Thursday, February 21, 2013

An Excerpt: Seven-League Boots


Tonight for your reading pleasure, I thought I’d share a tiny excerpt from a project I worked on last November (hello, NaNoWriMo!). It’s currently called The Price of Sight, but that is extremely subject to change. It’s loosely a sequel to Eye of the Beholder (my “Beauty and the Beast” retelling). It follows the story of a young woman named Minette, who comes into a vast magical power by accident and struggles to know how to control it or avoid the unwelcome attention it attracts. The excerpt below is from Min’s childhood and is neither particularly polished nor absolutely certain to end up in the finished product. Hope you enjoy a random story!

The tale is told of the old magics, magics so powerful and great that in those times the waters ran with gold and the trees gave forth ruby apples. The old magic, it was said, could save a person from death, could heal any wound, could save a person from ever going hungry again. Marvels and wonders, the minstrels sang out, miracles and dreams.

Min’s favorite story was the one of the seven-league boots.

“Long ago,” her father intoned as he sat beside her bed at night after tucking her in. “Long ago, there was a young man who had a pair of boots. Oh, how he loved those boots. They were ordinary and they were old, but they got him every place he needed to go. They were comfortable and fit his feet to perfection. He even imagined that in winter they expanded just enough to allow an extra layer of woolen socks.”

He reached down and tickled Min’s foot, and she giggle and squirmed away. “Then what happened?”

“Well, the young man loved to travel. He was an adventurer at heart, and he wished to get away, off into the distance where he had never been before. But he knew it would take a long time to get there, to wherever it was he wished to be. Even he didn’t really know.”

“So what did he do?”

“He went to a witch,” her father said with relish, savoring the word on his tongue.

“And what did she do?” Min was always far too excited in the stories to allow her father to pause for long.

“She told him she could help him to travel long distances as quickly as he took a single step. He was thrilled at the idea. But she was quick to point out that it would cost him something. He would have to give up something he loved. He paused in thought. ‘What must I give up?’ he asked. He was certain he would not mind the price. ‘Your boots,’ she said. ‘And something else that you will not know until you let go of it.’”

Even though she knew the story, Min still had to ask. Maybe this time he would say no. “Did he do it?”

“Yes, he did,” Min’s father replied. “His boots were such a little price to pay, and while he loved them he did not need them to make him happy. So he gave her the boots and waited for her to make him what he wanted.

“She took the boots and performed the necessary magic—no, don’t ask me what the magic was. I don’t know. This sort of thing is lost, Min. Now hush and let me finish the story.” He smiled down at her, and his smile warmed her to her toes.

“When she was finished, she gave him back the boots. ‘Do not wear them unless you plan to travel. And then put them on only to step in the direction you seek to go. Take one step, and you will travel seven leagues.’

“He thanked her excitedly and went out the door. Where shall I go first? he wondered. With a little thought, he picked a direction and sat down to put the boots on his feet. Then he stood and took a step.”

Min raised herself off her pillow to listen eagerly to the rest of the story. Her father gently pushed her back down and brushed the hair from her face. “Shhh. . . You shall hear the rest. Just close your eyes.”

She obeyed him and listened sleepily as he finished.

“The world swept past him in a blur, and truly the boots were magic now because when the world resolved itself again into trees and dirt and grass and sky, he did not recognize where he was—and he hadn’t crashed into a single thing,” her father said with a chuckle.

“But then, when everything was settled, he felt a pain in his feet so great that he fell to the ground and pulled off his boots to look. They were dirty and bloodied and sore.”

Min cringed at the gruesomeness of it. Even with such a terrible ending, she loved the mystery and the magic.

“He discovered that he could travel those seven leagues in a single step but that his feet would feel every step, as if he had been barefoot. Why did it work that way? No one knows. Such is the way of the old magic.”

Min sighed and yawned, her eyelids drooping.

He smiled gently. “I bet he was very, very careful from then on where he traveled and how.”

Min stirred, barely capable of speech. “Thanks, Papa. Do you think it’s real?”

Her father leaned down to kiss her forehead as he had a thousand times before. She was fully asleep before she even had a chance to hear his answer. “Yes, my little Minette. I am sure of it.”

He walked from the room and gently closed the door.

7 comments:

  1. Beautiful writing. I loved the way the words flowed between speaker and narrator: effortlessly. Is this story like the Arabian Nights? Many little stories woven together? I truly can't wait to read more of your writing! (Is the word supposed to be "resolved"? "when the world resolved itself"?)

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    1. Thanks! And nice catch on the "resolved." I fixed it now. This book actually doesn't have man stories woven in, but the Beauty and the Beast project does.

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  2. Nicely done! I'm particularly a fan of the price he had to pay as I like that aspect of magic--that is, it always come with a price!

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    1. I like that too--it's sort of a law of life. Everything requires input--money, time, resources of some sort. Magic just requires unusual sorts of input. :)

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  3. Good stuff, love the idea of a sequel as well. Thanks for sharing :)

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