Saturday, 29 October 2016

Greave, Retva and the Poetic Dragon

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[source] // @regnumsaturni
In an unprecedented turn of Staring Sparks events, I am posting an actual TCATT snippet! Well. Let me qualify that. I am posting an AU backstory on a couple of minor characters from Stay in the City. But still ... TCATT universe. 

Starting Sparks is a monthly prompt link-up run by Ashley @ [insert title here] and me @ right here. Head to the page at the top for more info; for the October link-up click here.
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The October prompt.
I say AU because there are, sadly, no dragons in TCATT. So this an alternate reality where there are. A handy glossary for your perusal:

Adair: city in the east of Ivaria, ancestral seat of Lord Vane
Aherdmas: November
Ivaria: the country where the TCATT books are set
Jacinthe: the Queen of Ivaria
River Quill: a river in central Ivaria
Tellarik: a country to the far east of Ivaria, the home of magic. In “earth terms" its people are ethnically Middle Eastern.
Teyvanidan: Ivaria's capital city, situated on the western coast

One more thing: a “Teyvanidan accent" (AKA how Jem and Mel talk) is a Mancunian accent. If you don't know what that sounds like click here and be illuminated. (It's not a great video ... I do love you guys and all but I can't be said to have hunted high and low for the perfect vid. But I did try. A little.)

~***~

For two days Greave had eaten nothing but stale oatcakes.

A cake goes hard when it’s stale. A biscuit goes soft. These, coarse and grainy with a bitter aftertaste that gave Greave suspicions about the quality of the flour, could claim to be neither. When he stole them from the prison kitchen in Adair they were like stone. Now they were like leather. He took a bite and grimaced.

Three days since he escaped. Three days walking west in the cold. One day of oatcakes, wormy apples and some questionable cheese. Now just oatcakes.

He couldn’t stop thinking about his men.

When they realised they’d been betrayed they scattered. Greave had trained them well: how to break apart like a pane of glass and vanish like they’d never been there. How to knit together like a stone wall and crumble for nothing. When the fight in Adair turned against them he shouted run and they obeyed him, but Greave stayed, the building burning, to count his soldiers out. He couldn’t leave when someone might be trapped, even though he knew, sickened, that one of his own men had set the fire. A set-up. He stayed, counting frantically the figures rushing by, until it was too late. Lord Vane’s men were upon him, and he fought until his hands and face were covered in blood, but there were too many of them. Greave woke in a cell.

He escaped, of course. He escaped and he stole their hideous oatcakes. But had his men done the same? Had they managed to flee? As Greave walked Adair’s streets in the dawn he couldn’t help looking at the bodies in doorways, searching them for a sign they were his. They were beggars, he told himself, and if they were dead it was only from starvation and winter. But he couldn’t stop glancing.

He was glad to leave the city. The countryside was austerely beautiful at this time of year: Aherdmas, the leaves no longer golden, the first bare trees stencilling their shapes across pale skies. As Greave walked the still cold calmed him. The first snow would come within days.

On the horizon mist was rising, and as he neared the dim white clouds he could hear water. The River Quill. He allowed himself a brief frisson of relief. The river was the first major landmark between Adair and Teyvanidan, where he was bound.

Greave stopped to rest in a cluster of trees, folding his long limbs beneath their long boughs. He was tall, and beneath his hood his hair was violently red. Destined to stand out, perhaps; that was why he’d spent his whole life practising blending in. Now, half hidden amongst the trees, he looked more like a shadow than a man. It was one of the things that made him an excellent soldier.

From above came the beat of wings.

Greave looked up and almost dropped his oatcake.

A dragon was circling overhead, tucking its wings to land by the river.

It was dark brown, scaled and clawed like a picture from a book of myths. Greave blinked. He could count on one hand the dragons he’d seen in his life. This one was not a majestic beast of emerald or ruby – as it landed and skittered a few steps it struck him as ungainly – but it was a dragon nonetheless, predator king of the sky from a bygone age. Breeding dragons in Ivaria had been illegal for centuries, until the death of the last king. Now, under Queen Jacinthe, the import of eggs was allowed once more, but only by specially trained handlers. The populace at large could not cope with dragons roaming the land.

The dragon’s rider slid down. With a jolt of surprise Greave realised it was a woman.

She pulled off her hat, shaking out a mass of dark curls. Her skin was dark enough to be Tellariki. Tellarik, land of magic, where dragons romped and rivers sang. It made sense. 

She said, in the broadest of Teyvanidan accents, “Why do we have to stop here?”

Greave, surprise blooming through him, bit down a smile. Not Tellariki, then. The woman crossed her arms and glared at her dragon, which was gazing into the river. Greave frowned. Could dragons gaze? He never imagined them particularly wistful creatures, but this one, looking up at its rider, seemed plaintive.

She rolled her eyes. “Right, of course. The river reminds you of where you were born. You miss your homeland, the musical rivers, the rolling plains, how poetic …”

The dragon made a noise of complaint and butted her leg. “Don’t mind me!” she said, throwing her hands in the air, “I’ll just stand here, risking getting arrested for illegal dragon-keeping, while you fantasise about Tellarik!”

The dragon turned away from her as if to say, Good, let’s do that. The woman sighed and pulled something from her pocket. It was an oatcake.

She chewed contemplatively. Greave’s mind was working fast. The plan had been to start a fight in Adair, get the city rising, and leave some of his men in charge while he went straight back to Rubin in Teyvanidan. But it had taken him four days to work that bit of metal from the broken bar of his cell, a tool to pick the lock. And now, an escaped prisoner, he couldn’t take coaches from town to town, couldn’t even walk without fear. He was going to be very late for Rubin.

If he had a dragon, things would be different.

Greave didn’t know how to fly a dragon, but he had faith in himself.

He watched the woman eating her oatcake. She hadn’t even looked in his direction. She was sort of pretty, if you liked very short and faintly belligerent.

He remembered, in another life, the stories his mother told him of knights and fair ladies. Hunnerdridge Greave, carrot-haired seven-year-old, knew that stealing from ladies was unacceptable. But Greave had dropped that wide-eyed innocence along with his hated first name. What would his mother say if she knew her son was going to lead the Ivarian revolution? She’d probably faint on the spot. As it was, he didn’t think chivalry really came into things.

They’d taken his sword in the prison. This was a problem. The woman had a sword. Greave looked her up and down. Could he take her, unarmed as he was? All he had was the bit of metal he’d used to pick the lock. He was more than a foot taller than her, but she was broad-shouldered, and he knew that underestimating an opponent was a dangerous mistake.

Still, he reasoned, nothing ventured …

He made the decision, unfolded himself like quicksilver and sprang at her. 

He locked an arm around her, pinning her beating arms to her sides, and tried to get the sword with the other. She writhed in his grip but Greave held on, hand finding the hilt, this was easier than he’d expected, until she stamped on his instep and he gasped in pain. She twisted away from him, drawing the sword, and Greave span from her, into the dragon. It grunted and he tensed, for a second afraid it would attack, but it lumbered away. The woman was coming at him with her sword and Greave grabbed his bit of metal. Her nostrils flared and she barked a laugh. “Really?”

He danced away from her, out of the short sword’s reach, careful of the riverbank behind him. He didn’t bother to respond to her taunt. 

She lunged at him and he skipped behind her. She turned but he dived, the opposite way to the blade, and chopped her wrist. She yelped in pain but didn’t drop her sword, and Greave had to jump from the blade’s path. He was aware of the dragon behind him. The woman was lunging again and Greave dived away from her and onto the dragon’s back. It let out a moan as he kicked its side; it flapped its wings, and Greave’s stomach dropped as they left the ground. He lent forward, latching onto its neck, and the dragon groaned. It beat its wings once, twice, and landed a few yards beyond where it took off. Inwardly Greave cursed, already rolling off its back, but he stumbled on the wet grass and fell, one leg trailing into the water. As he struggled to get up he felt the cold, familiar steel at his throat.

Slowly Greave removed his leg from the river.

The woman looked down at him and smiled. “You don’t know how to fly a dragon, do you?”

Greave had landed on his wrist and slivers of pain were chasing through it. “No,” he said.

“I might as well kill you now.”

“Why would you do that?”

“You tried to steal my dragon!”

“For a good cause.”

“Oh really? And what was that?”

“Couldn’t possibly say.”

She ran the tip of the sword along the skin of his throat and he stiffened. “Let me guess, then,” she said, voice low and more than a little menacing. “My guess is that you’re a vagabond wanting a quick ride somewhere. My guess is that you’ve been living rough for a while and you’d stoop to anything to get yourself out.”

“How do you know I’ve been living rough?”

She raised her eyebrows. “No offence, sir, but you don’t look like you’ve seen a bath for some time.”

Greave started to roll from under the blade but she jerked it. “Where do you think you’re going?”

“Well, we can’t stay like this forever, can we? Lovely as the sky is from this angle …” The wet of the grass had entirely seeped through his clothes. He bit down a shiver.

“I’ve not decided not to kill you.”

“What can I say to make you change your mind?”

“That you’ll give me all your money?”

Greave smiled faintly. “Money. It would be nice if I had some.”

“Turn out your pockets.”

He sighed but did so, showing her his bit of metal, his oatcakes and a dirty piece of string. As he sat up his hood fell back from his flame-red hair and she raised her eyebrows. “Bet people see you coming.”

“You didn’t.”

Her mouth twitched and she pushed him back against the ground. “Yes, but I’m the one with a sword against your throat, so who’s the real winner?”

Greave let out a breath. “Why do you have an illegal dragon?”

“It’s none of your business.”

He shifted beneath the sword. “I think you should let me go now. We can go our separate ways.”

“First you can apologise.”

He smiled, a mocking twist of the lips. “What’s your name, my lady, that I can do so with the utmost courtesy?”

She thought for a moment and smiled thinly. “Jacinthe.”

“Is that so?”

She looked at him and said nothing.

“Well, Jacinthe, you have my humblest apologies. I wish you a pleasant onward journey.”

“Thank you.” She took a step back and slowly removed her sword. Greave continued to lie on the bank. The woman stepped towards her dragon and Greave rolled, grabbed her legs and pulled her to the ground. He forced the sword from her fingers and jumped to his feet, pressing it to her neck.

“How does it feel?” he said, breathing heavily.

Her face twisted in loathing. “Yes, that was clever, wasn’t it? But if you kill me what will you get? A dragon you don’t know how to fly, which might attack you when he sees you’ve murdered me, and my death on your conscience.”

“Is conscience really an issue for you?” Greave spat.

“You don’t know anything about me!”

“I know you’re taking me to Teyvanidan.”

Her eyebrows shot up. “No chance.”

“Then I’ll kill you.”

“And get killed by my dragon?”

Greave snorted and jerked his head at the dragon, not taking his eyes off her. “You think it would avenge you? It’s enjoying the picturesque landscape!”

“I don’t have any money!”

“What’s that got to do with anything?”

“I was going to let you go!”

“Are you pleading?”

“No!” She glared up at him, breathing hard. “Let me go,” she said through gritted teeth.

“I let you go, you’re taking me to Teyvanidan with you.”

“How do you know I’m even going to Teyvanidan?”

Greave snorted. “Everyone’s going to Teyvanidan. Besides, even if you weren’t, you are now.”

“And if I refuse?”

He pressed the blade harder against her skin. “What do you think?”

Her face was contorted with hatred. Greave could see the battle clashing in her eyes. He waited. Eventually she spat, “Fine!”

“Good.” Greave kept a tight grip on the sword. He was taking no chances. He removed it from her throat and she got up, glaring at him. “I’m soaking now.”

“Join the party.” The dragon was ambling towards them, its eyes full of soulful longing for the lost rivers of its youth. “Let’s have an oatcake,” Greave said, “and be on our way.”

~***~

AHAHAHAHA I SHIP IT SO HARD. By the time we meet them in Stay in the City they are not quite a couple but lol see you at the end of Book 3!

TFB:
[source] // Twin Size Mattress
Hate-to-love romance is one of my favourites, and I only wish these two got more page time. I also really wish this story could be real, but as there are no dragons I'll have to think of something else for Greave to try and steal ...

Her name, if you're interested, is Retva Weargill. (And she is half Tellariki. Greave was not wholly wrong.) 

As always, thank you awfully much for reading, you are the literal best! In my life news, I finished a job yesterday and am starting a new one tomorrow, both in retail. I also have an exam on Wednesday. So you see, it's all fun and games ...

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[source] // My new favourite picture. Goodbye for now, my friends ...

21 comments:

  1. OOH I loved this! It was epic - Greave and Retva are awesomeness XD. I want MORE! :D

    ~ Savannah
    scattered-scribblings.blogspot.com

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    1. Thank you, Savannah! You are very kind <3

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  2. I ship it! Dragons and oatcakes, your writing is always so entertaining.

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  3. Fun snippet, thanks for sharing!

    Hope that new job is going well.

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    1. Thanks, Blue! It is OK, thank you for asking <3

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  4. I love what you did with the prompt this month! I like the sound of those two characters.

    I tried to finish my story this time, but I came no where close - I was so busy this month!

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    1. Thanks, Lauren! Don't worry about it!

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  5. Ooh. I enjoyed that snippetty snippet. Fiesty characters for the win!

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  6. I ship 'em! Greave instantly won my heart with his concern for his men, and then the dragon won my heart simply by being a dragon (of course) (and also by being an ungainly dragon with attitude), and then Retva won my heart as well with her sass. WHY DOES THIS HAVE TO BE AN AU. WHYYYY? XD I would not object to dragons in Ivaria.

    Anyway, I loved your writing once again! Stencilled was a really concise, vivid word choice. ^_^ (I have an affinity for unusual verb choice.)

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    1. Ha, same! But, what, Tracey, you don't like dragons, do you??? (Ha. I'm on ch10 of TPQ!) I would not object to dragons either ... maybe there are some in Tellarik???

      Thank you! Unusual verb choice is my #1 favourite thing. (Actually, lol, I think there's one instance in TCATT where I use the word stencilled and I noticed you commented on it. We both just have a thing for stencilling XD )

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    2. Oh, no, I don't have any affection for dragons at ALL. #sarcasm XD (Chapter 10! Eeep, getting your progress reports is so exciting!) Dragons in Tellarik... I could see that working out quite well, actually!

      Haha, did you use it there too? It's too awesome a verb choice not to use more than once. I must really have a thing for it if it stuck out to me both times. :)

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    3. About to read some more! :D

      I did indeed! It's so funny you commented on it both times.

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  7. But, Emily, why not dragons?! Because dragons!

    Ahem, so I LOVE THIS SO MUCH! I definitely ship them. *nods* I like Greave and his outlook on this and his loyalty to his men. And I like Retva too. :) They are going to be great together! Hate-to-love relationships are always the best. Who wouldn't love them?

    I like the thing with the oatcakes.

    "if you liked very short and faintly belligerent" XD I loved that bit.

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    1. Increasingly I feel the same?? In Tellarik? I am so desperate to go there, actually. Book three???

      I'm so glad you liked it/them/the oatcakes! Ha, and glad you pulled that bit out XD

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    2. YES! You should totally do it!!

      I do like how she pretends to be Jacinthe too, and right after Jacinthe's army has basically beaten Greave's. Greave is against Jacinthe, right?

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    3. I'M SO KEEN. “The City and the Trees: Road Trip to Tellarik" is a catchy title, right??

      He very much is. This story takes place a while before the events of TCATT, so by TCATT he, Rubin and Retva are leading the revolution against Jacinthe together.

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    4. Ah! Do it! :)

      I see. That sounds awesome!

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    5. Maybe I will ;) (Also, guess who just finished SitC!)

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  8. *slams fist on the table* I SHIP IT. (Although not as much as Corrie and Freddie, because I <3 Freddie too much.) Was super confused when she said her name was Jacinthe but then I read the bottom bit and I'm all good now :) But dragons, Emily. DRAGONS. I feel like you need more dragons in TCATT. Basically we all need more dragons in our lives.

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Thanks for commenting! :)