And I just about made it to 2000 words last night (technically, some five minutes after midnight). Now it's Nov 2 and I'm not sure what to do next. I'll post a bit more of novel to give me something fresh to stare at in blank-eyed frustration.
The rest of "Day 1"
"The truth"? What is the truth? Rhasqu says truth isn't something us mere mortals can grasp. There's only your truth, my truth, whatever truth we spin to ourselves. Then again, Rhasqu couldn't grasp a glue-covered stick, let alone anything as slippery as the truth, considering she's just a pickled head in jar.
The truth is, she takes it all unbelievably well. Maybe it comes of being a nun when she was alive. I mean, being stuck in a boring little cell all day isn't that different from being in a glass jar. At least you can see through the walls of the jar. She can still pray or whatever.
"You can pray, too, my child," she told me when I pointed that out. "Your god is not my god, but you shouldn't give up your faith."
"I'm not! I'm not about to fall on my face for the Bitch Goddess of the Ark," I said. "The Ark isn't my home. Especially now the Curse is broken. Not that there is anyone much left to be Cursed..."
And that was about when Wensel caught me.
The truth is, I hate this weird pen he makes me write with. It's not a proper quill at all. It's a hollow stick of bamboo with a little capsule of ink inside, which gets rolled out onto the paper around a tiny metal ball. One of Sviar's inventions, back when he was still in the inventing business. And this paper is too thin. I can just about see through it. It's all yellow and crackly and tears if you breathe too hard on it.
The truth is, I hate Wensel's cheese, that sickly orange stuff he makes himself. It smells like the lab and never melts right on the bread. But I had to eat it for supper again. It's my "reward" for finishing the stupid essay. Thanks, Wensel.
"Eat up, Addy," he says. "That's my girl. Get some of that corpse pallor out of your cheeks."
"Corpse pallor"! That is so typical. At least I know what a comb is, and I'm not the one with two weeks of grizzle sprouting on my face.
And my name is not "Addy"!
I am Adurven, Traveler on the Bone Road, acolyte of the Ossuary of the Forty-Ninth Stone.
My last memory of home: I was on vigil in the tomb of the Unknown Necromancer.
This was to be my last trial before I became a full initiate of our order, but I
failed. I fell asleep. I fell asleep on a cold stone floor, surrounded by cold stone walls. I woke up in a different place, but still cold, still surrounded by stone. The Ark. And that's how I found myself living on a hunk of rock carved out of a dead god, kept floating in the sky by the last dregs of power in his body.
So they say.
The truth is, I don't understand the enchantment that keeps us in the air. I didn't understand how the Curse worked, this Curse that wouldn't let us leave the Ark for more than a few days at a time.
The truth is, I don't understand how the Curse was broken, nor why we are the only survivors.
"You can't leave," Wensel told me over supper. He waved a piece of bread in the air. A bit of cheese was hanging over the edge. I kept waiting for it to fall, but it didn't. "Even without the Curse, you can't leave. You'd hide in the town? They wouldn't accept you. Necromancy is illegal here, you know. Punishable by death. By fire. If you're lucky, they'll cut off your head first."
"I know. I'm not stupid!" I did know. It was one of the first things they warned me about when I came to the Ark. The Bone Road runs through a hostile foreign country, as far as the locals are concerned. Bigots. "It's not like I was going to tell them. I can sweep a floor or carry a bucket as well as the next person. As you know!"
"You hardly need to tell them. You have graveyard dust under your feet. The air of the tomb hangs about your shoulders. And your face..." Wensel reached forward and flicked me on the nose. "That, my dear, is not the face of a living human being."
I winced and turned away. "I'll tell them I have a skin disease. Or leprosy, or whatever."
Wensel snorted. "Do you know how they treat lepers in this world? You're better off with me."
Maybe. Maybe that is the truth.
I am Adurven. I am Wensel's lab assistant. As well as sweeping the floors and carrying buckets, I wash his glassware, stir the alchemical mixtures in the big black cauldrons, bring in the firewood and throw out the ashes. I look after the six pickled heads he keeps in his lab.
Did I say there were just four survivors? There's also these six. They're not exactly alive, but they're not exactly dead, either. It's my duty to keep them that way. It's an easy enough spell. Even an acolyte could manage it.
But I'm not an acolyte anymore.
The truth is, I'm a slave.