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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.