I’m up at stupid-o’clock in the morning because my brain decided this was a good time to wake up. *grumble grumble grumble*
However, it does mean that I started writing! I’m now on 2480 words and am going back to bed…
Have my first draft of my first chapter as a teaser.
“Fahey! There’s a flying machine!”
The map-maker looked up from her drawing. “What?”
“A. Flying. Machine.” the elegant Hex drawled in annoyance, stopping on her way out of the door again. “In the town square.”
And then the door banged behind her.
There was indeed a flying machine in the town square. Jesse slid through the growing crowds to get a look at it.
It was elegant. It was beautiful. It was wood and leather and canvas, swept into curved lines. Jesse could only stand and gape.
It took a little while before she managed to take in enough to understand the details. The main body was a long cockpit, which looked like it had two seats. The wings jutted out from that, swept canvas and long struts, and had odd wooden spars jutting out from the front. It rested on three stumpy legs in the middle of the square, and the whispers and chatter swam and swirled around it.
“It’s a Fliyer.” she was informed by the gossip around her. “Just come from the desert. From Meton originally! The Mage demanded to speak to the Council.”
About ten minutes later, just as Jesse was starting to get hot and had almost had her fill of the wonderful craft, there was activity. Two people came out of the Hall, escorted by the Councillor and two others that Jesse recognised as Council. One was a Mage that Jesse recognised – an Earth Mage, she thought. And the other had a Meton dress and the white stripes of an Air Mage, but he wasn’t familiar.
They seemed to be talking urgently about something, and then both Mages nodded, and headed for the machine as the Council stood back.
“They’ve asked for an Earth Mage-” someone muttered.
But Jesse wasn’t listening. The Mage had put his foot on the wing and grasped the edge of the cockpit, and swung himself up. As he sat down, he offered a hand down to the Earth Mage. But after a moment of uncertainty, she did the same – although less gracefully. And then she was in the machine too.
The Air Mage waved a hand at everyone, and Jesse faintly heard, “Get back! It’s going to get windy!”
The crowd hastily retreated to the edges of the square, and then the machine had oh-so-gracefully lifted off from the ground, blasting sand in all directions, and then was rising rising rising into the middy sky-
Jesse watched it until it was out of sight, gone in the direction of the desert. All around her there were mutters – rockslides and Ziricon and spark and Fliyers. But the map-maker of Huish was oblivious to it all.
Her mind aflame with possibilities.
She could see the ground from the air.
She could –
She could map the world.
Her mother had been a desert runner, often away from home on the week-long runs carrying messages or vital supplies from city to city. Her taciturn father, a wagon driver from the trade route, had been the one to introduce Jesse to the maps; long, folded concertinas of paper bearing vital information about the route. She’d learned the symbols along with her letters; the swirl of a dust-storm, long flicks of a rockslide, the vital drops of the wells and a careful number for their capacity. The tiny drawings of landmarks scattered along the paper, an aide memoir for every driver rather than a detailed plan.
She had been eight years of age when the young Jesse carefully copied her father’s latest, tattered plan, and solemnly presented it to him. The dark, bearded man had examined it, and then given her the brief nod that meant he couldn’t find anything to fault.
And then- “This is good.”
She’d glowed with the pleasure of a seldom-given compliment, and run off to tell her friends.
And he’d started bringing her more maps to copy.
Jesse swung her cloak off her shoulders and looked around the shop as the door banged behind her. The walls were covered in long trails of paper, copies of the maps the wagon-drivers carried. The main table had pigeon-holes under it, complete with rolls of parchment and paper. The table itself was covered with drawings; scrawls of new routes, additions to older ones,
She hastily pulled out a new sheaf of paper, dragged her stool up to the table with one foot, and found her charcol. What would she need?
The Fliyers…the pilots could tell her the land, in the same way the wagon drivers and runners did. If this Fliyer had reached Huish, would there be others? She didn’t know. She’d have to find out.
And how would the map work? Jesse glanced around the shop, at the memoirs and scrawls.
She wanted to fly. She wanted to see the ground from the air; see the Mountains, see the Ridge, see the cities. She wanted to see the curves and straights of the trails, how far a runner had to go each day, where the rockslides were in relation to the Caves. She wanted to know how far it was to the sea, how big the desert was.
She’d been working with distance, with trails, with landmarks for the traveller. It didn’t matter how far something was – you’d know when you reached it. It was the things to remember on the trail, which was set – it was the size of the next water hole, the place to go round the rockslide, the overnight sites that provided the best shelter from the storms. It was everything needed for travel across any given trail, even if you didn’t know it – but then you’d have heard of it. The aide was just to help you remember what you’d been told.
But she didn’t want to do an aide. She wanted to know what the land was, stretched out across the parchment. She wanted to be able to run her hand across the paper and feel the desert beneath it. She wanted to be able to see the world spread out across the table.
How about borders? Would she put those on?
Maybe she could do more maps.
The shop had started as a place to work; she’d needed space for her papers, a larger table than the one in the small house where she’d grown up. There had been a small space on offer just off the market quarter, and although it wasn’t in a well-travelled area, Jesse ignored the advice of everyone around her and paid for a year.
It was only when she had moved her papers and scrolls out of the house that her father had nodded. “More space.” was his only comment.
And there was, in the house at least. Jesse hadn’t realised how much her passion had swept up where she lived; the piles of scrolls all went into the pigeon-holes in the shop, the maps went up on the walls, and she purchased the largest table that she could find to be able to draw on. The steady stream of visitors, either with new updates to a current route, or a new route they wanted, came through her shop and the sprawl of chairs around her table. And she started getting new visitors, too – people who were travelling, and who wanted to know the route for safety or curiosity or to appease a worried relative; those who had never travelled, but wanted to know about distant lands.
Jesse found that her scribbles increased, and new maps appeared; and despite the shop’s location, she was busy every day that she was open.
And so a year passed; and then the Fliyer arrived in Huish.
“A world map?” Hex asked, puzzled, putting the tiny cup of mint tea down on the table. “Why do you need that? It doesn’t help you get anywhere.”
“But it does!” Jesse said, almost lighting up. “You could see how far it is from one place to another. You could check different routes.”
“But if you don’t know the route-”
“You don’t need to!” Jesse’s passion was a flame. “If you’re flying, you don’t need to. The land doesn’t matter.”
“Well – why bother?”
“Because they still need it. They need to know which way to go.” Jesse was drumming the table, her long fingers tapping out an urgent beat of excitement. “They still need the water holes and which direction the cities are. But they need to see things from above. They need a wider overview than anything I’ve given the drivers or runners!”
“So you’d…draw it like you were up there?”
“Yes! With details from the ground, too, like water holes and trails.”
Hex’s expression was the resigned one of someone who had come across Jesse’s passion before. “Where are you even going to start?”
Jesse frowned. “I don’t know.”
“Maybe you should work that out?” Hex drawled.
“I think I need to know more about the Fliyers.”
“Well, they’re from Meton originally.” Hex said, and got up to go.
“Who designed it?”
“Lord Heir Toru Idalin, of course.” Hex pursed her lips in scorn. “Keep up with the gossip, Fahey!”
Jesse spent the next hour scribbling, putting off her other work to get the ideas out of her head. Landscape, from the Fliyer…and they would want to know water holes at least. How about seas? And the Mountains? Would an Earth Mage be able to help? Travellers certainly would. And if she sent a message to Toru Idalin, would he be able to help? Would he even be interested in the land below? Or did he only design the Fliyers and let others fly them?
But before long, a chime at her door indicated that she was about to get interrupted, and she reluctantly pushed the future aside. She had to earn a living now, as well.