Last week, I found this picture posted online:
It immediately got my brain started creating a new world (as if my brain doesn’t have enough to do to keep it busy). Since it’s no use telling my brain to stop being creative, I decided to channel its energy productively to give you all a look at how my writing process progresses. So for this week’s Savvy Saturday, I’ll give you a brief opening to a story I’ve started working on that’s inspired (loosely) by this picture. Next week, I’ll show you some of the behind the scenes work that went into this story. Fair warning: this is a rough draft written over the past week, so it isn’t polished. But it should give a glimpse into a new world that will hopefully end up being intriguing!
The new mechanic was about to get himself thrown overboard. Her dark eyes sparkling in anticipation, Chaska leaned forward on her perch, gripping the yard of the Qaqcha’s mainsail with her legs and the rigging with her left hand. The two men arguing on deck were too far away to hear, especially given the wind that howled right through Chaska’s thick poncho and knitted hat. Even so, the mechanic’s aggravated gestures were perfectly clear – as was Captain Hakula’s reddening face.
Chaska grinned sourly, hooked one soft-booted foot in the rigging and slid down to the deck in record time. She wasn’t about to miss an opportunity to see Hakula ream someone else out for a change. Especially when the victim in question was one of Tukanchiqu’s arrogant, filthy-rich metal workers. Chaska had seen three come and go in her ten months on Hakula’s ship, and loud-mouthed obnoxious know-it-alls they’d been, too, but none of them had had the audacity to argue with the captain himself.
Pulling her cap’s earflaps down against the wind’s bite, Chaska sauntered toward the bow, where Captain Hakula looked like he was about to erupt at any second. As she walked, she picked up the end of a pile of rope that someone – probably Machqu, Captain Hakula’s lazy second cousin – had left in an ugly heap and began recoiling it. It wouldn’t do for any of the Qaqcha’s officers to think she had nothing to do and assign her somewhere out of earshot.
She stopped as close as she dared to the confrontation, keeping her hands busy and her gaze directed over the railing at the swirling white mists of the Unqapa, even as she strained to hear the substance of the argument behind her. The cursed sea was clearer today than sometimes. She could see several feet down into the mist, far enough to see the protection and levitation spells that glowed along the Qaqcha’s cedar hull. Below that, though, the Unqapa glowed a deadly ominous gray.
“I swear, Captain, by the life of the Eldest, the pulser is flawed! You must let me fix it or it will give way before we reach Qayumchi. Please, for all our sakes!”
“What part of ‘no’ don’t you understand, cave-dweller? I already told you – there’s nothing wrong with our systems.”
Chaska’s hands froze on the coil of rope she was holding. This wasn’t the complaint about the charred food or cramped quarter she had been expecting. She listened even harder. The mechanic’s voice sounded young – and desperate.
“Don’t you hear the way it’s thrumming? Are you deaf? The way the harmonics are going, the sounders will knock each other out of alignment in twelve hours, twenty-four at most. And then we’re easy meat. Please! Just an hour, that’s all it’ll take!”
A chill went up Chaska’s spine, and the mist suddenly looked even more ominous than it had thirty seconds before. If the pulsers were really flawed, they would be lucky to reach a port in one piece. The mist was only the most obvious of the dangers that lurked in the air between the Four Peaks. Chaska swallowed, imagining the creatures that even now lurked just beyond the range of the Qaqcha’s high-frequency pulsers. Sky-serpents – terrible beasts that flapped upward out of the fog, their green and red feathered bodies dripping silver mist as they sought a ship as an easy meal. She had never seen one, but the first mate of the Qaqcha had, and his tales were vivid enough for her to picture the beasts in far more detail than she cared to. Or, worse yet, wild kiruqi, with paws larger than a man’s head, wings strong enough to blow a ship off course with their gale-force wind, and fangs that could snap a mast in two. These were even easier to picture; Chaska had grown up around their smaller, domesticated counterparts as her oldest brother Mantu trained to be a Rider. She still saw him occasionally when the Qaqcha was docked in Qayumchi, gliding through the sky on Pacchu’s broad speckled back, carrying messages from one city to another. But even Mantu would quail at the thought of coming face to face with a feral cousin of his Pacchu; no ship had ever encountered a wild kiruqi and survived…