The streetlights on the main roads were being lit as Arabella passed. She gave the older man a wave as she jogged along the waterfront, clutching a bundle to her chest as the last vestiges of sunset continued to darken from deep purple into the black of night. The priest had either underestimated how long it’d take to get to the tannery and back, or overestimated how fast she could run. If it’d been early morning when she went she might have made good time, both because she would have been fresh and rested and because of the lack of foot traffic so early. Late in the day during harvest season, the streets were congested with traveling peddlers, slower moving shoppers, and natives just trying to go about their business. It wasn’t like she could just knock people aside like a courier.
At least the jogging warmed her up considerably. Her robes were only a touch damp now, and not clinging in any embarrassing places. Slowing down her pace to a walk, she started to feel the soreness from the day’s work catch up to her. Peering along the curve of the waterfront she could see the priory from here, everyone could. It wasn’t far from the castle walls, having been built next to one of the rivers that drained into the lake when this settlement was expanded. It was where the priory went to clean their clothing, but also where they took the apprentices to punish them for any misbehavior. The river came from snowmelt up the mountain, and it was always so cold.
Her head started to hurt now that she wasn’t focusing on a task, and a hollow feeling grew in her stomach. Lunch had been ages ago and they’d already started serving dinner at the priory. They wouldn’t be holding up for just her. No, by the time she got there she’d be lucky if they had any stale bread left for her to take to bed. She sighed as she walked onward down the waterfront. It was not as if she had any coin to buy food. Apprentices weren’t given such things.
As she turned her head toward the lake, her eyes moved down the water’s edge to see someone- no, multiple someones, lying among the rocks. Stopping, she looked down the slope at the small group of people. Their clothing was soaked through, and some of them were even missing parts of it. Had they fallen in the lake and drowned? Had a current dragged their bodies to shore?
“Hello?” she called out. At the sound of her voice she saw one of them move their head upwards and reach out an arm. They were alive! Setting her bundle down she stepped off the path and hurried down the rocky slope. If she left them alone too long they might get sick in that wet clothing. She just needed to help them up to the path, then she could call for someone to help.
“Hold on!” she said as she moved down the rocks. There were about four of them she could see, and as she got closer, she saw the pallor on their skin. The cold must have drained them of color. She had to get them up and warm as soon as possible.
They moved up the rocks as well, more quickly as they pulled themselves out of the water. That was great; if they had the energy to move maybe they weren’t that bad off. Just a little bit further.
She was only a meter away when she reached out to them. The person in front, a man from his build, reached out and grabbed onto her arm. Arabella knew something was wrong the moment the water from his hand sunk into her sleeve.
The hand wrapping around her arm was cold and slick, the fingertips swollen with water and their chipped nails digging into her skin. Her body started to shake. A thought occurred to her subconscious mind before it could bring itself to the forefront. That thought was still slow coming as she tried to speak, “Are–are you….”
A long breath of air- no, not air, water poured from the mouth of the man holding her. His head tilted back, and patches of flesh hung off his cheeks like torn fabric, revealing the white bone underneath. Milky white eyes stared up at her, the skin bunched around them bulbous and waterlogged as more and more water spewed from the mouth. Then the thought finally crystalized and her breath escaped her in two words, barely above a whisper.
And that’s it for the sneak peak of Adventurer’s Overture. If you want to follow more well the book is slated to come out late this year.
In terms of actual progress, the first draft of this book is finished and I’m currently in the phase of first round edits. I’m currently running the chapter through some beta readers but can always find more. If you’re interested please leave a comment below.
(Keep in mind any and all beta readers will have to sign a nondisclosure agreement, though if you wish to discuss the book with other beta readers I have a special channel for them on my discord channel.)