. Now I'm really curious to learn what happens next. It's such a curious idea, and I would love to know both how she got in this situation and where exactly she's going. I like her dialogue, too. She sounds very solid in how she talks and what she thinks, which is good.

    If I had to make one suggestion, I would want to really up the emotional tension, or explain how everyone keeps their emotions in check. I mean, Zephyra, relation-wise, was pretty close to the chief, they're a close knit group, and so execution could be really sad. And maybe it's just like a value of her tribe not to be super emotional, but I'd still want to see that in writing.

    Oh, and I like how you introduce the uncle.

    I like what I've read so far, and interested to see more, if you get there!

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    1. Thanks! I'm thinking about making this my NaNo story, so I'll definitely keep your suggestions in mind!

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  2. Sounds interesting. It looks like the makings of a cool story. I spotted a few writing errors, but I liked the visual. I'd like to see this kind of story expanded. :)


    Stori Tori's Blog

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    1. Thank you! What sort of writing errors did you see? So I can fix them :)

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    2. Here is what I found. Good stuff over all though. :) I just think it could be smoothed.

      "and I hear their cries hidden in fake coughs." ~ I think you could rephrase to cut out "hear".

      “If you had gone to war with the Koraks, there would have been slaughter,” I say, and my uncle's eye twitches. He knows it. “If I was in their compound, you would not attack. You would all...” I gasp, trying not to look at Emerich, as a sob burns my throat, “you would all be safe.” ~ "... my uncle's eye twitches. He knows it." This is crowding Zephyra's dialogue. He needs his own line.

      Fury starts to simmer, usurping my fear, but what can I say? ~ Can you show these emotions a little more?

      He grabs my chin, jerking it up, and a strangled protest emits from the guard on my left – my uncle's brother. My father. ~ I think you should have told these were her parents earlier. I'm not sure why she would refer to her parents as guards. It didn't seem natural.

      So I look into my uncle's eyes, burning with fury, burning with hatred, burning with the tiniest grain of hurt now that no one can see him but me. “There is no place for cowardice in the tribe Azani.” ~ I'm not sure who is speaking here since you have description about Zephyra and her uncle.

      He pushes me away again, and the mask falls back down. ~ You need to foreshadow this mask. I've read this over twice and I couldn't see where it was mentioned.

      "he asks, his eyes on the ground, his back to me." ~ You don't really need the "he asked" this is true with some "he says" in other instances. Often you can just replace it with description to show more emotion and take up less words.

      "though their cheeks are wetter than ever." ~ I think you need to define these are tears since it could be mistaken as rain water or something else and conflict with your visual since you used "wet" twice.

      "my uncle shouts, a full minute after the last affirmative." ~ What happened during this full minute? A lot of stuff can happen in this time. Was their silence? Talking? Did Zephyra start to lose her nerve?

      "My supporters' shouts were deafening, booming farther, roaring louder than my opponents'. Perhaps the Koraks even heard them, far as they must've traveled by now." ~ You switched to past tense here.

      "My father's fingers twitch, but he does not release me. My mother on my right is the same. Neither of them have given an answer either way. Do they think they will escape?" ~ They need to be mentioned at the beginning. If her parents are being used as guards that would be intriguing to me up front.

      I enjoyed it, but since you asked for some critique, here are my thoughts. :) I hope they help.

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    3. Thank you so much for your critique! I will definitely keep it all in mind. :D

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