NaNoWriMo17 WIP Excerpt
I'm taking part in NaNoWriMo for the first time this year! The timing was good since I'm on my gap year before grad school, and I just started a new WIP. I've always wanted to take this challenge and, whether or not I meet my goal, I'm glad I did.
So I decided to share with you all a small excerpt from my WIP! It's a YA fantasy set in Siena, Italy, revolving around a secret society of people who can wield magic through the arts (Aesthetes). It follows a girl as she tries to uncover a family mystery while dealing with the loss of her childhood and preparing for spinal fusion surgery. This particular scene is in the middle of chapter six, and leading up to the first plot point. Please note that it is unedited.
Image credit: Taylor Smith on Pixabay.
Copyright (c) 2017 by Alexandra Wendt
I glanced behind me where the entrance to the aqueducts was. A low door set into a brick archway.
“Have you been in there before?”
Ale shook his head.
“It could be a trap,” I said.
“Or it could lead to something we’re looking for.”
I looked back at the door. Then at Ale. Then back again.
I swiveled and walked toward it, penna already poised for the unlock glyph. Ale stopped me by placing a gentle hand on my shoulder.
“Are you sure?” he said. “I have the feeling we’re at the point of no return.”
I pointed my penna at the door. “I reached that point when I found the letter and photograph in my grandmother’s house.” I waved the glyph in the air and the door silently swung open.
Ale and I walked in together, him covering the back and left, me covering the front and right. It was how Aesthetes were trained, to know how to cover each other when in a group.
The tunnel—there was no better way to describe it—that we found ourselves in was low and narrow. I was moderately tall, and I still had to duck as we walked down it. My back brace compressed my chest, making it difficult to breathe. The orbs were our only light, dimly glowing ahead of us.
“Do we have any idea where we’re going?” I hissed. I wasn’t sure why I was whispering. It wasn’t like there was anyone down here to hear us. The walls seemed to close in on me, and I had to stare down at my feet, breathing evenly and slowly.
I stopped suddenly, forcing Ale to bump into me. “Watch out.” The narrow line of stone we had been walking down in the center of our path suddenly gave way to a stream of water. I couldn’t hear it at all, but when I looked closely I could faintly make out the water moving, a current taking it to Fonte Gaia in the heart of the city.
Ale and I chose the left side to walk on, since the space was too narrow for us to be side-by-side. My arm brushed against the wall at one point, and a fine coating of dust latched onto my jacket. I made a face and brushed it off as best I could. The space was cold, the air damp. There were holes in the wall with thin lines leading to each one, like shooting stars. The markers of medieval tools digging out these tunnels.
We only walked for a couple minutes before the ceiling arched higher and I could straighten again. Then the path forked off in two different directions. I was about to discuss with Ale which way we should go, when I noticed a small sign on the wall for the right-hand path, announcing that it was for official use only.
“Official use,” I muttered, swinging to the left and hopping over the stream to walk on the other side. “These aqueducts are centuries old; are they still in use?”
“The water does still come out of Fonte Gaia,” Ale said. “I don’t know much about them, but I do know it’s a gravity-fed system coming from a river or something far away. As long as the water keeps flowing, might as well use it.”
“So long as it’s not my drinking water.” I glanced down at the silty channel.
Off of this main path there were many others forking off from it. Some had signs that I guessed dated to the nineteenth century since they were written in well-preserved, neat script over thin lines to keep the lettering straight. Lots of the side channels fed to former palazzi for the wealthy, and a couple went to convents. Ale and I looked down each side channel, though we didn’t try to step into them, searching for anything out of the ordinary. Anything unusual that could have directed us here.
It was when we got to one of the former convents’ channels that I finally spotted what I hadn’t realized I’d been looking for. “What’s that?” I said. Since I couldn’t bend well with my brace on, I awkwardly knelt and pointed into the channel.
Ale stooped beside me. There was another sign within the darkened tunnel, and it had stuck out to me since I hadn’t seen it in any of the others. I directed my orb inside with my penna so I could illuminate the cream-colored slab with its light.
“It’s in English,” Ale said, his tone echoing my surprise. “I can't see it. What does it say?”
I squinted at the slab, noticing something off about it. I realized it was because there was a glamour placed over it to disguise it from the humans, make it look like it blended in with the rest of the wall. It was a strong glamour too; I had to concentrate to see through it when normally such a thing took no effort.
“‘To South Bridge Vaults,’” I read. “That’s bizarre. Do you know what it could be referencing?”
Ale shrugged. We exchanged a look in which we silently communicated our decision. Ale took my hand as I stepped into the tunnel. His fingers were light and tapered, like a pianist’s. Or someone who created magic with his writing.
The channel of water widened here a bit, so we had even less footing. Luckily the sign wasn’t too deep within the tunnel.
“What are we doing here?” I muttered. “We’re being led into a centuries-old aqueduct system based on some creepy note that might have come from the ghost of my ancestor. This is more than I bargained for when I came to Siena.”
Ale laughed softly. “It’s never boring here, that’s for sure.”
When we reached the sign, I didn’t have enough room to do the awkward maneuvering needed to bend with my brace, so Ale bent to look at it for me.
“There doesn’t appear to be anything unusual…aspetta.” He ran his finger over the bottom right corner where I could faintly make out a design.
“It looks like a glyph,” Ale said. “It has the same circular shape of them. But I don’t recognize it. Nor this symbol next to it…” He gasped.
“What?” Panic jumped in my throat. I thought I saw a moving shadow down the tunnel, but it turned out to just be our own.
Had to keep a clear head. We trained for stuff like this. We were both nearly full Aesthetes, which meant we would soon be expected to do exactly this kind of work all the time, until our service ended at thirty-four. Couldn’t panic at nothing.
“It’s Horologia,” Ale said.
Okay. That wasn’t nothing.
I braced my hands on his shoulders and bent as much as I could to get a look. I couldn’t read Horologia—no Aesthete could—but the clock-gear-inspired symbol had to be it.
“We need to get out of here,” I said. “Now.”
“Aspetta,” Ale said. “I just want to memorize this—”
“Ale, if there is a Timekeeper involved here—”
Ale, damn him, took out his penna and traced the glyph in the air.
That was when we fell forward into nothing.