Following the last scene I posted, there's going to be a scene that covers several days in which the reader gets hints that something is going sour in Embery's relationship with the village. I'm still working out how I want to handle that, so it's time to do something I do all the time in writing: jump ahead to the next scene that's clear in my mind.
You don't have to write scenes in order. A lot of people get hung up about this. You really don't; you can write them in whatever order you like. I routinely write the scenes that come to mind most vividly, and then fill in the gaps between them. Since Rule #3 always applies -- nothing's set in stone until the first copies come back from the printers -- any inconsistencies can be fixed later on by editing. Don't worry about consistency yet; get a rough draft written, and then deal with the pesky details.
With that in mind, here's the fourth scene from The Road to Amalin
The raps came at the door, low and hurried. Embery, who was sewing a waistcoat for Tay, looked up suddenly, set fabric and needle aside and went to answer. Her fears hid themselves when she saw that the only one outside was poor Issa, came back out from hiding again when she saw the expression on the woman’s face.
“Please come in,” she said, managing a smile she hoped wasn’t too strained. “Perhaps you’d like some tea?”
“No,” Issa said, stopping in the doorway. “Thank you, but no. I can stay but a moment. I told you I’d do some good thing for you if I found one, and that’s why I’m here.”
“Why, thank you. What is it?”
“To give you warning.” Issa’s voice went low. “It’s that Doctor Merimer. He heard from Anner’s sons that they’d seen your Tay up on the hills past Creel’s Head, walking with something.” She swallowed. “Something that wasn’t human.”
Embery stared at her, trying to make the words make some kind of sense. “But that’s nonsense,” she said. “And against the Faith, I do believe.”
“Maybe so,” said Issa. “But Anner’s boys aren’t the only ones who say they saw it with Tay, and there’s been stories for years and years about something that walks the hills, you know.” Embery didn’t, but nodded anyway. “But the upshot of it all is that Merimer’s gone to the monks, saying that it wouldn’t be so unless you’d had some dealings with unhallowed things, or you wouldn’t have healed so many—and they listened to him. My Perren came back late from the tavern last night, and he said some of the men were talking about it, bent over the table and quiet. He said the monks sent yesterday for a magister from High Leedaw.”
That could mean only one thing, Embery knew. She tried to keep her reaction off her face.
“That’s what I know,” said Issa then. “I can’t stay a moment longer—if they hear I’ve told you, it’ll be hard on me. But you’ve been so good to me and little Beshy. Spirits keep you, Mistress Embery, and your boy too.”
She turned and hurried away down the trail to the village, leaving Embery to stare after her.
A moment passed, and then Embery closed the door, hurried toward the back of the little shack. You always knew that this might happen, she told herself. It almost happened to Neely that once, and it did happen to her teacher’s teacher, over past Crannach Mountain back when the old queen was on the throne. Her hands shook as she opened the trunk at the foot of her bed, pulled out a few things she couldn’t bear to part with, reached under the bedstead for the little bag of copper and silver coins she’d kept against need.
Then it was necessities, into the same coarse cloth satchel she’d taken down to Sullamy’s: clothing and food, the bent knife she used to harvest herbs, a little iron pot for cooking, flint and steel to light a fire under it. All the while her mind circled around the one story she’d heard from Neely that didn’t have to do with far Amalin: the magister and monks with hard faces, the circle of villagers stooping for cobbles, the old woman crying out in pain and fear as the first stones hit her. Trials for sorcery didn’t happen often, but that offered little comfort if one happened to her.
Behind her, just then, the latch rattled.
She let out a little desperate cry as she turned around, but when the door opened, Tay came through it, panting, as though he’d run far. For a moment they stared at one another, and then he burst out, “Mother—what’s wrong?”
“We need to leave.” She forced the words out. “Now. Come—you’ll need to carry what you can.” When, appalled, he opened his mouth as though to speak, she went on: “There’s no time for questions now! I’ll tell what I know once we’re out the door. Quickly, fill this—” She held out a second satchel, worn but serviceable. “Clothes and anything you can’t bear to part with. Food, too—the last of the loaves. And a knife.”
Without another word he hurried over, began packing the satchel. Embery, hers full, rolled up her quilts into a long blanket roll, found a scrap of cord to tie the two ends side by side. That done, she did the same to Tay’s quilts, finished as he turned to her with his satchel packed. “Here,” she said, got his blanket roll over one shoulder, the ends on his other hip. She settled her satchel, donned the other blanket roll. “Ready?” He nodded, wide-eyed, and she led the way to the door.
A stray thought tried to convince her that when she opened it, she’d see monks coming up the trail with staves and cords, ready to beat and bind her, but luck or the spirits were with her: what of the trail she could see from the shack’s front door was empty, and only the wind in the gorse and heather made noise. Just in case, she motioned noiselessly, and she and Tay hurried up the slighter trail that led away from the village, toward the crest of the ridge and the unfrequented dale beyond it.
Embery’s heart pounded as she scrambled up the rocky trail, Tay at her heels. Her only thought was to put enough distance between the two of them and the shack that anyone who followed them could be put off the track. When they crested the ridge and she found a place where the trail up from the village could be seen, it stretched empty and bare down to the monastery roofs.
“We can rest here a little,” she said then. Tay turned wide baffled eyes toward her, and she went on. “I heard from—from one of the village folk that someone’s been telling nonsense tales about you, saying that you had dealings with something unhallowed. That you’d been seen with it up past Creel’s Head.” His eyes widened further. “The doctor in the village heard of it, and went to the monks saying I must have done the same. Now they’ve sent for a magister for a sorcery trial. They’ll stone me if they catch me, and you too, maybe.”
He stared at her for a long time, then said in a small voice, “Mother—it’s not nonsense.”
Embery met his stare with her own.
“It’s not nonsense,” he repeated. “Below Mollory Edge, there’s a—a thing from the land we don’t name. I’ve spoken with him.” He looked down at the bare ground between them. “Walked with him. I didn’t think anyone saw us.”
She tried to make sense of his words, leapt to the only possibility she could see. “Tay,” she said in a reproving tone. “This is no time for make-believe.”
“It’s not make-believe.” His face turned up to hers, pleading. “The day after you told me the story of Eremon and the faun, I went up toward Mollory Edge after lessons. There’s a story I heard from some of the older boys, that there’s something that dwells up there, and I thought it might be a faun, and so I went there and when I was sure no one else could hear, I sang Eremon’s song.”
Horrified, she said, “No! In the open for others to hear?”
“I made sure no one was near,” he told her. “No one but—but him. And he answered.” Then, all in a rush, he went on. “I didn’t dare tell you, because I knew you’d be angry and forbid me to go there again, and I couldn’t bear to stay away. He—he spoke the name.” Mouthing the word silently: “Amalin.” In a normal voice again: “But he sent me home today. He said you’d have need of me, and I ran all the way.”
A long moment passed before she found her voice. “That was good of him.”
A shake of his head denied it. “He’s not good. He told me that. He’s wise, but not good.” He hung his head. “But I didn’t know anyone saw us. I didn’t think any harm would come of it. If—if I’ve done ill—I’ll go down to the monks and the magister and let them stone me, if that means they’ll let you be.”
“No!” The word forced itself out, and she seized his arm. “Tay, no. How could I bear to let you do that? No, what’s done is done. We’ll go as far as we have to go, so both of us will be safe.”
“We can go to him,” Tay said. “He’ll know what to do.”
Embery considered that. Her thoughts were in chaos, trying to make sense of the impossible—a faun, a being of far Amalin, somehow strayed into a dale of cold gray Raithwold—but if it were true, if it might just this once be true...
“We’ll do that,” she said, and Tay’s face brightened. Then, glancing up at the westering sun, she went on: “But that’ll be in the dawn, not now. The moon’s not bright enough for us to find our way. We need to find a hiding place for the night, and I think I know of one.”
The way down from the ridge was easier, and at the bottom of the dale she kilted her skirts above the knee and had him roll up his trousers, and walked for a long while up the stream—the monks likely wouldn’t send for hounds, but she wasn’t willing to take a chance on that. They left the water only when they reached the spring at its source, hurried through a thicket of hazel and elder to reach the place she’d had in mind, a little hollow sheltered by crags of gray stone where certain roots grew, hard to find if you didn’t know it. From a hidden place beside one of the crags, the king’s highroad from the eastern dales could be seen, and once they’d shed satchels and blanket rolls in the hollow and caught their breath, she led Tay to the place, lay on her belly, looked down at the highroad as Tay wriggled his way beside her and looked out also.
At first the road seemed empty, but a faint murmur came up the highroad from the east, and in time it turned into the pounding of hooves. She reached, pressed fingers against Tay’s lips, the signal for perfect silence, and felt his answering nod. Then the horsemen came into sight below: two riders in buff coats, with steel helmets gleaming cold on their heads and long pistols at their saddlebows; another all in black, wearing the high-crowned hat of a magister; a banner-bearer behind him, with holy symbols on the flag that streamed back from the staff he held; more black-clad riders of the magister’s household, and two more troopers in buff and steel at the rear. They rode hard, and Embery had no doubt she knew why.
Her heart pounded along with the horses’ hooves, kept pounding hard long after they’d gone from sight and their hoofbeats were a dim murmur in the distance. Only when the last echoes had gone and the mournful cries of birds made the only sounds along the highroad did she dare slip back down the slope to the hollow.
Okay. I'll post some notes about what I did here in a day or two; in the meantime, questions are welcome -- once again, though, I'm not asking for critiques. (I don't crowdsource my fiction.) And of course those of you who are writing novels of your own along with me should be working on your next scene, too... ;-)