From the Vault: TVAW – Chapter 1

I need to share some of my writing. I’ve been talking about writing for a very long time over on my YouTube channel and yet I never shared what kind of writer I am. I think this is important because I want you guys to know my style and what my writing is like, but I never found the opportunity. I thought about reading some on my channel, but I didn’t like that idea because I’d stress over the delivery and it’s hard for videos.

But now I have a blog, so it’s worth it, ya know?

I was wondering what to post and I thought it would be best to post my last most recent project which was my Red Riding Hood retelling. Again, if you have been following my writing on my channel, you would have known I queried for agents with this project, which I titled Through Villains and Wolves. I only queried from March – June of 2016 and in that time I got requests for three fulls and a partial. As I’m unagented, you would guess correctly that none of those fulls came with offers of representation, but I am ok with that. I learned a lot and very excited to jump into querying again after I finish Sharp Hollows. I will be doing posts on when I decided to shelf TVAW and also my old query letter because it was pretty decent I’d say? I mean, I got interest.

Anyway, on to the sample! So this is first chapter of Through Villains and Wolves. Brief backstory is that Red Riding Hood is on the run after her last job resulted in her being becoming the villain. This would be the chapter that the agents would have read in my query letter. I haven’t read this since the summer so I’m just gonna hit publish and close my eyes and walk away. Enjoy!

Chapter One

They had her eyes wrong. Again.

Every city she’d traveled through the past few weeks made her look a little different. Achodale gave her swollen lips. Kragmund set her eyes far apart. One village made her face far too thin and another thought her chin came down at a point instead of her true, round features. One poster even omitted her distinguished freckles completely. Others kept her features plain save for a stark hood of bright scarlet formed around her face. It was the only color on any poster. Her most distinguished feature wasn’t even physical.

Freya Hawthorne preferred these conflicting depictions of herself. It made it all the more easier to slip through the cracks to those searching for her.

Her bruised fingers curled around the edge of the parchment. She stared at her face with the false, slanted eyes. Her thumb passed over the ink above her sketched hairline that read ‘WANTED’ in thick, bold letters. The crinkled poster was nailed to a post outside of Albion amongst other criminals and monsters who were far more dangerous than she was. Yet, her poster was in the middle. It even seemed brighter than the others. Quickly, Freya ripped it down and shoved it into the satchel hanging at her side. It didn’t matter how many of these posters she removed. Word-of-mouth was more powerful than the posters anyway. Whispered under breaths at markets or shouted outside of pubs nearing dawn – Red Riding Hood had gone villain.

She pulled the hood on the black cloak she wore over her eyes and started walking towards the village.

Home.

It was her village. The one she had grown up in. Albion was just as dreary as she remembered. The white moon hung above the tree tops, guiding her home. Freya had waited in the woods all afternoon, waiting for night to fall so she could make her entrance with the rest of the shadows.

Freya stopped, just short of the main road leading directly into town. The sound of strained rope against branches drew her attention to her left and she swallowed heavily. Swinging from a tree branch in the quiet of the night were two pairs of dirty feet. Her eyes slowly traveled up the length, knowing what she would find at the top. A noosed rope clutched two women in death, their eyes both closed. No wind had picked up and yet, they both swung.

Witches.

It was the kindest death given to accused witches of evil doing. Freya had seen much worse being done, she had done much worse.

Freya tore her gaze from the hanging corpses and hurried down the road into town.

Warm laughter coming from the tavern forced Freya off the main road. Drinks were usually served there until the night wind told everyone to go home. All the hunters from the forest and fishermen from the sea drank there after a long day of work that always brought in too little. Other patrons stayed in the inn on the upper floors. Albion was only known for its trading posts and even that had been dwindling over the past several years. She could see a few other men standing outside the tavern talking, their horses tied to wooden columns. Ignoring them, she walked further into the housing district passing more people and homeless wanderers as she sought out a certain house. One that wasn’t hers by birth, but one that she grew up in after her parents died.

Cutting through a cobblestoned alley like she did when she was a child, she was at the house in half the time. She paused at the edge of the property. There was no light coming from inside. Not even the glow of a candle shown from where she lurked. Freya’s hope was deflating, not that she had any to begin with. It was a shot in the dark to come back to Albion in hopes that Lawrence or Basil would be here. They were as much as a nomad as she was. Her plans weren’t even to escape to Albion until two weeks ago when she realized she was running in that direction. The forest was pulling her back to where she called home. Freya stupidly thought someone would be here waiting for her. Staring at the quiet, dark house, the moon casted a dark blue hue over the stone and Freya felt like it was empty.

Other homes crowded the dirt street. Freya couldn’t knock on the front door. It’d look suspicious if a figure was knocking on the door of the Gallivan household late at night. Anyone watching from a window would surely alert someone. Especially with her face, accurate or not, plastered around the village. Albion was also her home. Every person knew who she was which made the wanted posted she took down all the more painful. Word of her crimes had reached here so quickly.

Casting one more glance around her shoulder, Freya walked around the back of the house, sticking close to the house’s foundation. There was a second entrance in the back. Not all the houses in Albion had one. Lawrence built one in the back of his house when she was eight. He always reminded her she needed to be aware of two exits. Never rely on only one.

Maybe if no one was here she could pick the lock and at least sleep here for the night. Freya’s back was stiff and sore from sleeping in the trees almost every night since the massacre nearly a month ago. Fresh water over her face and some bread was all she truly needed to recoup.

The real question had been nagging in the deepest part of her mind for weeks now, refusing to surface. Where would she go next? She wouldn’t be able to get a real job anymore. What village would pay the girl that burned down an entire village? Wolves weren’t their biggest problems anymore – she was.

Knocking on the door, she wrapped her arms around herself under the cloak. The strips of leather and cloth wrapped around the palms of her hands keeping her warm. She waited another thirty seconds before going to open her sack for her tools to jimmy with the lock.

The sound of a lock slid open and her hand stilled, her stomach dropping at the noise. The door eased open slowly, revealing the younger Gallivan shirtless and rubbing sleep from his eyes. The moment he laid eyes on her, his defined arms fell to his sides in shock.

“Freya…”

She tugged the hood back until it revealed the stringy unwashed red hair. The fresh night air kissed her dirt-streaked cheeks, matted there from the tears she shed every night. She managed a smile as she looked at her life-long friend.

Basil reached forward, cradling the side of her face, his thumb rubbing some of the dirt off. Freya sighed as he pulled her to his chest, his chin resting right on top of her head, not even caring about the layer of filth covering her body or the smell she was sure was radiating from her in waves.

“I heard about… I’ve seen the posters,” he whispered. Could he whisper it even softer? The smaller it seemed would make her believe the nightmare she was living wasn’t truly real.

Freya pulled away from his warm chest and looked up into his dark brown eyes. Like fresh soil after a rainstorm she told him once. “It-it wasn’t my fault, Basil. I don’t know…” When she closed her eyes, the fire greeted her. Reds, yellows, and oranges together looked beautiful and dangerous, like the fading sun in the forest hinting at the dangerous darkness that was coming. But the smell of burning wood, burning grass, and burning flesh made her want to empty her stomach right before him.

“Freya, I know. Come on. Come inside.”

Basil’s blind faith in her always brought tears pricking painfully behind her eyes. For all he knew, she could have been responsible. If she said she had nothing to do with it, he would always believe her. Maybe she was a little foolish. She had blind faith in Basil as well. It was from the years they grew up together, the years they trained together, fought together, worked jobs together. Even with the months that they weren’t together, it was like no time passed at all when they were reunited.

Basil guided her inside toward one of the benches in the kitchen. The Gallivan house was small, but comfortable. Lawrence, Basil’s father, always put his heart in the home. The small two story cottage had two rooms upstairs with beds and down on the ground floor, the kitchen was curtained off from the front room.

She sat down on the bench, untying her cloak as Basil lit a candle and carried it over to her. “Are you hurt?”

Freya shook her head. “Just tired. I’ve been running for a while.”

Basil got up again and started retrieving a few items. “I just got back a few days ago from a job in Tarren. I didn’t hear about what happened until two weeks ago. I thought you might come here so I tried wrapping up the job as soon as possible.”

“I didn’t set Northwode on fire, Basil. The pack I was hunting…” Freya said quickly like cauterizing an open wound. The quicker it was said, the better it would be. Basil came back, handing her some bread and water. She could only imagine what the rumors were like from village to village. When she risked going into a large town for supplies, she heard nasty, untrue things being said about her. Some places, the story was she was working with the wolves and possessed, or she killed a nobleman and burned Northwode to the ground to cover up her crimes. Worse, other places thought she was one of the evil witches of the kingdom.

“You don’t have to explain anything to me, Freya,” Basil said as she tore into the bread, drinking the water in three very un-ladylike gulps. The bread was gone when she looked back at her hand. It was her first real food in the past week. She’d been filling her stomach with hunted rabbit or birds. That wasn’t her first choice meal – that was just necessity for survival.

Basil took her hands and started unwrapping her leather strips of make-shift gloves. Freya hissed a breath out of her teeth as the leather pulled at some of the blisters on her palms. Basil touched them gently. He was analyzing them, she knew. She was careful though, already knowing they wouldn’t be infected. Basil knew that too, but still held her hands longer than he needed to. He looked up at her, the candlelight reflecting off his dark, soil-colored eyes. He looked so relieved to see her alive. The look he was giving her was completely raw and vulnerable. It broke her heart after what she put him through. She cleared her throat, causing him to shake his head and look back down at her hands.

“I still have some water in the bath. It won’t be warm but –”

“I’ll still be clean,” Freya finished, squeezing his fingers, even if it caused her slight pain.

Basil slipped out of the room after he guided her towards the small room with the large tub of water. It was filled half way and Freya could tell Basil must have bathed earlier in the evening. Freya didn’t start peeling her clothes off until she heard the stairs creak and moan as Basil climbed them.

The muddy trousers, tunic, cloak, and undergarments were thrown in a heap in the corner of the room. Freya wanted to burn them as everything from the last month hung on the threads as terrible and nightmarish memories. As expected, the water was cold, but it didn’t stop her from slipping completely under.

Freya held her breath and counted. She counted pass the number she always counted to when holding her breath. Under the surface, she could forget for a couple seconds while she concentrated on not breathing. Even when her lungs started burning and her mind told her she needed oxygen, Freya slowly broke the surface of the water, forcing herself not to gasp for air.

As she washed the grime off herself, she felt all the cuts and bruises she endured. Her hands throbbed with blisters from all the trees she had to climb to hide. Her legs were still healing from the claw marks that had been raked down her calves. She didn’t need to see the healing bruise on her back from her fall out a window to know it had probably faded to an ugly greenish color from the dark purple it had to of been. Freya leaned against the tub as the cold water ran through her wounds.

Her body was healing, but her mind was still broken, battered, and bleeding.

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2 thoughts on “From the Vault: TVAW – Chapter 1

  1. artybaker says:

    Love this, Lainey! So great to read some of your writing after hearing you talk about the process so much. Keep up the good work! 🙂

    Like

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