This week, I thought I would give you a little sneak peek at A Crown of Chains! Here is a snippet from the third draft…
A Crown of Chains
The winding streets of Florencia narrow and widen as if they have a will of their own, curving up and down over the hills of the city. While the streets have no pattern to them and the alleys are filled with narrow stairways and hidden turns, I know them as well as the freckles on my nose.
The hum of the market square drifts above the morning songs of the birds, carried on the breeze from the sea. As the warm, brick buildings grow taller, the street fills with more people, heading to or from the market, to an appointment or maybe the docks. A trio of children with goat legs and tiny horns sprouting from their temples rush passed me, shouting after one another and straining to hold all of their schoolbooks.
Then the brilliant emerald wings of a fairy come into view.
Those bright, brilliant wings. Precious gifts. There is a sudden but familiar pinch in my chest. I look away as the fairy lifts from the ground, but the image is replaced with the moments where I have stood in front of my mirror, imagining what my own wings would look like if I had them. Would people stare at me with wonder when I passed? Or with disdain?
But, as my uncle has often reminded me, Roxana, it is no use wishing for the impossible.
For whatever reason, although both my parents were fairies, I was born only with my their sharp ears, my mother’s dark eyes, and my father’s freckles. No wings. A birth defect, they called it. But as I grew older, I learned that the defect was a distinction, setting me apart from everyone else. Not quite a fairy, but not a human either.
Instead, I had been given a different gift, my uncle told me. But it had never served me as well as a pair of glorious glassy wings.
The street begins to widen, making room for the filled wagons and towering stalls displayed in front of the shops, tempting the passerby to take a look and entice them to enter the store.
As reach into my satchel, the wild curls of my dark hair falls over my eyes. I brush the curls behind my ear and grab the crisp note Uncle Arsin had left for me on the dining table that morning. He often leaves notes for me with errands to run or chores to accomplish. I think he’s just trying to keep me busy since I have long outgrown au pairs and tutors. But I don’t mind helping out in these little ways. It’s the least I can do to repay him for raising me all these years.
The sweet smell of lilacs and lavender fills my nose, swirling over the other scents of the market. I pick up my pace to reach the flower cart as it comes into view. The florist shop is on the opposite side of the city, and I rarely feel up to the walk, but sometimes a cart of freshly cut blooms would visit the market square.
The fairy tending the wagon smiles warmly, her golden wings fluttering slightly as she steps forward. “Better get your ranunculus flowers before they are all gone!” She gestures to the bright red flowers, nestled together in bundles of ten.
“Are they popular today?” I pick up the scentless flowers, studying them, and trying to decide what to arrange them with.
“They were Queen Mirabella’s favorite.” The fairy raises an eyebrow.
Were? Gossip spread through Florencia like wildfire, and I’ll admit I am just as vulnerable to its flames as anyone else. But when I glance up to ask what the fairy knows, I spot the gray smudges on her forehead that form a triangle, pointing up.
I had forgotten what day it was. My mouth falls open.
“Sorry.” The fairy touches her forehead absentmindedly, remembering the mark there as her olive cheeks flushed red. “I know most fairies don’t carry out the old traditions, but the rite of the-“
“-Of the Mourning Moon, yes, I know what it is,” I say, forcing a smile and making eye contact with the fairy for a moment.
‘She thinks we’re just superstitious lunatics.’ As her thoughts enter my mind, a glow colors my vision: deep rich orange, with splashes of dark green in the shadows.
My lips twitch as she continues smiling sweetly, disguising her contempt.
My gift, as uncle called it, often was more of a curse. While I could hear the thoughts of others, echoing in my mind but voiceless at the same time, it rarely brought me any joy at all. More often then not, it filled me with anger or shame. And even when I resisted from seeing the words themselves, the colors that betrayed emotion tempted me still.
I divert my eyes as my face grows hot.
“That’s very admirable, that you have such strong faith.” Was that condemning, patronizing? I hadn’t meant it as such, but maybe she deserved it all the same. Uncle Arsin says that fairy rites should be between the fairy and Ehyen, and no one else. That it’s attention-seeking to do the rites in public, not that we perform them in private. This fairy haughtily displaying her ashy mark seems to prove him right.
I pick up a bundle of hyacinths and then baby’s breath.
“Perhaps, but the rite of the Mourning Moon is more an acknowledgement of Ehyen – that’s our god, just one,” she snorts, as if believing in one god makes her better than those who believe in many. “It’s a reminder of His forgiveness for us when we lack faith.” The fairy puffs out her chest. I know the answer well enough, but to her, I’m just another foolish human. Without wings, fairies rarely accepted me as one of their own. You would think I would stop trying to prove I belong.
I grab a bundle of eucalyptus leaves and add them to the batch in my arms. Sinking my hand into the satchel, I search for the soft, woven coin purse, and smile politely at the fairy as she taps her foot against the cobblestones.
“That’ll be forty-two-“
“Here.” I count the coins carelessly before handing them to the fairy. And then I swerve to hurry on my way, and avoid any further judgement from either of us. Maybe stopping to get flowers today was a mistake that day, because now my almond skin was burning red and my arms are too full and the list still has at least half a dozen more items on it.
Stop worrying about fairy things, Uncle Arsin would say if he was here. The rites are a thing of the past. Traditions from the fairy homeland, Areya, but few fairies remembered them when they were brought to Florencia. My parents had always been faithful to honor them, or so I had been told, and Uncle Arsin had taught me the prayers as a child. However, once he secured the job as a scribe in the palace, I found the candle and bowl hidden away in a closet, and we didn’t sing any hymns from that day on. Things of the past.
Maybe Uncle Arsin was right. Religion and tradition were better in private, for the world in Florencia was always moving forward, and we didn’t want to get left behind.