I was feeling a bit dry tonight for my nightly attempt to write. So, I started up some Shamen and East 17 (yes, so sue me) and tried to write what came to me. The strange wolf-suited people came back and... well, let's just say that this is probably my worst writing yet on this project. I think I have a handle on the relationship between my female protagonist and her companion better now, but trying to avoid cliche and the modern trappings of gender roles was... more difficult than I thought.
Really struggling with names too. I don't want 'feminine' names per se but I also want to stress the differences in roles within the group. We know that my males have a coming of age where they choose a new name, what about females? I suspect that 'first blood' would be the coming of age... I think I need to write one of those and see what happens actually...
It's been relatively easy to write a more sensitive male character - I just go through ideals - but writing female characters that have agency in the midst of an attack is hard without making the female characters fit tropes for male characters. The little I've read of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has warned me off that as a means of writing 'real' females. Equally, in avoiding fighting and showing awe and fear at the command of fire in this scene, it seemed as though I was writing women that needed saving - which was not the point.
Why is this so hard?
Analysis courtesy of 750words.com - who probably deserve a bit of money from me by now...
Rating: PG - violence (check)
Feeling mostly upset, with anxious following, and concerned mostly about relationships
Mindset: Introvert - Negative - Uncertain - Thinking
I think if the last one had been Feeling I would have nailed this
Time: The Past; Primary Sense: Hearing; Us and Them: Them
29 minutes at 37 words per minute.
When they came it was dark and quiet, the noise they made in their approach woke the clan and instantly they knew that something was wrong. The snapping of the twigs and branches, the tramp of feet in the leaves lying thick on the deep earth and the sound of guttarel barking between them was enough warning. Elders quickly checked on each of the nests and made sure that the whole clan was ready to travel.
"A pack," said the eldest simply, "Hunting. Approach they through the tree boughs, be warned and be ready."
"Animals?" she asked, the confusion in the clan and the sudden movement was unnerving, "What kind of animals?"
"We do not know." And she left.
[Female] gathered her things, making sure that [youngest] was strapped to her front and [next] on her back. Gift of the Morning gambolled in front, having been woken by the Eldest's warning but being too young to understand. They had moved before, of course, due to storms or due to some large animals herding in the area below. Even the scares of pack animals making their rounds were sometimes enough to make the whole clan move to higher canopy but never to move completely from one encampment without more warning or preparation. Whatever it was that had spooked the elders was worse than what they had seen before. Cooing to her children, [Female] made her way out of the comfortable nest and onto the branches. Already the rest of the clan were on the move.
Nodding to [Companion], she joined the move across to the second great oak on the canopy level via large boughs and branches. Behind her, Gift of the Morning was scrambling on some of the thinner tree limbs, the whole thing seemed to be causing him some amusement, and he was not alone.
Beneath them was difficult to make out, for there was cloud over the Moon and they were far from the edge of the woodland, their protectors now worked against them. All vision was reduced to monochrome, the blacks and whites near impossible to see and replaced with a ghostly impression of greys and shadows. Undergrowth obscured things even further until it was virtually impossible to identify anything for certain, maybe it was a holly bush or maybe it was a young tree or maybe there was a large ball of mosses.
A noise drew her eyes, uselessly straining, but she heard the distinct step of one of the pack circling below on the forest floor. Amazed she gasped, whatever the pack was doing it was a human pack, they walked on two legs and they walked weighed down more than what was considered normal. Once she identified one she heard others down there, counting at least ten before she could no longer work out individuals, and wondered at what was happening.
"Why come in the night? Why not wait for the Brother Sun?"
"Why come at all?" returned [companion] sharply, "I believe they come not for talking but for hunting."
"Then should we not discuss our rights?"
[Companion] did not pause in her movement but simply quickened her climbing and movement, "We are moving and we discuss not, the elders are worried."
She knew that [companion] was still young, not long from her first showings of blood, but her attitude was shocking nevertheless. However, there was something in her manner: hissed words and careful movement in the trees, coupled with her apparent unwillingness to descend to the floor. [Companion] was not as accomplished a climber as most of the clan and always preferred to travel on foot on the ground, where things did not shift in the wind, but now she seemed to be actively choosing to move in the trees themselves. She knew something that [Female] did not.
A hand on her companion's behind to remind her of the connection, the feel of the clammy sweat formed there and a realisation that something was desperately wrong. "You... You saw them coming."
Although the pause was a very short one it was enough to confirm the suspicion and show that [companion] was scared indeed.
The noises below had changed and it became clear that the pack was unaware the clan had moved from their nests. The next thing she heard was unclear, sounding like the arrows that were used to bring down meat for meals through the still night air, but clumsily loosed and sounding cruder. Thuds and thunks followed as the arrowheads met the tree and the bark and stayed there. Crude these arrows may have been but they were doing their jobs well. Then a great crashing and noise as the pack began to climb the trees, coupled with a sudden ululating cry that sounded as unnatural as it was loud and raucous and blood curdling. A shiver ran up her spine and she could not help but to turn and look uselessly through the gloom.
Flame blossomed like an impossible flower from the campsite, taking hold and burning the nests quickly, robbing her of night vision almost instantly. It was too quick, the flames were moving too fast for it to be an accident or for it to have started from the fires that the clan had been using. Explaining that movement was beyond her, something had caused the flame to be a living thing, a demon that spread from multiple start points, taking on the speed of shrews by the river, the ferocity of the lioness defending her young and the raw power of a mammoth on a charge. In the light of those spears of heat she saw a figure in wolf-skin holding a bag and beating it against where she had been sleeping, mainly dry wood topped with fresh moss and scrub, until it seemed to explode in a shower of sparks, from it came more of the fire.
"They control the very fire," she breathed, "They have powerful magick."
"I believe it not," breathed [companion], "I understand it not."
"They have light now," warned one of the elders, [name], "And they have shown their intent to us. Movement is essential. To the floor and we head to the fenlands."
As one, the clan dropped through the branches; speed replaced silence, as they would never be heard above the din of destruction being raised at the campsite, and the clan began to run away from the terrible light.