Chapter One – Preview & Comparison

Short Stories

In honor of completing my the first draft of my Work in Progress (WIP), I’m going to share a side-by-side preview of my first chapter before and after the first round of edits! This post isn’t meant to exclusively promote my work; I want this to be encouraging to new authors. The first draft is about getting words on a page. You have to get through that entire draft before you can really start editing. For newbies, editing as you go is overwhelming and can bog you down to the point where you never finish the whole draft. Speaking from experience, most of the things I wanted to add in or change were informed by the end of the book, but I only knew that after I finished.

That said, the working title of my novel is Tales of Drynic: Tigruca. It is the first installment of a New Adult (NA) magical realism series.

Synopsis: Abryn and her estranged older sister, Reislyn, were raised as some of the only drynic in all of Ridgate. When Highborns from the East request the assistance of a mechanic and a medic, the two are forced to travel together with a group of strangers. The party continues west on a diplomatic mission to offer aid to a struggling town of non-shifters — a place painfully reminiscent of their hometown.

-|-

Chapter 1; Draft 1

Abryn hated working on sundays. Train carts were annoying enough to drag back to the station; the wet tracks just made for another inconvenience. Better than working on rainday, but still a less than ideal. On top of the slick tracks and difficult hold, she could rarely convince the firav mechanics to help with weekend repairs. Today, she had received an urgent request and decided it was pointless to stop and ask anyone. She’d rather get it done. 

The shop was in sight when another wheel snapped off its axle. The falling cart slipped from her hands with a metallic thud, threatening to topple over. The quick motion cost Abryn her grip on the tracks; she slid gracefully down the gravel mound. Chewing her tongue in irritation, she stared up at the cart, debating leaving it for tomorrow. It was tempting. But it apparently had to be moved today.

She glanced toward the shop and noticed a thin Militia boy. He was a scrawny private she didn’t recognize. Probably a new recruit; the commandant had recently requested additional troops be transferred to Ridgate. He saw her notice him and timidly waved her over. With a deep, resentful breath, Abryn hiked back to the shop. She halfheartedly extended her hand palm down in greeting; he examined her tattoos before cautiously responding, placing his palm on the back of her hand. As with all Militia, his hands were wrapped hiding whether he was drynic — like Abryn — or firav. 

“Ma’am,” he croaked, “you’ve been summoned to the central.”

“If it’s Kaler, I’m busy,” she sauntered back toward the broken cart.

“Ma’am, he says I’m not supposed to leave until you come with me.”

She didn’t stop. “I can’t say I care.”

He pleaded again, following her onto the tracks. She tossed the newly-broken wheel inside the cab and lifted the front again. The way he stepped back in awe, he had to be firav. “Please, ma’am,” he said, “this is an important matter. There are Highborns in town he needs you to speak to.”

“If it was that important, he would have sent someone more important after me. No offense.”

“Ma’am, these are very important guests. The commandant wanted the central well-manned.”

Abryn gave him a blank stare and a fake grin. “Tell him I do not have the time or patience to follow his every whim today. It is supposed to be my day off, and I will not spend it playing games with him.”

He stood for a few more moments before retreating back to the shop and disappearing out the door. Abryn exhaled heavily and refocused on the task at hand. With the slick ground, she needed better footing. She dryfted, letting the bones and muscles in her lower body readjust. Her feet shifted, elongating under her skin. The claws and thicker foot pads would help with traction. Changing the joint location of her knees and ankles made it easier to lift and pull the cart behind her.

She had just dropped the cart inside when the tiny light-haired man returned. She drifted her feet back to their human state and walked to the far side of the cart to examine the freshly broken wheel. Moments later, a black-haired figure joined her. Not the Militia man. 

Wells wore a carefully subdued face of concern. Abryn studied the urgency in his dark eyes. He kept most of the emotion from his voice, but it wasn’t completely hidden. “I was called into work this morning maybe an hour after you left. The Commandant Major is dead.”

Abryn blinked slowly. “Does that mean Kaler is –”

“He’s commandant now, yes.”

“I see,” she pursed her lips. “He summoned me.”

“Yes, that’s why I’m here. There are Highborns in Ridgate –”

“There really are Highborns here? Multiple Highborns?”

“Yes,” Wells hissed, “I passed one of them when Kaler summoned me to summon you. But he said there was another one.”

“What does this have to do with me?”

“I don’t know.” Contemplative silence trailed his words. He shook his head, “I have to get back to the morgue and take care of my side of this mess.”

“Do you think they had anything to do with the commandant?”

“The Highborns? I don’t know. The timing is unusual if they aren’t involved. But then again, since when do they care about the hierarchy of the civic Militia?”

“When was the last time we had a Highborn in Ridgate?”

Again, he shook his head. “You should go see them. I’ll get a bag together in case we need to leave quickly.” 

“That’s a big leap,” Abryn said.

“Is it? After all these years of swearing you’d leave before he promoted?”

She set her jaw. “I wouldn’t leave Reislyn. Especially with him in charge.”

“No,” Wells agreed. “You’d get her before we left.”

She dismissed the idea, walking past him to the door.  She hadn’t seen her sister in a while, maybe a couple years. Jerking free of her thoughts, she left Wells behind and accompanied the young private back to the central. 

-|-

Chapter 1; Draft 2

Abryn didn’t like working on sundays. Train carts were annoying enough to drag back to town; the wet tracks just made for another inconvenience. She had received the initial request the day before, but Wells had talked her out of working another rainday. He reminded her that the firav mechanics would never help during a shower when they wouldn’t be able to keep a firm footing. His argument wasn’t wrong. But Abryn knew her workers better than that — they were unlikely to work either day of the weekend; putting it off made little difference. She had given up on asking them for weekend volunteers months ago. Anyway, the messenger claimed the job was urgent, requesting removal before noon on Sunday. She didn’t need to waste the time arguing when she was capable of doing the job herself.

She skipped breakfast, jogged across town, turned on warning signals, exited through West Station, and had found the abandoned carts before eight. It was a beaten down engine cart with an empty cargo trailer behind it. She was pleasantly surprised to find that it had been moved onto the emergency lane instead of left on the outbound tracks. 

The engine cart had slipped an axle and leaned heavily to the left. The engine itself seemed fine; it could use a tune up, but it should run fine on the way back to the shop. The trailer behind it wasn’t attached when she examined it. The hitch was bent, and the socket had twisted open. Three of the cheap metal wheels had doubled over or snapped completely off. It must’ve been slung off the tracks when the engine jerked. The carts that the city of Leann sent to smaller towns like Pearl and Ridgate were always cheap and in terrible condition. Abryn took a firm stance and straightened the hitch back out, but there was little she could do for the socket. It wrapped unconvincingly around the ball, but it would have to rely heavily on the chains to stay connected. 

She paced in front of the damaged side of the engine, considering her options. Heaving the frame onto her knee, she tried repositioning the axel but didn’t have the reach or the angle. The gravel mound the tracks were built on did not make for stable footing for long. She set the engine down as carefully as possible before letting her feet slide down to the still-fresh mud. It wasn’t going to be easy to get back to the shop like this, but that’s why they always called her — the only drynic mechanic in Ridgate. They’d have needed six-or-so firav to get the job done, and that’s more hassle than the Militia cared to put into it.

It was another mile out of town to the next connection onto the inbound tracks, and she had no interest in going that far to come all the way back in the correct direction. The warning lights should stop all trains at the West Station. If someone ignored that, she was sure she’d hear them coming before the collision. She cranked the engine and put it in reverse on its lowest setting. Standing between the two carts, Abryn lifted the inner left corners of each and fell into the engine’s pace, heading back to Ridgate. She knew that she had to be getting close to the shop when the cargo trailer lost another cheap wheel. It jerked hard to the right, and Abryn dropped the engine cart to keep the trailer from toppling off the tracks. She jerked to stabilize both and dashed to cut the engine. Dropping the cart had caused even more damage to the frame. In the adrenaline rush, her hands had dryfted into dark leathery claws without her prompting, leaving gashes in the wooden siding. She slid down the gravel mound, chewing her tongue in irritation and dryfting her hands back. 

She considered abandoning the train there until the work day started tomorrow. She could just leave the warning up and hope people would stay off the tracks. West Station was within sight. She could send some firav to grab it first thing in the morning. But they needed her to get it done now.

Abryn looked back at the shop one last time, and saw a thin, light-haired Militia boy. He was a scrawny Private she didn’t recognize, probably a new recruit. The Commandant had recently requested additional transfers. He noticed her look at him and timidly waved her over. With a deep, resentful breath, Abryn hiked back to the shop at West Station. She halfheartedly extended her hand, palm down in greeting; he examined her drynic tattoos before cautiously responding, placing his palm on the back of her hand. As with all Militia, his hands were wrapped hiding whether he was drynic or firav. 

“Lady Bryn, you’ve been summoned to the Central.”

“That is not my name; tell him I’m busy,” she crossed the shop and grabbed their biggest dolly.

“Ma’am, he says I’m not supposed to leave until you come with me.”

She strode back down the tracks. “I have things to do here.”

He pleaded again, following her to the abandoned carts. She shoved the dolly under the engine cart and wrestled the finicky tool into place. The rusty old dolly just barely lifted the engine cart off its broken axle. It wasn’t meant to hold that much weight, but with the station so close, it’d save her a lot of struggling to move it herself. She checked the connection again before striding to the back-end of the cargo cart. She turned to face West Station and lifted the end of the trailer. He stepped back in awe; he had to be firav. 

“Please, ma’am,” he said, “this is an important matter. There are Highborns in town he needs you to speak to.”

“This is going to sound mean, but if it was that important, Kaler would have sent someone more important after me.”

“Ma’am, these are very important guests. He wanted the Central well-manned.”

Abryn gave him a blank stare and a fake grin. “Tell him I have my hands full. It is supposed to be my day off, and I will not spend it playing games.”

The light-haired Private stood for a few more moments before retreating back to the shop and disappearing out the door. Abryn exhaled heavily and refocused on the task at hand. With the slick tracks, she needed better footing. She dryfted, letting the bones and muscles in her legs readjust. Her feet shifted, elongating under thickening skin. The claws and thicker foot pads would help with traction. Changing the joint location of her knees and ankles made it easier to lift and pull the cart behind her. The first few steps, the two carts didn’t want to move. The chains rattled and metal ground on metal. With a small grunt, the cart jolted forward; the ball hitch had left the socket. Chains snapped tight in the middle, but the assembly had found some momentum. Clawing into the gravel between the ballasts, Abryn got up to a heavy run sustaining it just long enough to coast into the shop.

She had just dropped it inside when the light-haired man returned. She drifted her feet back to their human state and walked to the far side of the train to disconnect the chains and haul the engine onto a lift. Moments later, a black-haired figure joined her. Not the Militia man. 

Wells wore a carefully subdued face of concern. Abryn studied the urgency in his dark eyes. He kept most of the emotion from his voice, but it wasn’t completely hidden. “I was called into work this morning maybe an hour after you left. The Commandant Major is dead.”

Abryn blinked slowly. “Does that mean Kaler is –”

“He’s Commandant now, yes.”

“I see,” she pursed her lips. “He summoned me.”

“Yes, that’s why I’m here. There are Highborns in Ridgate –”

“There really are Highborns here? Multiple Highborns?”

“Yes,” Wells hissed, “I passed one — almost as tall as I am — when Kaler summoned me to summon you. But he said there was another one.”

“What does this have to do with me?”

“I don’t know.” Contemplative silence trailed his words. He shook his head, “I have to get back to the morgue and take care of my side of this mess.”

“Do you think they had anything to do with Commandant Gentry?”

“The Highborns? I don’t know. The timing is unusual if they aren’t involved. But then again, since when do they care about the hierarchy of the civic Militia?”

“When was the last time we had a Highborn in Ridgate?”

Again, he shook his head. “You should go see them. I’m going to pack a bag tonight. Do you want one too.” 

“That’s a big leap,” Abryn said.

“Is it? After all these years of swearing you’d leave before he promoted?”

“They’ll need my help on this repair.*

He cut his eyes disbelievingly. 

She set her jaw. “Fine, I wouldn’t leave Reislyn with him in charge. He could take it out on her.”

“He wouldn’t do that,” Wells said. “If it makes you feel better, get her before we leave.”

She dismissed the idea, walking past him to the door. “We can talk later.” She hadn’t seen her sister in a while, maybe a couple years. Jerking free of her thoughts, she left Wells behind and accompanied the young Private back to the central. 

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