Writing Prompt: The First Time

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Feel free to use this prompt yourself and link it here!

The First Time

“The first time?” I crumbled the last of my bread into tiny pieces, scattering it on the rocks around me. I looked over at Garth while settling down among the stones. “It wasn’t like I’d thought it would be.” I gave a soft laugh.

“How so?” he asked, pulling his saddle across his lap. He pulled out a mending kit from Vittoria’s saddle bag and began looking it over for any damage. He’d taken on this task himself, to mend our leather goods, as I’d taken over all the cooking. Of course my choice was sheer self preservation, Vittoria could only reliably make tea. Garth really did try to cook, and it was technically edible I suppose, but we were all happier with me on the job.

“I suppose I thought it would be harder. I mean it was difficult in the actual doing of it, because it wasn’t something I’d planned, but I thought the emotional impact would,” I waved a hand in the air, “you know, I’d worried it would bother me to take someone’s life.”

He grinned, “You’d make a terrible assassin moralizing every time you killed someone.”

Vittoria walked into the little hollow and began adding to the small pile of dry wood beside what would be the fire pit come nightfall. I was very pleased that we didn’t have to skulk across the countryside, at least not yet. Fires and hot food every night, at least when it didn’t rain, was something to look forward to.

“What are we talking about?” Vittoria asked, shoving her short blonde hair out of her face impatiently as she pulled a small spade from our collective pile of equipment and began scratching a clear space for the fire.

“The first time she killed someone.” Garth said, flapping a buffing cloth at me before going back to work on the saddle. I couldn’t see any dirt on the leather let along anything to buff out but I didn’t say anything. Garth loved horses, and found some aesthetic pleasure in caring for their tack.

“Oh, interesting?” she asked.

“Not really,” I said, “It was just two idiots who tried to rob me. It didn’t bother me in the way I’d thought it would.” I’d had a few uneasy dreams about it, in fact, but not about killing them. It was the way they’d touched me, especially the one whose throat I’d cut first. “One of them had made some remarks, about what he’d like to do with me after they had my money. He figured they might as well take my pretty clothes and the rest of me too.”

“Shit.” Garth grimaced, with the ladies of his acquaintance he was a perfect gentleman.

Vittoria showed all of her straight white teeth in a grin that had no humor in it, “What did you do to them?”

“I got to the knife in the back of my belt and sliced the one holding me in the gut. It wasn’t a very long blade, I could just barely get it out of the sheath and it barely nicked him really, but let me go.” I watched as a small bird landed on the rocks and began pecking at the crumbs. “I hadn’t seen him as the real threat, he’d gotten very tense when his friend had casually mentioned raping me, so I went for that bastard first. I got him across one eye and then slit his throat but it wasn’t quite deep enough. His friend started babbling and backed down the alley and I had to do him too. I made it quicker for him, getting robbed wouldn’t have bothered me if it was just about money and I don’t think he’d had anything more in mind. I just didn’t want any witnesses. I had to go back and finish off his friend.”

“That was good thinking,” Vittoria growled, “How old were you?”

“Fifteen.”

“How did you get away? You’d have had to have blood all over you. Throat-slitting is messy.” Garth asked, heaving the saddle aside and waving a hand at my sword and sheath to go over the leather of the scabbard and belt. I handed it over and looked up at the sky.

It wasn’t anywhere near time to start cooking but I needed to do something with my hands so I began rummaging through the saddlebag by my feet to decide what I was going to make. It really depended on what game I got in a little while, which I’d probably not get until twilight, but I could probably make a guess that it would be either rabbit or some sort of game bird. The stream near the picketed horses wasn’t deep enough for much more than crayfish.

“One of them had a dark cape sort of thing, it was fashionable at the time and didn’t show the blood very well. I just walked back home wrapped up in it. I expected any moment for a constable to grab me and go ‘Aha!’ or something stupid like that. I don’t think I even heard anyone talking about the murder, so I guess they weren’t anyone’s favorite pair of lads.” I scooped up my bow and began to string it. “I’m going hunting, when I get back its one of you who has to tell yours.”

Writers block? Not really but…

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I can’t really say I’ve had writer’s block for the past month or so, because I’ve had a ton of ideas. I’m not lacking in understanding what happens next or what I want to write. What I’ve been lacking is the energy. The holidays always sort of suck that out of me, and it hasn’t helped that I’ve been feeling off physically for about four weeks.

I just have been lazy as well, and that is my own fault. I need to start eating better again and go back to the gym. Sometimes I feel like the reason everyone makes resolutions to get healthier in January is because November and December are full of holidays that personify excess for most people who are fortunate enough to be able to stuff themselves silly. When you’re surrounded by that much food it is easy justify eating all of it, at the very least to make sure it doesn’t go to waste, then of course I’m going to make a pun because after that it goes to waist. Yes, I’m a terrible person.

So tonight I decided to go back and reread everything I’ve written because one of my problems is getting back into my narrator’s voice. I can’t just start writing because I need to get back in his head. And boy is he more than ready for me to get back to him! As I’m rereading I can’t help but edit a little bit, even though I promised myself I wouldn’t edit until the first draft was done. I’ve also found myself adding and subtracting bits here and there because I am remembering how he sounds and thinks and he has more to say about these situations.

I wish I had some advice to give people who have writer’s block, because I’ve basically had it for 10 years until 2014 came along and handed me a story I had to get out of me. But all I can say is that you need to read and you need to think about what you’ve read and why you enjoyed it and try to remember why you enjoy writing. One of the things I enjoy most about writing is for people to read it. Some people say they write for themselves and to an extent that is true, I love writing even if no one reads it. But I’d be lying if I said it didn’t matter if people read it. I want people to enjoy my work.

I’m rambling again, so I’ll get off here and get to writing for the first time since November. Here is the last thing I wrote so far today, a little piece that got slipped into my first chapter because he wanted it that way

“Most children, even those who live in cities surrounded by iron, were taught that this was a place of danger. Hell, most children including me were told they’d be dragged out here and left for the fairies if they were naughty. Of course I’d never heard of anyone who was, but someone always knew someone who knew someone. You know how it is.”

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I’ve never really been great at Dialogue. There were a lot of times when I was ok at it, particularly during an RP when I had someone else to work off of and there were responses back and forth. Somehow recently I’ve gotten better at it and I don’t even know when that happened. Anyway I’m going to brag a little but and post some of the best I think I’ve done so far!

 

My head snapped sideways as Marta landed a vicious slap to my cheek. I let her have the blow, I’d known her long enough to submit to her chastisement because any healer could put me together but she knew how to take me apart and I respected that. Her words were carefully quiet, only a thin door separated the hallway from the small room where Amba slept, but her tone was vicious.

“I don’t really want to know where you got her, so long as I know you aren’t taking her back there.” She hissed, her black eyes sparking with rage, her black curls were pinned in a severe style or I’d imagine they’d be throwing off real sparks. When Marta was angry enough she lost the tiniest bit of control over her power and it showed in ways that alarmed anyone who didn’t know her. The twin moons, the empress and her handmaiden, cast the only light in the hall. The silver glow drained all the color from her skin and she looked like a statue of a goddess. A vengeful one.

I opened my mouth, maybe to defend myself I wasn’t really sure. She interrupted me, wagging a finger in my face, “You aren’t usually this stupid.” She said bluntly, “You should know better than to remove an object from a wound, anything could have happened. I know you were both in the woods because there were leaves in her hair, anything nasty could have gotten in her wound. She could have thrown a knot of old blood into her veins and stopped her heart for the gods sake!”

I bowed my head, “I know.” I whispered, “I was stupid and I’m just glad none of that happened, I should have thought of that.”

Marta looked astonished, “You? Admitting you were wrong? The same man who ripped an arrow out of his leg the wrong way and insisted you knew what you were doing at the time?” she raised an eyebrow.

“Yes, now can you please tell me if she’s going to be alright?” the worry must have been in my voice because she softened the tiniest bit.

“With time, I’m astonished it isn’t infected and it definitely should’ve been. That thing must have been agonizing and you say she was walking on it?” she shook her head in disbelief.

I nodded. “It was bad, and she never complained. She was limping though.”

Marta hugged herself as she stared out the glass window, “There were things you didn’t see.” She said. One cheek sucked in as she bit on it thoughtfully, as though she wanted to ask a few questions. She never did ask them, not in the four years I’d been coming to her to have my own wounds tended. She was good about that, keeping her mouth shut and not asking any of the thing that were clearly on her mind. This time though, it wasn’t an adult doing shady business. A child might change her attitude a bit.

“Up where her sleeve covered her upper arm there were hand prints, where someone grabbed her and probably pulled her where they wanted her to go.” Her voice was clinically detached now, “And pinch marks on her sides and hips, not a man’s though. They were too small to be a man’s fingers.” She looked up at me, “Swear you’re going to find somewhere good for her. If you can’t do it I’ll find something, but she’ll need somewhere to stay long enough to heal. I don’t want her putting weight on the leg for a couple of weeks at least, so she’ll need someone who can take care of her like that. I don’t have the time; with the harvest going on there’s bound to be a lot of injuries and I’ll see my fair share of them. I’m not the only physician around here, but I’m not bragging when I say I’m the best. That means a lot of people come to me.”

“I know, and I have an idea for what to do with her actually, but is there any way you could keep her here tonight and maybe until tomorrow afternoon?” I rubbed the back of my head, stalling for time so I could figure out how to say it. While Marta didn’t precisely know my line of business, she knew it was neither legal nor safe. I could only imagine what she would think of my mad idea to keep Amba myself.

“I, ah…” I coughed slightly to clear my throat, “I’ll have to talk Joteph around.” Marta knew my lover, he’d had to fetch her for me more than once and had a tendency to tell her not to give me any mercy if I came back injured from some stupid stunt again. A stupid stunt is what he’d told her I’d done to dislocate my shoulder not too long ago. Thinking about it made it ache, or maybe I’d gotten used to it and only noticed it with the memory.

She spluttered for a moment, and I thought a smile was winning the fight against outrage, “You.” She said, once she’d got herself under control. “You are going to bring up this child? You can’t even take care of yourself man!”

I shushed her as her voice rose slightly. We both froze, hearing a small sound beyond the door, and then relaxed as Amba didn’t call out. “You don’t know,” I said cajolingly, “fatherhood might civilize me for good.”

“My eye.” She muttered, “In any case she’s can stay here for the night, and even a couple more days if you absolutely need it. I want to get some good food in her, she’s too thin. I don’t know if, whoever it was,” she waved a hand in the air as if sketching the unknown villain, “wasn’t feeding her or of she just lost her appetite with the pain, but she needs to eat and sleep for a few days.”

I nodded, “I hoped you’d say that,” I pulled out a thin roll of cloth from a pocket on my boot, inside were coins carefully folded in a handkerchief to keep them from clinking. I handed the whole thing over, “Use whatever’s in here and I’ll make up the rest later.”

I watched her run the wrapped coins through her fingers in the dim light, counting them by their shape. “This is,” she looked up at me, “More than you’ve paid me for the last three injuries you had put together.” She tucked them into an apron pocket. “What’s the catch?”

“The catch is you don’t let anyone see her, you don’t mention her, and you don’t mention me.” I shrugged and tucked my thumbs in my belt. “We good now?” A wave of exhaustion had crept up on me while we talked and I wanted to get in my own bed before sunrise, but at the same time I didn’t want to leave for some reason.

“Yeah, sure. We’re good.” She nodded and went back inside the sick room. I stood in the hallway for a long moment staring out the window as the twin moons disappeared behind a shadow of cloud. I began to walk down the hall, then shook my head and went back. Quietly I opened the door and peeked into the room. Marta looked up from where she stood putting away some of her gear into a cabinet. She rolled her eyes at me.

“She’s asleep.” Marta whispered, gesturing at the bed.

“I know.” I hissed back, annoyed at the look on her face. Marta wasn’t usually nosy, but she looked intrigued by the whole situation. I ignored her and took the two long strides the bedside. I knelt down by the bed and had to turn my head to glare at the healer who gave an amused snort. This was completely ridiculous, I knew it. I didn’t really want to wake her up but I also didn’t want her to think I’d abandoned her either. And why wasn’t I abandoning her in the first place? Marta could find her a nice home, she knew a lot of nice people with money who’d take better care of a child than an assassin. They wouldn’t contemplate training her up in that profession, assuming she didn’t take after my lover and want to be in a mundane trade. And what about Joteph? We’d never talked about children; he’d had two himself by the daughter of his parent’s friends to do his duty and fulfill the obligations of his people. He’d not really been interested in raising them, so why would he consider this? I didn’t have any answers just then, so I put it to simmer in the back of my mind.

Gently I brushed hair back from Amba’s forehead, it was dry and brittle as though it hadn’t been taken care of in months. I thought she was maybe half Shavran and that they comb oil into their hair to combat the dryness. I’d have to look into how to take care of it, or find a bathhouse that could do it for me. Her eyelashes fluttered for a moment and then she flinched away from my hand. I didn’t move for a moment, not wanting to frighten her more. I swear I could see her heart pounding through the nightgown Marta had given her.

“It’s alright,” I murmured, “I just wanted to tell you I’m leaving you here,” her face went blank with alarm but she didn’t clutch at me to keep me there, once again I admired her ability to stay calm in the face of her fears, “It’s just for a little while, a day or two so you can rest your leg. I’ll be back to pick you up when I’ve,” I paused ‘figured out what to do with you’ was on the tip of my tongue but it wasn’t quite right and might have worried her more, “Once I’ve made some plans for your future.” There that sounded better, right? “Now go back to sleep.”

“Promise.” She said it as a statement and not a question, staring me right in the eyes, her green orbs black in the dim lamp light. She looked as though she almost wanted to take it back, feeling perhaps a demand of me would push me away.

“Promise what?” I asked a bit dimly, what was she talking about?

“That… that you’ll come back.” She said it petulantly, with the first really childish expression I’d seen her wear.

“Oh, yes I promise.” I felt a bit stupid, to tell the truth and had to fight to keep a scowl from my face as Marta suddenly took a fit of coughing and had to leave the room. “Right, well it’s long past time for you to sleep and me too come to think of it,” I made my voice lighter, “Now you really do have to rest and get your strength up so do whatever Marta tells you to,” I smiled thinly, “She can be annoying but she won’t hurt you, although she might feed you some nasty medicine it’s good for you take it.” I patted her hand awkwardly, “Now, ah, good night.”

I stood up to go, straightening my coat and feeling the muscles in my shoulder constrict painfully. I walked quietly to the door as Amba closed her eyes. As I closed the door behind me I heard a very soft, “Good night, Marten.” I felt my face split in a grin, which turned to scowl as Marta wiggled her fingers in farewell at me.

“Good night,” she said in a very low sing-song.

“Right, this goes in with all the things I pay you not to mention.” I muttered, striding off in the direction of the stairs.