Thursday, January 7, 2010

The new leaf


The diamond apple dangled at the very tip of the branch, spikes glinting dangerously along its hard edges. Rupold plucked it unceremoniously and bit into it without so much as looking.
- Told you they’d be ripe, he grinned.
Adalee sqinted up at him from the bottom of the ladder and hissed.
- Rupold of Rodentree, it’s a marvel you’ve still got teeth and gums, she whispered.
- Well, said Rupold, licking his cleft lips to savour the clear sweetness of the fruit, - I could take it home and peel it first. And I could mash it and bake it into a pie, to make absolutely sure there were no splinters left…ouch!
He spat out a broken spike, along with tiny droplets of blood that looked inky in the moonlight, and smiled sheepishly.
- But where’s the fun in that?
- Fun? There’s really nothing funny about diamond apples, nor about sneaking into the house gardens. If the Farmer catches us here, we’re done for. He’ll have our hides for sure. I don’t know how I keep letting you talk me into this.
- Oh, come on. People travel from all over Apfeld to taste your diamond apple pie, and you love it. If it weren’t for these little expeditions, you wouldn’t be famous, and Odar would probably never have hired you, neither. You’d just be a village cook, serving up stew to smugglers and piracats. So just hand me that basket and wait prettily, lady fair.
- Just keep your voice down, said Adalee, but she did as she was told and kept quiet as Rupold picked the sharp fruit into the padded wicker basket. He was right, after all. Diamond apple pie was her specialty, her most secret and wonderful recipe, and her life would not be the same without it. If this was the only way to acquire the main ingredient, so be it. Besides, all food in all of Apfeld came with a certain risk. It must be stolen out of the Farmer’s fields and gardens and orchards, where the Farmer could show up with His deadly wooden club anytime. She just wished she could stay away from His most prized crop, was all.
She cast a glance behind her, at the great main house looming on the hill. It was dark except for the fluorescent light above the main entrance, but that meant nothing. He might be there even so, watching His gardens from behind the curtains, ready to chase after them in a heart beat.
- Hurry, she whispered, clutching the ladder as hard as she could.
- Yeah, yeah, I’ll just get a couple more, and then…Hey, what’s this?
There was a small flash among the branches, and Rupold fell suddenly silent. Adalee craned her neck to see what he was up to, but he wasn’t moving.
- What’s going on, she breathed, heart racing, but Rupold didn’t answer. She cast about, whiskers shaking, pricking her ears. And then she heard them. Footsteps, fast ones, on the hill.
Rupold came flying out of the tree, hitting the ground hard. The wicker basket rolled off to one side and spilled a few of the glimmering apples, and without thinking she bent down to retrieve the precious loot. But Rupold yanked hard at her scruff, pulling her to her feet.
- Flee, he all but wailed in her ear, and then he darted off wildly between the trees. Adalee followed as soon as she could get her feet to obey. They felt like cold water coursed through them, weak and unstable, but she managed to stay on Rupold’s tail while they crashed and stumbled through the dark gardens as if their fur were on fire.
Something followed with thunderous steps that kept coming closer, no matter how many short cuts Rupold knew between the rows of fruit trees. The Farmer was fast, she knew, but He wasn’t supposed to able to outrun two petlings, not when they weren’t hampered by loot. But somehow He was gaining on them anyway. Any second now, He would catch them, would strike them from behind, and then that would be it. He would skin them and hang their hide on the barn to make an example, just like He did with that poor caravan knave last year. She ran for her life, breath aching in her throat and tears blurring her vision.
- Here, Rupold suddenly hissed, and dove underneath the skirt of one of the many hedges that ran through the grounds. She threw herself to the ground and tumbled after him into a shallow pit beneath the branches, just in time. Something raced past them in the lane, just inches from her snout. Her eyes bulged as she watched its claws flash by right in front of her, and she had to bite her paw to keep still.
- What was that, she whimpered when the footsteps had faded into the distance. - Rupold, those claws were metal!
- I don’t know, Rupold said, - But it came when I touched this.
He opened his clutched hand. A small silver leaf with serrated edges lay in his palm, visible in the darkness of the brambles because of minute blinking lights that ran across its surface, chasing each other in jerky, random patterns.
Adalee swallowed.
- Is it real? It doesn’t look…right, she said and leaned forward to sniff it. One of her whiskers touched its surface, and it gave a red flash. Somewhere in the distance there was a horrible sound, like a howl turned into a siren.
- Adalee, Rupold croaked, and it made Adalee's fur stand on end to hear his voice so laced with fear. - I think the Farmer has a new dog.

(This is my third Sunday Scribblings entry. Apologies for the length of the text.)


Catherine Denton said...

Oh-my-gosh. This was incredible! I was on the edge of my seat. Now I'm insatiably curious about what Rupold and Adalee are and what happens to them. Will there be a second installment?

Dee Martin said...

I LOVED this!!! Can't wait to hear more! Diamond apples? Petlings? Snouts? I am so hooked :)

keithsramblings said...

This is amazing - please don't apologise for the length of the text - I hung on to every word! More please.

Li:ne said...

Fantastic! But what is it? And will it come back now? I need to know...

Laini Taylor said...

This is wonderful, Tone!!! Is it part of the book, or just set in your world? Love it, can't wait to read more! I wish your manuscript was in English -- I would be pestering you for it :-)

tone almhjell said...

Everybody, thank you so much! It's so nice to get some enthusiastic feedback, especially when I rarely get to write these days. I decided to do some Sunday Scribblings just to keep everything warm, and to set all entries in my world, and write scenes that might or might not become part of the story in the end.

Now, I know what is hunting Adalee and Rupold, and hopefully you will find out, too, when the second installment of my story is done.

I sort of wish my manuscript was in English, too, so you could pester me for it, Laini :)