Saturday, November 23, 2019

NaNo2019 Sneak Peek!

So I promised after I reached the 50k that I was going to post an excerpt from my NaNo WIP "Come Marching Home" 

If you haven't been following me on Instagram or Twitter where I've mostly been posting about my project, this book is like a magical world alternative to ours with a WWI feel so like magical trench warfare. But instead of like most war stories where we follow the war front, this story is set after the war is over, and deals more about the issues with homecoming and war trauma. There's also brothers, because this is me. So this is the first chapter. (Part of the prologue is posted on my project page on the NaNo site if you want to check that out HERE)

(Also, Warning: this is not edited, so there's probably a lot of typos. Also, names of places are subject to change because the ones I have there now are just place holders until I can think of something better XD)

You can also look at my Pinterest board HERE

Chapter One

Ernst Keller knocked on the door to the final house on his rounds. Frau Klein’s baby boy had a fever and he’d made a tincture that would work well yet still be kind enough for an infant to use. 
            Her daughter, a girl of about eight, opened the door at his knock and he smiled.
            “And how are you, Lettie?” he asked, taking off his cap and stepping inside.
            “Alright,” she said with a small smile back before it turned into a frown. “Are you going to help Heinz?”
            Ernst reached out and tweaked her nose gently. “Don’t you worry, you’re brother will be right at rain soon enough. Now where’s your mother?”
            “In here, Ernst.”
            He followed the woman’s voice and found Frau Kline in the back room of the first floor, which was the nursery. She sat rocking and fussy baby and looked up gratefully when Ernst came in.
            “Thank you for coming,” she said.
            “Of course, let me see the little man.” He reached out and took the baby from her arms, reaching up to stroke the overly warm forehead. At his touch, he willed some of his healing ability into the baby, like he did when he planted the herbs for his garden. The infant stopped fussing and seemed to rest easier. He cradled him for a couple more minutes before he settled him into his cradle while Frau Klein stood by, watching anxiously.
            “It’s not anything too bad,” he promised her with a smile. “Just a little chill. The herbal mixture I brought will work fine.” He reached into his satchel and pulled out the small package. “A teaspoon of this in warm milk twice a day. He may fuss to drink it, but once he does, even one dose should start to work.”
            “Thank you,” Frau Klein told him and made her way to the kitchen. She fetched a purse and was about to count out coins. “How much do I owe you?”
            Ernst held up his hand. “Nothing for so little.”
            “But times are so tight,” she protested.
            “And I just have myself to feed,” Ernst reminded her gently. “If you wish to give me anything, a couple of those apple pastries the next time you make them are payment enough.”
            She smiled and reached up to touch his cheek. “Of course, dear. I’ll make them as soon as Heinz is feeling better.”
            Ernst left the house and made his way back to the shop. He had some more tinctures and medicines to put together today, things he was running low on. And he was going to have to move some of his herbs into the hothouse in preparation for the coming winter.  
            He didn’t get far down the road though, when someone called his name.
            He spun around and saw a telegraph boy running toward him.
            A sudden sickness seized him as the boy stopped in front of him.
            “What is it, Karl?” he asked.
            “A message for you,” Karl said and handed him the small, brown envelope.
            Ernst swallowed and fumbled in his pocket to pay the boy before hurrying back toward the shop. 
            He didn’t want to open it. Didn’t want the uncertainty to become certain. And yet, he couldn’t stand not knowing either.
            He dumped his satchel carelessly on the table, scattering a few bundles of dries herbs as he took one long look at the envelope and then with a breath to steel himself, he ripped it open.
            As he read the short message, he sagged in relief and slumped in a chair, legs like jelly and hands shaking. He said a quick prayer of thanks to the goddess of warriors and allowed himself to breathe again.
            Alfonse was on his way back to him.
            His brother was coming home.
It had been over a year since the war with Mongoland started after a series of events that led to a border raid that led to shots fired, that led to an important man getting shot. No one really knew how that turned into a full fledged war, but it had. And soon every man who could wield a weapon, magical or otherwise, was sent off to the trenches to fight for Tuton, in the hopes that the war would stay out there in the vast fields far away from the cities and the people.
            Alfonse had volunteered. He’d always been a bit restless for the small country village, and Ernst had always known that, but it had gotten worse since their parents died of a sickness that had swept through and taken them both, despite everything his mother had tried. Even healers couldn’t fix everything. 
            They’d been alone after that, and Ernst, only seventeen and only four years older than his younger brother, had to take over the business and raise Alfonse as well. 
            And that had been a task. He’d been a wild boy, though not in a bad way. Just free. He could cause mischief, but then smile and gain the hearts of the villagers all the same. He certainly had gained the hearts of most of the women in the village, that was for sure. Alf had been a ladies’ man pretty much since he could walk.
            And he was a natural magician, which meant that everyone offered him a certain respect. There weren’t a lot of them out here in the country.
            So when the war started, Alfonse had instantly wanted to go. It was probably best in the long run, Ernst now realized. He would have been conscripted soon enough, after a few months, when they realized that this fight wasn’t just going to blow over with a few blows and a couple peace treaties, everyone with magic, especially the natural magicians and alchemists had been taken to the front. Ernst had only stayed because he was given a pass as the only healer in his village and the only one with any natural talent until you got to Iron City. 
            Part of him wished to have gone with Alf in the beginning. It had been hard to let his little brother walk toward death alone. He was all Ernst had left, and the thought of losing him was unbearable. But another part seemed to realize that Alfonse needed to do this alone. He was nineteen when he left. A man, and a powerful magician. Ernst knew they needed him, and though he wanted to keep his baby brother to himself, he knew that he had to let him go this time.
            Every day was like walking on eggshells. Alfonse wrote to him at first then stopped. Ernst understood. He knew the war was hard. Their father had fought in the previous one, and he never talked about it. Sometimes he got that distant look in his eye that told them he was remembering something. But it was still hard for Ernst to know nothing of his brother’s safety or whereabouts. Nothing to rely on but the telegraphs that would come in every few days, telling of another soldier who wouldn’t be marching home. Every time he didn’t receive one he said a prayer of thanks, and asked for his brother’s protection.
            In the meantime, he ran the shop that their parents had left, tended his garden, and made his medicines. Tried to keep his spirits up, help where he was needed. He was one of the few young men left in town now, and so he did odd jobs for the soldier’s wives and the elderly. He neatly evaded the young women who showed up at his shop nearly daily to ask for some tincture for some new ache, oftentimes coming to a squabble right on his doorstep if more than one happened to show up. He smiled at the shopkeeper’s daughter, Ada, when he went to buy dry goods, which only made the other village girls more determined to win him over.
            He survived. But he missed his brother dearly. Alfonse had been Ernst’s constant companion for the majority of his life and all his other boyhood friends had gone to war with him. He tried not to feel so alone, but sometimes, he couldn’t really help it.
            But now his brother was coming back, and he felt as if something he didn’t know was there had been lifted form his chest. 
            He had a lot of preparation to see to. For the most part, Alfonse’s room had been left untouched, even his clothes were still there, since he only needed a uniform now. He cleaned the room though, dusted it, aired the sheets…not an easy task in the bleak, wet weather they had been having, but it would have to do. 
            The telegraph had said that Alfonse had been injured, but Ernst didn’t worry over much about that. He was a healer after all, the idea of an injured little brother did not daunt him. He simply made up a few more tinctures and creams that were good for wounds. 
            It was three days between the time Ernst received the telegraph to when the transport truck pulled up outside their shop door. 
            He had just been making up his orders for the day when he heard the rumbling sound of a magic engine outside. He dropped what he was doing instantly, tore off his apron and ran outside in his shirtsleeves.
            The back of the truck was sheltered with canvas, and a man got down, hauling out a trunk before another came around the back.
            Alfonse appeared then, a crutch held in one hand, and a wary look on his face as he eyed the distance between the truck bed and the ground. The man reached up and helped him to his feet.
            Alfonse swayed slightly, then stuck his crutch into the cobbles and looked up finally at the shop.
            Ernst was already moving, unable to stay away a moment longer. A grin spread across his face despite himself, and his arms were already open when Alfonse turned to see him.
            “Alf!” he cried and caught his brother up in a cheerful embrace.
            He was so glad to see him that for the first few seconds he didn’t realize Alf wasn’t hugging him back. 
            In fact, upon the initial embrace, Alfonse stiffened up entirely. It was only after a few seconds that he relaxed his brother’s hold, forehead lowering to rest on his shoulder, even if his arms didn’t wrap around Ernst like they normally would have.
            Ernst held him for a little while longer, taking stock of the extra few inches his brother had grown—taller than he was now!—and the pounds his already slim brother had lost. He could feel the lean muscle, but there was more bone than he would like. His cheek rested on top of the dark head, inhaling deeply. 
            “Welcome home, brother,” he said, then pulled away.
            Alfonse looked startled to lose the contact, and perhaps also a little relived. Ernst smiled reassuringly and finally, Alf’s lips curled up a little too. A bit of relief shot through Ernst’s chest. He reached out to squeeze Alfonse’s shoulder. 
            “Come on, I’ll make you breakfast. You should get off that leg.”
            And like that, his brother was home.
            At least in body.
            As Ernst turned away to pick up the trunk, his smile faded because of the look he had seen in his brother’s eyes. It was the same he had seen in his father’s when he was having a bad day. 
            He feared that, perhaps, Alfonse had left something of himself back at the war front.

 How is everyone else doing on NaNo this year?