This was the start of my first Nano, and I've just come back to it after what I would guess is 3 years away, and I still kind of like it. I'd like opinions on
3) Whether this stands out enough from the mass of fantasy on the shelves to make it worth working on
The river thrums in its bed, water-on-rock song spoken into the bones of the world. The bridge over the river thrums, as well as creaks and groans in time with the water pulsing steadily against its legs. The strangers on the bridge – who are not really strangers but will remain so momentarily – thrum, the power beneath them rising into their bodies and minds, telling them that this is home. Home. At last. And no time to spare.
The lead stranger is whistling a slow tune through travel-darkened lips. Her hood, weathered to a dull gray, slumps low over her face, concealing her eyes from view, but she does not seem to care. Her feet tap a soft rhythm against the sides of her horse. The horse clops the counter-rhythm, seeming almost to dance to her whispery melody. The stranger sits upright, her cloak quiet and warm around her body, a slight belly puffing out her jerkin above the belt. The hands that hold the reins are tanned and bear thick callouses, but they dance a little with each measured bounce.
The thin fellow following her also holds himself upright, but his hood is back, his eyes following the undulations of the hill on the horizon. He is nervously tapping the butt of his reins on the saddlehorn. His mount shimmies with every third, one step right and then one left, stamp and step forward. The fellow's eyes are a cold clear gray, and his cheeks, though tanned, are hollow.
Bringing up the rear is a fine fat fellow with a glow in his countenance. He seems perfectly pleased with himself and amused with the entire proceeding. The bridge groans and his horse bows, but both bear him without breaking. He is rumbling a song that seems fit for the day, a bright basso carrying on the breeze towards the town ahead, speaking of a quiet contentment.
The sun shines down on the world nearby. In the town people are clustered in the commons, chattering of the week past, wondering if the sun can hold long enough for a lazy day of leisure. No whisper has yet reached these ears regarding the approaching strangers. News of their arrival will incite cacophony, but that has not yet begun. For now, children are playing on the well, screeching the winch back and forth while embarrassed parents try to get them to find other pursuits. None of them try very hard – it is not a day to be sad, nor one to be harsh, either.
The strangers ride over the rise preceding the path into the town. Past the low cottages and sparse farmland, the ocean glitters. Tiny swooshing waves refract light diamond-like. The lady and the thin fellow catch a little of their fat friend's mirth at this sight. They love something about this place, though they have seen the wide world, and though they have news that bears telling sooner rather than later. They spur their horses a little faster, the slow clopping turning into thumping trots, made uneven and syncopated by the slope. The thin fellow stops his tapping, and all three of them start a song of homecoming.
All Come Home Now,
Thrum in the air
All Come Home Now
Thrum in my body
All Come Home Now
Thrum in my heart
In the town, the people in the square turn idly to watch their approach. It is neither common nor strange to see riders incoming, only interesting, but these riders are singing a song that these folk know for their own. As the threesome come close, Mary of Balenn recognizes one of the approaching figures, and shrieks delightedly “William of Parsh, be that you?” She runs towards the riders.
“It do be, Mary,” says the fat fellow, laughter in his rumbling voice.
The square buzzes now, seeing their native son come home. William of Parsh has been gone long enough to wonder where he has been, but not long enough to forget. He is a welcome figure in this place, and the chatter is intertwined with wry noises as stories are recounted of the big man's devilish sense of humour.
Mary of Balenn slaps the big mans knee as he pulls his horse up to avoid trampling her. “Where the likes of you do be getting such a fine tall horse, William of Parsh?”
The big man darts uneasy eyes at the lady. “That do be a tale for a different time, sweet Mary of Balenn. For today we come with news.”
The people in the commons cluster tighter around the horsemen now, wondering what could be the message winging them back to the Thrum. The lady stares into faces pressing close into her legs, children who have lost their old interest in the well for this new and more entertaining fare.
“It must be after supper we give these tidings,” says William. He does not look happy to say these words, and he grunts and chuffs a little as if he would say more. But for the moment he holds his tongue. The folk first wait and then back away, none of them able or willing to give of their hearth.
“Lookin like you be dining with me this even, Will,” says Mary.
“So it do,” says Will. “May I invite my mates as well?”
“I doubt I'd be havin a choice of that one, but do as you will, Will, I'll not stop ye from givin my kindnesses away.”
The strangers follow the girl named Mary across the commons and down the lane to a farmhouse surrounded by patch corn and wheat. The stench would doubtless knock them down, were they not stinking and coated in road-dirt themselves. As it is the scent of dry dung cow cakes hangs in the air and reminds each of some place like home.
“Will you be stayin for supper then, Will?” asks Mary.
“Aye Mary, if we be welcome.”
“'Tis not up to me, but I would say that ye were, if I were of the betting sort.” Mary grins slyly at Will.
“Oh, you've given that up then have you?” He laughs when the girl strikes his hand and reddens. “I don't mean anything by that, dear Mary, you know yourself. She's as good as a song,” he says to his companions.
“No doubt.” It is the first time Mary has heard the lady speak. Her voice is sharp like a summer reed, cutting a thin line through the joy but leaving only a small hurt in its place.
Mary shows her visitors into the front of the house and goes back to fetch her da from the field. He is singing a harvest song in a strong, heavy voice. “Da,” she shouts, “Will's home!”
Mary's da rustles the new corn a little as he straightens and walks to his daughter. “Will, you say?”
“Yes, da, it do be Will on our very door!”
Mary's da moves quickly towards the house, his daughter trailing fast behind him.