Today is a very special post.
Children Of Blood And Bone is a reccent favourite. By favourite I mean I have been imploring everyone to read it. This isn’t just good, guys, it is stellar.
I am delighted to take part in the blog tour. This is the most open and unconventional blog tour I have been invited to join, and it is a breath of fresh air. Instead of asking everyone to write a review for a scheduled date, it invites bloggers to create orignial content. As much original content as they like during the period of the blog tour.
If you like Hogwarts Houses and Divergent factions, you will love the magi clans. Essentially these define people by how they channel their magic. Reapers see the dead, healers cure people. Tiders channel their magic into water and Winders into air. My story is about a Tider and and Winder. It takes a similar theme to Children Of Blood And Bone but imagines the troubles and strengths a Winder might have when faced with a tyrant. Along the way she meets a boy called Taki … but I won’t spoil it.
Constructive feedback is always welcome. Hope you enjoy.
(Photograph: Paul Nettleton)
Cry Mama Khazri – Louise Nettleton
Sit quiet when the soldiers come. That’s what Mama always taught me. Sit quiet, say nothing and listen to the wind. Even so, the first time the soldiers came, Mama was impressed that I had sat quiet at the back of the cupboard, even as people screamed and shots rang out and doors were broken apart.
‘Did you not feel frightened?’ she said.
‘No Mama,’ I told her. ‘The wind sung me a lullaby.’
Nobody else heard it. There were no other winders in our village, no other children who played games with the wind. The wind played games with me and told me stories and when other children’s papers blew away, mine always sailed back into my hands.
One day I moved from the back of the cupboard and pressed my eye to the key-hole. I had always imagined the soldiers to be unnaturally big and was surprised to see that most of them were boys. At their head was General Arun, the King’s nephew. The General lead raids on the villages. Some said he wanted to weed out magi, but often there was no reason for the raids other than Arun enjoyed it. Before he killed people he let them beg for as long as possible. Let them build up hope and thank him for his mercy before he ran them through with his bayonet. When he made a kill, the general left a white blossom on the ground. Some said it marked one step closer to purifying the land, but most people in the villages thought it was a boast. It was the General’s way of saying he was leader of the hunt.
When I was fifteen Mama was killed. For weeks I spoke to nobody. I tried to tell people how I felt but my voice didn’t work. The wind spoke for me: gales tore through the village, uprooting trees and bringing roof-tiles down. The wind became my second Mama. It wrapped me in soft breezes and whispered comforts. So it might have gone on, except when I was reminded to sit tight, stay silent and do nothing when the soldiers came I could no longer nod in mute agreement. Why should the soldiers not hear about the pain they had caused? The next time the soldiers came I was ready. ‘Wind, you must not comfort me tonight,’ I said. ‘Comfort is no longer enough. If I am to sit quietly I need to know my voice has been heard.’ Wind magic is like a whisper crossed with blowing, blowing gently until your desire connects with the heart of the breeze. The wind caught my desires and the magic ignited. My back was against the cupboard wall but my mind was with the breeze.
This was different to any magic I had experienced. I was the puppet-master. The wind was obedient to my command. At my bidding it cried like a widow who had just learned of her partner’s passing. It cried like a small child whose mother had been cut down. I watched through the keyhole. The soldiers’ stumbled and misfired as they covered their ears. They had heard such cries before but had always been able to silence them with a bayonet or a sword. General Arun cursed and cried for his men to keep their positions. It made no difference. They fell back with their fingers in their ears and ran for the woods.
Give the girl a chance.
The elders talked long into the night. The village was recalled early the next morning, as the sun rose in the orange sky. A cock crowed, and I took it to be an omen. If the cock could not be silenced, nor could I.
‘Aira is of an age to test her magic,’ said the High Elder, ‘but she must visit our neighbours in Kalamon so she truly knows what the soldiers are capable of.’
I rigged a sail boat and set out along the coast. The wind was my constant companion along the journey and it sped me on my way. The journey which would have taken another person into the night took me two or three hours, and the sea remained calm although I had a great wind in my sails. When I reached the harbour at Kalamon I leapt out to drag my boat in, but a boy leapt from the jetty and took hold of the prow.
‘Thank you,’ I said, afraid my displeasure was evident in my voice. What made him think I wasn’t managing? The boy said nothing, nothing at all. His brow was furrowed as if doing the job was only an excuse to let his mind roam. He insisted he would walk me to the settlement in the olive groves.
‘There is no need,’ I said.
‘My Grandfather insists.’ He said it like it was final. Like me he had been taught to respect his elders.
Almost the whole village had been burned to the ground. Possessions were scattered everywhere – watches and photographs and wooden trinkets half-buried in the mud. The only survivors were the people who lived in the hills. Between the possessions were twenty or thirty white blossoms.
‘We will not clear it, although the soldiers say they will impose a fine if we do not get rid of this eye-sore. I replace the blossoms myself. Why should the truth rot away?’ It was the first thing he had said. His voice was deep for a boy his age, and melodic. It was clear he spoke from a place of hurt, a place of sorrow.
I remembered how little I had to say after Mama died, how I feared the damage I would cause if I tried to open my mouth. I no longer resented the boy’s help or his companionship. That night I told the wind to carry his tale. To tell it to the neighbouring villages, and the trading ports and the towns beyond the hills. Tell them that a young boy sits by the water for fear of looking at his homeland. When I searched for him the next morning, he was nowhere to be found.
I asked after him in the groves. People were so afraid they would miss the harvest that they did not look up from their work. Finally a man with cotton-white hair came over. He held out his hand and introduced himself as the boy’s grandfather.
‘Taki will not thank you for taking his story,’ he said. ‘Though I am pleased to think he opened up to you. He has not spoken a word since the night the village burned. His mother and father and sister died. Taki only survived because he was helping me with the harvest. He goes to the water every morning at dawn and does not return until sundown. Not unless …’ and here the man’s face split into a sad smile, ‘not unless I ask for his help. Taki is not a bad boy. He blames himself for what happened.’
Waves reared and crashed to shore. Taki stood amid them with nothing but a light spray hitting his legs.
‘You’re a tider?’ I said, intrigued to see magic channelled through water.
‘Haven’t you done enough damage?’ Taki came on to the sand and the sea settled back into an ordinary tide.
‘I met your grandfather,’ I said. ‘He says you’re a good boy.’
Taki’s mouth twitched. ‘He is everything I have in this world,’ said Taki. ‘I lost my whole family in that raid, and all my childhood companions. I want the General to know my feelings, but what good is crying? Crying never made a difference.’
We walked past the ruined village, thinking to call on Taki’s grandfather. The day was silent. No laughter, no dogs barking. No sounds from the grove. Not the sound of people singing or branches being trimmed. We turned a corner and saw smoke tearing through the trees. It burned my nose and throat and filled them with the smell of burning flesh. Taki broke into a run. I ran after him, but the ground blistered my feet and the smoke choked my lungs. I grabbed Taki around the waist and held him down.
‘Mother Air if you have ever loved me help us now!’ I cried. The oxygen left the flames and they died like a snuffed candle. Taki directed the river water to rain over the village. People came, coughing and retching from the smoke. Every one of them held a white blossom. A small girl approached Taki and held a flower out to him. For the first time in my life the wind was silent. No comfort whispered in my ear. When I tried to call to the wind I could not find the magic inside myself. There was nothing left but guilt and hollow anger. The image of the burned dwellings seemed to consume my thoughts. I thought to leave that night. I was an intruder in this grief, and worse than that it was my fault the general had come. Survivors told us how General Arun had demanded to know where the magi were. Not a single person had spoken against us.
A makeshift camp was set up. All evening I cut bandages and applied salves and boiled water above a fire. I spoke to no-one. As night fell I crept from the emergency shelter towards the harbour. I threw my bag into my boat and pushed it out to sea.
‘Where do you think you’re going?’ The water pushed my boat back towards the shore. Taki took hold of the mast.
‘Taki … it’s my fault …’
‘It’s your fault General Arun will not rest until every one of our kind is dead? It’s your fault the soldiers set fire to civilian homes? Girl, you found a way to defy a tyrant. That doesn’t make the tyranny your fault.’
‘But those people. They died because of me.’
‘Those are my people you’re talking about. They didn’t die for you. They didn’t die for me. They died for what is right and it is our job to avenge them.’ Taki looked at me and it was as though the sea raged in his eyes. ‘I chose not to cry because I did not want my voice to be shouted down, but there is only so long a person can remain silent Crying is for the dead of night. Crying is a heart-song for the people we love. It is not the way to defeat a person like Arun. Let us shout and let us rise. Let us use our magic to rally people to action.’
Taki was right. The general would never listen to our pain. He was not afraid of our pain. He enjoyed it. He was afraid of our numbers, of his victims getting together and using their magic to put a stop to his time in power.
‘General Arun will return,’ I said. ‘He will not rest until he has our magi heads.’
Taki took a moment before he spoke. ‘He has hunted us for too long. He has told people our deaths cleanse the land. Now we must stand against him.’ As Taki spoke I felt a breeze tickle the back of my neck. I tried to ignore my fear and guilt. Arun had killed our people. Not me. Arun was on a merciless quest to rid the land of magi and he would destroy whole villages and towns and kill every person who stood in his way. I reached deep inside for a place of anger, a place of vengeance. The wind howled around the ghost village. It howled through the burned groves. I hoped this wind would be enough when Arun returned.
The moon rose. By its light I saw Arun’s ship cutting through the waters. Arun stood at the bow, his sharp profile lit by a swinging lantern. As the ship turned I saw two white flowers in Arun’s belt. There were shouts. Men came forward, gesturing to the harbour. As the ship pulled nearer Arun aimed a harpoon gun at my chest.
‘Little magi,’ he called. ‘What use is magic against a warship? Once I have killed you, I will take every person who tried to protect you.’
In my rage I called upon all the winds of the world, winds with a hundred different names – bora and caju, khazri and norte and squamish. They came from different places, each forged by its climate, but they howled with the same rage. I used my vengeance to summon them in kinship. Desert winds stung my face while arctic winds came biting cold. My hair flew around my face as I gathered my winds together.
The waves crashed into the rocks. I met Taki’s eye and he held my gaze. Together we built our magic until a tidal wave rose from the shoreline and thundered out to sea. It curled over and charged. The clouds parted, revealing the moon. By its light I saw our wave arching over the ship. Arun’s hand faltered on the harpoon gun as sea spray lashed his face. He fell overboard. Powerful currents held him beneath the water. Taki used his magic to fill the water with white blossom. Arun drowned in a sea of his own making.
The surviving soldiers turned their lifeboats away from shore. They cried for Arun but no answer came. No command. The men who had looked so powerful as in the days when I peeked through the keyhole suddenly looked fragile. They pulled their oars against a swelling sea.
‘Others will come,’ said Taki. The sun rose, turning the sky orange. It reminded me that after every battle a new day would come.
‘We will rise,’ I said. We watched dawn rise. I vowed then never to cry for mercy to a tyrant when I could summon a hurricane.