Guess what I’m sharing with you guys todaaay? (Because I know the title of the post and big graphic above doesn’t give any thing away. I’m always so mysterious.) You can’t guess, right? Then I’ll tell you…
THE NETHER ISLE SNIPPETS!
*gasp* Such a surprise!
Okay but you sweet, precious beans were actually asking for snippets from my messy monster of a NaNo novel. WHICH THRILLS ME AND MAKES ME FEEL SO HONORED AND LIKE WHAT AM I GOING TO DO WITH ALL OF YOU AND YOUR NICENESS????
I was a little worried I wouldn’t be able to find anything presentable to share, but after scouring through the document I found quite a few that hooopefully won’t burn your beautiful eyeballs out. Just do remember this is all first draft-y things. But all that aside, I do hope you enjoy getting a peek into the thing that took over my brain for all of November.
Quick note, the whole thing was written in Karis’ POV, so all narration is from inside her head. And I feel like all the best parts are major spoilery and I couldn’t share them so…yeah. Hopefully these will still be entertaining!
ALL RIGHT. LET’S GET TO IT.
THE NETHER ISLE SNIPPETS
Karis stepped to the back of her cage, pressing herself against the hard bars. When would they arrive on the Isle? It seemed like it had been at least two hours since they had left the High City. The hangar sat empty and dark, no windows in sight. Which was awfully rude. The least they could do was let the prisoners get one glimpse of freedom before dumping them on the Isle. She had always dreamed of flying out across the ocean, the wind in her hair, the rippling water a blue blur below. Her first and—she had to face it—last time to fly and she couldn’t even see anything. The only indication that they were moving at all was the steady whir of the small airship’s steam engine. Its vibrations tingled under her black boots, sending goosebumps across her flesh.
This was really happening. They were getting closer and closer to the Isle and her last days, or maybe even day, lay ahead. She’d never see her family again…
Trying not to think such thoughts, she cut her eyes back over to the brutish prisoner. His meaty fists clung to the bars of his cage. A ring that appeared to be a green and black snake twisted around his right forefinger. What was that? Some sort of gang symbol? Or maybe he was an assassin and had spent his life slaughtering hundreds of people. Really, the horrific possibilities were endless. But the High City wouldn’t have to worry about him now, whatever he did. That was the purpose of the Nether Isle after all, a place to dump the worst of criminals, criminals whose deeds were so heinous they were deemed too dangerous to even be put in prison.
And that’s where Karis was being taken.
She supposed it could be worse. She wasn’t sure how but she’d try to come up with something positive.
~ ~ ~
Karis blinked, and blinked again. But making her eyelids go up and down really didn’t seem to affect her circumstance. It did at least clear her head enough to focus on what stood before her. She pushed to a stand and cocked her head at the thing. It almost looked like a doorway but with no door and no wall. Just a rectangular archway shaped out of some sort of thin bronze tubes twisted around each other. Lattice had overgrown around it. Through the doorway, lay an overgrown forest much like the one she had been in. But it looked different, and she hadn’t fallen that far. She merely tripped on something and fell over. Or…through something.
A crazy idea popped in her head, but it made sense, even though it didn’t make any kind of sense. But if nothing made sense, than the nonsensical thing was the answer, right?
With this established, she pushed her hand through the archway. Her hand disappeared. She could still feel it, still wriggle her fingers, but she couldn’t see it. It merely cut off past her wrist. She pulled her hand back through and it appeared again, whole and visible.
A giggle bubbled from her lips. The nonsensical was in fact the only thing that made sense. If vines could come alive, why not have empty doorways that took you from one spot to an entirely different spot?
~ ~ ~
“You don’t belong here.”
Karis sucked in a sharp gasp. That was a voice. A whispering, very, very creepy female voice coming from…nowhere. Everywhere? She darted her eyes across the area but not a soul was in sight.
Please, please, please let this all just be my imagination.
She’d honestly rather be losing her mind than that voice be an actual thing. Her imagination didn’t scare her…most of the time.
“You cannot be here. You will die.”
Nope. Not her imagination!
~ ~ ~
She stood atop a wide set of cracking stone steps that descended into a town. Well, what was once a town, but now overgrown and crumbling. And yet, ruinous or not, it was the most wondrous place she had ever laid eyes on. Buildings were built up on tall cliffs that stood to the far sides. Some were tall much like her own townhouse back home, others stood small and round. Lots of the buildings spread out on the surface level were huge, obviously serving as more than just houses. There were two levels, wide bridges connected the two split levels built against the cliffs. Down below, where she stood, a river about ten feet wide snaked its way down the center of town, with bridges placed intermittently across it as well. Vines and moss and even a few trees had overrun the town. Entangled in vines against the cliff sides, hung a few airships of varying sizes. The streets, though cracking, were paved in smooth stone.
This was once a thriving town. And the most peculiar town Karis had ever known to exist. Except she hadn’t know it existed until now.
How was there a town on the Nether Isle?
Wasn’t the Nether Isle simply an island off the coast of Ilderwind that the council sent prisoners to? She had always believed it was some sort of wild rain forest area with savage beasts and large spiders or something. Not a place with living vines and killer butterfly-flower petals and a thriving town and archways that made people appear in different places on the Isle.
~ ~ ~
She studied the camera again, looking at the dials with new eyes. One appeared to be a clock and another had numbers around it, starting at one and counting around to three hundred sixty-five. Another one also had numbers but only to one hundred. The word present sat next to the one on that dial. Realization began to dawn.
Her fingers trembled with excitement as she twisted the tiny arrow on the dial to point at present. Then she held up the camera and snapped. The photograph slid out and on it she saw what she expected, hoped, to see. The room in its current state, it’s present state.
She held up the other photos with the men. What laid before her was past events, it had to be. Which meant… She couldn’t help it, she squealed in excitement.
The camera took pictures of the past.
~ ~ ~
Even in the dimness it was apparent how haggard she appeared. Flyaway hair with leaves caught in it, dried blood on her cheek, dirt smudged across her forehead and arms. Maybe it was the exhaustion, but the sight made her giggle.
“You need sleep and a bath, Missy,” she told her reflection.
~ ~ ~
“Thank you for saving my life, Jonah.” She proffered a hand and limped closer to him. “It’s nice to meet you. I’m glad you’re still alive.” Well, that was not a greeting she thought she’d ever do. But she realized it was true. She couldn’t save the other prisoner, but at least this boy was all right. Against all odds, they somehow both made it through the day without dying,
He didn’t take her offered hand. Instead his eyes focused on her bleeding leg and widened. “You’re hurt.” His soft voice rose in volume, and his eyes finally locked onto her and stayed there. “Do you need to sit down?”
In truth, she wasn’t entirely sure how much longer her aching, throbbing legs would hold her up, but before she could answer he was grabbing her arm and helping her lower to the ground. “What can I do to help?” he asked, kneeling next to her.
She blinked, his sudden acts of kindness tying her tongue and stopping her brain like a stuck cog.
~ ~ ~
Wriggling her toes, she basked in their freedom and couldn’t help but take her other boot off as well. The sweaty smell of her socks made her wrinkle her nose, but not enough to put her boots back on. She stretched her aching toes and massaged the sore soles. Remembering the tonic for aching muscles, she scrounged around in her pack, but all the bottles looked the same in the darkness. Better wait for the fire lest she drink the alcohol. That wouldn’t be pleasant for anyone. She did manage to find the water flask though. She didn’t realize how thirsty she was until she took the first sip. It felt like her dry tongue and sore throat sung praises as the water went down. She had jugged over half of it and was still going when Jonah came back with an armful of small branches.
He dropped them in a pile a few feet in front of her, and then cast her a curious gaze, eyeing her sock feet. She pulled them closer to her, unable to stop her sheepish grin.
“I’ve been on my feet all day.” That was an understatement.
He nodded, as if he understood. Actually, he probably did. He was on this Isle same as her. For a moment, he just stared at her, so intently it made her squirm. A horrible thought came to her. What if he was a murderer, and was now plotting the best way to kill her. Maybe he was going to build the fire to burn away her dead body. She slipped her hand in her pocket and grasped the hammer.
After several agonizing seconds, he started, as if he realized what he was doing. He dropped his gaze and rubbed the back of his neck again. “Sorry, sorry,” he mumbled, shaking his head. “I’ve been searching for you all day, but when I couldn’t find you I was terrified something had happened.” He dropped his hand and finally looked back at her, a look of relief flooding his features. “I’m glad you’re alive, too.”
The precious, talented Christine Eyre drew this pic inspired by The Nether Isle’s aesthetics and I AM IN LOVE WITH IT.
~ ~ ~
He stood and stepped to the opposite side of the fire and settled down there. “If something dangerous shows up, I’ll be sure to wake you.”
“Oh goodness, I think I’d rather just sleep through it.” She had had enough dangerous things for one day.
~ ~ ~
Jonah stared at her, silent but intense, but he didn’t push her. Just waited patiently.
She ran her fingers through her damp hair. How to start where he wouldn’t find her utterly mad? “I’ve been seeing ghost girls,” she blurted out. Nope, that probably wasn’t the way.
~ ~ ~
Wait. A thought pushed against the morning grogginess, attempting to pull her back awake. How late in the day was it if the sun was that high?
Drat Jonah and his niceness.
She shoved herself up. Sure enough, he was sitting quietly at the other side of the nearly dead fire, looking as if he had no intention of ever waking her up. He merely smiled over at her. Guilt clawed its sharp fingers into her stomach.
“I’m so sorry I slept late. You could have woken me.”
“Why would I do that?” he asked, sounding genuinely confused. “After the past couple of days you had, you needed that sleep.”
“But you’ve just been sitting here waiting this whole time?”
He shrugged. “I didn’t mind. I enjoy just sitting and thinking sometimes.”
“You enjoy sitting and doing nothing for long stretches of time?” She shook her head, chuckling. “That goes beyond me.”
He grinned. “Well, whenever you’re ready, we can move on.”
~ ~ ~
She snapped a few pictures on random years as they progressed, keeping to the far past like the blue-eyed girl said. They found themselves at the destroyed city hall, and she took a picture of it sixty-nine years ago. It stood whole, the town thriving as ever. One person walking down the steps in the photograph made her pause.
“Jonah, look at this.” She tapped the photograph.
He peered down at the middle aged man with long blue robes, dark hair, and a neatly trimmed beard. “If there was ever anyone who looked like a headmaster, I’d say that is it,” he said, voicing her thoughts exactly.
She bounced on her toes, unable to hold in the excitement. “I can’t believe we found him! Oh, oh!” She stilled. “I have the best idea. Let’s continue to take pictures of him and follow him.”
His gaze shot up from the photograph to her, eyes lighting up. “That is brilliant.”
Grinning, she threw the photograph in the camera bag, adjusted the clock from 3:45 in the afternoon to 3:46, then took another picture. As she had hoped, the man was now at the bottom of the city hall steps, turning to the street on the right. “This is so fun! We’re stalking someone from sixty-nine years ago! Let’s go!” She ran down the street the man had headed, adjusting the clock as she went. Jonah followed right behind.
Every few steps, she took a picture to assure they didn’t lose sight of the man, but his blue robes shone clear in the photographs, making him easy to spot amidst the other people on the streets.
~ ~ ~
Karis practically sprang out the door, feeling like a caged animal getting its first taste of freedom. The steady drizzle immediately began seeping through her clothes, but she just jumped into a puddle, helping it soak her. She spun around to survey the town, sloshing water all over her boots. “It feels so good to be out!”
Jonah had only just stepped from the doorway of the library into the rain. He held his face up to the sky, blinking as drips splattered across his face. “It does feel nice.”
Biting on her lips to contain her giggles, she slowly crouched down, scooped up some of the water in cupped palms, and thrust it at him. It soaked the front of his shirt.
He jerked his head down to face her, mouth wide open in shock, but his eyes gleamed with mischief.
Now her giggles bubbled out.
Without warning, he sprung forward. She squealed and tried to dart away, but before she got far, a pile of water was poured over her head.
Gasping with laughter, she darted down the street. “No fair, you have bigger hands than I do!” she called over her shoulder. Her boots slipped on the slick streets, making her nearly plunge forward. She staggered, righting herself, and laughing so hard she couldn’t catch a breath of air.
“Are you all right?” Jonah gasped out, his voice shaky and breathless with his own chortles.
She could only nod, trying to regain herself.
~ ~ ~
“I think I might be able to finish translating today,” he said, grabbing one of the cans in front of him. “I’m so close.”
“Really?” The news mad her heart flip. She settled into her chair with one leg underneath her and pulled the can’s lid off. “That’s wonderful! I’ll try my best to be quiet today then and let you work. You’d probably be done by now if it wasn’t for me.” She dipped the can lid into the mushy food.
He looked up from his food, a serious express on his face. “Karis, I’d probably go mad if it weren’t for you.”
Her hand froze midair. His tone was so…intense, as if her knowing this information was vital. For once, she didn’t know how to even respond.
“Sometimes I think I was going mad before you came along,” he continued. “I mean…” He dropped his unblinking gaze. “I don’t wish you, or anyone, to have to be on this Isle, but… If you do have to be here, I…I’m fortunate to have found you.”
This made her laugh.
He flinched, jerking his eyes back up at her. Color drained from his face. She immediately threw her hand over her mouth, realizing what she had done.
“No, wait!” she squeaked between her fingers. Dropping her hand, she shook her head, face warming. “I’m sorry! I’m only laughing because I’ve had that exact same thought, about how I hate you ended up on this Isle, but how I’m also so happy to have you. Not just because you saved my life on multiple occasions now, but because…I’m just…” The right words wouldn’t come. Nothing seemed good enough. Finally, releasing a deep breath, she looked him straight in the eye. “I’m just glad to know you, Jonah.”
His shocked gaze softened into a smile. “Me too.”
Another gorgeous aesthetics pic done by Christine Eyre of the rainy library scene. <333
~ ~ ~
With a huff, she focused on the other pictures, on all the people who had walked those now empty streets.
She rubbed her finger over one little girl seeming to be in mid-skip down the street, a book tucked under her arm, probably headed for the library.
“What happened to you?” she murmured to the photograph. “Where do you all go?”
She’d never know. The thought sickened her. She had tried so hard to discover the mysteries of the Isle, and now she’d die with no answers. She continued flipping through the pictures, shaking her head as one crowd of people after the next passed her vision. All these people, these families, lost. Forgotten. Their stories untold.
~ ~ ~
She ran down the stairs, but a rush of cold air jerked her to a halt. The great cloud of mist covered nearly the whole foyer and was creeping up the stairs toward her, trapping her. She shot a glance over the stair rail. The room with with the vials was so close.
With rapid clicks, the mist rose toward her, frozen air blasting across her face.
Grabbing the railing with both hands, she vaulted over it. Her boots slammed on the floor below. The force of the hit rattled up her whole body. Gritting her teeth, she sprinted for the door to the alchemy lab. She snatched up the first bottle she saw, squinting at the words in the darkness. Only a single window provided the moonlight to shine in, but the labeling made no sense. Ciphering through the others brought the same results. Nothing in here was familiar.
The clicking drew closer, louder, and the temperature in the room dropped. Mist crept through the doorway. She seized a random bottle with red liquid and threw it at the cloud. It fell right through the mist and cracked, red liquid spilling out beneath the fog.
A burst of flowers erupted from the liquid, their bright red petals raining through the room. Poppies? That wasn’t helpful in the least.
~ ~ ~
Just as Jonah had said, the camera was waiting at the library, right on the table he had used to do his translating. She snatched it up and hugged it against her chest, feeling as if she were reunited with an old friend.
“May we never part again!”
~ ~ ~
After nearly half an hour of it, her back sore from bending and searching the items on the floor, she stood up to stretch and walk the room. Jonah sat perched on the edge of the sofa, seeming to have gotten distracted by one of the books. Smiling, she turned to examine the strange levers on the walls. Unable to resist, she flipped one. Nothing happened. What a disappointment. Age had probably broken whatever it was supposed to do. Another rather long one jutted from the back wall, right next to the one space of wall that didn’t have furniture or papers against it. She shoved the lever down.
A loud grinding, like metal scraping against metal, sounded from behind the wall. She jumped back, just as the wall slid into itself and opened up a doorway. Jonah sprang from the sofa, dropping the book he held.
“Is that what I think it is?”
“Um.” She peered through the new doorway, but it led to absolutely nothing but a small, rectangular room. More like a closet really. Barely large enough to hold three people, and it was completely empty save for another lever on its right wall. “What do you think it is?”
He came up to her and poked his head through. “I think it’s an elevator.”
“Oh!” That made perfect sense. “Let’s try it! Maybe the photo paper is upstairs.”
“Well, Karis, I’m not sure we—”
But she was already pulling him in and pushing the lever up. The door slid close, putting them in perfect darkness. Now her common sense was kicking in.
“Erm. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea?” Her voice bounced off the walls, coming back to her shaky.
Jonah shuffled away from her side. “I don’t think it even works, just the door does. Let’s just open the door back and—”
The whole space rattled and floor jerked. The momentum sent her careening to the side and crashing into him. She clung to him for dear life as they were dragged upward in the deathtrap. Then, just as quickly as it began, the elevator screeched to a halt. After one breathless second, the door ground open. She blinked in the bright light, hoping to goodness it wasn’t the light dying people always claimed they could see.
“Are you all right?”
Jonah’s soft voice snapped her back to reality. Realizing she was wrinkling his vest under her fist and digging her fingers into his arm with her other hand, she jerked away. She pushed a strand of loose hair behind her ears, breathing a trembling giggle. “Oh yes, I’m fine. That was…fun.”
He scratched the side of his head, a hint of amusement in his eyes. “Maybe next time we can try the stairs?”
She couldn’t hold back her grin. “I always like your plans so much better than mine.”
~ ~ ~
I maaay have been a little excessive with the snippet sharing. Whoooops. But I hope you enjoyed it all the same!
What did you think, guys? Which snippet was your favorite? What do you think of my Karis and Jonah bbys? (How many typos did you find? Ahem.) Thank you for reading! Like, seriously. You guys motivate me so much! <3