Tytan’s origin story here! For those who have read the Bazaar, I’m sure you remember Tytan. How could you not? He’s one of my favorite characters, to be sure, and one of my main character’s biggest–and sexiest–headaches. I thought it would be fun to share my work in progress about Ty’s parents. But first, let me give you a little background.
Wherein the writer beings to pontificate about her writing process …
As a writer, I’m one who just starts writing and sees where the story carries me. Whenever I get a wild hair to plot out a tale, I invariably lose interest. The journey, it seems, is better for me than worrying about my destination. As such, I didn’t really know anything about Ty until he revealed himself to me as I wrote
The Bazaar started as a dream about a handsome man selling sugar, an eerie bazaar full of chained humans and magical objects, and a desperate witch who deposited a heart into my (as the dreamer) pocket and fled. The story became one I had to write when a monster broke down the witch’s door and revealed itself to be a spider peeling a human open from the inside out, emerging to kill the witch and take the heart.
I’m telling you this because, once more, I’ve had a dream that had all the makings of an epic story. I didn’t know where that story would fit or who it would be about until I got halfway through my third book in the Devany Miller series. (Of which The Bazaar is book one and Slip Song is book two.) A new character made Herself known in a big way and I had an EPIPHANY. (It’s in all caps because it was an awesome epiphany, at least to me.)
To make a long story short, I realized I’d dreamt Tytan’s origin story, or to be more specific, the tale of how his mother and father met. Yes, it surprised me too that he had a mother and father. He wasn’t supposed to have either. (By the way, the dream totally starred Jonathan Rhys Meyers. Um, yum!) To tell more would be to reveal too much about book three. But I wanted to share with you my work in progress, which is the first part of his parents’ tale. I’m sharing because it makes me happy and I hope that it makes you happy too.
Tytan’s Origin story–Chapter One
Sparks danced in the sky above the fire as the men played the drums. The dull thump of bare feet on hard-packed clay filled the spaces between beats. Dancers twirled about the fire, the hollowed, dried reeds sewn to their clothes clacking as they moved. Sage, thyme, and the sharp, sweet tang of Vision Root wafted upward with the smoke, taking those present into the shifting place between the Real and the Dream.
Sephony danced with the warriors, her eyes half-shut, her brown hair swaying with the beat that had settled deep inside her belly, where a babe would perhaps nestle one day, the cradle of creation the First Clan elders claimed.
A woman’s voice, warbly and pitched high, sung out the charm of safe passing and the wild magic danced across Sephony’s skin, prickling, itching. A flute joined the singer, adding its haunting melody to the mix, stirring the spell higher. Still Sephony danced, her feet moving automatically in the steps of one going off to war. “Why this dance?” she’d asked her father earlier that day. It was supposed to be a peace party and yet here they were, weaving the fabric of battle and blood.
“They are witches,” he’d said, as if that held all the answers and she supposed for him it had. Witches were bad, the People were good, and there was no in between.
“What your father is trying to say,” her mother had offered, braiding her hair for the ceremony, “is that the witch king is untried, newly crowned, and therefore not worthy of our trust.”
Sephony moved her hands in the gestures of her People, guiding the power around her into her muscles, fashioning protection from its strands of yellow and red that she could see out of the corners of her eyes. It wasn’t something most of her kind could do, see magics. Odder still that she could see the colors when side vision always showed black, white, and greys.
Around her, she felt the warriors create their own protections, each unique, sparking colors in every shade under the sun. The scent of Vision Root grew stronger and Sephony’s mind swirled in her skull. Surely it was too much. She didn’t want to pass out from the fumes; she only wanted to be open and receptive to the visions, should they come. The ceremony wasn’t to cause Dreaming, it was to bond the band of warriors together, to protect them, to ensure safe battles and true strikes of sword, knife, and arrow.
The word rang out in harsh notes, cutting through the haze created by the herbs cast into the fire. The beat faltered then stopped. The notes of the Song Weaver trailed off, the wild magic slithering into Sephonys’s skin with a slimy, unfinished feel, though the flute played on. In the broken silence and without the drums, it sounded eerie and prophetic.
The circle around the dancers parted, revealing a rotund woman with hollowed cheeks and frizzed white hair. She wore the thick, black claws of a shifter around her neck and a dirty red gown decorated with the purple-black shells from the coast. “Traitor.” Her eyes, as dark as the shells and the claws, looked over the warriors, arrested around the fire. “One of you will betray the daughter of the First Clan.”
Voices erupted into protests, both angry and worried. Sweat trickled down Sephony’s chest and belly, a different tickle from the magic. She glanced over at her shield brothers and sisters, who looked both puzzled and pissed at the interruption. Her mother came forward, the small blue berries around her neck bouncing in time with her steps. “Dream Mother, we are honored that you visit us from your seclusion.”
The old woman inclined her head.
The flute still played. The sound of it set Sephony on edge, though she wasn’t sure why. To her left, the fire crackled and spat sparks. Further out in the darkness, a big cat screamed—it might have been one of their People, trapped in his or her animal form—or it might have been an animal True. The Wilds were a tricksy place to dwell.
“May we offer you succor?” Her mother’s words were formal and gentle, no hint of impatience at the older woman’s timing showing in them.
“I did not come for banalities, of this you may be sure. I came because the Dreams compelled me. I came to warn you. Do you go to treat with the witch king,” and these words she spat as Sephony’s father often did, “then one of these fine warriors will turn against our daughter and sell our independence to our enemies.”
Sephony slid a look at Markhelm beside her, his big, burly body covered in tattoos similar to her own, though she didn’t have as many as he had. He didn’t look guilty or shifty-eyed the way she imagined a traitor might. As she expanded her observation, her shield brothers and sisters had pulled closer together, protecting each other as they should. Their band was one of four in the First Clan, and the newest. They’d only been sworn to each other for a half-year’s turn but they’d spent every waking hour with each other and moved like a single entity.
“This treat has been blessed by Olebia herself.” Her father, his booming voice carrying over the murmuring crowd, over the fire, over the flute that continued to play its maddening notes. He had been in sweat, his burnished brown skin shimmering in the moon and fire light. “We do not need nor want the ravings of a banished Dream Mother.”
A small gasp of horror from her mother, quickly stifled. Markhelm leaned in close to Sephony and whispered, “Your father has a sack the size of a dew melon.”
Sephony jabbed him in his solid stomach with her elbow, not that it did any good. He didn’t even huff out a breath and she told herself to be grateful that she had such a tough brother.
“Your impertinence does not harm me but does your reputation a great disservice. I came from afar to bring this news, unwelcome though it may be. I see that First Clan is ruled by a blind man and our fate has already been sealed.” She turned to the assembled warriors, her eyes picking out each in turn.
Sephony felt the force of her gaze like a punch to the gut. A Dream in a glance, she thought. Then the eyes went on to pin Markhelm, then Roselle, then Ragnar. When the old woman had marked each of them, she turned with the slow dignity of an elder and left the ceremonial circle without another word.
The flute played on.
Sephony saw the muscles in her mother’s jaw jump and bunch and knew her father would be in for a tongue lashing, if not a blood challenge. Her mother was a warrior and a good one, her beast one of the great snakes that lived in the fleshcrawler swamps. Her father was a hyena and vicious, but Walya had more raw power than her husband and they both knew it.
A drum started up again, the sound coaxing. Sephony’s body moved of its own accord, swaying as the beat was taken up by more drummers until the night air was filled with the heartbeat of their People. She didn’t continue the dance, however, until Markhelm took her arm and spun her away from the sight of her parents staring hard at one another.
Though the wild magic built again, the spell had been warped from true and Sephony hoped that their war party in dance did not become war party for real. She didn’t want to lose the people she’d grown so fond of in the last months, those who had sworn to give their lives for her and to whom she’d sworn her everlasting loyalty.
They danced late into the night, until the fire returned to the darkness and banked embers glowed fitfully in the dawn light.
Markhelm stamped once then yawned, his mouth cracking open wide as he stretched toward the light on the horizon. Sephony’s eyes felt like they’d been rubbed with sand. She slipped her arm around Danicha, lifting the petite woman from the ground near the drummers where she’d fallen, exhausted about an hour ago. “To sweat,” she told her and Danicha groaned.
It was the last of the several days of ritual cleansing and ceremonies. One last sweat, to give their minds and bodies to each other and the Dreams, then they would sleep. In two days time, the band would set off for their parlay with the witch king.
“Betrayal!” The word echoed in Sephony’s tired mind as she and Danicha made their way to the lodge where her father had kept vigil all night—but for the old woman’s interruption. It had to be a mistake. None of her brothers or sisters would commit such an atrocity. She couldn’t imagine it.
There were twelve of them in all, each bound and sworn by blood to the other. Each wearing a mark depicting the shift-animals of every member of their party. Those markings decorated Sephony’s arms, giving her skin a glow in direct sun that she found beautiful. As daughter of First Clan’s leaders, she’d had to use gold, though most of the others had gone for the blue of iron. Danicha had chosen red. “I’m so small, Seph,” she’d said, as the elder tapped a design into her flesh, “I need all the advantage I can get. If this makes me look scarier, covered in what looks like blood, I’ll take it.”
Sephony helped Danicha to the falls, a small spill of water off the far Western side of the Dream Caves. They washed off the smoke and sweat from the dance, stripping to their skin before crawling into the lodge that sat in the ground. The top was covered with reeds bound together with lengths of braided grasses, warded to keep off the rain and make the grasses last longer. The interior was dark and close, muggy with steam and filled with the tart smell of citrus. Sephony could make out the bright pink peelings in the fire and was glad there would be no more Dreaming.
She was honored to be allowed to walk in the world beyond the Real but it always gave her a headache and made her feel like she was slipping from her skin. She couldn’t imagine being an elder or worse, the Dream Mother, to walk in Dreams at least once a day. The clay floor was smooth against her naked flesh and familiar. Warriors sweated together at the end of every week. Her father said it helped remove from their bodies the small and petty things that would keep them from living, breathing, thinking, and feeling as one. Though she wasn’t a warrior, she’d trained with them from the first day.
Her brothers and sister had gone through the same with their shield brothers and sisters, each child given a group to protect them. They were valuable, able to anchor the People during their first change or whenever stress, injury, or duress caused the wild magic to warp them from True. Anchors held the clan together and kept insanity at bay. Though many of the People could anchor a little, it was Sephony’s family who had the power to ground the entire village. It kept First Clan strong and held back the wild magic that ever beat at the wards around their town.
Her father sat across from her, his eyes shut, shadows dancing over his face. He wasn’t a large man, not really, though she knew surprise every time she saw him dwarfed by Markhelm’s bulk. He was a big man in her mind, as Walya, her mother was intelligent and powerful. She hoped to have one tenth the abilities of her parents and often feared she would let them both down.
The sweat lasted half the day. By then, Sephony was almost faint with hunger. She and Danicha held each other up as they made their way back to their barracks, to eat with drooping lids before falling into their beds, exhausted. Before she slid into oblivion, Sephony caught herself remembering the old woman’s eyes as they had stared. What had she seen when she looked into Sephony’s own?
“Traitor!” The ring of the banished Dream Mother’s voice rode her into sleep.