This 8-10 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.

The main character, an inkblood called Liar, who works as hired killer, harvested a branch in the woods, is startled by a snapping twig–by another inkblood, with whom she has some awkward conversation about the weather.

I skipped over a few descriptive sentences, where Liar speculates the other woman might be from one of the settler families, who come from the middle east, mostly.


Liar picked up the thread of the conversation, “Have you been here long?”

“This spring will make two years,” she said, “and don’t worry, I’ve already been told that last winter was mild.”

“Perhaps you can leave the city for the coldest part of the winter? There’s not much to do, anyway,” Liar offered, though she found winter an excellent time for assassinations. People bundled up so much, no one expected to see your face, and even well-paid guards would find a reason to linger under the shelter of a roof, or near a fire when they were meant to be patrolling.

The only difficulty was the snow, which gave away your tracks if you weren’t careful, and the icy conditions made traveling the roof roads too dangerous to be considered. She highly doubted the woman next to her, who wore traditional black in expensive and well-cut fabrics, with little hints of color in her trimmings, worked at the business of ending lives, however.

“That’s a good point,” the other woman said, after a thoughtful pause. “Thank you for suggesting it.”

*    *    *

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. Kim Magennis says:

    “the business of ending lives” – a very effective phrase on so many levels. Thank you for another excellent snippet.

  2. “worked at the business of ending lives, however.”–Love this sentence. Such a contrast to the rest of their conversation. Lovely snippet.

  3. Sarah W says:

    I suppose I figured that Inkbloods weren’t all assassins, but this is an excellent reminder, caitlin.

    Does that mean that Liar’s skin-words will affect her in a different way than, say, this other Inkblood?

    • caitlinstern says:

      Oh, yes, they cast healing spells, and growing spells, and illusions, crafting spells, protective spells, etc. Killing people makes up a small percentage of what they do–it’s very dangerous.
      Because the words they write are the words written on them. So yes, very differently!

  4. I’m lost in your magical world, Caitlin and you do have a wonderful way with words.

  5. “Which will give away your tracks if you’re not careful.” I think it’s supposed to read. Great work. I always love reading about Liar. 🙂

  6. Gemma Parkes says:

    Strong snippet as always Charmaine, wonderful winter imagery.

  7. Eden says:

    Interesting concept for a plague… Why would parents do this to their children if the powers did bad things (as well as some good things) for them? Makes me definitely curious about this world. And the interplay between the characters makes for fun reading.

    • caitlinstern says:

      The power that comes with being an inkblood is tempting to some parents. I think of them like over-enthusiastic helicopter parents, pushing their child into a sport, contest, etc.

      • Eden says:

        Ah! I see. That’s true… they’re showing that kids aren’t always benefiting from the excess of activities, and that the emphasis on sports for some kids does outweigh the benefits…. So, yeah, I see what you’re saying. Interesting parallels.

  8. This bit did a great job of showing that there might be considerable diversity among inkbloods- interesting!

    • caitlinstern says:

      The majority of them aren’t like Liar, though there’s a good-sized population of discontents, who cast spells to commit arson, theft, or murder. Some of them are Liar’s friends. 😉

  9. I love every new detail from this world. Fascinating snippet, how different the other Inkblood seems to be!

  10. Carrie-Anne says:

    Those are some good points both for and against conducting assassinations in winter. I’d err towards caution, since ice terrifies me. Great details in this snippet.

  11. Frank Fisher says:

    I see how Black Ink Plague is similar to our own world. It is quite fascinating. Good snippet!

  12. Alexis Duran says:

    Interesting new character. I wonder how the ink bloods get along with each other. Might this woman be a threat, or an ally?

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