A small village in the mountains is beset with babies being born cursed. In an effort to contain the curse, the law requires these children be killed, but a few mothers each year cannot bring themselves to kill their own children. In these few instances they take their children to The Grandmother, who is said to be able to remove the curse on occasion. When one young mother finds herself unable to let her child die, her trip to The Grandmother drops her into a world she never knew existed, and will change her perceptions forever.
Does this description grab you? Does it make you think “WOW! I want to read that book!” or “That sounds cool, I’ll give it a shot.” What could be done to make it better? I’m requesting feedback on these descriptions so I can refine them.
This is an excerpt of the free form writing I did to get the idea started. I wrote nearly 5k words before I lost steam and need to outline to get my thoughts back in order. This is a copy/paste from the app I wrote it in. It’s an ios app called textkraft. It is an awesome resource, and it has a built in thesaurus. The symbols in this excerpt are in place of names which I hadn’t thought up yet. I left it that way for this as an example of using substitutes for things as you write to keep the flow going. I didn’t have the names but I was on a role and didn’t want to stop, so I just used symbols. A substitute can be anything, I also use [brackets] to make something stand out, as they are fast to do, which allows you to keep going as smoothly as possible.
The young woman cried as she walked the trail into the forest. In her arms she carried her newborn baby, wrapped warmly in the blanket she had made. In its tiny hand was a rattle its father had carved. As the woman paused to rest she looked down at her little bundle. How can I give him away, she thought to herself. “Because, if I don’t his father will be forced to kill him, or risk all our lives.” she spoke aloud, hoping that hearing the words would strengthen her resolve.
As she rested against the rock outcropping along the path, the fog that had given her pause stirred. She felt the caress of a gentle breeze on her skin. That’s when she saw her destination. A small cabin resting in a grove. The Elderly woman she had been told about by the other women in the village sitting on the porch gently rocking.
“Welcome, odd time for a visit, odd clothes to travel in as well. Why dont you come inside and rest where it’s warm, and much more comfortable than that rock, for someone who’s just brought life to this world” the old woman said in a comfortable tone. Standing up, back bent with age and troubles, she slowly walked inside leaving the door open in invitation.
★ steeled herself, pushing off the rock she had been resting on, her legs shaking as pain shot through her body, and slowly walked into the cabin. There she saw the old woman arranging blankets in a cradle.
“If he’s already eaten, lay him here, and rest here if you are able.” the old woman directed motioning one hand to the cradle, the other to a rocking chair with a thick cushioned seat next to it.
★ made her way to the cradle, and with a kiss laid her baby boy down, carefully wrapping him in the blankets the old woman had prepared. Shaking, she nearly collapsed into the chair. Wincing and releasing an involuntary whimper as she sat.
“We don’t normally get women here. Usually it’s the men who bring the little ones. Hard on the mother to make the trip so soon, and harder still to be the one giving life away” the old woman said in that knowing way old ones do who’ve seen a thing time and again. Pouring a glass of buttermilk, and scooping beef broth into a bowl. She tore a chunk of bread off a loaf and put it onto a plate along with the bowl and a spoon. “Here you are dear, need to get your strength back.” She said offering the refreshment to ★.
“Thank you grandmother. My husband wanted to come in my place, but I couldn’t just hand off my baby, I needed to see you and speak with you myself.” ★ said dipping the bread in the broth. “I need some assurances from you for my own peace of mind.” she said taking a bite of bread.
“I understand, some are old hands at this. Generations have come here, and it seems the newest generation usually doesn’t worry as much as the ones before. I take it you are new to the village, and this is your first? Feel free to ask me any questions you feel you need to so your mind and heart will rest a little easier. If I can answer them I will.” the old woman replied rocking slowly and her chair.
Having eaten the bread and broth, and drank most if the milk, ★ felt a bit of strength returning, so she dove right in to the worries that plagued her.
“We have recently moved to the village, by husband took a job as blacksmith after the raids took our previous village. We’ve been here only a few months, but I’ve been generously welcomed by most of the women, and five have told me about the villages rememdy to the law against what are considered cursed births. But I see no babies here, nor do I think a woman of your years could properly handle five babies, or more considering my short time here. I will not give my baby away thinking to save him from death, only to have death come to him anyway. I must know what happens to those brought here.” ★ nearly shouted, worry plain on her face, but also anger and defensiveness.
“Well, you are a different one indeed. Most parents choose to accept the belief that their little one is alive, and will leave it at that. It’s been many years since I had anyone ask questions. Normally I find some way to assure them while keeping secret where all those babies go. I can see from your fire that you will not be soothed so easily.” the old woman said still slowly rocking in her chair.
She stopped and leaned forward, looking the young mother directly in the eyes. For the first time ★ saw what was behind the mask of the gentle grandmother. A fire she herself carried and frankly was surprised to see it in this seemingly frail old woman.
As the old woman looked, ★ felt as if she were reading her soul. Suddenly the old woman leaned back and began rocking slowly again.
“I protect those brought to me to care for. I do not share their whereabouts idly. Nor will a strong heart cause me to tell all. If you want to know the answers to all your questions, you will have to earn those answers. Just like I did and many others besides. Some help me in various ways, in secret of course.
Some disagreed with my methods, though they had no better alternatives, and eventually had to be threatened into silence. But you will not need that, you want to know because you love your child as you would any child you brought to this world. Many have come like you, and only one in many love these lives enough to give up their own to protect them.
I was fortunate in a way. My husband had died raiding while I was with child. The only one of my children I gave birth to, was by law a cursed one. So I came to this very cabin, just as you have, with the same fire you have now.
The difference for me being I had nothing left to lose. My husband gone, our only child a cursed one. I set my heart to have answers, and in time I did. Those answers convinced me my place was here, protecting the children, and so I learned from the old woman protector that I had come to.
Perhaps you are to take over for me now that I am closing in on the great sleep. If you aren’t, you and your husband will still have to trade in some way for the answers you seek. I cannot divulge the secrecy I am charged to protect without some assurances. Your word alone isn’t good enough. Nor are your good intentions. Passion in youth can sometimes turn dark over time. That darkness can show itself in many ways. Bitterness, jealousy, hatred, bigotry, sexism, all sorts of nastiness. Though, for those who come here, normally it calms down into a gentle caring and respect for the work we do here, and a want to help in some way.
My first responsibility is to protect the little ones in my care. But all this can wait till tomorrow, you need rest. Will you place your trust in me tonight and rest here? I’m worried about you trying to make another trip tonight.” the old woman finished by placing her hand on the young woman’s arm.
“I will trust you. I would have to agree, I do not think I am up for another walk tonight. If it is agreeable, I will sleep here, in this chair near my little one.” ★ nearly pleaded reaching a tired hand out to touch the cradle.
“You would do better in a bed, you won’t get enough rest in the chair. You take the bed, and you can hold your little one while you sleep. Many times I’ve slept in this very chair, and it will do you a world of good to be in a bed. You need as much rest as you can get right now.” the old woman said in a firm tone that held tenderness.
She put her arm around the young mother to help her out of the chair, and across the room to the bed. Even being a short trip of no more than a few feet, the young mother was drained as she lay back on the feather bed and let out a deep sigh. The old woman retrieved the little bundle from the cradle and brought him to his mother. Tucking him into the crook of her arm, she weakly rocked him to settle him back into a deep sleep.
“I have a few last things to do outside, but I’ll be close, if you need anything, call for me. I’ll also send word to your husband that you will rest here for the night.” the old woman said pulling the blanket onto the young mother, and gently tucking it around her arm and the baby.
As the young mother drifted off to sleep she noticed the carvings on the bed posts, headboard and footboard. To her sleepy eyes, they looked like cursed children. One last thought went through her mind as her dreams began. ‘Strange, they appear to be cursed children, but they are laughing and playing in different ways much like our own’. With that last thought to fuel her dreams, she succumbed.