Well, it’s a little over halfway through November, and I hate to admit that I’ve fallen a little behind in my work for NaNoWriMo – being my start to Nevermor Book 3. Even though I’m pretty much 10K behind schedule, I’m confident I can catch up if I put some effort into it. Even if I am unable to do this, I’ve still gotten a good start on book 3 with 24.6K words, and that will help give me some insight into what the future holds and how I can improve Forsaken Dreamscape to line up with it better.
But in the meantime, I have another Forsaken Dreamscape excerpt for you!
If you’ve read Nevermor, you no doubt remember the mermaids that were introduced. The mermaids were always an important element in Peter Pan – at least to me – and I had to find some way to include them, which I did, of course. If they were nasty then, of course you might only imagine what has happened to them now.
If you read the Peter Pan version of Forsaken Dreamscape, you may remember that Wren’s encounter with the mermaid was one of the first major monster encounters in the new world, and as I was rewriting, I found that it was a section that I wasn’t happy with, but I wanted to be able to keep it in some way, because the exchange was somewhat important to to storyline.
The scene, in its old form, played out like a videogame to me – which was probably my mindframe at the time I started writing it. Wendy was alone, forced to cross a stretch of rocks across the lagoon. There was involvement with a mermaid and the legendary crocodile (which of course does not exist in this version), so this is a section I had to rework completely and give it an entirely new idea. Because of how I had changed a portion of the story ahead of it, I believe I have given it a better flow this time around.
This is also the preview section that I have updated at the end of the print version of Nevermor. Enjoy!
Wren found a place within the rocks, watching the fight clandestinely, listening to the clang of steel against stone as Rifter forced the crystalized abomination away from her. She could hear their battle echoing off the walls, spiraling down through the cavern in all directions. She held her breath but Rifter maneuvered carefully, letting the monster chase him into another branch of the cavern. It gave no thought to following after him angrily.
I hope he will be alright. But she did not quite doubt that. Rifter had always been capable.
Even once the beast was out of sight, Wren kept herself hidden behind some taller stalagmites, but stayed away from the edge of the water. This pool looked horribly menacing to her, not knowing what was down in it, and that was perhaps what frightened her most. It was like staring into the dark, aware that it was full of living things – and possibly monsters – that could not be seen. There could be any form of strange creature waiting to swallow her whole at the slightest whiff.
Shuddering, she tried not to think about what might be waiting for her. Instead, she smoothed her dress around her legs and leaned back against a rock, trying to control her breathing. Rifter would be back soon. She trusted that.
The water hardly stirred here, sitting soundlessly between the rock pillars. The air was cool against her skin, but so thick that she could feel it weighing her down.
The whole world is like this now – cloudy and hidden, deceptive and dark. Would she remain untouched by this corruption if she stayed here? She might have wondered, but she knew she had no choice. This was her home, as it had always been. All there was to do was find a way to deliver it.
“What are you doing here?” Wren snapped up at the sound of the voice. It was unfamiliar and had seemed to come from everywhere, until Wren finally realized that it was nowhere except inside her head. It was soft and smooth, feminine, but Wren sensed a menacing note as it spoke to her.
Startled enough that she almost lost her footing, Wren peered through the ominous dark, finally glimpsing the one who had addressed her. There, watching her from within the water, was a pale face, blue like a strangled corpse. The top of the head was barely visible, but Wren could see the shining, silver eyes that reflected the light of the crystals, and she was able to deduce what it was.
A mermaid… Wren was not a stranger to this sort of beast, though perhaps these beings were some of Nevermor’s original inhabitants, to her, these fish-tailed nymphs were as bad as the nightmares.
Slowly, the creature drifted closer, rising up from the water and wrapping herself around a rock. Wren could see that the mermaid was quite different from what she remembered, and she could not think to call her anything other than a monster.
The mermaid was utterly thin and Wren was certain that she could make out all of her ribs beneath the tangled hair that hung around her. The strands were as dry as seaweed, colored like blood and rust, spilling over her barnacle-covered breast and shoulders. Her flesh was like cracked stone or peeling paint. Her face had been beautiful once, perhaps, but no more. Whatever youthful and lovely glow the mermaid had once possessed was gone.
Wren remembered seeing the mermaids for the first time. She had been jealous of the way Rifter had looked at them, their faces and bodies so desirable, but that problem seemed to have been absolved with time – and this darkness. There was nothing at all to envy now.
When Wren did not respond immediately to the posed question, the mermaid repeated herself.
“Speak to me, precious,” the voice urged. “A rare treat such as you has not crossed me in a long time.”
Wren was not sure how to answer, caught up in her staring as she was.
It’s not polite to stare, she reminded herself now, but couldn’t keep from it.
The mermaid leered back at her, examining Wren from the spirals of her hair to the tips of her shoes. She did not seem impressed.
“I know who you are,” the mermaid said snidely. Wren knew better than to respond to this creature. Rifter had warned her about them in the past. Once, she had been hypnotized by their song and several had tried to drown her, but she’d not been aware that they could speak her language, even as telepathy.
“You are the Wren, aren’t you? The Rifter’s whore,” the mermaid declared, splashing her fin around in the water. “Much has been said about you. You are not welcome here!”
Wren was surprised by those callous words, yet she couldn’t ignore them. She had opened her mouth and spoken before she could remind herself not to.
“What do you mean?”
The mangled mermaid came down off the rock and swam closer, silently gliding through the water like a snake. Wren lost sight of her for a moment until she reemerged, closer, but not near enough to be a threat.
“It has been said that a horrible demon will come, which will bring even more famine and decay to us here. It’s said that this demon rules over even Rifter’s demon and will arrive in the disguise of a young woman. It must be you!”
Rifter’s demon? Wren was shocked at that – didn’t understand what it meant. This was the first she’d heard of a demon.
The mermaid looked Wren up and down with hungry eyes, carefully examining her features. This made her uncomfortable, as if she was a slab on a butcher’s block. The cave was silent around them – even Rifter’s battle with the crystal beast had gone quiet in the distance.
“You think I am evil?” Wren asked in confusion. “I had nothing to do with this!”
“Anything Rifter brings is evil,” the mermaid swore to her. “He is possessed! The Scourge is the only one who might kill the Rifter, and we pray for his return. When the Rifter is dead, this curse will finally be lifted!”
“No, that can’t be true!” Wren declared, feeling a bit weak in the knees. “The Scourge has done this! He has twisted your thoughts!”
“You should not worry about this now,” the mermaid declared, rising from the water a bit, moving closer. Wren instinctively stepped back. “Look at you – standing there with your perfect skin and young body! Your beautiful hair! We mermaids were once the most beautiful, you know! I will enjoy killing you just for that!”
“This is wrong!” Wren insisted. “Rifter would never hurt this world!”
“Enough of this!” the mermaid screeched in a horrible tone like scraping metal. “Perhaps I have lost my voice, but I can still manage to kill you!”
The mermaid lurched forward in an attempt to pull herself up from the water and onto the cavern floor, but Wren got herself out of reached by moving farther up onto the raised area of the slope.
“Wait!” she protested, trying to think of a way to make her case. “I’m not a demon! Neither is Rifter! It’s all a mistake!”
The mermaid released a shrill laugh, casting off the distraction, crawling rapidly from the muck to grab at the ends of Wren’s dress.
“You’re nothing but a nasty trick! Join me for a swim, demon! The water will cool you off!”
Before Wren could remember that she was supposed to be getting herself out of reach, the mer-creature managed to catch her gown, tugging violently to pull Wren closer.
“Stop!” she cried, clenching a pointed stalagmite with one hand while fighting for her gown with the other. She kicked toward the mermaid’s face, making her lurch back, and finally the monster released her gown with a gracious rip as her claws slid through the cloth.
The mermaid, beached now but not seeming to care, crawled forward with more vigor than Wren had suspected her for, flipping her tail to spray Wren with the dark water. The cold, rancid liquid splashed into Wren’s eyes and she realized that she was at the disadvantage – as she always seemed to be. This mermaid planned to drown her or otherwise kill her some other way. She had to think, but nothing would come and she was feeling desperate. She could not take anymore.
“Rifter!” she screamed, letting her voice echo across the water and down through the tunnels, praying that help would come.
At the sound of his name, the mermaid before her looked up with a star of panic in her eye.
“He’s here? You brought him here? You wretched demon! You have brought this upon us!”
Wren did not hear another word. In an instant, Rifter was there, landing on top of the mermaid, gripping her neck. He bent her upward and reached in, slitting her throat with one motion.
Wren flinched at the sight, not wanting to look, but this was not the first time she had seen him do something like this. He had never given a second thought to killing, and she had come to understand his reasons a bit more over time, but she still could not get used to it.
“Rifter, you –!” she started with relief, but she did not manage another word.
His eyes flashed as he stared at the cascade of blood flowing out from the dying mermaid’s neck, and he didn’t even seem to recall that Wren was there as he opened his mouth of sharp teeth and ripped into the creature’s throat.
And there you have it! I hope this was enough to tide you over for a bit as I continue with NaNo and get ready for the next step in releasing Forsaken Dreamscape to you!