Guest Post by K.T. Ivanrest, author of the story "Lightless" in Equus, an anthology forthcoming July 18, 2017 from World Weaver Press
I seem to have a conflict problem. In the first draft of my Sirens story, "Threshold," there wasn’t enough conflict. In contrast, my early drafts of "Lightless" had too much. Below is a section of the first scene from an earlier version of "Lightless," and while I ultimately couldn’t make the fading/crime connection work with the rest of the story, I do like the extra tension it brought and wanted to share it (because what the world needs right now is more conflict, right? Right?...).
(Note: because it’s an early draft, it’s not the best-edited excerpt you’ll ever read. Bear with me.)
[Fulsa, locked in a tower with his slave Phaios, awaits the arrival of the empress.]
He peered down at his hands, but could discern no difference in their glow. It was impossible, here in this prison with only Phaios for company, to tell whether there had been any more change, any further dimming. Beside the lightless slave he always looked radiant, so bright he could almost forget what was happening, and then the empress would arrive for her weekly visit and he would see the truth again.
Her footsteps were soft tps on the polished stone stairway, her presence announced by the gradual spread of light that preceded her up the staircase, pressing away the shadows with proud disdain and careless ease.
“Your Imperial Majesty.” He knelt as she ascended the last of the stairs, the silver fabric of her coat rustling softly on the stone, scattering specks of light like jewels for the less fortunate.
“Fulsa.” Did she practice making his name sound like an insult, or did it just come naturally, a ready accompaniment to her anger and shame? “Another turn of the heavens. Are you, perhaps, finally prepared to make a confession?”
For the briefest moment he considered saying yes, inventing an offense and apologizing and begging her to let him free. But of course it would do no good—the fading would continue and she’d know he had lied, and still she would not believe he’d done nothing.
“No,” he said at last.
Her eyes narrowed to slits, her fury flashing like her ever-present light. “You persist in lying to me. Every day you pale further into night and yet you continue to insist that you are innocent.”
“I am. I’ve done nothing, I don’t know why this is hap—“
“Ridiculous,” she snapped. “I could overlook your crime, whatever it is, but your arrogance and dishonesty are unforgiveable.”
She gave him a long, searching look, perhaps trying to decide whether arrogance and dishonesty were severe enough defects to cause someone to fade. But if that were the case, he thought bitterly, she would have faded long ago, and quiet, dependable Phaios would be sitting on the throne in her place.
He shook his head and forced himself to meet her eyes. “I will not incriminate myself.”
“Then we are finished.” She spun, the glass beads woven into her hair clicking as she moved.
“Please.” He reached after her but dared not touch even her coat. “Please, is there nothing I can do or say to prove myself to you?”
I want to go home.
A long silence, pure and perfect like all the silence here in this desolate place, away from the city, from the stables and his team, from the thousands of citizens lighting the island with their glow.
At last the empress spoke, voice hard as stone. “I will not visit again. When you are prepared to confess your crime, send word.”
She strode forward and he leapt after her, desperate. “Wait, mother, plea—”
By the time she’d spun again he was back on his knees, hot with shame, but the fire did nothing to increase his glow, which instead seemed to dim beneath the empress’ glare.
“Look at you. Cowering like a lightless.” She turned once more and strode toward the staircase, and though he knew exactly what she was going to say next, it didn’t hurt any less to hear it. “You are no son of mine.”
How does it compare to the final version of "Lightless"? You’ll have to read the story and see! </shameless plug>
K.T. Ivanrest wanted to be a cat or horse when she grew up, but after failing to metamorphose into either, she began writing stories about them instead. Soon the horses became unicorns and the cats sprouted wings, and once the dragons arrived, there was no turning back. When not writing, K.T. can be found sewing and drinking decaf coffee. She has a PhD in Classical Studies, which will come in handy when aliens finally make contact and it turns out they speak Latin.