Well, since I’ve been very lazy at posting/ doing ANYTHING on here, I decided to shoot out my first edited chapter. (Yes, Sienna is pretty bratty at the beginning here. She grows. A lot.) Anyway, enjoy (hopefully) and critique (please?)
A red hand glared at Sienna from across the street as cars rushed past. She rolled her eyes and turned her attention back to the cell phone pressed to her ear.
“Sienna, you have to come to the rehearsal! Can’t you rearrange your schedule?” Hannah’s tinny voice rose in pitch.
“Did you listen to a word I said? I can’t come. Okay, yes. Next time.” Without allowing Hannah to get another word in, she snapped the cell phone shut and blew out a loud breath.
The sign changed to ‘WALK’ and she ran across the street, up onto the sidewalk, and past several of the tall buildings that are the trademark of cities like New York. Finally, red-faced and panting, she burst into the street-corner Starbucks. A steady stream of people crowded the small space, but she managed to worm her way through chatting girlfriends, single entrepreneurs, and teenagers like herself until she reached the table in the corner by the window and quickly sat down. She looked out the window, half watching her reflection, half watching the street outside for any signs of her brother.
She sighed, glanced up at the clock mounted on the wall, and frowned. She was just preparing to call him when the door opened and she turned to see a handsome, broad-shouldered fifteen-year-old boy hurry in and move his way to her table. He quickly sat down in his seat, breathing hard. His eyes twinkled.
“Alec! What took you so long?” Sienna demanded, showing him the time on her phone. “You’re ten minutes late! You would think by now that-”
“Go easy on me, sis,” the boy answered solemnly. He rubbed his forehead as if he had a headache. “I was held by gangsters and mugged. I tried to call you, but-”
“Ha, ha, little baby brother,” Sienna interjected, rolling her eyes.
Alec rolled his in return. “What do you think held me up? It’s New York! Honestly. We’ve lived here our whole lives and you still don’t understand a guy being late.”
“At least I got to enjoy two years of peace before you showed up,” she retorted.
Alec made a face and looked at the round, empty tabletop and then back up at her. “Did you order already?”
“No, I had to save a table,” said Sienna, pulling off her scarf and yanking her hoodie over her head. “I’ll go get them.”
“’Kay, I’ll stay here and make sure nobody steals your scarf,” said Alec, leaning on his elbows and grinning at her as she joined the long line of would-be coffee drinkers. She was there for over five minutes while someone up front had trouble because they didn’t understand the difference between a frappuccino and a cappuccino.
Sienna looked outside. It was gray; the clouds were growing darker by the minute, casting shadows on the streets and buildings outside. Everything seemed either blue or gray.
“Hey, Sienna!” She looked up when she heard her name being called and saw one of her friends from school behind the counter.
“Hey, Sean!” Sienna grinned. “Oh, I made those coasters we were talking about!”
He glanced up as he poured some milk foam into a white cup. “Oh, yeah? How?”
“I took some pieces of glass I had and put an old black-and-white photo on each one, then varnished it. Looks really cool,” Sienna grinned.
Sean laughed. “I had an old cork board that I just cut into circles. You win this time.” Then he looked up. “The usual?”
“Yeah,” said Sienna, perusing the menu just for the fun of it. In the winter, she and Alec always got the same drink every time.
“One grande caramel macchiato and one extra-hot grande peppermint mocha with half-pump peppermint and whipped cream coming up!”
It took a couple minutes for their drinks to be ready, but Sienna didn’t mind. Michael Bublè was crooning quietly over the speakers and the air was warm with the wonderful smells that only coffee shops had to offer.
She jumped as someone tapped her heavily on the shoulder. “Alec, don’t do that!”
“Sorry,” her brother answered, “It looks like some heavy rain out there. We’d better get home fast.”
“Oh, okay,” said Sienna, handing him his drink and glancing out the window. “Let’s go. Thanks, Sean! ‘Bye, guys!”
Several baristas waved and called ‘good-bye’ back to them as they ran out the door, holding their steaming drinks tightly between their fingers. “Wait!” Sienna said, “my-”
“Got ‘em,” said Alec, wrapping her scarf around her neck and tying her hoodie around her waist expertly with one hand. “Let’s go!”
They ran down the sidewalk, dodging to avoid people who were also wary of the coming storm. The clouds roiled darkly above, and thunder rumbled ominously several times with hardly a break between growls.
“I don’t see any lightning, that’s a good thing,” Sienna called loudly above the noise, as they waited to cross the intersection. She peered at the sky in all directions.
“I don’t either,” said Alec, taking a hurried sip of his drink, “but that doesn’t mean it won’t jump out of the sky at any moment!”
Sienna rolled her eyes at him. “Don’t be a dork,” she said, hitting him on the arm. “Come on, let’s go.” They hurried across the street, trying to move swiftly without spilling their drinks.
As they stepped up onto the sidewalk, a strange prickling sensation began to crawl over Sienna’s skin. “Alec?” she looked over at him, and his puzzled expression matched her own. “Do you feel-”
Suddenly her entire body jolted and she screamed. She was on fire! A crack that sounded like a cannon firing roared above their heads and Sienna screamed again, but her voice was muted by thunder that seemed to envelop her. White lights flashed all around and she began to fall forward, unable to stop herself. She did not hit the street.
Voices. All she heard was voices.
“Who are they?”
“I don’t know…”
“… from around here, are they?”
“But how did they get here?”
“…take them inside…”
She felt the world spin as she was lifted into the air. She wanted to move, to open her eyes, to scream, but she had no control over herself. A thought frightened her – what if she stayed this way forever, locked inside herself, her body as her own coffin?
The thought was quickly dismissed as ridiculous, but the hand of panic remained with a firm grip on her throat. What was happening? She imagined herself lying on the street, being lifted into an ambulance. Had she been hit by a car? Where was Alec? Had he, too, been hit?
She did not know how long she was carried, but she felt herself on a firm, soft surface. A stretcher? A bed? She wanted to scream “What’s happening!?” but could not make her tongue obey her. Then the voices and sounds faded, and she was left alone; but not for long.
“Do not be afraid. Drink this.” She felt a hand underneath her head, and something hard and cold being pressed to her lips. She was afraid to open her mouth – what if someone was poisoning her? – but she finally accepted it, finding that she was regaining some control over herself.
The stuff was thick and slightly minty, and certainly did not taste like poison. “Wha-?” she croaked, then winced inwardly. She sounded like a hoarse frog!
“Just wait,” said the voice. Sienna obeyed and lay there, staring at the blackness inside her eyes. She tried to open them again and found that she could. Curved wooden beams arched above her.
This was not a hospital.
She shot up, not bothering to be glad that she was able to do so as she looked wildly around. Huge windows arched on either side of the room. She twisted underneath the thin, cool sheets to look behind her and blinked. Her headboard was carved in the shape of a swan, its neck curving gracefully over her head.
What was this place?
“Hello?” she called, her heart thudding. Where was she and where were her parents? Where was Alec? What was she doing with a swan over her bed? She looked down at herself. She was dressed in a long, silky, empire-waisted white gown with loose long sleeves and intricate embroidering up the front.
“Feeling better?” a voice asked. Sienna looked up and saw a woman standing in her doorway, the sides of which curved upward to meet at a point. Instead of a door, though, there were two gates that were propped open. The woman was wearing a pink gown that flared into red at the hem which brushed the floor.
Sienna found her tongue. “I… um, well – who are you?” she rasped as forcefully as she could.
The woman came closer, and Sienna found herself unconsciously backing up in the bed. She had very fair skin and hair that was brilliant red, rolling in thick waves down her back. Her eyes were like crystals – almost clear, but catching the sunlight as she turned. She smiled down at Sienna, who swallowed hard.
“How do you feel?” the stranger asked in a pleasant voice, as if they had known each other for far longer than Sienna suspected.
“Who are you?” Sienna asked again, not sure whether to be afraid or angry – or both.
“Arie,” was the reply.
“Arie?” The name was short and pretty, but definitely not New Yorker. “Okay, what am I… doing…” her voice trailed off, her eyes glued to the side of Arie’s head. “No. Way.”
“Pardon?” asked Arie, frowning prettily at Sienna’s stricken face. “Is something wrong?”
Sienna’s mouth moved, but she could find no words. “I – you’re – this is – I’ve been captured by nuts!” Her breaths came hard and fast. “I don’t believe this! You’re way too into Lord of the Rings or World of Warcraft or whatever! You actually glued elf ears to your head! And that dress, and the swan and-” she almost choked herself and had to stop. “Where are my mom and dad?” she demanded, the question barely more than a gasp as she fought to breathe.
The woman hurried over to a shelf built into the wall on one side of the room and came back with a handful of herbs, which she poured into a cup of something that rested on a table close to Sienna’s bed. Faint steam curled from the wooden goblet, and she held it out in front of Sienna.
“Breathe this in,” she instructed. Frightened at her shortness of breath, Sienna obeyed and inhaled the odorless steam. After a few minutes her breathing had become normal again, and she felt a bit calmer.
She realized why. “You drugged me!” Sienna accused, horrified. Who are these people?
“Drugged?” Arie looked puzzled, arching one dark eyebrow.
Sienna found herself taken aback. Didn’t this person know what a drug was? “Yeah, a drug,” she said, “you know, like aspirin?”
“I’m afraid not,” said Arie apologetically.
Sienna swallowed again and her words came out in a faint whisper. “Are you some sort of… cult?”
Arie’s crystal eyes narrowed in indignance. “No,” she said, her voice calm but with an edge to it. “This is no cult. All will be explained when you feel well.”
What? “I feel well!” Sienna exclaimed, throwing her feet out of bed. “I’m fine! Where are my parents? And where is my brother?”
“Sienna!” the name was sharp, sounding odd coming from such beautiful features as Arie’s. “Lay down immediately.”
Startled, Sienna quickly obeyed and flopped back down onto the bed. “Why?” she asked as soon as her head hit the pillow. Then it struck her.
“How did you know my name was Sienna?” she asked, sitting up abruptly.
A small smile was on Arie’s face. “Your brother has been alive and kicking for quite some time,” she said. “I will let him see you as soon as you feel more yourself.”
“I’ll feel more myself,” Sienna snarled in a way that would have shocked her ordinarily, “when I find out who you are, where I am, and where my parents are!”
“That will take some time,” said Arie, her voice firm as she turned and walked from the room.
As soon as she was gone, Sienna climbed back out of bed, nearly frantic. She had to find Alec and ask him what was going on! But as soon as her feet touched the floor, someone ducked under the doorframe and entered. Sienna froze, staring.
He was tall, definitely over six feet. He had the body of a dancer, slender but powerful. Leather armor wrapped his torso and thighs, and a dark green cloak, the front folds of which disappeared in the wrapped curves of his mahogany breastplate, hung down his back. His hair was the color of steel, but the face that looked at her was no older than thirty. His eyes were dark green, the exact color of his cloak. A long, slightly curved sword hung at his side.
“Who are you!?” Sienna cried, suppressing a shriek and wondering how many times she had asked that already today. These people really were insane! What had he been doing – Live Action Role Playing?
“Talad,” he replied obligingly in a deep voice. “Arie spoke to me of our guests.” He smiled. “You gave our guards quite a shock.”
“Huh?” Such vocabulary skills, she thought to herself.
A thoughtful expression took over his face. “Arie hasn’t told you how you arrived yet, has she?” She shook her head. “I thought not.” He looked at her, a smile lurking in his eyes. “Aren’t you supposed to be in bed? Your brother is.”
“I want to see him,” said Sienna darkly, with as much force as she could muster behind the words. But compared to the armor-clad elf-wannabe in front of her, it wasn’t as impressive as she had hoped. “Please,” she added, hoping it might have more effect than her pleas had had on Arie.
“Soon,” he replied, smiling briefly at her. For the first time Sienna noticed that he looked… tense, somehow, in spite of the amused expression on his face. “You should rest,” he added before he walked out of the room.
Sienna threw herself onto the bed and screamed into the pillow.
“I want to see Sienna!” Alec yelled at the top of his lungs, knowing full well that he was behaving like a three-year-old. But after all, there was only so much he could take!
“Not yet,” said the person by his bed patiently, repeating the same thing he’d been saying all morning.
“She’s my sister,” Alec said, “and I have every right to see my own flesh-and-blood!”
“Perhaps. But you’ll have to wait.”
Alec glared as fiercely as he could at the man next to him. He was tall, even sitting down, and thin. His features were also thin, almost delicate, his eyes large and a strange deep blue-green color, that reminded Alec of the ocean the time he went scuba diving. The stranger had straight, thick blond hair that looked windblown and reached the bottom of his neck. He had been kind to Alec; quiet and firm. But he still wouldn’t let him see his sister.
“Okay, fine, then,” said Alec finally. He sank back into the pillows and looked up at the stupid swan that looked back down at him, listening to his guard’s pen scratching as he wrote. He was finding all this hard to believe. “What’s your name?” he asked, mindlessly and repeatedly punching the soft (fur!) blankets on his bed.
“Salebeth,” the man replied, looking at him.
“What kind of a name is that?” asked Alec irritably.
“My own,” Salebeth replied amiably with just a hint of laughter, “Just as Alec is yours.”
“Yeah, well, at least Alec is normal,” the boy retorted grumpily.
Salebeth shook his head. “To you, perhaps, but not to me.”
“Why is there a swan on my bed?”
Salebeth laughed softly. “Talad and Arie are of the House of the Swan,” he said. “That is why there is a swan on your bed.” He continued writing, forming symbols foreign to Alec on a sheet of thick paper.
“House of the Swan? So are you guys like major gamers? Doing some out-of-control LARP?”
Salebeth blinked at Alec and arched an eyebrow. “L-A-R-P?”
“Live Action Role Play. You know, where you dress up and pretend you’re someone else” said Alec, sounding surprised. “You mean this isn’t one?”
“Correct.” The slender feather pen was poised above the paper, but then Salebeth placed it back in the ink bottle and looked closely at Alec, very thoughtfully for a long time. After several prolonged moments, he stood and left without any word of explanation, vanishing out the door.
“Well,” said Alec, sitting up and glancing curiously at the paper Salebeth had been writing before looking down at himself for the twentieth time. He was wearing white pants and a white shirt – very comfortable, but they felt too much like something one would wear in a hospital for Alec.
Then again, his clothes were nowhere to be found, so after a thorough and fruitless search, he hurried out the door and looked down the long, wide hall. There were several doorways and other halls that branched off of this one. Light flooded in from the various windows lining the walls. Curious, he padded over to the nearest one and looked out.
He had expected to see a yard, perhaps with a tree and some flowers – maybe a few acres of land. After all, it was pretty clear they were no longer in the inner-city. He did not expect to see an enormous clearing, and in that clearing an entire village. A graceful bridge curved gently over a wide stream, and an almost medieval-looking home next to water wheel that was constantly turning. Trees ringed the small community, trees that were so enormous they made the village below it look like Toy Town. Their trunks were as large around as a modest-sized house, stretching up and casting mottled light and shadows over everything.
He could see people – walking, talking, working – two who looked like soldiers riding horses through the village talking animatedly with each other. There was even a house that had been built into one of the giant trees in an interesting design.
But even this discover only fueled his desire to have his one question answered -where on earth was he!?