Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Starting Sparks // to fool the court

Surprise! It's not a Saturday, but I'm posting anyway because why not? You might remember that back in January, I may have damaged a few hearts with a piece of flash fiction called Ann Marie. I'm participating in Starting Sparks again today, though I think your hearts will stay intact this time. Ann Marie was a rainy, emotional, grieving piece. This one is more wintery (seeing as I'm clinging fiercely to spring right now, I haven't the foggiest idea why this thing insisted on snow) and feisty . . . but I'll let you draw your own conclusions.

Starting Sparks is a monthly linkup hosted by Emily @ Ink, Inc. and Ashley G. @ [insert title here], in which they take turns providing writing prompts. If you're in a writing slump, or just need to switch gears for a while, prompts are a fabulous solution. Trust me.

When I saw the May Edition, I thought it was too fun to pass up. Dialogue prompts might be some of my favorites, come to think of it. This is also one of my first conscious attempts at something like an omniscient POV. Or a more distant third-person. Or the much condemned head-hopping. I'm not really sure at this point. Anyhoozens, enough dithering. Here it is. Enjoy!

* * *

“No, not you. Anyone but you.” Prince Tyrus—by all appearances thoroughly overwhelmed by the sight before him—covered his eyes, then scrubbed his hand down his face as if resigning himself to meet it head-on after all.

“And why, pray tell, am I not suitable?” Voice prickling with ice, Evaleen shook a fistful of her voluminous skirt. Tiny shards of crystal sewn into the barely-blue fabric tinkled. “I certainly look the part, thanks to your staff. No one will know that I’m a bridgekeeper.”

Prince Tyrus waved a hand. “You could be a digger in the chasms for all I care. Station has nothing to do with it. It’s just—” Again the hand waving. His fingers whisked the air as if to thread words from it.

“It’s just what?” Evaleen crossed her arms. Her toned biceps stretched the long sleeves designed for the insipid girls of Wavening Court, and not for sturdy women who shoveled snow off the bridges all day. The pale afternoon light shining through the palace windows glinted in her defiant gaze.

Tyrus gestured between them. “This. You and I. We don’t exactly get along. The court’s not going to believe me for a minute if I walk in there with you on my arm. They want me to choose a wife, not adopt a sister with whom to squabble.”

A beat of silence passed, during which a sudden wind gusted over the palace turrets and sent a flurry of snow crystals whirling past the windows and down, down, down into the dark abyss surrounding the castle on all four sides.

Evaleen’s ruddy, wind-burnt cheeks lifted in a smile. “But as long as they believe me, things will be just fine.”

Tyrus released a ragged noise that was half sigh, half groan. He turned to the window and stared outside, hands gripping the stone sill. His floor-length fur mantle bristled like it was still attached to the snow bear from which it came. “I never thought I’d tell Wavening Court that I intend to marry the girl who cast me out in the first place,” he muttered darkly.

“Cast you out, ha.” Evaleen plucked at her crystal-sewn bodice, wrapped tight around her ribs. How ladies managed to breathe in such constricting garments, she hadn’t the foggiest idea. But maybe the lack of oxygen was the cause of their weak voices and limp smiles. The thought nearly made her snort, but she caught herself just in time. “I sent you to safety. Curse the hinterwinds, I practically saved the kingdom. You should be thanking me.”

Tyrus, oblivious to her clothing hardships, let the abyss outside the window suck his gaze downward into its blackness. “For throwing me into that wind glider and launching me south? South, Evaleen. Did anyone ever tell you what kind of people live there? What they do to northeners, especially young ones? I nearly lost my life multiple times, and on top of that, I nearly lost my father’s kingdom.” His fingers kneaded the stone windowsill. Memories a decade and a half old throbbed in his mind . . .

Floating for miles on the cold drafts rising from the network of chasms . . . Touching down in a place green and sticky with heat . . . Clan men jabbering in a foreign tongue, carrying him by his ankles and wrists.

Taking him to the Purification Pit.

Pitch blackness.

Fat slugs crawling over his skin, his face, their acidic slime burning his young flesh. His own screams echoing back to him.

Years of slavery.

Weekly trips to the Pit.

Evaleen dropped her hands to her sides. The sound broke his reverie. “And if I had done nothing, the invaders would have put you in the family plot next to your father’s grave.”

Tyrus’s shoulders stiffened. “’Ware how you speak of the dead, bridgekeeper.”

“My soul is safe regardless of my manner of speech regarding decomposing flesh, Prince. Didn’t the south cure you of such superstitions?”

Lips pinched over a sharp retort, Tyrus finally turned from the window to face her again. Better to scrap the whole conversation and return to the point. “I cannot walk in there with you. Return to the regent and tell him to find a replacement actress.”

“No.” Evaleen tilted her chin up, daring him to a battle of the wills.

And if there was one thing he’d learned long ago as a nine-year-old prince (back when he was still innocent and un-orphaned) crossing the bridges from one massive pillar of rock to the next, it was that the bridgekeepers possessed a will stronger than anyone he’d met within Wavening Court. Hours of sun and unforgiving wind, shoveling the snow constantly blown in, repairing cracks, and salting the ice slicks—those conditions seemed to harden something in the keepers.

Defying Evaleen, commoner though she was, would be of little use.

Tyrus shook his head, defeated before he’d begun. “They have to believe we’re betrothed.”

She flashed her left wrist, bound in a silver strand of metal. “The regent provided me with a betrothal band.”

“They have to believe you’re of northern blood.”

She pointed to her head of blonde curls. “This doesn’t get any more northern.”

“They have to believe you’re of the Court.”

“I’ve tended bridges crossed by hundreds of Wavening feet. I know the part better than you do, long-lost prince.”

“They have to believe I chose you.”

She pointed at him. “That part is up to you. Get rid of that crease between your eyebrows and smile a little. Keep me close when we walk into the ball, give me all the dances, and pretend I’m the most interesting person in attendance.”

Tyrus opened his mouth to protest that impossibly lofty order, but she marched on.

“And if you so much as breathe a word of our, ahem, strained past, the act will be over. You understand that, right? They don’t know I was the one who sent you away. Your job is to keep them ignorant.”

He grudgingly accepted the truth of her words, but then straightened with a gleam in his eye. “Most importantly, though: they have to believe we’re in love. And that is going to be impossible, so you may as well go talk to the regent now so he has time to find a replacement before the ball begins in three hours.”

Evaleen grinned now, teeth flashing in the slanted light. Wolfish. Cunning. “Not so difficult if you take a little blood-blush wine.”

Tyrus froze. He backed away, hands up. “No. No, I’m not taking anything of the sort.”

Blood-blush wine was not really alcoholic, though its effects were undeniably strong. Made from boiling water and ground up blood-blush flowers picked right before they bloomed, some called it a love potion. It was reported to make the drinker enraptured with whatever he or she looked at while swallowing the elixir, but only for as long as the wine stayed in the digestive system. A sizable gulp would swill around in his stomach all evening, long enough to convince the court.

But no. Being made subject to anything picked at the scabs of the past and rankled Tyrus down to the soles of his boots. Offering his emotions up for tampering was especially bad. Not to mention the blow the resulting behavior would be to his dignity. Fawning in public over a girl he hated? It was too much to bear.

Evaleen arched a brow. “The more you argue with me, the more you prove the point that you do need a little helping along.” She withdrew a scarlet vial from the folds of her skirt. “One night. That’s all. Suffer a little embarrassment, make the court believe you’ll be marrying me within the fortnight, and on the morrow they’ll crown you as king. Then the realm will be safely in your grasp, and the invaders can be driven from our home for good. By your sword.” She came closer, took his hand, and pressed the vial into it. “Your sword, and not Lord Galoth’s.”

Galoth, the uncle who’d been ruling in Tyrus’s absence, was as foolish as they came. His thoughts seemed to zigzag like a hare’s tracks, and that was no way to run a kingdom. Under his loose and silly reign, the invaders had settled in and begun eroding the country with their brazen, thieving ways. Much longer of this, and a puff of wind would cause Wavening Court to crumble into the invaders’ waiting hands.

 “And then,” Evaleen continued, “once you’re safely on the throne, you can quietly denounce me. You’ll never have to speak to me again.”

Tyrus stared at the bright red vial of liquid in his palm, then at Evaleen standing so close her skirts brushed his boots. He fought down a rising tide of bitterness that tasted like bile. “Fine,” he spat. “But just remember—any wild proclamations of love I make tonight will be drug-induced and thereby as false as a northern summer.”

Evaleen smirked. “I’ll remember.” Still she remained inches from his face. It appeared she would not move until he ingested the vial’s contents.

With the heavy sigh of a man who knows he’s signing away his pride—and perhaps his life—Tyrus uncorked the vial and gulped the liquid back. It tingled on the way down and tore a mighty cough from him.

He had a moment of sinking dread before the world seemed to glow rosy bright and the face before him became striking in its feminine glory. In that moment before drowning, one thought crashed through his mind like a last breath of air to desperate lungs. One solitary thought.

This tastes a lot more potent than a single dose.


  1. Eeep cliffhanger-o-rama!! This was so good. It didn't read like head-hopping, if you were worried about that. I loved all the descriptions and the setting. You did a good job of conveying the complicated history between Tyrus and Evaleen without bogging down the action or info dumping, which is not an easy feat! AKA I loved it! :D

    1. *rubs hands together and chuckles* Those are my favorite sorts of flash fiction to write--the cliffhangers. >:) Thanks so much, Sarah!! I'm delighted that you enjoyed it! (And that the backstory came through without bogging things down. That's always my concern when it comes to such.)

  2. What is thisss? IS THIS TRACY WRITING I SEE?

    Oh my good gracious word.
    Your penslaying never ceases!

    This. Was. So. Fun. I'm literally just smiling to myself after reading this delightful little piece. It had SUCH a fairytale feel, I feel like I've stepped into the land of fairy for a few minutes, and now I desperately want to return! Honestly, it made me LONG for fairytales. The WORLDBUILDING. How do you do such deep, beautiful, wonderful worldbuilding in JUST A FEW WORDS?? This worldbuilding is so amazingly spectacular.

    And then the characters were precious! Evaleen made me laugh, and poor Tyrus. So unaccepting of his fate. The poor guy. They were such a fun "match". XD

    Then your writing--somehow both hilarious and beautiful all at the same time. The perfect style for a perfect fairytale.

    Basically: I ADORE THIS SO MUCH! Except now I want MORE. I mean, that ending! I want to see all the mishaps I'm sure will happen at the ball.

    This was just too delightful. Thank you for sharing!

    1. THANK YOU! You're such a dear, and I'm so happy you enjoyed this little...thing. (I don't even know what it is, truthfully, but that's how it goes with these dares/prompts.) And you have no idea how happy I am to hear that the worldbuilding worked. That's one of my favorite things to read and write about. ^_^

      They make me laugh too. Evaleen's spunky, and Tyrus finds such behavior pretty abrasive... XD

      D'aww, you're too sweet!

      Not gonna lie, I'm curious too. XD That's one of the most fun things about writing short stuff like this. I don't know much more than people who read it, because I was pretty much making it up as I went along. Thanks again, Christine! Your comment made me smile!


    There is so much more that I want to learn about this story!! Can we have more, like, tomorrow??

    Little Moon Elephant

    1. *flails* It would be so fun to write more! I'm definitely filing it away under Things to Write One Day... (That's a massive mental file, but you know. xD) THANKS SO MUCH, AMY! ^_^

  4. It's a trap! Or maybe not, Evaleen is too fun and quirky to be a villain...right?

    I liked the little snippets of backstory, hinting at a much larger tale (a tale we may be able to see sometime, maybe?)

    1. Heheh, I'm not quite sure about her... I don't THINK she's a villain, but she might be. XD I think it's more like she has ulterior motives, and they may be slightly grey motives.

      (Maybe sometime, yes. I hope. Just wait until I find that time pause button--then I can write ALL THE THINGS.)

  5. I LOVE THIS SO MUCH. I really really need more, Traceeeeey! Pretty please?

    I agree with everything Christine said; this SO transported me into a fairytale! You wrote it incredibly well! And your characters. They are just awesome.

    ANYWAYS. Great job, write more :D.

    1. Thank you! <3 I would love to give you more one day... after all the rest of my books/ideas have been written. *wails because too many thiiiings*

      I'm so glad it was immersive--that's a treasured compliment.

  6. I adore this, the characters, their predicament, and the dialogue all of it really. *claps* We need more!

    1. Awww, thanks, Skye! You're such an encouragement. <3 Like I've been saying, I think I need more too--the question is *when.* :P

  7. Agh! This is so lovely and intriguing! If it was head-hopping, it was the most beautiful and flawless head-hopping I ever saw. ;) And the characters were so delightful and amusing and - well, let's just say I'd eat this up in nothing flat if it was a full-length novel. :)
    (And Ann Marie was all the way back in January already? Yikes...)

    1. Gosh, that's sweet of you to say! ^_^ The whole omniscient type of POV is something I want to practice more. (I'll have to take a few pointers from Stengl, methinks. She's brilliant at it.) Ahhh, it would be so fun to turn this into a novel! Along with all the other bits of story floating around here. One day...!

      (I know! How can it be that long ago?)

  8. Very neat! What a strange mess they got themselves into! I do like it. I feel little sorry for the prince though. I wouldn't take that potion for my life. I'd rather give in to acting the part. Thanks for linking up with us!

    1. Thanks! That's the beauty of these prompts, isn't it? That we can get ourselves (and characters) into strange messes. XD

      I wouldn't take it either, but then again, he's desperate to inherit the throne...

    2. Nearly forgot to say thanks for doing the link-up! And for visiting! ^_^

  9. Wahey Tray-tray (that rhymed, ergo such a ridiculous nickname is OK ...), THANK YOU FOR LINKING UP! I'm sorry I've taken so long to get her, gee willikers. But I love this, it's a great premise. Tricking the court, so that ... hey, so that you can fool the court! Which is why it's called to fool the court! Ha! (It does take me a while to make these connections. Ahem.)

    Anyway, is this a novel taking flight, or what?! I enjoyed the slightly Scandinavian vibe of Evaleen's northern blonde hair. At first I was thinking it was gonna be a I Hate You Whoops I Love You MC duo, OTP for life with bucketloads of sassy dialogue etc etc, but then at the end?! Suddenly not so keen on Evaleen! But PLEASE TELL ME MORE!

    1. XDDD Tray-tray is most definitely okay, ridiculous as it is. (I'm fond of ridiculous things, so there you have it.) THANK YOU FOR DOING THE LINK-UP! No problem at all for getting here "late." There's no such thing around here anyway, since we're all vaguely wizard-like. ;)

      I don't know!?!? It's something, anyway! (Scandinavian, that's the word I was looking for. I knew there was a specific northern feel I was leaning towards.) LOL, your whole comment is hilarious! It is I Hate You Whoops I Love You, but with a twist. Mwhahaha. I myself don't know what I think of Evaleen either. She has some tricks up her sleeve, but I doubt she's all bad. Hmmm. I'm wanting to write the rest of this thing one day. Such temptation.

    2. OK, Tray-tray ;)
      Right, because we all wizards and therefore able to tap into the circular nature of time itself??

      Such temptation, I feel that. JBH is stampeding through my head at the moment. That's the beauty of SS (or is it a curse?!). But please keep us updated. How is Journeys of the Chosen going?

    3. Right, something like that. XD And also because, as Gandalf said, "I am never late. I arrive precisely when I intend to." I tend to refer to that trait as a generally wizardly one. ;)

      Ah, JBH! *snickers* I still need to meet him face to face in writing, after all of Nina's internal ranting.
      It's coming along! I've had some productive writing days this last week or so. And I've been getting back into agent research. So I'm plugging along on both fronts. ^_^ How's draft 4 of The City and the Trees??

    4. Agent research?! Exciting! It's great, thank you, though Corrie was being an idiot in the chapter I did yesterday (oh, Corrie). But literally once I've replied to a coupla comments I'm off for more, and it's my fave chapter of all, the one where the squad becomes a proper squad. THEY'RE SO CUTE. I CAN'T TELL YOU.

    5. Very! Oh, Corrie, do I need to give you a stern talking-to? I know how to strike terror in the hearts of misbehaving characters. ;)

      Your favorite chapter? SO FUN! It sounds delightful...and it's making me excited for my current WIP's squad to "become a proper squad" as well. Character interactions can be a delight, even (especially?) when they're going poorly. XD

    6. I've done three chapters since I left that one, and the involve the squad and also Corem's first two proper scenes together, I LOVE IT SO MUCH. So Corrie is doing better. (Also I realised that the chapter I edited today contains Corem's first physical contact apart from their handshake when they meet each other. I AM AN AUTHOR NERD AND I DO NOT CARE!)

      Is that the Shifters? Skaes etc? Exciting! Character interactions are indeed delightful <33

    7. Look at you go! Corem = Corrie + Jem, right? I really need to read this book one day. (EEP, THE SHIP IS SHIPPING...)

      The Shifters & Co., yes. Once they're all together, I'll have nine characters to cart around. The two MCs, five Shifters, a pilot, and a teacher/cool guardian person. Oh joy, oh bliss. XD

    8. I really hope you will read this book one day! I'm going to ask you formally (I won't get down on one knee, though). Tracey Dyck, would you do me the honour of beta-ing The City and the Trees? ~flourishes cap~

      Hahaha, you are so tender to your characters as you, uh, cart them around XD It'll be wonderful. Fear not. How's TPQ (or are you working on TPK? I now can't remember which is which and feel terrible) going?

    9. *squee* YES YES YES! I would love to beta read The City and the Trees! :DDDD (Though I must warn you that my beta reading responses of late have been in concentrated bursts with silent spaces in between... So unfortunately I can't promise super fast comments, if that's alright with you. But you can be sure I WILL get to it.)

      LOL. I hope it'll be wonderful. XD
      I'm working on TPK. (I know, it must be hard to keep them straight due to such similar names! This is book 2.) I'm 30k words into it, and am finally getting to the meaty part of the plot. I'm refusing to think too much about the horrid pacing and how much condensing and rearranging I'll need to do. XD The first Shifter will very soon get introduced, and I can't wait. Thanks for asking!! I would return the question to you and ask how TCATT is going, but I'll be reading it soon and I'm sure there will be plenty of email discussions. ;) (Though I certainly wouldn't say no to getting an update here and now in the comments.)

    10. THANK YOU! And yes, of course, I completely understand <3

      Don't think about the edit yet! JUST WRITE WITH YOUR HEART. Future Tray will sort the rest out ... XD But yeah, pacing, man ... !
      It's so nice when the characters you're really excited about get introduced and you're like "you've been in my head so long and you're finally on the page properly!" It's sooo nice.

      I will update you here and now! I've got into the intense second half. The first half is more happy and meandering, BUT THEN IT ALL GOES DOWN. I've had some issues with pacing ... there was this one chapter in particular I was working on this work, and just, like, SO MUCH HAPPENS. There's death, there's plot twists, there's kidnapping, there's shocking revelations, there's important Corem development, and just trying to figure it all out is difficult. Because I don't want to lose the impact of anything by cramming it too tight? But equally I want the pacing to be snappy. So it's tough. I've made a note at the end of the doc: GO BACK TO CH18! XD

    11. Yay!! :D

      That sounds so Disney--JUST WRITE WITH YOUR HEART. XD It's true, though! I can leave my head out of it until it comes time for editing.
      Yessss, so fun! I mean, Wimwhile managed to get onto paper long ago in the first draft, but he practically had multiple personality disorder in that version (aka, his personality changed with every scene and was totally slapdash and inconsistent). So now this will be the first time the REAL/new and improved Wimwhile gets onto the page properly!

      Oooh, now I really want to get to reading that second half! Those everything-happens-in-twenty-seconds kind of chapters are so hard to get right, aren't they?? Because, like you said, you want everything to have the impact it should have, but it still needs to be rapid-fire action or development. We writers are tightrope walkers sometimes. I hope you get that all sorted out!

    12. I AM a Disney princess, don't you know?! But yes I feel you. Draft 1 Mel and Jem ... who even were they? WHAT were they? 1D characters, that's what. Ughhh. It was so good to get them out of hiding, as it were; find the real them!

      Wimwhile is a great name, by the way.

    13. THAT'S RIGHT, you are. Editing is 50% turning 1D into 3D. *nods* (Guhhh, the 1D thing makes me think of the band. >.<)

      Why thank you!