Lieutenant Junior Grade’s Log, Entry 12: Excerpt from Within the Ironwood

Lieutenant Junior Grade’s Log, Entry 12: Excerpt from Within the Ironwood

It’s Monday again already? I’ll admit that I almost forgot about today’s post… It’s been quite the hectic week. Two Thanksgivings, painting a hallway, catching up on NaNoWriMo…you get the drift.

Today’s post is brief but enjoyable–a sneak peek at my NaNovel, Within the Ironwood!

This excerpt is from a point a few chapters into the story. Please note that this is a raw, unedited snippet that may change before the final draft.

Within the Ironwood — Excerpt

She’d walked for hours. Long enough for blisters to gather on her feet, for rocks to scuff and tear her slippers that had never been made for walking in the woods, for her stomach to begin to growl from hunger, then stop, then start again.

Another flash of lightning—they always made her jump. Branwen squinted in the light and sought for any sign of potential shelter. Nothing. All she could see were trees, stretching on in every direction like tall, dark sentinels of the night. Then they vanished, only to reappear again in another lightning streak. The storm was directly over them, every rumble of thunder thumping against Branwen’s chest.

“Chirp.” The little mech-sparrow fluttered his wings, sending droplets of water splattering against her cheek. “Chirp.” He had been growing more agitated for the past hour.

“You won’t rust,” Branwen assured him. “We’ll get you dried off… If we can ever find a place to build a fire. And the right materials for one.” She flinched at a crack of thunder. Theoretically, she knew how to build a fire, but she’d never had to do it in a rainstorm with no flint and steel on hand. “Maybe the lightning will start one for us.” The joke fell flat on her quavering voice. Ironwood didn’t burn, and even if it did, forest fires were dangerous.

“Chirrrrp.” Aeden pecked her ear.

“Ow!” Branwen jerked away. Only the sparrow’s claws digging into her dress kept him on her shoulder. “No! Bad bird.”

Lightning flashed again, and she looked around, too weary to keep going. Maybe she could just curl up against a tree and sleep—trees were a safe place to shelter during a thunderstorm, right? She couldn’t remember. Her father had insisted she be taught wilderness survival when she was young, but as she grew older, too many other necessary subjects like etiquette and dancing crowded out those lessons.

…her father. The memory scorched her mind like a lightning bolt, setting fire to every hope and dream. His body, lying there… Clarinda’s look of triumph… Her workshop, her life, torn to shreds like her dress.

Choking back a sob, Branwen took another stride forward. “I can’t freeze to death out here. I can’t.”

Three bolts of lightning shot across the sky in almost perfect unison, nearly blinding her despite the veil provided by the ironwood’s thick canopy of leaves. Blinking away the black streaks the light had left, Branwen rubbed her hands together. The wind was picking up, blowing rain into her face and chilling her further. “We have to find shelter, Aeden.” She took a deep breath, then stopped. Was that…smoke?

When the next streak of lightning came, Branwen was ready, her eyes shielded with one hand as she peered through the trees in every direction. It took a few flickers of light to catch sight of her quarry, but there it was.

A house, more a cottage really, given its size, sat nestled among the trees. The wind had carried a faint whiff of the gray smoke rising from the cottage’s stone chimney.

“A fire!” Branwen darted forward, fresh energy surging through her limbs now that shelter, real shelter, was in sight.

It was a small cottage, built of thick stone, with round windows and a door that only reached Branwen’s chin in height. Odd, but it didn’t matter to her. Her knuckles rapped on the wood until she was certain they’d be bruised.

No one came.

“Hello?” she called, continuing to knock. Maybe they couldn’t hear her over the storm. “Is anyone home?”

Still no answer. Branwen hesitated, then peeked through one of the windows. There was a fire burning quietly in the hearth, casting just enough light to see that there was no one inside. At least downstairs—a staircase spoke of a second floor squeezed into the short height of the cottage.

She couldn’t bear to wait any longer. Whoever lived here, surely they wouldn’t mind her borrowing a little warmth from their fire. Branwen tested the door and found it unlocked. She walked in, closing the door firmly behind her.

I hope you enjoyed the excerpt! I’ll be sharing more in the future as the story continues to develop. This is, however, the final scheduled post of the month, so I hope you have a wonderful week and I’ll see you in December!