Copyright © 2008, Brynneth
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Sample Chapter For THE GIRL WHO FELL by Brynneth Colvin
There were bones amongst the rocks, stark and pale against the swirling, muddy water. Standing knee-deep in the slow flowing river, Tirol found his eyes drawn to their bleached whiteness. Taking a step forwards, he felt sharp stones chafe at his feet through his sodden boots. He stepped again, struggling to balance. Soon he could see the distinctive curve of a human skull, the expanse of ribs, and long legs that ended in hooves. There were no signs of skin or clothing. The bones looked fresh and sound, and Tirol had no idea why they might be there. Nor did he know what he was doing standing in the river. He had no recollection of where he had been until only moments before. Thoughts bubbled up in his mind, but he did not know their source.
Approaching the bones, he could tell they had not rested on their rocky bed for long. It looked as though scavengers had picked the corpse clean, but the water had not yet eroded it significantly. Ligaments still held some of the form together, although a few of the bones had fallen away to lie at peculiar angles. Looking at these mortal remains, Tirol experienced a flash of inspiration, guiding him. He knew what a body like this must be for, even if he could not explain why it was there. He thought it should have been raised above the ground and given to the air not the water. Perhaps I am far from home, and people do things differently here. But where is home? He had no answers to any of his numerous questions.
Using the uttermost care, he lifted as many of the bones as would come easily, and carried them up to the bank. Two more journeys secured every remaining piece, even down to the smallest finger bones. He was amazed to find the complete skeleton so readily. He stopped worrying about who the body had belonged to or why it might be there and set to the task he felt driven to perform.
As he worked, he noticed that his own clothes were torn, and that his stomach and hips were sore from countless small cuts and abrasions. Wondering what this meant, he stood up to make sure he had not sustained any significant injury. Pulling his garments up, he inspected his body closely. His skin was covered with a fine sheen of greying hair, behind which the purples of bruises and the red welts of cuts showed clearly. None of them seemed terribly deep and they all appeared to be recent, but healing well enough. The majority clustered around his waist, but he found them all over his front. As far as he could make out, his back remained undamaged, although he couldn’t be sure. Hardly any the wiser after this bout of personal exploration, he returned to the bones.
Sitting on the riverbank with his find, Tirol pulled a small bag from his shoulders. He acted without thinking, opening a set of ties to find a pocket full of small tools. None was longer than his hand, and all gleamed with the unmistakable sheen of metals. The handles had been bound with leather. Each one was a beautiful object in its own right. He laid these items out on the grass, studying them. The fine metal blades and chisels had been fashioned by Maisrian craftsmen. This detail returned to him with absolute clarity. Metals were rare, he knew that, and only the Maisrians knew the secret of working with them. Try as he might, Tirol could not remember how he had acquired these unusual tools, or what their purpose might be.
It occurred to Tirol that facts came readily to him. He could name the trees in his vicinity and identify the bird songs on the air. There were waterleys dipping their roots into the river, and a lone riley with its many straight trunks. The tree was covered with its tufty white flowers, the old man’s beard for which it was renowned. He knew the gently warbling song of the wilowens in the branches above him, and the alarm call of a distant bly. He could recognise the tools before him, but had no sense whatsoever of what his relationships with them had been. Where they even his? He couldn’t say. All sense of his past had washed away, leaving only the vague feeling that he ought to remember something before the moment when he had stood in the river and noticed the bones. Nothing came to him but the realisation that the entirety of his past was lost to him. There had been a past, he felt sure of it. He had not blinked into existence in the middle of the river. He did not know who he might be, where he could have come from, or why he had been wading in the water.
“Who am I?” he asked the forest. “What am I? Why am I here?”
No answer came to him from the surrounding trees. He hoped there might be someone nearby who would recognise him and come to his aid. He called out a few times. His voice startled the wilowens, and the small birds took wing, flying over the water to the safety of the far bank. Nothing else in the forest stirred.
Thwarted in his attempt to discover something of his circumstances, Tirol’s attention returned to the bones and tools before him. He took up a small cutting implement. It felt familiar in his hand, as though his body remembered even though his mind could not. He reached for the bones, compelled to touch them. Then movement transported him, like the ritualised forms of a traditional dance, or the postures of some complex, subtle ceremony. He lifted up the small saw in his right hand, and with his left, he pulled one of the bleached bones free from the rest. His fingers moved entirely of their own volition, gliding over this raw material, cutting, shifting and shaping. Tirol watched himself working, unable to access the memories underpinning his actions, but increasingly sure he must be doing something familiar. His hands seemed to know their business all too well. Had he undertaken this very thing before? He knew he could make something from these remnants of life. They spoke to him in a voice sweetly resonant, suggesting possibilities. He cut and shaped, his fingers never hesitating. His awareness plunged into the unyielding ivory, delving into its hidden cavities, finding its points of strength and weakness. He hollowed and smoothed, transforming the corpse into a new form. Tirol flowed with it, consumed by awareness of his work. Still his fingers galloped on, twisting and turning, securing his growing creation with gut thongs and strong twine from his pouch.
Sweat dripped from Tirol’s brow and his shoulders ached from this crouched working position. He continued in a frenzy, ignoring all other needs and sensory input. He gave himself to the bones—each breath, each beat of his heart he contributed to the process of making. Gradually the once-human skeleton took on a coherent new shape. Perhaps as long as his arm, it consisted of hollow bones laid side by side, and secured above larger bones vertically orientated. Only the skull remained, obviously as it had been. He had bored holes in it, and bound it to one end of his creation. Tirol took up the two smallest arm bones, shaping the ends of each. Then he dug about in his pack, and his hands found a length of knotted cord. He wondered aloud why it was his hands could remember things, when his mind could not, but he was alone and no one could answer him. He looped the cord through several anchorage points on his construction, then slipped it over his head. The contraption sat perfectly across his hips, as if he had known when making it exactly how big it should be. Or as if it always lay there, an extension of his own skeleton. Now that it rested against his body, he knew how to name it: He had fashioned an arimb.
Tirol took a sculpted arm bone in each of his hands, and tapped light against the horizontal bones of his contraption. Notes came, hesitantly at first, then growing in speed. Music rippled forth from beneath his hands. Melodies poured from him, and he could not tell if he was making them up, or remembering them. The notes were sweet and clear, chiming resonantly as he brought one bone down against another. Wooden sticks would make a better sound. He would find some suitable branches and make those tomorrow.
Night had closed in about him while he worked, and now the forest shadows stretched out to engulf the river. Tirol had a feeling the riverbank would not be safe at night, but did not know where he should go. He had worked for hours beneath the blazing sun, with no sense of time. Now his fingers ached and his back groaned. The ground seemed cold and hard for sleeping on. Tirol unrolled the large blanket strapped to the bottom of his pack, and wrapped it about himself. The blanket smelled of river water, but had dried while he worked. He lay down where he was, knowing he needed to rest, and feeling too weary to find somewhere better. As he closed his eyes, a story came into his mind. He allowed it to unravel.