The following is the (split) opening scene of Ghost, my third novel in the Tabitha Trilogy.
(…So absolutely it’s spoilers, if you’re thinking of giving Tabitha a try first. Just to give you fair warning before you read on).
(Seriously. This is for when you’ve completed Tabitha’s second novel, Sky Queen, first). 🙂
I just wanted to share the following as another example of writing fictional scenes to music, like in my last post, Sky Queen: a winter scene. This time around I used a very different musical score to set up the book’s tension right from the start: a brutal standoff between the unstoppable force-of-nature that is Tabitha, and the rabid, immovable object that is her bloodthirsty nemesis, Alex.
Hit play on the video below before you read on, and let me know what you think of the finished effect in my prose beneath it.
(Easter egg: in the following scenes, both Alex and Tabitha’s intros are exactly the same word count. Make of that what you will).
A dark figure pulled on dull gauntlets. Flexing clawed fingers, with a sound like writhing chains. The vault around him glowed like dim winter, and stank of strange metal. His silhouette reached for a long cruel blade, sheathing it with an icy grind. Alex’s blond hair glowed like a halo. A deathly deity, shrouded in thick church dark. A blue corpse lay at his feet; stiffly contorted and pooled in bright blood. Half-devoured. The soft silver of the ship’s fake daylight painted his tail-whipping shadow. An armoured angel, burning too fast. Alex’s face blurred and sharpened in the room’s lurking atmosphere. Quiet breaths, the only sound. His stark gaze rose slowly; scorching in the moonlit silence. Murderous.
A young woman clipped on a thin meshed chestplate. She tied her red hair in a ponytail, walking quickly through a sunlit stateroom. Fastening on a tactical belt, she filled its pouches with glowing ammunition. Watered her hybrid plants and pushed a living pistol into its holster, with a coarse rustle and a click. Golden daylight streamed through the Ministry windows, painting her face in a warm summer glow. Tabitha’s gaze lingered on the wasteland beyond the plaza. Serenity’s darkened ruins; the corpse of paradise. Lurking on the horizon, the Watchers’ monstrous ship. And him. She stared for a moment, a silhouette against the bright dead city. Standing tense; armed and armoured. Ready to make her war.
She had to look away from the ruins. Focussing on her work, and some way she could make a difference for these survivors. The Watchers had already killed every circuit and power station; thrown this world into ash and violence. She couldn’t imagine how many lives they’d taken in the night. They’d already butchered her family; her friends. Her world. And Alex… he’d murdered Deep Roots.
I’ll make him suffer, she told herself. I swear to god, I’ll make those bastards bleed.
A sharp knock at the door broke off her thoughts.
‘Hey,’ said Aelu, walking in slowly through the room’s grand shadows. The slender blue woman glanced around warily at the growing mess in here. There was a smell like trees, and fresh bitter dirt. Tabitha’s sleepless scrawls cluttered every spare surface; hurried and obsessive in the plants’ starlight glow. Fishbowl’s fairy-lit forest crept glassy up the walls around her.
‘Hi,’ Tabitha replied absently, clearly distracted. She was searching through piles of scribbled papers; doubtful strategies and drawn dissections. Labelled sketches of the Watchers’ living weapons, that haunted her struggling sleep.
‘You aren’t alone in this, y’know,’ Aelu said softly. ‘This is everyone’s fight. We’re all with you.’
‘I know,’ Tabitha sighed, with a grim grateful smile. Glancing back to the sunlit city ruins. She returned to the map spread in front of her, and tried to look every bit as busy as she was. But Aelu was lurking. Leafing idly through some papers. Trying to come out with it.
‘You scared?’ Aelu said quietly. A trembling tone in her voice. ‘What’re you thinking?’ she watched Tabitha for a moment and wondered if she was even listening.
‘…I think I have a job to do,’ Tabitha replied, matter-of-factly. Aelu caught another glimpse of the woman who’d gone to war, to free her Sky Tribe. The one who’d led them here to fight this invasion, saving all the lives they could.
‘Guess we all do,’ Aelu agreed, trying to smile past the dread she felt in her stomach. ‘So you really think we can win this? Drive the Watchers off Serenity?’
‘No. That’s not enough,’ Tabitha replied, scowling at the thought. Maybe she didn’t know it, when that dim light flickered in her eyes. But Aelu saw it, clear as candle flames. ‘If it’s war they want, it’s war they’ll get,’ Tabitha snarled. ‘They took my world from me. They took the people I loved. I want to wipe those bastards out.’ Aelu’s worn expression faded quickly, as she held the woman’s stare.
‘…I’m with you,’ she replied, standing straighter. ‘Where do we start?’
‘The barracks,’ said Tabitha, studying scribbled strategies in the sunlight. Crossing off cleared essentials from her growing schedule. Every task colour-coded, by order of importance. ‘Any word from the gunners?’ she said. Smiling in response, Aelu bowed her head.
‘Your artillery stands ready,’ she replied. ‘Majesty.’
Far across the ruined city, a stretched figure paced angrily on the mothership’s command deck. He moved with a princely bearing, pale-skinned and statuesque, with fleshy white feathers in place of hair. He wore steely-silver armour; thinly organic and elaborate. Golden-eyed and glaring angelic, into the hologram glow of a grand bio-console. Watching screen readouts obsessively, as vast quotas crept to completion. His tense grip tightened on the black podium’s corners; creaking in his gauntlets until its bone surface cracked. He snarled sonorous orders at bowing subordinates, to cease all harvesting and devote full power to the growth chambers. He’d waited long enough.
* * *
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