This 8 sentence blog hop is hosted by The Weekend Writing Warriors. (Click the link for the list of participants, or rules if you want to join!)

This is a snippet from my yet-to-be-completed NaNoWriMo story, Black Ink Plague, a fantasy about inkbloods, people who were left at the roots of a magic tree as babies, and can use charcoal from those trees to write and cast spells.

(I’ve moved on to another scene now.) The main character, an inkblood called Liar, who works as hired killer, is out looking to harvest wood to make her ink, and has asked a tree to cut a branch from it, getting a tingle in her hand when she finds the ‘right’ branch.


Carefully, she scored the branch, just breaking the bark, and studied the cut. If a Rakau tree was harvested without an inkblood, or without permission, the tree wept thick sap when cut, sap that stained skin and clothes as red as blood. And anyone touched by that sap had the most terrible misfortune fall on them, again and again, until they made reparations to the trees.

No sap wept from the tree, so she severed the branch in one smooth motion, then painted over the cut with tar to prevent insect infestation.

After tucking away her supplies and the branch, Liar pressed her hand to the tree’s trunk and promised, “I will use it carefully.”

She wasn’t sure if the trees could understand her in some way, but she stood there for a moment, watching the light filter through the spear-shaped leaves, until one detached and fluttered down. Stretching out her hand palm up, Liar waited, and the swooping, zig-zagging leaf settled perfectly in the center of her palm.

“Thank you,” she said, running her thumb along the ragged edges of the leaf, which still held a hint of green at its base, but shaded through yellow to orange at the point.

*    *    *

Black Ink Plague is set in a world similar to ours, with the addition of the Rakau tree, which has magical properties–charcoal or ink from the tree can be used to cast spells. However, only inkbloods, babies who were left overnight at a Rakau tree’s roots on their first full moon, can harvest and use the tree. The price they pay for their magic is that the ink infects them, staining their skin and eventually forming words from the spells they cast on their skin. These words change their lives in unexpected ways.


About Caitlin Stern

I have a MA in English, and have so many fantasy/urban fantasy WIPs it's not even funny. I'm an avid reader of science fiction, fantasy, mystery, romance, biography, fiction, and anything else that catches my interest. I collect books, and bookmarks I find that are visually appealing and useful.

27 responses »

  1. chellecordero says:

    Terrific description allowed me to see the tree being generous with its branch. Great 8.

  2. Kim Magennis says:

    Brilliant world building. This is home, elsewhere she is the loner. Here, she belongs. Excellent eight.

  3. Love the interaction with the tree. You’ve really shown her level of comfort here, as opposed to her old home.

  4. Sarah W says:

    At least Liar as the trees . . . These descriptions are absolutely perfect, Caitlin.

    This entire story just works.

  5. Breathtaking description. What an amazing character you’ve created. For a killer, she has a tender side.

  6. Alexis Duran says:

    I love this. I’ve been a tree-hugger since childhood and the communication with the tree is wonderfully expressed.

    • caitlinstern says:

      I decided these trees would be aware, but in a mysterious sort of way–not capable of talking or moving or anything so obvious. Because confusing characters is fun! 🙂

  7. Frank Fisher says:

    Well, Liar has been clearly understood by the tree. She better take good care of that leaf.

  8. Totally loving this story and all the detail about the mysterious trees is just excellent. A wonderful addition to the story!

  9. Cara Bristol says:

    So very creative. Haven’t read anything like this.

  10. I liked the idea of the leaf dropping into her hands.

  11. normandiea says:

    What a fascinating concept! Love the world-building.

  12. Carrie-Anne says:

    I love your descriptions, and how respectful she is to the tree. It reminds me of the Native Americans talking to the animals they’d just killed for meat, fur, and horn.

  13. Love this story, such vivid descriptions right down to the feeling when she touches the leaves.

  14. I love that premise. 🙂 The excerpt is wonderful. Ritual behavior adds so much to a fantasy story, and you’re quite good at writing it. 🙂

  15. Beautiful scene. I love the respect she shows and the way the tree responds.

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