Debat between "hooks"

Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Version 1

Not wanting to see the villager’s disapproving scowls or the sheriff who dogged her every step, Brusenna kept her gaze trained on the packed earth as she trudged through the marketplace. The sun scorched her straw colored hair. The street's dust clung to her feet as if begging her to take it away from this stifling place.
Brusenna knew exactly how the dust felt. There was only one merchant that would sell to her, and then only because he needed the money. Keeping her amber eyes on task, she snatched the few meager items her mother needed and then took them to the owner.
“12 upice,” he said sourly.
A ridiculous price. If she were anyone else, she could have bartered it down to half that. But she was not anyone else. She was a witch. She held out the coins. The man’s gruff paw swallowed her tiny hand in mounds of fat. She wondered what marvelous things he ate to flesh out his skin that way. Things like the honey sweetened cakes that she could still smell in her clothes even after she'd left the marketplace.
The merchant counted the money, and then grunted as he counted it again. He pocketed the coins with a scowl—obviously disappointed that she’d paid the correct amount and cheated him of a chance to berate her. “Now get out, chanter.” He shook his pocket and the clink of the coins seemed to reassure him.
Bundling her packages together, she searched for the most unobtrusive path for egress and then darted through people that cringed or glowered at her in turns. At the unexpected sound of hoof beats, she stole a peek at an enormous black horse—its rider scanning the crowd. Ducking her head again, she hurried faster. She felt the rider’s gaze lock on her back.
If she could just make it to the streets, she could hide. Almost there. A few more steps. But she wasn’t quite fast enough. She started when the horse blocked the way. Before she could stop herself, she plowed into the animal’s girth. She stumbled backward. But her legs couldn’t keep up with the rest of her and she landed on her backside. Her purchases clattered loudly to the ground. Sucking air, she fought the urge to cry out as the pain blossomed from her bottom.
Forgetting herself for a moment, Brusenna glanced into the cobalt eyes of the most beautiful woman she'd ever seen. Her hair gleamed like a field of ripe wheat, and she was clad in creamy cotton with brown leather coverings. An expensive musket was strapped to the back of her saddle. That and the horse were signs enough that the woman had money. Those that could afford work animals simply for transport had means well beyond anything Brusenna could imagine.
But what frightened her most was that the woman stared coolly down at her. The fear began with a tingling in her scalp and then worked its way painfully to Brusenna's toes. She scrunched them in the packed earth to hold it in.
“What's your name, child?” The woman's voice was as sweet and lingering as the smell of the honeycakes.
Brusenna turned a pain-filled glance to the marketplace. It had come to a standstill to gape at the interchange. Beauty, wealth, and power didn’t mingle with witches. She forced herself to unclench her fists. The breeze felt cool against her sweaty palms. “Brusenna.”
The leather of the saddle creaked as the woman sank back into it. “Ah, Sacra's only daughter then?”
How could a woman like this know my name, the name of my mother? The marketplace had gone so quiet that her head buzzed. Her packages scrapped against the dirt and pebbles as she dragged them in. She managed to bob her head once.
The woman made a clucking sound and then dismounted. Brushing the dirt off one of the packages, she handed it to Brusenna. “My name is Coyel. Take me to your mother, will you?”
Brusenna swallowed to keep her breakfast of cracked wheat from revisiting her mouth. “I’m not, I mean, I shouldn’t, I mean—”
Coyel cocked an eyebrow and pitched her voice so that none of the villagers would hear, “I am the first of three sisters.”
Brusenna blinked in confusion. Coyel’s statement seemed to have a deeper meaning, but for all her searching, she couldn’t understand it. “I . . . I’m an only child. My sister died before I was born.”
A look of disbelief crossed Coyel’s face, and Brusenna knew that she’d missed the mark entirely. “I knew Arel,” Coyel finally said. “As well as your father, Rench, before they died. Take me there, Brusenna. I must speak with your mother.”
Hot waves of jealousy and wonder rippled along Brusenna’s scalp, traveling down her skin until they hit the ground. From there, they reverberated back through her, like a wave of shimmering heat. This woman knew her father and sister? They had died long before Brusenna’s birth. Her mother never spoke of them. If this woman knew them, then she might tell Brusenna.
She bit her bottom lip before nodding. With a quick glance at the townspeople, she scurried through the streets. Almost as soon as the village thinned, they crossed into fields flanked by deep forests—forests that drew over the gentle curves of the hills like a furry blanket over the sleeping forms of giants. Brusenna’s shoulders itched for the cool, comforting shadows of those forests. She felt naked out in the open like this, where anyone’s hate-filled eyes could watch her. More so with the echoing clop of the horse’s hoofs to remind her of the woman and her cobalt eyes.

Version 2 (begins a little later in the story).
After leaving the cool of the forest, the sun seemed unbearably hot. Sweat glistened on Brusenna’s forehead. She wiped at it with the back of her hand. The town loomed before her like some great, dirty sore on the earth’s crust. Tucking her straw colored hair behind her ears, she took a deep breath and plunged in. She had to endure the stares of all the town’s citizens before she finally reached Gonstower market. She froze at her regular merchant’s booth. It was empty. Trying to swallow the lump that kept rising in her throat, Brusenna kept her head down as she looked down the line of merchants.
Sweat trickled down her back and made her dress cling to her. She turned to the next merchant and met his eyes. He shook his head in disgust. She made her way to the next. He chuckled, “I don’t think so, witch.” Then she came to a young man; one she’d never seen before. He flashed a smile, his white teeth straight and even. “What does the lady need today?”
Brusenna’s cheeks flamed. Lady? No one had ever called her a lady. “I need a couple needles and some cloth to make a new dress.”
He looked her up and down. “Yes, you’ve outgrown that one, haven’t you? You’re probably old enough for a woman’s full length dress, wouldn’t you say?” He pulled out a beautiful sky blue bolt. “This would look wonderful with your soft yellow hair and . . .” He ducked to look under her lowered lashes. “Golden eyes. Like wheat that’s almost ready to harvest—hints of green. Hmm.”
She found the color rising to her cheeks for the second time. “That would be fine,” she managed.
He chuckled as he measured and cut the cloth and then stuck two needles in a corner. As he handed it to her, his hands touched hers. Her stomach jumped into her throat. Most people made it a point not to touch her, but he hadn’t even cringed as she’d handed over the upice. He smiled again as he put the money away and his skin crinkled around his pale blue eyes. “My name’s Wardof. I haven’t seen you here before. Where do you live?”
Amazingly, Brusenna found herself meeting his gaze. “In the forest.”
“Well, you’re husband’s a lucky man.”
“Oh, I’m not married,” she said quickly, part of her pleased that he thought her old enough for a husband—though she was really only fifteen. “I live with my mother.”
He gestured to his plethora of goods. “Perhaps she would like something?”
Brusenna shook her head. “No.”
“Oh, come now. I’ll throw in something free, just for her.”
Brusenna dug her toenails into the dirt. “Maybe when she comes back. . . “
“Oh,” he said. “Of course. When she gets back from . . .”
Biting her lip, Brusenna looked away. Back from fighting the Dark Witch, she thought. If she comes back at all.
He gave an easy laugh. “Well, whenever she does. Send her down to pick something up.”
She nodded, gave him a small smile, and turned to go. But he reached out and grabbed her hand. “Wait! I have just the thing for you.” He reached underneath his counter and pulled out a silver necklace with an amber pendant shaped like a crescent moon. “It matches your eyes perfectly.”
Brusenna’s eyes widened in shock. “I couldn’t.”
“Sure you could,” he said easily. “I’m sure you’ll make it up to me, someday.”
Brusenna gazed longingly at the necklace. It was beautiful, and she’d never owned a piece of jewelry before. She bit her lip. “I don’t know.”
He came around the counter to stand next to her. Without asking, he brushed her hair over her shoulder and fastened the clasp. The metal felt cool against her sweltering skin. She rotated it, watching as it caught the light. “It’s beautiful.”
“Well, so are you.” He squeezed her hand and stepped back around the counter.
Tears welled in her eyes. Her hand still feeling the pressure of his grip, she cradled it against her body. It had been so long since she’d touched another person. “Thank you.”
“Perhaps you’ll come see me another time?”
To see his smile and speak to him again, Brusenna might do just that. Nodding a shy goodbye, she practically skipped from the marketplace. At least until a group of boys blocked her path. “You’re the chanter, aren’t you?” the one with the crooked nose asked her.
Dropping her head, she tried to duck past him. But he blocked her. “Chanter! Why don’t you cast one of your witch spells?”
Knowing a reply would only make things worse, she tried again to slide past them. Crooked nose easily blocked her. “Oh, look at that boys, she’s scared.” He gave one of her budding breasts a squeeze and made to say something else. He never got the chance.
Her mouth opened of its own accord and a song erupted from the most primal part of her, “Plants, hear my song, an enemy wishes to do me wrong!” He instantly shrank from before her and would have kept going, but the vines twisting around his ankles stopped him. His face drained of color as the plant edged up his legs and the legs of his companions. They tried to kick free, but the vines held.
“Here now!” a voice cried from somewhere behind Brusenna. She whirled to see the sheriff coming round a corner at full speed. She shrank away, desperately wanting to run. But instead of scolding her, he stopped in front of the boy. “Corwood, you’ve done it now! I’ll have you locked up for a fortnight for that!”
Brusenna didn’t care to wait around. “Never touch me again,” she hissed as she stepped past the boys.
The sheriff called after her, but she pretended not to hear. She didn’t notice the pale blue eyes watching her with a knowing look in the crowd of merchants.

Let me know which is your favorite! I need to decide as soon as possible.


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