Back in February, during our author’s excursion to the Arizona Renaissance Festival, the fanciful ambiance of that place struck me with a story epiphany for a project I immediately called Brine and Bone. Unfortunately, I couldn’t do anything with it, because I was slogging through the end of Namesake‘s first draft. (It’s best not to cheat on a manuscript at that point. Stories get awfully vindictive when you stop paying attention to them.)
Fast forward to May. I had finished that draft, but I wasn’t ready to start a new longer project. So, out came that lovely epiphany. This week, I present a sneak peek from the first chapter of Brine and Bone.
Brine and Bone: An Excerpt from Chapter 1
By the time she passed the rocky strip, the fog had thinned. The sheltered cove stretched before her, the vegetation at its edges mere dollops of green within the mist. Debris littered the sand in dark, hunched shapes, as though the sea had attempted a sluggish assault upon the land. Seaweed and driftwood cluttered her path. The waves here, smaller, lapped gently against the slick sand. Magdalena paused to breathe the salt-heavy air. She closed her eyes and drank in the solitude of the remote beach.
Plash, plash, plash.
She matched her breath to the rhythm of the shore until—
A chitter and a sploosh jarred her senses. Her eyes flew open and her hand moved to the knife at her waist—a knife meant for cutting potion ingredients, but a weapon nonetheless. The fog, still dissipating, concealed the source of the animalistic noise. Magdalena swiveled, her spine crawling with apprehension, but nothing more than driftwood occupied the shore with her. The creature—whatever it was—had moved to the ocean rather than the shrubbery further inland.
When no additional sounds followed, she eased herself from her defensive stance. Still her breath caught in her throat with every inhale. Her skin prickled a warning: something was watching her. The waves rolled across the small cove from a distance still obscured. She reached out not with her physical senses, but with her magical ones.
In reply, exhaustion seeped into her bones.
She clapped that avenue shut as she staggered to one side, her head reeling with images of roiling waves and a bright, beating sun. A knot tightened her windpipe. Again she searched the cove, desperate to find the source of this errant, destructive empathy. She stumbled in the sand, catching herself before she could fall. Her vision danced in triplicate but resolved as she focused on a large, slumped piece of driftwood further up the shore.
The word pulsed through her brain. Adrenaline spiked in her blood, and she pushed forward into a run, kicking up sand as she closed the distance. If she could sense such feelings, the castaway wasn’t dead.
Perhaps it was—
She tamped down hope as she skidded to her knees beside the sodden figure, but it bubbled up her throat again with a sob.
The dark hair plastered against a stubbly jaw could not hide the familiarity of a face she had tried for ages to banish from her mind.
The Crown Prince of Corenden, claimed by the merciless ocean two nights ago, had washed ashore. He was not dead.
Magdalena’s years of training engaged. “Your Highness,” she said, turning him to lie on his back. “Your Highness, can you hear me?”
She leaned close to listen to his shallow breath. Her magical senses probed for the nature of his injuries.
Sunburn. Dehydration. Bruises. Remnants of saltwater in the lungs and a lump half the size of her fist on the back of his head.
Phantom pain burst upon her skull, coupled with images of a tossing ocean and crashing debris. As the lifeboat lowered into the water that night, a piece of the ship had struck his head, pitching him into the deep. She caught her breath and tempered the vision, her gaze huge upon the prince.
It was a miracle he had not sunk to the bottom of the ocean and stayed there.
If you haven’t already guessed, Brine and Bone is based on Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid.” I’ve finished the first draft. The full novella should be available sometime later this year.