This chapter was written yesterday, along with two others. Today I wrote four more, two immediately following this, but as with the last YA story I tried to write, I couldn’t figure out what to do after the 8k point. Last time, I just abandoned the story. This time I’m just gonna skip to the third act and start writing. Anyway, I wrote the first two chapters of the third act, getting my daily up to 4k and the weekend up to 10k. I’m rewarding myself by sharing these 1000 words with you all:
SHIELD: THE PRESENT
Shield advanced on the young woman with the strange skin. He kept stealing glances up, toward the Menace. It confounded him that she seemed unaware of it. As the Light of Joy faded, the Menace grew stronger. His sense of the young woman was fragmented at best. He had trained to be mindful of the thoughts and feelings of others. He seemed to have developed an extra sense – he could tell when someone was scared or lying.
This girl, though… She wavered between confident and scared. Visible and invisible. At times she was and was not there. For a young man that prided himself of knowing the width and breadth of his world, this anomaly needed further inspection. It also afforded him more time with the Light of Joy.
He wouldn’t admit it to anyone, not even the Don of Shields, but the bravery displayed by a girl of only seventeen shamed him. To give up her life, was so profound, but for only a reprieve of five years?
Shield was fearless. Well, fearless as a sliding scale. The Don of Shield could still frighten him, but that was nothing to be ashamed of. He frightened everyone. Shield strove to overcome that fear, but the grizzled Don elevated himself to a new level.
And that level birthed a lapse in judgment that doomed them all…
What is she doing? Shield stared dumbfounded as the girl stopped at a downed pillar. She stood on her toes and reached. That she had walked at all confounded him. He did it from time to time, but usually it was a ploy of some kind to confuse his enemies.
Shield looked away from the girl and ran his fingers over the raised green markings on his abdomen. Not only did he have to refine his own dye, he had to procure the spine and create his own tattoo. You couldn’t just find the spine of a puffer fish. No one could give you one. You had to…
Good girl, he thought as the young woman jumped over the pillar. That it had taken her so long to do something that the youngest child knew was just another addition that was the mystery of this intruder.
He smiled as she leapt and kicked her legs performing a sloppy barrel roll. She was lumbering at first, unsure of her actions, but she performed the maneuvers like she had simply forgotten how to swim. It was coming back to her. She kicked and contorted her body to maximize thrust. He marveled at the twin trails of bubbles as she even pushed air out of her nose to aid in acceleration.
Another trick he had used many, many times in the service of his city. He never forgot how useful it was the day he was accepted as a Shield. That this girl knew of, and used the ancient arts was amazing.
He followed her from above as she swam directly toward the great spire. They got closer and closer to the great arch and he felt light-headed. His brain was fathoms above them, but… Menace. He knew they would swim past the arch, and the influence from the Light of Joy would diminish.
Damn it! he thought, why is she stopping?
He felt Joy pressing on his eyes and ears. It felt as if his gills were frozen – clogged with algae. The girl seemed torn at what direction to go. Her momentum was still carrying her towards the spire, but she twisted and changed her direction. She was heading to the great arch. That she could withstand the light was… well… he couldn’t seem to think straight. What does it mean? Who is she?
Shield paused himself as she swam away. If he swam higher, he could withstand the light, but it would mean moving toward Menace. Even if that didn’t bother him, he would have to cover more distance. Distance that he knew- he knew that he couldn’t afford. Despite the increasing pressure, he swam after the girl.
He was fighting the tide. Waves of light and joy pushed him away. Each kick granted him the tiniest of flow.
Ebb and Flow. Back and forth.
He was haunted by the memories of that day. Only a year ago… Back then he was a happy Shield. He knew his place in the world. He could feel the Lunar tides and they drove him. They… He pushed the thoughts away as if he kicked off a stone pillar.
He squeezed his eyes shut against the pain, and tried to regulate his thundering heart. Kicking like a madman trapped in quicksilt. The more he struggled, the more it affected him. He had been closer to Joy before, why did it affect him this way? She was more powerful, then. More joyful. He could see her blinding brilliance, even with his eyes closed.
It’s her, the thought struck him like a punch from an electric eel. The closer she got, the more he felt her. But not just her, he felt the girl as well. She was Joy. A new Joy.
It didn’t make sense. Why was she here? Did she not know the danger she put them all in? Or, did she know and not care? Menace… the pull of Menace was infantile. It was of no consequence. But joy and light compounded, folding on itself reflecting from one Joy to the next.
He was feeling their feedback. His eyes snapped open and he was horrified by what he saw. The girl circled Joy once, twice, and floated within reach. He may no longer be of his people, but he could not let this happen.
Kick after painful kick brought him closer. Closer to the Light of Joy. Closer to the new Joy. Closer to annihilation. He willed his voice, pushing with his entire being. He now had a single purpose: stopping the end of the world. He had to stop the girl before she killed every living thing.
She spun and he lost consciousness. He floated in the eternal tide, unable to do anything.
Next: Path and Fruition