Feature: Scrapplings by Amelia Smith
Darna wasn't supposed to be born – priestesses aren't supposed to have babies – and she most certainly shouldn't see dragons. After all, no one else does. Darna gets teased for her limp already without people thinking she's loony, but she hears that in Anamat, some still see the dragons.
She sets off for the city, just another scrappling trying to find a place in Anamat's guilds. There are temples, too, but Darna doesn't want anything to do with the corrupt priestesses and their sweaty lovers. On her journey, she meets an older scrappling girl with an eerie sense of hearing. They join up with another pair, a charming boy and a girl who actually wants to be a priestess.
Apart from these four, the city seems to be nearly as dragon-blind as the provinces. Darna scavenges valuable scraps from the city dump, but trade is slow. When she's offered a sack full of gold beads for a small bit of thieving, she takes her chances... and ends up angering the dragon herself.
Scrapplings is the first book in a five part series. Book Two, Priestess, is due out in April 2015.
Amelia Smith takes an odd-jobs-and-adventures approach to writing. She has written volumes of unpublishable journals, magazine articles, and a variety of fiction, most of it with historical and/or fantasy elements. For more, see her website, www.ameliasmith.net.
Excerpt: Meeting Myril
Darna came down out of the mountains into a farmland bounded by low hills. High and craggy mountains loomed to the west. A crossroads lay ahead, with a signpost and a small figure standing still at its center, looking toward Darna. At one corner of the crossroads, a spring burbled. There was a carved stone bench and a shrine beside it. In the shrine sat a plump dragon carved of malachite: Getera. The small figure there – a girl – poured out the last drops of water from her waterskin into the bowl under the dragon’s statue. She re-filled it with water from the spring and drank as she watched Darna approach.
Darna considered hiding, but the girl had already seen her. Millet and wheat sprouted in the fields all around. Smoke blew in from a village a little way to the east, and a bit of roof poked out of the trees in the wooded area off to the north. A farmer rolled his cart down one of the roads, which ran alongside a stream. The cart creaked away into the distance and the roads were silent apart from the tap of Darna’s stick and the shuffle of her feet.
The crossroads signpost was made of cedar from the mountains, tall and dark red-brown, clean and carved at its top with designs of flowers, and writing, and an arrow pointing to the north, another to the east. The girl peered at it.
“What’s that sign say?” Darna asked, her voice cracking a little from disuse.
The girl looked over her shoulder. “Me?” she squeaked.
“Of course you,” Darna said. “There’s no one else here, is there?”
“You mean I’m not invisible?” the girl asked.
Darna wished she hadn’t said anything.
“Where are you going?” the girl asked Darna. She had straight, dark hair which fell over her face, curling a little at the end. It didn’t even reach her shoulders. That meant she was a servant or a peasant, not a chieftain’s daughter or one of the princes’ kin. She was taller than Darna and looked like she had been well-fed, though. She was older, too, maybe even old enough to be a priestess already – but she wasn’t one. Darna smoothed her gnarled reddish hair and tried to edge past her.
“I’m just going where everyone goes,” Darna mumbled. “To Anamat.”
“But which way is it? I don’t know what the sign says either, but I heard that Anamat was over three ranges of mountains.”
“Like that one?” Darna asked, pointing toward the craggy peaks.
The girl shook her head. “No, that’s way I came, from Helanum. I…”
Down the road from Tiadun came a sound like muted, distant thunder.
“Shush!” Darna said.
The girl was listening too. “What is it?” she asked.
“Horses,” Darna said. Obviously. The girl was a fool. “I gotta go. Hide. Don’t tell them!”
Darna dove into the bush, flattening herself on the prickly twig-covered ground. The girl followed her.
“What are you doing here?” Darna said. “You don’t have to hide from them.”
“But why do you?” the girl asked.
“I just do, just in case. Who are you anyway?” Darna demanded. “Are you going to Anamat?”
“Myril is my name. I came from Helanum. I’m going to Anamat.” As the horses walked slowly toward them, she told Darna her story, or at least some of it.