I’ve been meaning to write this post for a week now.
On Monday, November 22, 2021, I won NANOWRIMO 2021! For those of you who don’t NANO, what this means is that on Nov. 1, 2021, I started writing a new novel. The goal is to write 50,000 during the month. I did it on the 22nd! I ended up with 50031 words. It came out to about 132 typed pages on MS Word.
The novel is titled Mages of the Lake. I honestly don’t think I’ll work on it for a while, if ever again. It’s a story that I need to do more world building for. I had a basic idea and ran with it. I’ll need to do some serious thinking before I revisit it. It was still fun to write. And I’ll never say that I won’t finish. You never know.
In January, I’m actually going to start a new book again! I know, I’m crazy!
I learned a lot from this writing process though. I learned what works for me and what details are needed for the types of fantasy stories I like writing.
Anyhow, since I don’t think I’ll ever publish it, I thought I’d at least share it on my blog. It’s rough (be kind). I’m only going to share the first chapter. It’s also unedited (part of the nanowrimo process).
Happy reading and writing today and everyday!
Excerpt from Mages of the Lake
Chapter 1: Time Warped
Melania stopped in her tracks the second she heard the sound. She knew that if she kept moving, there was a good chance she would walk right into a time mage reappearing in this timeline. She also knew that most likely the time mage that would be reappearing near her was her best friend—Jasper.
Jasper often popped in and out of her life. They’d been best friends their whole lives. And even if his family disapproved of her, no one controlled a time mage.
“Hey there, Mel!” Jasper yelled less than two inches from her face.
She winced and turned her head away from him.
“Sorry! Am I yelling?” he asked.
She nodded. Whenever he rejoined the timeline, there were side effects. This time he apparently couldn’t gauge the volume of his voice. In the grand scheme of things, yelling was one of the milder effects he’d suffered from.
Mel hefted her school bag up onto her shoulder. It was slipping due to the sheer number of books she was carrying that day.
“Off to classes?” Jasper whispered.
Mel smiled at him and shook her head. “Yes,” she answered. “Tell me all about your trip later.” She stepped around him and began hurrying once again through the courtyard.
She was going to be late again. She would get in trouble again.
As she crossed the cobblestone courtyard, she couldn’t help but notice there was no one milling about. All the other students were already where they should be—in class.
Mel hated being late. It was a sure-fire way to draw even more unwanted attention to herself. She paused before she pushed open the large wooden doors. Taking a deep breath to calm herself, she stepped in.
“Nice of you to join us,” said Magus Aten. She was standing right inside the doorway.
“Very sorry, Magus,” Mel answered. She kept her head down as she slipped into her seat. The seat that had been her’s since she was five and started attending classes for those mages who still hadn’t discovered their elemental connection. After all these years, she might have found comfort that it was still her’s, but it was part of the constant reminder that she was still without magic. At eleven, she was the oldest child in the class by three years.
Lessons began like they always did. The class stood and recited Lacuston’s motto.
“Mages of fire, water, air, earth, and time dwell here and remain here. Those outside of magic will never belong, and we stay here to protect magic.” The class sat after they finished the two sentences they said every morning.
Magus Aten cleared her throat as she tried to hurry the students into settling. She pushed the end of her long brown braid off her shoulder and straightened the white robes that every air mage wore. Her blue eyes scanned the room as every student sat quietly at their desks. They barely looked to be breathing.
The first day of the new school year was always nerve wracking. Each year began with the students eager to learn and study, but quickly devolved into the students trying to force their magic to choose an element.
“Welcome class. As we begin this school year, let me remind you that we will conduct our monthly tests on the day of the new moon. Do not try to perform the ritual of choosing yourself.” Aten paused and slowly made eye contact with each student. She knew there were still a couple who would try anyway. Last year, a student had badly burned himself by performing the ritual without supervision. His element was clearly fire, but he could have discovered that without permanently scaring himself.
As if on cue, all the students looked towards Mel. Over the last summer, she’d tried ten separate times to complete the ritual of choosing.
“Any student who attempts the ritual without proper permission or supervision, will need to go before the Elders. Their punishment will be decided at the time, but Elder Tempus said that banishment is a possibility. Especially if the student is a repeat offender.” This entire speech was directed at Mel.
Mel stared at her desk, but she felt every word cut her like a knife. Banishment! They wouldn’t. She couldn’t believe they would even threaten that. No one left Lacuston. They were barely allowed outside the walls.
As lessons droned on, Mel recited them almost word for word in her head. She’d heard these same lessons every year for six years now. She wanted to be a mage. She didn’t even care what element—she just wanted to be a part of the magical world she’d been born in to.
Growing up in the magical city of Lacuston, children were expected to attend lessons together until they claimed a magical element. Most children chose an element that aligned with one of their parents. In Mel’s case, her father was an earth mage and her mother was a fire mage. Most people expected her to follow in her mother’s footsteps because they were similar looking. Both were lithe beings with long orange hair. She even had her mother’s green eyes.
No matter how many times she’d tried though, no element would claim her. She’d literally tried it with all five-earth, air, fire, water, and time. Nothing worked. Magic didn’t want her. She was the only eleven-year-old who wasn’t assigned to an element. Turning eleven over the summer had been terrifying for her.
There was an old law in Lacuston, one that hadn’t need enforcing for many generations. If a mage reached the age of twelve and no element had claimed them, they were banished. They were forced to leave Lacuston. It hadn’t happened it so long that no one knew what would really happen if Mel got to that point.
Over the summer she’d been desperate and had tried every time her parents would let her out of the house. It didn’t matter though. She was doomed at this rate. She slouched in her chair trying to figure out when she could try again.
The last time she’d attempted the ritual, she’d been caught by none other than Elder Tempus. Any of the other elders discovering her would have been bad enough, but Elder Tempus openly disliked her. He discouraged the friendship between her and Jasper, his grandson, because Jasper came from a long line of time mages—the most uncommon element to choose a mage. His was an ancestry of strong, pure mages. Mel was not only from a mixed family, but she was still without her own magic.
As Magus Aten continued the lesson, Mel let her mind wander. She knew the lessons by heart. She’d read every text she could on finding the magic within. She wanted more than anything to be a mage.
Before they were allowed to break for lunch, the students stood once again in unison. This time they chanted, “Ignis, aquas, caelis, terras, tempus. Fire, water, air, earth, time. Magic connects us all.”
The class dispersed over the grass and gardens surrounding the side of the schoolhouse. Many of the children sat in groups of two or three and ate their lunches. Mel sat alone in the shadow of the school.
Twice in one day. That was uncommon for Jasper. He appeared before Mel with a mischievous grin on his face. He looked around for Magus Aten.
“She can’t see us,” said Mel. “Here, have some of my lunch.” She patted the ground next to her.
Jasper often disappeared during lunch time to find Mel. He was supposed to stay with the other time mages, but time mages, even from a young age, pretty much did whatever they wanted. It was hard to control anyone who could flit back and forth throughout their own lifetime. Additionally, most time mages suffered from serious side effects by the time they were even teens.
“Plopped right onto a donkey, he did,” said Jasper as he took the half sandwich Mel offered. He leaned against the cool building and chewed loudly. Jasper was always a good eater. Mel’s parents always over packed her lunch, but she never returned home with leftovers.
“A donkey, huh?” Mel asked. She had no idea what Jasper was talking about. Sometimes when he popped in, his mind took a bit to reset itself.
“What?” he asked.
“Nothing. Did you even go to classes today?”
“Course. I just had something else to do too. You know, chickens are the worst.” He finished the sandwich and looked over to see if Mel had anything else to eat.
She handed him an apple without even asking what he was going on about. She waited for a few more minutes. He’d be back with it soon. Food usually helped.
“Thanks for the food,” he said.
“You’re welcome. Where have you been going lately?”
“I can’t really talk about it.” He closed his eyes and leaned back like he was going to nap.
Mel poked him. “Hey. No sleeping. Tell me something.”
“Fine. Fine. You have sharp fingers.” He batted her hand away. “I went to my future. There is something important we are doing there.”
“We?” Mel asked. He didn’t usually mention anyone that he saw in the future.
“I’ve said too much. You know better than to ask me things?” Jasper snored.
Mel shook him. “What’s with you today? You’re weirder than normal.”
“Too many trips. So tired.” He let out a loud single snore.
Mel shrugged. She wasn’t sure what he was going through, but she would let him sleep for as long as she could. He was not only her best friend, but he was also her only friend. He’d actually helped her with her last few attempts at the choosing ritual. As a time mage, he could teleport, so he always managed to disappear before they got in trouble. She didn’t hold it against him. If she could teleport, she would too.
She watched the other kids playing. She wanted magic more than anything, but if she was being honest, what she really wanted more than anything was to fit in. Everyone treated her like she didn’t belong. Even her parents were starting to be part of the “hating Mel party.”
No one was rooting for her to find her magic—no one except for Jasper. She wasn’t enjoying being back in school but seeing Jasper and hearing about the two of them in the future, even if it was vague, made her feel a little better about the day.
The rest of the class was eating their lunches in their little friend groups. In their brown school robes, they were either eating and chatting or some of them, having finished eating, were playing a game of tag. Jasper, in his grey robe, was clearly out of place.
Mel elbowed Jasper trying to wake him.
“Jasper,” she hissed. “You need to wake up. I’m going back inside.”
She’d just seen three classmates in a group headed in her direction. Most of her classmates ignored her, but the three glaring at her made it their mission to torment her. The three of them—Connie, Trevor, and Ashley—were bullies. Connie, only six, was the worst of the three. She was saccharine sweet in front of adults, but the moment only children were around, she was beyond rude.
She insulted everyone. Her favorite past time, other than bossing around her two friends, was pestering Mel.
“Jasper. Jasper!” Mel shoved him.
He hit the ground and opened his eyes. “What’s going on?” he asked. He rubbed his eyes and tried to sit up.
Mel kicked him. Then because he just wasn’t getting the message, she grabbed him and tried to pull him to his feet. Jasper wasn’t a light weight though and she barely moved him. All she succeeded in doing was pinching him a bit.
“Ouch!” he said. “Stop hurting me.” He got to his feet.
“Come on. Look!” Mel pointed over her shoulder without looking.
Jasper peeked around her. “Right. Let’s go.”
They rushed away without actually breaking into a jog. They didn’t want to draw the attention of the other students. Connie loved an audience; it would only make her worse.
Rounding the corner of the schoolhouse, they smacked into Magus Aten. Jasper was in the lead so at least Mel was spared the berating she would have gotten if she’d been the one to actually hit the magus.
“What are you doing here Jasper?” the magus asked. She crossed her arms over her chest and glared at Jasper. She was the only person brave enough to scold a time mage.
“Just dropped by for lunch,” Jasper answered. “Bye Mel!” He waved as he teleported away.
The magus didn’t say anything. She just kept glaring at Mel.
“Sorry, Magus. I’m going to go to my seat and read now.” Mel didn’t look up or make eye contact She scurried past the magus and kept her eyes glued firmly on the ground.
Back in her seat, she pulled out her primer. She read the passages on how the elements could be manipulated. She spent the longest studying and re-reading the pages on fire magic. She wanted to be a mage more than anything. She would settle for any element at this point.
She slammed the book shut. She was going to retry the ritual of choosing again. And this time she was going to try for fire. She figured she had the best chance with it since her mother was a fire mage.
She would try alone this time. She didn’t need Jasper, plus she didn’t want to risk getting him in trouble.
She would wait for the next holiday. Every holiday, the town would be distracted and attending whatever festival it was the season for. It was the perfect time to sneak into the ritual courtyard. No one would even know.
And if somehow this time she managed to claim an element, she was sure everyone would be happy for her. They would understand why she had to keep trying. She only had a year left.
“How was school today?” Mel’s father asked when she came in the door.
She shrugged and threw her bag on the floor in the foyer. “Same as every year.” She slumped on the couch next to her dad. “Where’s mom?” she asked.
“Running some errands.” He didn’t look up from the newspaper.
They sat there in silence for a few minutes. Mel feeling exasperated and frustrated couldn’t take the silence anymore.
“Magus Aten said that if anyone attempts a ritual of choosing without supervision, they could be banished.” She looked at her dad hoping for a reaction, but he didn’t even stop reading.
“Dad, you’re not even listening to me.” She pulled the paper down in the middle forcing him to look at her.
“What?” he asked.
“Did you hear what I said about being banished?”
“Who’s banished?” Her dad fluffed the paper returning it to its normal shape but folded it up so he could pay attention to Mel.
“No one got banished. Magus Aten said students could be banished for trying the ritual on their own.” She searched her dad’s face for the shock that she felt. She didn’t find any shock or surprise. “You knew?”
“The thing is Mel,” he tried to be kind, but he didn’t know what to say to her. “Completing the ritual on your own is dangerous, even if it works, you can be badly hurt in the process. It’s best to wait for the official dates.”
“But I can’t wait.” She threw her body dramatically on the floor doing her best to mime a defeated being.
Her dad rolled his eyes and nudged her with his foot. “Don’t be so melodramatic. Get off the floor.”
She felt a slight breeze as the front door opened. Her mother came into the living room carrying cloth bags of groceries. Mel looked up from the floor to make sure that her mother saw her current condition. She planned on being dramatic and trying to get attention from her mother, but she changed her mind when she saw her mother.
Her mother had a bandage on her hand. Her entire right hand from fingertips to elbow was wrapped.
“What happened to you?” asked Mel.
“The fire got away from me today,” her mother said and then went into the kitchen to put things away.
Mel got off the floor and without being told helped her mother put things away.
“How was school?” asked her mother.
“Don’t ask,” her father answered, joining them in the kitchen. “I asked and she ended up demonstrating how to be a bear rug on the living room floor.”
Mel rolled her eyes as she continued putting things away.
When everything was where it should be, Mel excused herself to go outside while her parents made dinner.
As the door slammed behind her, her mother let out a sigh and leaned against the counter.
“You okay?” asked her husband.
“What are we going to do, Arjan?” her mother asked blinking tears out of her eyes.
“Hey, don’t be so worried, Kalinda. She will discover her magic.” He wrapped his arms around his wife and held her gently. “She has to,” he whispered.
“But what will we do if she doesn’t?”
“I don’t know,” he answered still holding her in his arms.
She pushed him away. “Don’t give me that. She is eleven. This year is her last year. If she doesn’t…” Kalinda shook her head. She couldn’t even complete the thought; it was too painful.
“I’m not trying to be dismissive. It’s just that no one has been cast out of Lacuston in hundreds of years. Our daughter will find her magic. I believe it. You need to believe it too.” He studied his wife. In the last year, she hardly smiled anymore. She was worried. He knew why; he was worried too. What parent wouldn’t be at this point?
Outside, the sun was shining, and a slight breeze moved the air peacefully through town. Mel stopped and put her face in the air, letting the air fill her lungs.
Lacuston was the only city on the island surrounded by Lake Circumio. The lake was enormous. And since the mages of Lacuston never left their town, they never truly appreciated the beauty of the lake. Their city was self-sufficient for the most part, and what they couldn’t grow or raise on their own, they imported through a nearby harbor town, Navalia.
It was forbidden to go outside the city walls, and only the mages who worked in Navalia were allowed there. Mel never understood why, but it was absolutely forbidden for any of the children to go to Navalia.
Of course, Mel’s favorite place in the whole of Lacuston was atop one of the wall sections that was no longer patrolled. At one point in time, the walls must have fully surrounded the town, but over time and through neglect, there were sections that were completely gone. The sections that remained were patrolled, but there was one section that faced to the west and was perfect for viewing the sunset. It wasn’t patrolled because it wasn’t that wide, and it was disconnected from the rest of the wall.
Mel made her way through town to the wall. Before she began climbing, she searched around to make sure no one was nearby. There wasn’t usually anyone in this area because this part of the wall bordered a large unkept garden, but now more than ever, she decided to err on the side of caution.
She used the stones to gain access to a tree that grew towards the wall. She reached a branch that stretched out to the wall and shimmied her way along it till her feet could swing around and step down.
Once on the wall, she crawled under the branches and past the leaves until she was on the other side of them, completely out of the view of anyone in town. From her current position, the only people who could see her would have to be breaking the rules too.
Jasper sat down next to her. “Got any snacks?” he asked.
“That’s okay. You’re not going to believe what happened to me after lunch.”
They sat with their legs dangling over the side of the wall facing the forest. On this side of the town, the trees were too thick to see the lake, but they could still smell the water on the breeze.
“Tell me everything.” Mel pulled her legs up so she could sit with her legs folded in front of her.
“I got yelled at,” said Jasper smugly.
“Why do you seem happy about it?” she asked.
“I got yelled at by Elder Aquas.” As he spoke, he wiggled his eyebrows up and down.
Mel rolled her eyes. Jasper had a crush on Elder Aquas. Most men and a fair number of women thought Elder Aquas was gorgeous. She was thin and tall, with long legs. She wore her long curly hair down and wild. She had perfect almond skin. Like all water mages, she wore blue. However, unlike the other elders, she didn’t opt for robes. As the youngest of the town’s elders, she opted for a more contemporary wardrobe. She usually wore sundresses in various shades of blue made of sheer ethereal materials.
“She was standing this close to me,” Jasper added holding his hand a few inches from his face. He let out a deep sigh.
“She’s old enough to be your mother, weirdo,” Mel said.
Jasper sighed again. “She’s so pretty.”
Mel rolled her eyes again. “Please stop. You and every other man in town need to stop flirting with her. Besides, she’s an elder. She’s so powerful she could think you into oblivion.”
“No way. I’m a time mage.” He got to his feet and put his hands on his hips doing his best superhero pose.
“Why is my only friend such a complete crazy person?” Mel asked the universe.
Jasper’s face clouded over. “Speaking of which. Did I say anything to you today that was particularly strange, even for me?”
“Nothing like you haven’t said before,” she lied. She knew he let something slip earlier. She also knew he could get in trouble for discussing the future with a non-time mage. If his grandfather, Elder Tempus, found out, he’d be furious.
“That’s good,” he said sounding relieved. “How was school today?”
“I’m seriously going to hurt the next person who asks me that.” Mel gathered little pebbles from around where she was sitting and tried stacking them. Her piles never got more than a few high, but she kept at it.
“Sorry. Your parents are worried, huh?”
“Yeah. I guess.” She kicked the pebbles as she got to her feet. “I don’t know. Sometimes they act like they don’t even care about what’s happening to me.”
“What’s happening to you?” Jasper asked.
“Nothing, and that’s the problem.” Mel took a couple of steps away from him, getting nearer to the edge. “Maybe I should just climb down this other side now and banish myself before they get around to it.”
Jasper snorted. “You’re so dramatic. You’ll find your magic.”
Mel eyed her friend suspiciously. Maybe he knew something he wasn’t saying. Maybe he’d seen something in their future. He couldn’t tell her, but if he seemed confident, then she might still have a chance.
As the sun was setting, they climbed down the wall. They never risked being up there at night. The animal sounds from the woods made them nervous enough during the day.
As they dropped off the tree, the few moments of joy they had from being on the wall were stolen from them. Waiting in the garden with a very annoyed look on their faces was Elder Tempus and Elder Aquas.