I've been doing a lot of crocheting lately. Lots of WIPs turning into FOs (finished objects). A few are UFOs (ugly finished objects). It's fun and fulfilling.
Writing is more fulfilling. So I thought I'd tease you with the first chapter of Blue Mage: Shadow Nothings.
DISCLAIMER: This is a rough draft. It has not been edited. At all. Not yet. It's also a story aimed at 9-12yo kids. I hope you enjoy it anyway. I'm aiming for December publication date on this one.
Chapter 1: The Dream
"Momma, I had my dream." Jeena stood in the doorway to the kitchen. Morning sunlight streamed through the wide window, splashing stripes of gold across the round kitchen table.
Her momma pushed a final piece of wood into the fire beneath the cooking stove. The door slammed shut with a metallic clang. "Are you sure?"
Jeena nodded. "It was different from every other dream I've ever had. I saw dragons and the ocean, water as far as I could see. I was flying, too. And everything I touched burned with blue fire. When I woke up, this was on my pillow." She opened her hand to show her momma a clear stone. It was a smooth circle with a hole in the center.
Her momma crossed the kitchen, skirt swaying with each slow step. "Your journeystone. Keep it safe."
Jeena nodded. "I know the stories. That's how I knew I flew over the ocean in my dream. I read about it in Granny Miller's book."
"Are you sure it was your dream, Jeena? You're only eleven. Most don't dream until they're fourteen." Her momma caught her in a tight hug.
Jeena hugged her momma back. She breathed in her momma's scent of lavender and honey. She wanted to remember it always. "I dreamed I had to leave today. I have to go to Mage Mountain. I'm going to be a blue mage."
Her momma squeezed extra tight, then let go. She brushed her eyes as she turned back to the stove. "Then I'd best get you breakfast. Run to the stables and fetch Trey. He can take you on your journey. I'll talk with Birt about taking the ponies. After you have a chance to eat and pack. Go, Jeena. Invite them both to breakfast."
Jeena bit her lip. Her momma looked sad. She hugged her momma again. "I'll miss you."
Her momma smoothed Jeena's hair. "I'll miss you, too, Sunshine. Now run. You should leave this morning. It's bad luck to put off your journey."
Jeena smiled as she hurried through the village. She waved at the blacksmith. His assistant held Blackie's head while the horse was fitted for new shoes. She would have stopped to talk, but this was a special day. You only got your dream once and if you didn't answer the call to the journey, you suffered. Jeena sniffed appreciatively at the baker's shop. Sweet buns filled the air with their enticing aroma. Maybe she could get one to take with her. It was good luck to gift a young person setting out on her journey. She'd remind the baker of that later.
She ran over the bridge, her footsteps echoing off the slow-moving water beneath. Dust puffed from the trail as she ran up the hill to the stables. She paused by the door to look back over her village. She loved the way it glowed green like a jewel in the summer morning. Smoke rose from the chimneys, thin spirals from the cooking fires. The air smelled of grass and fresh bread and horses. It smelled of home. She squeezed her jouneystone tight in her fist. Some people had dreams that kept them in their village. Her momma told stories of walking three days to the village, her journeystone glowing only when she headed east, until she reached the weaver's cottage at the edge of Dimpledon. Jeena's two older brothers had left last spring, both clutching their journeystones. One headed north to the next village where he apprenticed with the blacksmith. The other left with their father to join the king's armies. Jeena and her momma were home alone for the summer. Jeena never expected her dream so soon. Her brothers were so much older and bigger when they had theirs.
Her cousin, Trey, hadn't dreamed yet and he was almost eighteen. He worked for Birt who owned the stables at the edge of town. She secretly hoped Trey would never have his dream. She couldn't stand the thought of him leaving her behind. But now, she had her dream and it would take her away first.
She squeezed the stone again as she slid her hand into her pocket.
She walked through the wide door into the stable. She breathed deep, loving the smell of horses and hay. "Trey?"
"Hey, Strawberry. You're up early." Trey forked hay down from the loft in a shower of green. The horses below shifted closer, reaching for their breakfast.
Jeena gave him a mock glare. "Don't call me that."
Trey leaned on his pitchfork, grinning. "You want me to call you flea instead? Because you're only as big as one."
"Only to you, Scarecrow."
"Strawberry blondie. No one will ever marry you, you know. It's that hair. Red and gold like a fox. It means you're dangerous." He hung the pitchfork on the wall before climbing down the ladder.
"At least my hair won't get mistaken for straw." She loved teasing her older cousin, but this morning her heart wasn't in it. "Momma wants you to come for breakfast."
He frowned. "It's not a holiday. Is something wrong?"
"Not really." She pulled her journeystone from her pocket. "I had my dream."
He sucked in a breath and pulled a journeystone from his pocket. "So did I. Last night. I was starting to think I'd never have a dream. I dreamed I had a sword in one hand and a flower in the other. The flower glowed blue. I had to protect it."
The stones flared with light.
"I think that means you're supposed to go with me," Jeena said. "To Mage Mountain. Momma says we should leave after breakfast."
"Mage Mountain? What did you dream?"
"I'm going to be a blue mage. Trey, I'm scared."
He whistled, long and low. "A blue mage? There hasn't been a blue mage in a hundred years." He slid his stone into his pocket, then ruffled her hair. "Don't be scared, Strawberry. I'm here to protect you. What's your momma cooking this morning? I hope she's making berry cakes. She makes the best berry cakes in the village."
"Trey? I don't want to leave. I'm only eleven."
"I'm not sure I want to leave, either, but Mage Mountain isn't that far away. I'm sure you can visit whenever you want. I told Birt about my dream. He said I could take any horses I needed with me on my journey. And since you're coming with me, we'll take Meadow and Blackie."
"Is that why Blackie's getting new shoes?"
He grinned. "Trust you to notice the horses." He patted Smoke's nose. The big gray snorted before snatching another mouthful of hay.
"Did you ever hear of two people dreaming about the same journey before?" Jeena asked as they walked down the hill back to the village.
Trey shook his head. "Only in the really old story books. I never heard of someone dreaming about being a blue mage before, either."
Jeena fingered the stone in her pocket. "Where do the stones come from?"
He shrugged. "Some say the fairies bring them, but since no one's seen a fairy for years, who knows?"
"Why hasn't anyone seen a fairy for years? Momma said her grandmother used to talk to fairies all the time."
"Who knows? We can ask the mages when we get to Mage Mountain. We're never going to get there at this rate, though. Race you to your house?"
Jeena grinned as she took off running, bare feet flashing from under her skirt. Talking to Trey made her feel better, excited and still a little nervous about her journey, but not scared. Well, not as much. She put on a burst of speed down the hill to the village.
"No fair, you cheater!" Trey chased her, blond hair flying as he ran.