Okeee. For what it's worth, here's what I've got before work. It's in a good getting there stage and I've got a lot more to work with now. All I need to do is get the stuff in my head out into the electrons on my screen. ;)
NaNo #1.0.3 – the blood artist
The City sits upon nine hills, surrounded by a thick stone wall. At the center of the City is a Temple, ancient and spreading upon and beneath the fifth hill, secretive in it's practices yet publicly demanding it's tithes and offerings as such institutions will.
The courtyards of the Temple are places of peace and tranquility, for the right price of course. They are maintained by a Temple staff of hundreds, every one of the gardeners raised in the temple from childhood, gifts and sacrifices from ailing parents with too many children and not enough bread to go around. The gardens are meticulously kept and occasionally, the gardeners will take on an outside apprentice to train in the little ways of maintaining a house garden and producing a better crop for the household kitchens of the City's inhabitants, and in the process, show the Temple's good favor and an appearance of tithes well spent.
Bria was one of these outside apprentices. She began as a supplicant to the Sisterhood in the mountains. Her parents wished for her to make something out of herself and possibly gain a place in the judicial court or the common market, but the training was far too warlike for her taste, or she was far too suited for it for an outsider, the story differs in the telling, and Bria was referred to the apprenticemaster in the Gardens.
She did well in her training and discovered a love for the work, eventually gaining a small foothold in the servicing of local kitchen gardens and teaching her younger siblings how to maintain the gardens she set up. The family thrived for a little space and Bria saved enough of her earnings to start her own small household deeper into the City and closer to the areas more frequently visited by travelers and outsiders.
"Mallew grows well this time of year. It's easy to take what you need for salves and have plenty left over in the fall for winter sweets." Bria took a large handful of the plant and cut it cleanly with her harvesting knife, making sure that all of the tiny leaves were tightly bound into a bundle and placed it in the basket she had ready for it. The stems weeped a sticky white liquid onto the piece of linen that lined the basket. "Mallew salve is good to keep around the kitchens It smells sweet, rubs in quickly and dulls the pain and prevents infection in minor cuts and burns. Most kitchens keep a large pot of it in the coolers."
"And the winter sweets it makes keeps away the coughs and chills during the year, too." Mara, her newest and most precocious apprentice touched her fingertip to the sticky liquid and tasted it. "Why does it make my tongue numb in this form?"
"Chewing this weed to cure mouth sores has long been a practice among the herders on the mountains. It's ability to numb the skin for a little while is the principle reason we make it a salve, and it's healing properties are nothing to disregard. Although you must remember, as a household's mistress, too much mallew will make for a sick stomach. Try not to hand out the winter sweets to generously. Keep them locked away until the midwinter when they are needed. Now, if you all would follow me into the kitchens, we can start preparing the salve."
Mara quickly finished the harvesting of her own herbs and neatly covered her basket before heading towards the kitchens with the other apprentices. She smiled at Bria as she walked by and thanked her for the lessons.
She was a sturdy girl, not plain yet there was a seriousness that crept in often enough to darken her prettiness. She was strong and quick to learn. Bria considered her a welcome addition to the handful of new apprentices this season. The Sisters seemed to be more discerning in the choice of students they sent to her lately. Although that seemed to be a welcome telling of their favor, sometimes the Sister's gifts were best accepted with care and watched carefully for any unwanted restrictions.
Bria's household had prospered well beyond her original expectations, and she was quite certain that sooner or later as the seasons changed, that she would make her final pilgrimage to the Sister's Citadel in the mountains with a light heart and the knowledge that her family was well and thrived without her guidance. She anticipated rejoining those women who had denied her their training in her youth with both excitement and a peculiar type of dread saved for those moments of inevitable change. Bria liked her life the way it was, and yet the changing of the world left her with an ache to leave this City and experience more of the world than the petty squabbles and daily routines of her life.
She touched the tiny scar at her throat. It was a small physical reminder of her oath. She might not have been trained as one who protected the City with physical strength, but her skills as a healer and midwife served the City in a more common manner. Her daily lessons with the apprentices and her stand at the Common Market selling salves and tinctures and medicines was greatly needed in this time after the Great Plague. The City was still recovering centuries after the ravaging of it's population. She was determined to train others in ways to prevent such a tragedy from happening again.
This was the reason for the dream den next door. Although Bria had no monetary interest in it's continued business, she had assisted in it's creation as a clean and trustworthy place to visit. Many of the dream dens in the Visitor's Place were dirty and unsavory places, fit only for addicts, predators and the diseases that fed on them. The origins of the dream dens were ancient and steeped in long histories and temple practices. They were places of magic and obsession, of beauty and introspection and release. She could see that most travelers that entered the doors of the City's dream dens for the first time would not leave those same doors with the perspective they had when they arrived.
It seemed to her that her skills were much appreciated within those walls, but she limited her time there to prevent herself from becoming absorbed into that culture of pain and the people who found themselves in it. Not every reason for visiting the dream dens was right. In fact, most were more hurtful than not. She tried to do what she could to bring the process closer to it's roots, but there was only so much she could do.
There are two reasons travelers visit the City. The first is the Temple at it's heart. It's imposing walls and fortress gates, high above the crowded streets lined with shops and villas is visible for acres outside of the City, give many a sense of comfort and some a thrill of fear. For those few who welcome death, it is a place of peace and desire. For others it is a place of penance and those who seek absolution through the gift of a child's blessing or a sacrifice of tithes will find what they seek. The Temple turns few souls away and did great business in mediation and judicial justice. The High Priest of the City was known as a just, although pragmatic, man and his counsel was sought out by many of those in authority.
The second place most frequented by travelers were the dream dens. Although there were quite a few of the dens with an exclusive clientel, most of them were set up near the Visitor's Market and sold their watered down wares for exorbitant prices. Bria's household bordered one of these, and between the students sent to her from the Temple and the visitors to the dream dens, there were very few people left who surprised her.
The kitchens were warm and the cooks for the season were just starting the evenings preparations when Bria and her students entered. Dried fruits and drying herbs were hanging from the rafters and lent a spicy scent to the air. Over by the ovens, Fina, Bria's closest housemate, prepared vegetables from the kitchen gardens and gossiped cheerfully with Rena and Tess, the elders of the household.
"Well, I don't know for sure, but I think he's about to go to far. I know it's not a bad thing for a boy to test his limits like that, but if he goes and gets himself killed before his first rites, he'll definitely be missing out on all the 'adventure' he's been complaining of missing out of." Rena chortled. The sound was gravelly and familiar. "I've told his mam to keep a watch on that boy, but she's too caught up in her own plays for that new shopkeeper down on the Main to pay him any heed. "Let the teachers watch out for him,' she says. "That's their job, isn't it?' But I tell you he's a rapscallion, that one and there's not gonna be much of him left if she keeps up that attitude."
"I say send him to the Sisters. They'll give him some 'adventure,'" Tess, her partner in crime winked at Fina. "So, what do you think we should do with young Ever? At least he has the common sense to stay away from the Temple in his wild schemes. We don't need the priests coming around asking questions about us keeping wild children in the attics, now." They whole table laughed good heartedly and Fina stuck her tongue out at Tess.
"I told him not to be messing around in the Gardens. There's really nothing there except tress and flowers and a few benches. They're pretty, but it's not the beauty that people really pay to see. It's the right to be seen. He doesn't quite grasp the concept." She sighed and picked up another root to peel. "In all seriousness, I really don't know what to do with him. No matter what I say, I know he only hears what he wants to."
I think I'll really have fun editing in December. ;) I know I'm getting the jist of this universe and what's gonna happen. I've not thrown my outline out the window yet, but I'm definitely using it as a guideline and not a rulebook. eh. we'll see what we see.