Tales from Esador #1 – a fantasy one-off worldbuilding type thing

6 Jun

My latest Hunt draft is with beta readers right now, so I’m starting to crank up plotting and planning my next project. It’s another new experience for me – a secondary world fantasy that has been clamouring for me to write it for the last three months. I’m trying very hard to be disciplined and actually plot it all out properly before writing. Hoping this will be the last phase in my transition from Pantser to Plotter!

Anyway, to satisfy my itch to write it but without breaking my plotting promise, I decided to write a few scenes from the backstory in order to consolidate worldbuilding and character. It’s been brilliant so far – has helped me realise a lot about some of the secondary characters. I would recommend it!

The scene below takes place 25 years before the main story, in a city called Esador, where two castes co-exist uneasily: the ruling Pale and the oppressed People. Irida meets Amaris at the riverside:

At the River

The river burns at sundown. Ripples of fire mar the reflection of the docks, deep orange tracks raked by the barges as they pass. It’s the height of summer here in Esador, and the sunset is glorious.

Irida tucks a strand of chestnut hair behind her ear. She knows the sun will catch on the copper tones, and she hopes Amaris sees it – if he ever looks away from the city, that is, and back to her on the bank.

“What are you watching?” she asks.

He does not turn his head. “There’s a man on the far bank, by that group of trees over there. He’s been standing there for the last five minutes, in one spot.”

She sighs. “Perhaps he’s just admiring the sunset.”

“Perhaps.”

He falls silent again and she hugs herself as she watches his bare shoulders rise and fall. His back is broad and brown from hauling clay from the pits for three years. The water laps at his calves. She stretches her leg out and lets her toe dip into the very edge of the river. It’s soothingly quiet on this side, away from the buzz of the north bank, where horse carts jostle for space on the roads with the new-fangled motorcars of Pale businessmen.

“If you just stand there staring at him, you’ll look even more suspicious,” she says eventually.

He looks back at her now. “Yeah. You coming in? We’re supposed to be having a swim.”

She shrugs. It’s been a long, long day at the temple and she would love to soak the sweat from her skin and her dress. It’s an off-white, knee-length shift donated by some Pale housewife after she’d stained it; Irida has only dirtied it further. But the pretence of being some carefree couple of lovers out on a summer’s evening is hard to swallow right now. It cuts too close and too quick.

He stares at her from under bushy brows and holds out a hand. “Come on. We need to talk.” He lets his mouth quirk into a small smile. “The water’s fine.”

She smiles back and takes the hand, rough and calloused but warm and comforting too. He pulls her close, tugging her against the crests of the tiny waves that spill onto the sand of the bank. Leaning in, she looks up into his brown eyes, overshadowed by his shaggy dark hair and those coarse eyebrows of his. That’s why they call him the Lion – his codename, decided by the seven of them in their third meeting, when they were still able to joke and mess around.

“So, have you learned anything today?” he says, voice low enough that only she can hear it.

The river mud is so cool between her toes. She wiggles them with great satisfaction. “Yes. The new palace will be finished in a week, they say – ready for the festival. The Duchess will cut the ribbon – it’s going to be a great ceremony.”

“You really are a Fox,” he replies, using her codename.

She shrugs. “Men reveal many secrets in the Temple of Vice. It’s a good thing the ministers are so holy, hmm?”

He rests his hand on the back of her head. “I’m both glad and miserable that it’s you they’re spilling them to.”

If the man on the far bank is looking, he will see them standing close now, two teenagers of the People on a break from their work, enjoying a stolen moment of romance in the red glow of the evening. She puts her own hands on Amaris’s waist to seal the image. He leans in closer, so close she catches the tang of his scent.

“If it’s a week, then we must act soon. We can’t let her finish the palace.”

“I agree,” she says. “Have you spoken to the Snake today?” Sarda is not her favourite of their seven fellow plotters, but he’s the smartest when it comes to strategy.

“Mm. He says we are ready. And the twins have checked on the collection – it’s secure.” She knows he means their weapons dump, hidden in one of the old warehouses not far from here. It has taken months to build up, but they finally have enough guns, knives and crude grenades to arm the wider rebel network and more. “I say three days.”

Three days? They’ve been planning for so long, the words sound ludicrous. “Do you think we can spread the word in time?” she asks.

He glances up at the sky, then back to her. “Yes. The People are hungry for it. This last week we’ve been driven so hard at the pit – to finish the palace, I guess – it’s been brutal. And I heard from the Panther that there have been more arrests than ever.” He rubs her upper arm. “You trust me, don’t you?” Perhaps he’s noticed her clouded eyes.

“I really don’t know how you could ask me that,” she replies. “Yes, I trust you. I believe in you. If you say we’ll be ready and the People will back us…that’s all I need.”

He scrutinises her face. “Thank you.” He embraces her, bringing his mouth close to her ear. “Three days. I’ll meet you tomorrow, down behind the fish market at sundown again. Bring your brother. We’ll need his expertise.” Samal is their explosives man. This revolution will be a bloody one.

They wade back to shore, hand in hand. When they step onto the firm sand, Amaris plants a kiss on her forehead and steps away. “See you soon, lover,” he says. The word is hollow from his lips, a sham. Amaris has only one passion, and she knows he won’t let himself get distracted by a mere girl. But she squirrels it away in her heart, anyway.

“And you,” Irida replies. She crosses seven splayed fingers on her heart, two on five.

He returns the gesture, turns and walks away. For a few moments he is silhouetted against the last streaks of red in a now lavender sky, and then he is gone.

In three days, fate willing, everyone will love the Lion too.

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One Response to “Tales from Esador #1 – a fantasy one-off worldbuilding type thing”

  1. Soizic July 11, 2014 at 8:02 am #

    I really like your style of writing and I love the idea of writing ‘planning’ scenes to get your ideas in order and satisfy the writing itch. I think I’ll need to give that a go on my next project. It might also be good to give some reality to my ‘plans’, anchor them in some way. I especially find it difficult to plan characters – I say they’re confident and charismatic, and then I start writing and they decide to sound proud and cocky. Which is fine, but, you know, not the Plan.
    Any post on planning tips? I’m definitely a pantser too…

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