Jen Air: Asterion – Not Invulnerable

Short extract from the current draft of the second novel today, with Tenley just hanging around town.  Just as a lot of extracts I’ve posted before have been changed, moved around, or scrapped altogether, this isn’t necessarily going to be in the final product either at least in its current form.  It might, but we’ll see:

Tenley was supposed to be going home.  Instead she was hanging around looking down at The Mill, wondering what to do with herself.  The last time she’d been here, she’d made that man dance until it killed him.  She remembered his face, shocked and frightened and confused, like he didn’t know why it was happening even after she’d explained it to him.  She wondered if there was anyone out there who cared that he was gone, who missed him like she missed… she probably shouldn’t think about such things.  He was a murderer and had gotten what he deserved.

She bent over with her stomach and swung herself up back onto the roof.  Rising to her feet, she looked down over the town and tried to focus.  The people were all bright, voices everywhere.  None of them told her which way to go.  She supposed she would have to find her own way and decided she hadn’t visited the park very often.  Mother never took her to places where there were likely to be a lot people.

It was a wide open space in the middle of town with places for children to play and a pond where you could hire a little paddle boat for a while.  Jen had given her a little money, so she could, if she wanted.  The other children seemed to be enjoying it.  But they were all with someone, friends or parents… she would probably have just gotten bored anyway.  It was just paddling around in circles.  Stupid.  She bought some juice instead and kept looking around.

In the middle of the park was a large oak tree, supposedly hundreds of years old.  People couldn’t sit under it for shade as it was fenced off due to its historical importance, so most just walked by never reading the plaque that explained the tree’s significance.  It was some legend about a desperate hero on the run who, starving and thirsty, rested under the tree.  When he awoke he found fruit all around, even an oak tree would drop acorns and it wasn’t the season for those.  It almost certainly never happened, but even so there were some who believed that a spirit dwelt here who would watch over any who rested under it.  But they’d fenced it off.

Not that Tenley needed protection from some vague tree spirit.  She walked away from it, to the back of the park behind rows of other trees and hedges where it was quieter and few other people were around engaged in dumb, childish games.  Speaking of which…

“Little Queen,” someone said behind her.  Tenley knew they’d been following since she’d stopped to buy juice.

Without looking, she let the air out of her lungs and said, “No.  That isn’t me.”

“Tenley, then,” the voice corrected itself.  “After the link was broken and your friends changed everyone back to how they were, most of them forget everything that had happened.  But I do remember you.”

“Of course.  I’m a very memorable character.”

“You betrayed us!” The voice screamed.  Tenley turned to see another girl lunging with a knife, ginger haired and with a wide chin.  She believed she had seen the girl before.  Clearly she had been another Changeling, but no longer.  Now she was slow, weak, lunging again and again with a wild, determined look in her eyes bulging with hate.  Tenley easily dodged her clumsy blows, dancing around the foe.  She could have finished it in less than a second, but there was no reason to.  This girl had done her no wrong, as far as she knew, although she obviously believed Tenley had wronged her in some way.  They were both confused.

“Stop,” Ten gently suggested, but was ignored.  The girl was already showing signs of exhaustion, but she kept lunging and swinging despite not landing a single hit.  “Stop,” she tried again.  The girl growled, obviously attempting to summon whatever tiny reserves of strength she might have in a desperate attempt to finish it by going for Tenley’s throat.  Tenley let the knife sail by harmlessly and as the girl fell forwards gave her a push.  She landed hard on her head, immediately bursting into tears.

Tenley stood, tightly clenching her fist as the girl wept pitifully.  “I… I warned you to stop,” she said bitterly.  “Why are you doing this?  Titania made you into a slave.  I helped set you free.”

But the girl shook her head.  “There was nothing for me to go back to,” she sniffed.  “My… my family… my parents.  They were all dead.”

“I’m sorry,” Tenley exhaled and unclenched her fist.  She supposed she couldn’t exactly lecture anyone about the folly of seeking revenge, even though she understood it better than most. “But that wasn’t my fault,” she said.  “You’re just going to find yourself hurting a whole lot more if you keep this up.  Just go home.”

The girl stopped crying, getting up to stand eye to eye with Ten.  None of the hatred had gone as she wiped away the tears and Tenley like she was some evil demon.  She then said, “it’s not over,” before finally running off.

Tenley made no effort to go after her.  She just remained perfectly still, a sick feeling in her chest and belly and sudden tightness in her throat.  She wondered if that was her, or had been.  But more importantly she was worried about the girl’s warning.  She very much did not want to have to keep fighting over something that wasn’t even anything to do with her.  Were there others who hated her as well?  Would she have to fight all of them?  She just wanted that part of life to be over.  Maybe it would never be.

After a while she sniffed, sipping the last of the juice from the carton she held.  She supposed Jennifer was right.  She really wasn’t invulnerable.


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