A conversation with a writer friend of mine sparked this revamp of the first few pages of Chapter One of CALLARION AT NIGHT. It's pretty much the original take I had -- with Moriah not coming back from school, but already being out of school for several years. Other than that, and a few additional tones of her being more jaded this time around, it's essentially the same opening. Let me know what you think.
Moriah relaxed into the corner of the bench seat. Ten long weeks on the job, plus another month-long journey home by steamer did not make for the best of moods. Someone recognizing her at the dockside in Itzcali didn't help either. Only since they passed the midway point of the sea voyage did people stop asking her about Father's work protecting half-nymph natemi.
Like she cared about Callarion politics. Moriah never stayed in the city long enough to get embroiled in the infighting between Father and the Premier's supporters. Besides, it behooved her to be gone from the city for stretches at a time. Being the Archduke's daughter couldn't protect a natemi for long.
"How long ye been gone, miss?" The sailor was winding a long rope around his arm. Moriah sighed. Apparently now the crew wanted to get in the act.
"Two months this trip." She immediately returned to her book. Maybe if she ignored him long enough, he'd go away.
"What were ye after? Business or pleasure?"
"Business." Moriah casually brushed her duster back. The long-barreled pistol on her waist usually silenced inquisitive folk.
"What kind?" The sailor didn't appear deterred. Moriah lowered her book to get a better look at him. The man wore a standard-issue navy pea coat over a turtleneck sweater, both stretched by his broad frame, and the khakis tucked into his boots had stains on the knees. Clearly a career sailor. Moriah caught his eyes then. Bronze eyes. Huh. A half-satyr dhalim perhaps?
"Bounty hunting for the Itzcalians," Moriah said. "One of their higher-class criminals escaped a prison over there."
"Aren't they havin' their own bounty hunters there?"
"The woman who fills that role is an old school friend of mine."
"Ah, Senro graduate are ye?" The sailor took off his workman's cap. Moriah caught a glimpse of small goat horns in his mop of nearly black hair. Definitely a dhalim. What made that even more intriguing was the lack of attention the other sailors paid him. She'd expected the humans of Callarion to be actively preaching Purity at all corners of the globe by now.
"Three years ago, yes." Moriah saw the aluminum lighthouse that marked the far edge of Callarion's harbor. Nearly home. Thank Donani. A few months lounging in the estate's gardens would be a well-deserved rest after traipsing all over the Itzcalian jungle.
The captain's voice boomed through the brass loudspeaker up near the helm. "Attention all passengers: We are now approaching the Quayside district of Callarion. Please gather all your belongings and wait for the gangplank to be lowered before you disembark. This is for your safety and the safety of others. Once again, please wait for the gangplank to be lowered and secured before you disembark."
"Donani's frozen breath," the sailor said, "Pleasure to be talkin' to ye, miss." He saluted and ran off. Moriah saw him dodge around two sailors running the other way. She threw her rucksack over her shoulder and walked to the bow. The sharp salt smell of her home waters twined with the bright wildflower scent of the mountains on Callarion's east edge to create the distinct smell of home. The aromas of Callarion's harbor washed over her, calming some of the annoyance her fellow passengers had engendered. As they neared the dockside, the harshness of coal-fired factory smoke mingled with spices like cinnamon and cloves and peppers to create the distinctive spicy sharpness of the Callarion dockside.
It smelled like home.
Docking took a few minutes of the sailors running around the main deck and down into the belly of the ship. Steam billowed from the stacks and the water wheel at the stern spun ever slower as the steamer eased into a slip along the brickwork docks. Moriah held onto the railing while she waited for the ship to stop, and saw other passengers doing the same. The gangplank dropped to the pier with a hollow thud. The first people next to it practically ran down.
Moriah rolled her eyes. Probably tourists on their first trip out from home. Donani only knew why they want to come to Callarion of all places. Moriah slowly walked the ship off, and waited for some of the sailors to drive a crane over to offload the luggage. The luggage platform hit the docks with a dull thud and Moriah paused only a moment before reaching for her trunk. But someone else grabbed the gray-and-blue trunk before she could get her hand on it. Moriah turned, opening her mouth to rebuke the offender, and then saw Malory dressed in a full suit, gray cravat tied around his neck and a top hat perched on his balding head.
So that's where I am with this now. I actually like this beginning more (I worked with it a lot before the returning home from school angle), because it allows me to make Moriah a bit more jaded and world-wise. And snarkier ... because now instead of just being focused on impropriety when she encounters the yellow-jackets tormenting an elderly dhalim, she's also annoyed that she's had to spend time dealing with nosy passengers and traipsing through a jungle.
More fun for me!