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, and having thanked the tree, a leaf drops onto her open hand.


Turning the leaf over in her hands, she walked through the forest, stopping to place the leaf at the base of a sapling, and told the little tree, “Grow big and strong.”

Through the long trip back to the city, she couldn’t help but turn over questions she’d worried over many times before. What happened to the babies that vanished or died? No one knew, because any attempt to spy on a baby left on a tree’s roots meant that nothing happened. The trees, however they knew such things, would not tolerate interference.

For a moment, Liar felt hemmed in, surrounded by towering giants that peered down at her with thousands of eyes. The rich smell of loam, the cacophony of forest creatures competing to be heard over each other, the breeze sliding across her skin—she felt cast adrift, floating, and lost.

Something snapped a branch behind her, and she whirled around.

*    *    *

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.

25 responses »

  1. Kim Magennis says:

    Excellent piece Caitlin. This forest is – without a question – dangerous. You have built the tension for the next piece very well. Thank you for sharing.

  2. I can see why not knowing about the babies would make her uneasy. Great job describing a rather sinister forest!

  3. Beautifully vivid description in this. Makes for very lush, if but a little creepy, scenery. I was right there with her. Very well done.

  4. Frank Fisher says:

    Loved that moment of reflection before that branch snapping bit at the end. Your descriptions of the forest are dead on.

  5. Alexis Duran says:

    This magic comes with a very high price. Great job of creating a forest that is sentient and more than a little threatening.

  6. Sarah W says:

    I’m now envisioning babies made directly into trees and Inkbloods as those little twirly seeds that travel far to spread the forest.

    And now I have goosebumps. 🙂

    Beautifully written as always, caitlin.

    • caitlinstern says:

      I haven’t decided what happens to the babies that vanish yet. They definitely don’t become trees, that’s a bit too creepy–but they could become something like nymphs.

      But the inkbloods do plant trees, and tend to forests, so you’re not far off. 😉

  7. ralfast says:

    Looks like someone else is also looking into the trees.

  8. More fascinating details, which as someone else said, kinda give me goosebumps. The trees know….and then the way the excerpt ended is an excellent cliffhanger. Terrific!

  9. Just splendid. The description of the forest sent goosebumps I’ll never forget.

  10. Carrie-Anne says:

    I love how you engage all the senses in this snippet. The forest is such a beautiful yet tenuous place.

  11. I am thoroughly hooked! Your description was beautiful, almost poetic. And the babies? What happened to them?? Magical trees… wow. What a tale!

  12. Ooh, what was it? Intriguing! I love how she kind of feeds the leaf to the tree, in order for it to grow big and strong. Very well written! Love it!

  13. As always, beautiful writing filled with tension and thought. I stumbled a bit over this sentence “The trees, however they knew such things, would not tolerate interference.”, but other than that I can’t wait to read the finished book;).

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