Another 3 A.M Epiphany exercise, Wilderness asks the author to put two characters that you already know from your fiction in a wild setting of some kind - a forest, a desert, even an urban city where the characters don't speak the language. Don't explain why the characters are there (the part *I* failed in ;-)), just stay in one pair of eyes and slowly describe the other individual, who is evading the POV character, from things/traces left behind. Now, I tinkered with the first character I had in mind and couldn't think of someone else from the same world who would be doing this and isn't uh, dead or imprisoned, so I created someone for the second part.
This is set in the world of Blood From Stone, one of my retired novel projects, and occurs a few months after the last journal of that story. So Shihyali here is about 5-6 months pregnant:
I knew the deserts of Asedra so well each step felt like an experience of memory rather than the hunt I was now on. Only the new thought, the unfamiliar recollection that I was the Empress’ private hand, turned the sands to reality beneath me.
Li Hannava, the Lithomer who had once overseen the enclave at the edge of the desert, could only be a few hours ahead of me – the wind had not entirely blown away her footprints, a clipping trod with impossible baby steps. She was headed for the deep deserts with no apparent destination in mind, and I followed as the sands turned from brown and yellow to silver, bright and moony.
Asedra was pretty – too pretty. It was easy to forget what I was doing here and lose myself to the sights. I rubbed my stomach as the child of Cylaren and I made her presence known, a fluttery kick. The first child to be born in centuries whose mother had no soulstone, and I had no idea what would become of either of us.
I recalled Li Hannava crouching in front of me, laying a gentle hand on the bulge. The fear and consternation running down her frame …
They were afraid: every one of them. The Lithomers had more reason to be than most, for the loss of soulstones would destroy any source of power they had, but no one could face the change with equanimity. That Jyhisu could carry their stones was bad enough; this was terrifying.
“I can abort the child,” she said with the air of one doing me a great favor.
I stared at her and then raged, shouted – I should have stopped there, somewhere, but the pain made me tear up and the only way to keep from weeping in front of the strange woman was to rant instead. I lapsed into silence with a shaky apology.
A rock where she must have paused, leaving a wisp of ebony hair behind her. Long, trailing, a lace twirl to itself. Here she’d splashed water from some kind of canteen. Not as citybound as she looked, then.
Hannava was not running from me, my unnatural state and my fit of temper notwithstanding. No, she was one of the conspirators, perhaps the last – I had no confidence that was true – and she should know, better than anyone, that escape was impossible. This was desperation.
I closed my eyes and reached out for the threads of her soulstone. I encountered resistance, a stubborn haze. Frowning, I bulled forward in mind, and encountered a soft overlays of blues and creams, neatly interwoven, as tidy as the woman herself. I steadied my idea of her direction, calculated the approximate distance, and then she slapped me away with a buzz like a hive of bees.
I grinned a bit despite myself. I like to think of myself as being as normal as the next person, but there’s something about fighting on Lithomer terms that gets my blood flowing. I don’t do it much – it’s not fair play, not when I can touch them but there’s nothing of me to touch in return. Not that I haven’t had Lithomers do some pretty impressive things to my surroundings …
In the shadows of the next dune, I found something etched into the rock. Three words: please leave me. They were surprisingly steady for being rock-scratch, and I traced them with one finger until the last wobbly loop.
“Sorry,” I murmured.
She’d written me letters of introduction calmly enough, her hand as flowing as the sea. She even seemed genuinely enthusiastic about my mission …
(Hit the word count here so - no more!)