Unseen (Series)

Update 10/20/17

More polishing. Here is another deleted scene. Capture the flag is too common these days. The scene is an example of how Marcus and Rand come into conflict with each other.

I’d give anything to go back and change things, starting with how I treated you and the gift you gave me on my birthday. That, and how I treated Rand. He and I spark the worst in each other.

—Marcus

Over the next few weeks, Marcus struggled under the cloud of his fate. He tried to focus on his studies and prepare for the initial guild assignments. For Marcus, that had to be the Cutters’ Guild, his father’s guild. Cutters harvested soul blossoms that were distilled into elixir. Without cutters, there’d be no Book. If he couldn’t have that, he’d rather face a life without a guild as an untouchable. Perhaps that was what the dice foretold.

Lydia, Marcus’s aunt, who also happened to be the Cutters’ Guild Master, was an imposing, demanding, instructor. Two meters tall, she towered over Marcus and most of the students gathered for the morning’s war game: a Book version of capture the flag.

Marcus knew it was her job to keep him and the rest of the candidates under a tight rein, pulled back and bound in place like her immaculate pony tail. Under her tutelage, Marcus had earned many bruises, and the possible consequences of today’s test loomed large. He had one final opportunity to show he deserved the chance to follow in his father’s footsteps.

“Listen up!” Lydia raised her hands, silencing the crowd. “The rules of the game are simple: kill your opponents before they kill you. We’ll be using cudgels for this test. These may look like long sticks, but the weighted end can do a lot of damage. We’re not trying to kill anyone today. We’re only counting coup.”

“What’s that?” Rand asked.

“Counting coup?” Lydia raised an eyebrow. “It’s an old practice from the indigenous people, from before the settlement. Instead of killing each other off, they’d show bravery by racing up and whacking their opponent with a stick. We’ll do the same. Tag an opposing team member with your cudgel to count coup. If you are tagged, you go down for the remainder of the round. You have five minutes before I give the signal to begin. Any questions?”

Lydia made eye contact with each of the twenty students before continuing. “Do your best. Remember, we’ll be following your tracking signals from the tower. For some of you, the outcome of this tournament is the difference between having a choice guild assignment or leaving your fate up to the roll of the dice.”

Marcus looked away when her gaze fell on him. He clenched his jaw. I’ll show you. I’ll show everyone.

“Blue team to the well at the north end, beyond the market. Red team on the south side to the old church and wait for my signal. I’ll disqualify anyone who starts early. Let’s have a clean match.” Lydia left the two groups and headed toward the Philosophers’ Tower.

As the teams split up, Marcus and Elizabeth joined the rest of the red team.

“At least we know one person who’ll make it through,” said Rand, the freckle-faced refugee who’d flipped him off. He stood with the blue team, tapping his cudgel in an open palm.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Marcus walked over, stood eye to eye with Rand.

“Everyone knows she’s her mom,” Rand said, jutting his chin in the direction Lydia had exited.

“So? She has to work just as hard as anyone else, maybe even harder.” Marcus crossed his arms.

“You’re all alike. Just because your parents are all lovey-dovey, you’ll both get an easy pass.” Rand didn’t back down and the two glared at each other.

“Take it back,” Marcus said.

“‘Take it back,'” mocked Rand.

“Not now,” said Elizabeth as she pulled Marcus away. “We have to get to our base.”

“‘Get to your base, get to your base,'” chanted Rand as the red team started over the footbridge and trotted through the woods on their way to the old church.

“I swear I’m going to kill that freckle-faced punk,” said Marcus.

“He’s just trying to get in your head. Snap out of it or you’ve already let him win.” Elizabeth punched his shoulder.

“But what he said back there.”

Elizabeth stopped on the earthen path, put up a hand to stop Marcus. “He’s a refugee. Cut him some slack. He’s trying to spook you.”

“I’d like to send him back to the war,” said Marcus.

She leaned in close, serious, but not angry. “He doesn’t even know if his parents are alive or not. Let it go or drop out of the team. Right now.”

The keening pain of growing up without a father reared up and he looked down at his feet.

“All right,” he said. “I’ll let it go for now, but I’m not going to forgive or forget.”

“Do whatever you want,” said Elizabeth. “As long as it’s after the match.”

The rest of the run through the woods matched the silence of the ever-present fog.

When they reached their starting place, the red team gathered in a circle. Without asking, they all turned to Elizabeth for direction. Her height, along with her commanding air so much like her mother, gave her a natural affinity for leadership. She picked up a stick to trace battle plans in the dirt.

“We have less than a minute before the tower bells start ringing. The blue team will be easier to see in the market where there isn’t any foliage to use for cover, so they’ll be more cautious, which also means it will be easier for them to see us when we leave the trees to cross back over the river.”

A crude map took shape. “We have the advantage in the woods, which will make our movements easier to cover, but we’ll lose track of them if they get this far, so our defenses should be set on their side of the bridge. We want to take them out before they get to our side.

“William, you’ll take a defensive point using the Philosophers’ Tower for cover. Celia, you take the woods on our side of the bridge in case they get across. Marshall, find a spot in the church to hide our flag.

“Marcus, take the rest across the bridge and try to pick off anyone who strays from their main group. Use numbers to your advantage. Can do?”

He nodded as the peel of the bells tolled the start of the contest. “Where are you going to be?” Marcus asked.

“I have a little surprise for them. Let’s move!” Elizabeth called out.

Marcus sprinted back through the woods and across the bridge. He signaled for two teammates to take the right, another pair to the left, leaving the center path for himself and Helena.

“You sure we should split up like this?” asked Thomas, a tall kid a year younger than Marcus.

“Look, I know what I’m doing,” Marcus replied. “It’s easier for us to sneak through the market in pairs than if we stay together in a group this big. We’ll converge on the well at the north end and take out anyone they’ve left behind, then sweep back through to where Elizabeth and the others will be waiting for them.”

He clapped his hands together to illustrate what would happen to the blue team.

“It’s not what Elizabeth said.”

“Well, Elizabeth isn’t here, so I’m in charge. Got a problem with that?”

Marcus noticed reluctance in their eyes as Thomas and his partner peeled off to the right. Marcus and Helena took the main road toward the old brick and slate roofed buildings that made up the merchant district. Save for a few early risers, the streets were otherwise empty.

Before the pair could get to one of the small shops to use for cover, five members of the blue team rounded a bend.

“Reds!” The blue squad, Rand in the lead, charged, long-handled cudgels in the air.

Marcus felt the tingle of adrenalin in his veins. He wasn’t backing down from Rand this time. In spite of the greater numbers, Marcus hefted his club. The better part of valor cast aside, Marcus returned the charge. With a shout of his own, he darted ahead; Helena trailing behind.

The blue team paused at his bravado, providing an opening that Marcus hoped would be enough. He swung at a tall boy, catching him on the shoulder.

The boy swore and dropped in accordance with the rules. Helena and another blue opponent also sat down, having counted coup on each other. That left one against three.

This isn’t going to end well.

Marcus gave another shout as he charged the three, hoping to repeat his earlier success. It worked—almost. He managed to take out a blue girl before feeling the club of a wooden blade across his own back. He turned to face his vanquisher.

“Oh, too bad for lovey-dovey,” said Rand.

Marcus stepped forward, but a waging finger from Rand reminded him that he’d be breaking the rules if he went for the blue bastard.

“Better luck next lifetime,” Rand said as he and the remaining blue member congratulated each other and continued toward the bridge.

William, by the tower on the market side of the bridge, did his best to avoid them, but they dispatched him without taking any more losses. Hopefully, Elizabeth and the others were already in place.

They were.

A lithe arm reached up from under the bridge where she’d cloaked herself as the blue opponents started to cross, striking one in the leg. Rand, still alive in the game, swung at Elizabeth, connecting with her elbow. She withdrew, sat on the river bank, removed from the contest.

Marcus lost sight of the remaining blue team in the mist on the other side of the bridge, leaving him to stew in the embarrassment of his strategic failure to keep the red group together.

A shout of triumph from the woods spiked his growing sense that a red loss was his fault. Rand must have dispatched Celia reducing their numbers even further.

More shouts from the market, impossible to tell who was winning, but Marcus didn’t hold out much hope for remaining two red pairs against another pack of five blues.

Time ticked by, indignant blame salting his defeat, as if the river itself had split into its composite drops of rain, the water marching along, taunting him with murmurs of unmet expectations. The river resumed its flow as a grinning Rand reappeared and strolled by Marcus. Bells signaled an end to the contest, the blue team victorious. All contestants returned to the bridge, awaiting Lydia’s return.

“Too bad, rookie,” Rand said as he passed Marcus.

Marcus stuck out his foot, tripping Rand. A snort of laughter escaped Marcus as the ground came up to smite his foe, gifting him with a bloodied nose.

“You’re dead,” spat Rand, rising and dusting himself off.

Rand tackled him, knocking the wind out of Marcus. The two scuffled and punched, kicked and kneed each other. Marcus grabbed and missed, leaving an opening for a vicious roundhouse kick to the face from a darting Rand.

Marcus felt pain spike his cheek, adding to the heat of his anger. Rand dodged and weaved, jabbing at him, goading him.

The rest of the combatants, both red and blue teams, gathered to cheer the boys on, adding to the confusion. Elizabeth reached in to pull them apart and received an elbow to the face in reward.

Marcus stopped to see if she was all right and pain exploded in his back from another kick by Rand. With a roar, Marcus rushed Rand and the two tumbled in a ball of flailing arms and legs.

“Enough,” said Lydia, late to the scene. She grabbed them both by their hair and knocked their heads together.

Marcus heard the sound of coconuts and the world collapsed into darkness.

 

Update 4/29/17

Polishing. Here is a deleted scene that I’ve moved to another location and changed the context.

“Nice theatrics,” said Elizabeth, stepping out from behind a tree as though appearing from thin air, her long dark hair swaying.

His heart jumped. “I hate when you do that!”

“You could cloak too if you took the time to work at it in class.” Cloaking was a hallmark of the Cutters’ Guild, the skill that made it possible for the harvesters of Book to collect soul blossoms from the unsuspecting people of Haven. A trained Cutter could attune his perceptive energy to match the frequency of others. An exceptional level of empathy was required to understand someone well enough to see what they see, and shift their focus such that the viewer paid no attention to his surroundings, rendering the Cutter cloaked. Marcus had yet to develop much empathy for others.

He fumed but couldn’t sustain his ire, her smile already lifting his mood. They’d grown up together like siblings, his mother and hers being sisters. Marcus and Elizabeth had managed to stay close even after the arrival of curves and hormones.

“Look, cousin,” she said. “You picked a helluva time to throw a hissy fit.”

“I just couldn’t take it anymore. All day long, Mom was riding me about this Casting Fates thing. It’s bullshit, right? Then I go and throw a five, and now everyone is thinking I’m some sort of jinx or something. Oh look, there goes Marcus, the black hole of bad luck.” He stood still as she approached, like a mouse with no direction to escape.

“You and I both know the dice are a part of this whole place, of our history, even before Book had a name.” She wafted one hand above her head. “The choices you make are still your own. Fate or no fate, you have to live your life the way you want to.”

“Yeah, well. I don’t see how I’m going to be able to do that here. Everyone expects I should be something I’m not. I might as well live in the city and join the army or live like a hermit in the woods or something. If I stay here, I’m screwed.” Marcus dropped his gaze and scuffed his foot in the dirt.

“Still being overly dramatic,” she said, shaking her head. “You can’t have it both ways, you know. Either you don’t believe in the dice, and you don’t care, or you believe enough in them to let them ruin your life.”

“It’s not what I believe, it’s what everyone else believes.”

“Speaking of everyone else,” she said. “You realize you’ll need to apologize to your mom. She’s just trying to do the best she can.”

“Yeah, I know, the whole single-mom bit. And I had to go throw Dad in her face.” Marcus took a moment before continuing. They were comfortable with the silence between them. “I’m an ass sometimes, I know.”

“You got that right,” Elizabeth said with a laugh.

“It’s just that she gives up so much for me, and it’s hard for me to believe I’m worth that. Now the whole town is going to think I’m not worth it either.”

“Buck up, my little pariah. Be a good soldier and go make nice with your mom. Otherwise, she’ll come crying to my mom and they’ll both be up all night crying all over each other, and I can’t deal with that. Do the right thing, at least for tonight. Tomorrow you can figure out tomorrow. Okay?”

The words stung, but Marcus could always hear the truth from her. Tomorrow. He scuffed his foot in the dirt again and when he looked up, she’d disappeared, cloaked to his senses.

“I seriously don’t know how you do that, Lizbet, but when I do, you just better watch out.”

Update: 8/5/16

First book (second of three now?), focusing on Marcus, is nearing the end of the first draft. Here’s a deleted scene:

“Oh, shit!” He grabbed the top rung of the ladder and swung over the side.

“If I make it to Haven, I will wait for you,” Sally said.

If I make it to the ground it one piece, that is. As he steeled himself for the drop, visualizing crouching and rolling on impact, a flash of light caught his eye, a reflection of the setting sun on water. He leaped toward the light and held his breath.

***

The water wasn’t deep, and it didn’t do as much as he hoped to break his fall, but he survived, bloodied, bruised, and now muddy. The train rolled on through the station with another blast from the horn, and continued south, toward Haven. Marcus looked for Sally, but didn’t see her on the last car. Did she jump after all? An image of her mangled mechanical body impinged on his thoughts, but he discarded it. There was no sign of her along the tracks, safe, mangled, or otherwise.

He cleaned himself up as well as he could and made his way toward the station.


I’m thinking this series is probably just two books, Ferocity, based on events from the early European pioneer days of America when the Settlement (still needs a name) is founded, and Unseen, set in modern times when we see how the consequences of decisions impact others, sometimes for generations.

seeing is believing until believing is seeing

Here is my secret. It is very simple: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” – Antoine de Saint Exupéry

Ferocity – based on several previously published pieces on this blog. Current status: 0% written, initial planning only, see below.

Ferocity

  • Concept – What if you felt responsible for the deaths of your sisters? What if you had a special power? What if your child had a special power? What if you were captured by someone else who had a special power? What if you didn’t have a special power but those around you did?
  • Theme – Our childhood colors our adult perceptions. What makes us special makes us different. Acceptance of differences.
  • Writing Voice – thinking more omniscient first person narrator

Ferocity – Unseen Book One

Part One 20-25%
Family rolls into Buch am Forst
after hearing stories of how unique it is,
sets up homestead nearby in forest.
Silas sees Ferocity’s soul.

Part Two 25-30%

Ferocity in captivity.

Part Three 25-30%

Ferocity on the run – meets fog

Part Four 20-25%

Ferocity changes pattern so that souls
need distilling, needs other specials,
sets all special abilities in place.

First Plot Point

Ferocity is taken in by Silas, not willingly

Midpoint

Ferocity is forced to set up the first pattern,
that souls can be cut, used, distilled.

Second Plot Point
Ferocity has conversation with sisters (dead).
Opening HookFire and death of sisters

Pinch Point

Silas conscripts father into his gang.
Needs foreshadowing with poor crops.

Pinch Point

Silas threatens father, kills mother?

Ending

Ferocity sets up the fog and the
hiding, protects her daughters and
the settlement of  Buch am Forst,
formerly known as New Eden.

Unseen – based on a previously published piece on this blog. Current status: first draft 100%.

Update – May 30, 2014: Realized that Marcus needed a little jeopardy in his life, so I made a change that involved removing roughly 20% of the story. Current status: has restored nearly all of the deleted material with new material to piece the story back together. I’ve also added a character to provide a much needed outsider perspective and let us see how the role of the settlement on the lives of the city. I’ve also come up with a name for the settlement, Buch am Forst. More to come when I finish the first draft, now v2, and have had a chance to involve a couple of beta readers.

Update – June 11, 2014: Only two or three more scenes to write to finish first draft. After that, it’s on to beta readers. I was privileged to participate in a beta reading for a friend of mine. I found the experience to be mildly depressing. Overall I really enjoyed the book, but the impression I got from all the corrections I suggested seemed very negative. I’m going to need to thicken up my hide a bit.

Update – June 21, 2014: First draft finished. Time to dig in for a bit of editing, and then it’s time to find some beta readers, hopefully by the end of the first week of July. We shall see.

Unseen

Part One 20-25%

Setup: Intro hero, context,
what’s at stake, foreshadow

Part Two 25-30%

Response: new calling, journey

Part Three 25-30%

Attack: start to fight back,
last opportunity for new info

Part Four 20-25%

Resolution: conquer inner demons

First Plot Point

Cynthia’s test

Midpoint

Cynthia sets a new pattern

Second Plot Point

Cynthia restores pattern

Opening Hook

soul harvesting – death of a child

Pinch Point

Attack at the convocation

Pinch Point

Gregor attempts to force Cynthia to
set pattern to his specifications

Ending

Cynthia learns to control her
power and defeats Gregor

Update – September 6th
I attended my first writer’s conference this weekend, and while I don’t think writers necessarily make the best presenters, I’ve learned a lot, and think that overall, it was a worthwhile experience. I also attended my first ever pitch session, and they liked what I had to say about The Unseen enough to ask me to send them the first three chapters, along with a synopsis. I can hardly believe it! Now I just have to finish writing it and get some serious editing done on the story as well.

Update – September 11th
Since the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Colorado Gold writers conference, I’ve managed to find some time each day to work on the story, mostly by sacrificing some sleep, and have managed to add about 2000 more words, bringing the total up to 43k. Gee, only another 22k or so to go!

Update – September 24th, one year later
After working through the first draft of Cynthia’s story, I realized what I wanted to do all along is to write about Marcus. So I started working on the prequel. The work is coming along well, and I’ll be posting some more info about it another time. It is enough to say that Marcus will have his story, and for that, Cynthia’s story will be all the richer. For those keeping track, this story fits after Ferocity by a few hundred years and before Cynthia by about 20 years.

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