Young Writers Society

Home » Read / Write » Short Stories » Fantasy Short Stories

Chanceling



User avatar
25 Reviews



Gender: Female
Points: 772
Reviews: 25
Mon Dec 26, 2011 10:52 pm
Orinette says...



A short story I wrote for English class - I'm interested to see what other people think of it!

“My Bracer holds my fate, you see
The Myrors told it true and fair
The Bracer knows what I shall be
It knows with whom I’ll someday pair
And I did see, by the basswood tree
A place for they who haven’t theirs.”


Most children couldn’t help but hum the Basswood Rhyme as they passed under the shadow of Agnethy Hall, and Elian was no exception. She had to walk by it twice a day, going to and from school—never by herself, of course; her elder sister, Jenna, went with her. Jenna would whistle the tune, and Elian would sing the words, both of them keeping watch on the great stone building out of the corners of their eyes, as if expecting some terrible monster to burst forth from its gates. Once the Hall was well behind them, the girls would stop their chanting, glance at each other, and laugh at their own foolishness. There was nothing to be afraid of in Agnethy Hall—and if there were, the simple repetition of a child’s rhyme wouldn’t keep them safe.

But today, Jenna was sick in bed, and Elian had to walk alone. As she passed the Hall that morning, she murmured the Rhyme and fingered the golden bracelet that circled her left wrist, as solemn and binding as a wedding band. The Bracer was a holy symbol in the secluded town of Aurgwyd Barrow; everyone wore them—they were gifts from the Myrors, given to every child on their first birthday, and worn all the way to the grave.

When a child was born, they were taken to the Glass House, where the thirteen clairvoyant Myrors lived, and they were left there to be inspected overnight. By the end of their first year of life, the Myrors would give the child their Bracer. It was enchanted to grow and shrink with the child’s wrist, and—more importantly—it was designed to signal the child, to let them know when they were steering from the fate that the Myrors had foreseen for them.

The Myrors knew what Elian was destined to grow up to be. She’d been getting prickles and prods from her Bracer all her life, pointing her in the foretold direction—typist. Unglamorous, perhaps, but Elian didn’t want glamor. She was content to practice her future craft on her father’s typewriter, and wonder what sort of jobs a skilled typist could get. That was all she could do; obey the Bracer, obey the Myrors, for they knew what was best for her, and best for Aurgwyd Barrow.

That was why Agnethy Hall was so frightening. Perched like a gargoyle on the hill at the edge of town, off the fastest route to the Aurgwyd schools, its grounds covered by a grove of the basswood trees that identified it in the nursery rhyme; a dark spot on a pure town. That was where the Chancelings went—men and women who forsook the will of their Bracers, and children whose parents were never supposed to have been together. These people had no fate. They were unclean, unholy. Monsters. And like any Bracer-wearing child, Elian feared them like she feared nothing else.

It was better when Jenna was with her; at least then she would have had someone to hold onto if the monsters came for her. And then afterwards, she could laugh, forget her fear, pretend that there was nothing but trees behind Agnethy’s gates.

But today, she had to brave it alone. The Rhyme trembled on her tongue, but she forced it out, her defensive mantra. With Jenna, the words felt like a shield—now, they felt no more protective than wet paper. The gates loomed, great spears of wrought iron lashed together with thick chains and heavy brass locks.
Normally, when Elian and her sister watched the Hall, they stared at the building itself, at the black stone and grimy, barred windows. Sometimes, they saw the white circle of a staring face behind the glass, and they would break into a run.

Elian found she couldn’t bear to look at the Hall without Jenna by her side. Today, she watched the trees.

They were ancient and knotted, with moss growing up the trunks and twisting branches crowned with bright yellow leaves reaching to the sky like arms locked in silent prayer. The ground was covered in frosted, papery mulch, both on the inside and the outside of the gates. Elian veered away from the debris, as if merely touching the leaves would infect her with wilful, treacherous thoughts. She kept her eyes on the trees, on the gnarled roots, the distorted faces leering out of the bark. Were they laughing at her? It looked like they were.

Another ghostly face joined them. Elian started and froze.

At first, all she saw was a pale circle with grey eyes, like a second moon. Then, as she stared, she made out a shock of black hair, a pointing needle-nose, a gaping mouth, shaped in such a way that she knew the face belonged to a boy. He stepped out from behind the tree and began to slowly approach the gate, never taking his eyes off of her. He was young, perhaps ten years old—Elian’s age—and as thin as a blade of grass.

Elian was too frightened to move; here it was, at last, the day that the monsters had come for her. There was no familiar prickle, no warning from the Bracer—was this truly her fate, to be killed by a Chanceling on her way to school?

She had only time for one final thought—if my fate is to die here, then why was I told to type?—before the boy reached the gate. She screwed her eyes shut and waited for him to slip through the iron spears and murder her.

“Hello.”

The word startled her into opening her eyes again. The boy’s fingers, long and thin, were curled around the gate’s bars, and his face was pressed against the metal, eyes popping madly against his white skin. He was smiling at her.

Elian didn’t move. She didn’t speak. She stared at him, a deer-in-the-headlights, caught in the beam of his dark grey eyes.

“My name’s Lind. Short for Lindel,” he said. His voice was high and clear, and it trembled at the edges.

He stared at her expectantly. There was still no warning from Elian’s Bracer. Was she supposed to stay? Was she supposed to talk?

Lind’s smile began to fade. “Say something, please!” he all but begged her.

Elian made her decision.

“My name is Elian,” she said, trying to force a smile of her own. Lind beamed at her.

“Hello, Elian,” he said. “Do you have school today?”

Still no prickle. “Yes.”

“I want to go to school. But it isn’t allowed. Will you be late if you stay here long?”

“Probably.” Elian was inching towards the gate. Still nothing from the Bracer. She sucked in a small breath and walked straight up to Lind. His smile widened, then fell.

“So I guess you won’t stay,” he said.

Elian felt a small sting of guilt, like a needle in her gut. She wanted to leave—her Bracer wasn’t indicating danger, and she knew she should trust it, but oh, how frightened she was! And yet, Lind didn’t feel like a danger; he simply felt lonely. Sad. She didn’t want to upset him.

“I won’t stay… long,” she said finally. “I’ll come back later. At ten-past-three. I have to walk this way again to get home.”

The boy’s face lit up. “I never have visitors,” he said. “It’s very lonely here.
There are other kids, of course, but they like to stick with their families.”

“What about your family?” Your fate-cheating, Bracer-defying family?

Lind shrugged. “My mother is dead, and my dad likes the cooks’ sherry more than he likes me.”

Elian couldn’t decide which was more upsetting—what he had said, or how indifferently he had said it.

“And your family?” he asked. “I’ve seen you walk by with another girl before.”
His white cheeks blossomed pink as he realized that he’d just admitted to spying.

Oddly, Elian didn’t mind. Chancelings were supposed to be strange.

“She’s my sister,” she told him. “Jenna. She turned thirteen last month. And at home, I have two parents and a cat.”

He smiled again, this time wistfully. “I always wanted a cat. Or any pet with fur.
Once, Mrs. Petre—the caretaker’s wife—brought us an aquarium with six goldfish. It wasn’t the same, though; you couldn’t pet them or tell them apart or anything, and they were all dead in three months, because Mrs. Petre forgot to buy us more fish food. Her daughter, Lily, made us have a funeral in the bathroom.”

Elian laughed. Lind blinked in surprise, then laughed with her. He had a good laugh, clear and strong and infectious. It shook his thin frame like a quivering drum-skin.

A moment passed in the aftermath of their laugh, the brief silence bubbling with connectivity. Elian found that she didn’t mind Lind—he was a nice boy, despite his blasphemous origin.

The silence stretched on, and Lind looked at her shyly.

“You should probably go to school, if you don’t want to be late,” he said. “Do you promise to come back? I’ll be out here at ten-past-three.”

Elian hesitated. “Will anyone else be out, then?”

He grinned mischievously. “Our outdoor time is from ten-o’clock to lunch. I’m not even supposed to be out now.”

She smiled back, a bit more tentatively this time. So he was a rule-breaker. She wondered if he would’ve followed his Bracer if he’d had one.

“… I’ll come back,” she told him finally, and started as one thin hand darted between the bars to grip hers.

“Thank you,” he said. His hand was cold from touching the gate. She could feel the blood beating in his palm.

Still no prickle from the Bracer.

Elian held his hand for a moment longer, then dropped it and turned away with a wave. He waved back, unsticking himself from the gate and retreating into the basswood trees. As Agnethy Hall grew smaller and smaller behind her, and the two schools loomed up in her sight, Elian felt a chill pass through her bones.

She feared her return to Agnethy Hall. Feared the punishment she would receive if she were found fraternizing with a Chanceling. But her Bracer hadn’t told her to stay away. No matter that it made no sense; Lind and whatever he had to offer her was part of her fate.

Besides; she had promised him she’d come back. And she so wanted to hear that wonderful laugh again.
"Children see magic because they look for it."
- Christopher Moore
  





User avatar
31 Reviews



Gender: None specified
Points: 3351
Reviews: 31
Thu Dec 29, 2011 6:16 pm
Shindig says...



I don't review as often as I should, but after I read this I thought that it really does deserve one by now!

First of all, your title was intriguing. Short, unfamiliar, and mysterious enough to draw me in. And after reading and understanding what a Chanceling was, the story interested me even more.

She had to walk by it twice a day, going to and from school—never by herself, of course


Good line, really contributed to the mystery and implied malevolence of Agnethy Hall.

The Bracer was a holy symbol in the secluded town of Aurgwyd Barrow; everyone wore them—they were gifts from the Myrors


The introduction of the Myrors was well placed. The following paragraph felt borderline info-dumpy, but considering that this was a short story, and that it was for an assignment, I don't think it's a problem.

The gates loomed, great spears of wrought iron lashed together with thick chains and heavy brass locks.


Loved how you described the gates. Good job with the imagery! The line describing the basswood trees, "They were ancient and knotted... with bright yellow leaves reaching to the sky like arms locked in silent prayer" was simultaneously eerie and awesome.

She had only time for one final thought—if my fate is to die here, then why was I told to type?—before the boy reached the gate.


Here, I think it would have been a good idea to italicize Elian's thought. Also, I feel like the sentence would have flowed better if the actual thought was not embedded within the sentence. For example, "She had only time for one final thought before the boy reached the gate — if my fate is to die here, then why was I told to type?"

Elian didn’t move. She didn’t speak. She stared at him, a deer-in-the-headlights, caught in the beam of his dark grey eyes.


This is another great description! However, typewriters, stone buildings, and belief in clairvoyance had given me a general idea of the time period in which your story is taking place. Now I don't know the exact time period that you have chosen for your piece, but you might want to ensure that using a "deer-in-the-headlights" metaphor is suitable for this time. Just a heads up, but you may have already considered this!

There was still no warning from Elian’s Bracer. Was she supposed to stay? Was she supposed to talk?


I like how meeting Lindel seems to be part of Elian's fate, awesome idea!

But her Bracer hadn’t told her to stay away. No matter that it made no sense; Lind and whatever he had to offer her was part of her fate.

Besides; she had promised him she’d come back. And she so wanted to hear that wonderful laugh again.


Your use of semi-colons doesn't really work here. The first paragraph in the above quote would look better if the semi-colon was replaced by a period. The second semi-colon in the next paragraph should be replaced by a comma. I didn't notice any semi-colons you may have used before this, but you may want to double check.

Typically, we use semi-colons to connect two related clauses. Also, one way to check if using a semi-colon makes sense is to check that the two clauses you are connecting can stand alone and still make sense. For example, you can't have "Besides" stand as its own sentence. However, if that last sentence were written, "She promised him that she’d come back; she wanted to hear his wonderful laugh again", it would make more grammatical sense.

Overall, this was a great read! Is there more to the story that you have yet to post? I don't feel like there was much to the plot to call this a short story yet, but it felt more like an introduction. You really should continue, it's an interesting idea and I'd like to see where it goes :)
  





User avatar
1272 Reviews



Gender: Female
Points: 89625
Reviews: 1272
Tue Jan 03, 2012 4:05 pm
Rosendorn says...



Hello.

I found you had an interesting piece here. The very concept is interesting, vaguely dystopian, yet not long enough to feel dark.

I found your pace slow at the beginning, and it made it just a bit difficult to review the story. I found myself forgetting the rhyme and skimming parts that referenced direct lines within because I couldn't be bothered to scroll up. Maybe intersperse the lines with your prose? So she's reciting them as she's going through the history.

Past that, I found there were a lot of threads left hanging; the rhyme was never given a real reason, it's left unclear if the boy said hello to her because she wasn't saying the rhyme... those are two rather big ones, for me, as they make up the bulk of the beginning. This, in turn, makes the beginning of the story feel very disconnected from the end. It acts like a backstory where only one detail— the Bracers and highly controlled society— ends up being important. Either weave the rest in, or cut it. In a short story, you can't afford to have wasted details.

Overall, the ending almost redeemed this. But that "almost" is a key word. I found the beginning very slow, and the "myrors" spelling made me think it was a typo, not an intentional misspelling. It has a very interesting premise, and I'd like to read more once I got to the end. But, at the beginning, I wouldn't have wanted to read more.

PM me if you have any questions.

~Rosey
A writer is a world trapped in a person— Victor Hugo

Ink is blood. Paper is bandages. The wounded press books to their heart to know they're not alone.

#TNT powered reviews
  





User avatar
563 Reviews



Gender: Male
Points: 1235
Reviews: 563
Tue Jan 17, 2012 10:16 pm
Stori says...



Seeing how everything else is covered, I just wanted to point this out.

His white cheeks blossomed pink as he realized that he’d just admitted to spying.


This sentence is from his perspective while the rest of the story is from hers.
  








You can cut all the flowers, but you cannot stop Spring from coming.
— Pablo Neruda