Defiant: Chapter Twenty-Four
We are 17 days into nanowrimo, and at the end of yesterday, I had 35,000 words. I could write a little more than 1000 words a day and hit the 50k by the end of the month, so there’s some good news.
50k does not make a fantasy novel, however, so I will still have plenty of work to do once I “win.” I’ll slow down a bit at that point, and I don’t have a great way to tell how long my book will be, so I’m setting a goal of the end of February to complete the draft. This estimate is likely wildly inaccurate! But I like having a plan.
When the first draft of the third novel is complete, I’ll return to editing the second novel. I’ve had some feedback and continue to get more each month. I’m also learning a lot in writing the third one I can apply to the second one.
But let’s return now to the first novel I wrote, Defiant. This is the last, very short, chapter. I have problems with endings, which is something I hope to fix in edits for my second book and perhaps even avoid in book three? We can hope.
Aida smiled as Ian lowered himself to sit next to her at the fire. Every bit as attractive as he was when she first saw him, he lacked the sadness of when he was an ikast. He still seemed distant, though. Or maybe it was Aida. One of them had become an ikast, and the other had stopped. Both were big changes.
He handed her some berries. “Courtesy of Captain Kyrra.”
The Temple Guard Captain asked to join their return journey west, as she was born in a village closer to the mountains. She probably did want to visit home, but also could keep an eye on Ian’s soldiers as they traveled. Many of the Calas among them had left, returning to their own homes, but most of the original Kort soldiers remained loyal to Ian.
“I saw a courier came earlier. Did he have news from the Temple?”
“The Captain says the Temple has accepted the treaty offer from the Kort. I’m surprised.”
“Surprised they took the treaty?”
“No, surprised the priests ever made a decision.”
Aida laughed. “I think it helped when my question was solved. Then all they were doing was agreeing to let them keep doing what they were already doing.”
“You’re a brave woman.”
“You keep saying that.”
“Only have tonight to say it again.”
Aida had lost count of how often he’d complimented her during the ten days since they’d left, but tomorrow morning would be his last opportunity. Zara, Sienna, and Aida would turn south in the morning, taking the path back to the village. Luca would remain with Captain Kyrra and have his chance to become a Temple soldier.
Nathan had sent word the villagers finally grew tired of Evan’s politics after Zara was kidnapped. Dylan was in charge. Zara wasn’t sure if she wanted to remain there, but they had to go back to pack even if they were to leave. Sienna wanted to talk with Nathan too, about what she’d learned on the way to the Temple and her thoughts on the priests. She wouldn’t be going back to the Temple.
“I could go with you,” Ian said.
“You’ve mentioned that a few times too.”
He sat silently looking at the fire. She still thought it was odd she couldn’t read him anymore. She couldn’t sense anyone. Her time with the Calas helped though, and she thought he looked concerned.
“Worried about going to Lortun?” she asked.
“Yes. They don’t have to take me back. It is very odd for a birth house to take back an ikast.”
“It is also very odd for someone to be forced into being an ikast.”
“True,” he said. “And they won’t want me to return to the Kort. Not that I would.”
“You could try to change them. If you did go back.”
“There’s no changing them. They’re not all as bad as Cugat, but they all do want to unify the West under their banner. They never were upset about what Cugat was doing; only how it affected their relationships with the other houses.”
“Oh, well I’m sure Lortun will take you back.” She didn’t know of course, but it seemed reasonable. It wasn’t his fault. Aida could hope for him though.
“If they don’t, then can I come to your village?”
She smiled again. “You can come visit someday, I suppose.”
He shrugged. Ian thought she would be safer if she had a warrior with her. Not from other warriors; as an ikast they wouldn’t be interested. But from the villagers. Or some other danger. She couldn’t protect herself as well now. He was certain a warrior and his soldiers could help with that problem. When she said the village wouldn’t like the soldiers, he offered to send them to Lortun. She said the village wouldn’t much like a Venkri warrior either. Ian wouldn’t be safe if he came with her.
“You can always visit Lortun, if I’m there. After.”
After she wasn’t an ikast. When Zara was gone. She shuddered.
“I know. Hard to think about that, isn’t it?” Ian asked. “That’s normal. It is part of the ritual.”
“You couldn’t ever think ahead before Cugat died?”
“Not to after his death.”
“Weird. But okay, I’ll come visit you.”
“Already making travel plans?” Sienna sat down on the other side of Aida, and Luca dropped down next to her.
“Is Zara well?” Aida asked.
“Yes, the tent you set up for her is fine. She just wished us a good night.” Luca dug at the fire with a stick.
Zara had not changed because of the ritual. The only thing she said would change was she’d beat Aida if anything did change.
Aida tried to not let it, but it still felt different. She’d always been respectful of Zara, but now she felt she should be more deferential to Zara’s children. They thought it was strange.
Aida had expected to feel terrified after becoming an ikast. The inability to sense others and the loss of power should make for discomfort. Yet she felt at peace, secure somehow. Probably also part of the ritual.
“I’d like to visit Lortun,” Sienna said. “Will they let us?”
“I assume,” Ian said. “Even if I’m not there. You could go to trade.”
“I want to see the shrine.”
“There’s a big one.”
“He’s included,” Ian said. “Why?”
“I want to learn more. Do they have any history? Of the Calas? The Departure?”
“Maybe. I was too young to be interested in things like that when I left.”
“If you find out, you can send me a message,” Sienna said. “When you send her messages.”
Aida blushed. Why would he send her messages?
“That sounds like a good plan,” Ian smiled at Aida. He stood. “Well, I guess I’d better get some rest. Enjoy the berries.”
She watched him leave, still unsettled by her inability to sense him.
Aida turned to find Sienna looking at her. “Think you’ll see him again?”
“I hope so.”