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Pissing Off the Relatives: Opening of Decay’s Trap

19 Apr

The following is the opening to my current work in progress, Decay’s Trap, the first in a probably four-part YA fantasy series. This first book should be published in electronic format before the end of the year.

*****

Julian scowled at the moldering semi-ruin of what had once been the grandest castle gate on the continent. Ivy obscured the stones and had worked its way through the mortar pulling down whole chunks of masonry. Not the best first impression, but his expectations had been falling rapidly ever since crossing the border, so why should things be any better in the center of the country?

On the other side of the open gate he could see Matriarchs pecking their way around the moss-covered cobblestones, made dangerously slippery by the almost incessant rain that fell over the mountain. Wearing nearly identical layers of black moth-eaten wool, this black brood of women supported their bent bodies with identical canes as they came together and broke apart like decrepit hens chasing after breadcrumbs. His grandmother would be part of that gaggle of crones, a woman he had never met who had dragged him away from sun, warmth and comfort. As he crossed the threshhold the noise doubled in volume as several Matriarchs gasped out loud, while the rest started clucking at each other in indignation and disbelief.

“He’s a brown as a roasted chicken!”

“All the sooner devored!”

Then suddenly they dispersed, wandering about the courtyard as if it was customary to spend their morning in damp exercise. It was, over all, a rather a pathetic attempt to make him think they didn’t care about him. Three old crones, however, stayed within earshot, most likely on purpose, given that they were talking about him.

“He’s such an ugly young man.”

“Look at that hair. So short and unmanly.”

“And so blond. What has the sun in that dreadful country of his done to it? It’s as bleached as a bone in a desert.”

“Whatever it looks like, it’s hideous,” said the second one. “Maybe he could wear a wig. I know a good shop in town.”

“I don’t know,” mused the first one. “He’s a much more visible target as he is, don’t you think?”

They all laughed.

Something on the other side of the courtyard distracted Julian from the conversation. The mingling Matriarchs had all paused in their movements and gossip to watch another Matriarch stride towards him. Unlike the rest of them, she used no cane, kept her back straight and her head high. She appeared to conform to fashion with her rotten-appearing clothes but everything else about her exuded strength and vitality. Was this his grandmother? If so, no wonder his mother hadn’t argued against the summons. Only the strongest could fight such arrogance.

And he would find out soon enough just how strong he was.

“You’re late, boy.” As first words, they could have been worse, but they were meant to dominate him. “You were supposed to be here an hour ago. You’ve kept all your relatives waiting in the rain.” She gestured to the other Matriarchs who joined in the game and scowled at him.

“What? You didn’t think of waiting inside?” he responded, refusing to be controlled. “Or maybe even using, I don’t know, a little magic to stay dry? Oh no, that’s right, you don’t use magic here.”

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