My WIP!Here&

Chatterbox: Inkwell

My WIP!Here&


Here's where I'm posting my novel-in-progress for people to read!  I'll be splitting up the chapters into multiple sections so hopefully it'll be easier for the Admins.  Without further ado, I present to you Holly and Brimstone, chapter 1 part 1!

(A couple author's notes - I'll be omitting a little bit of content here and there to make sure what I post is CB-appropriate, but don't worry it's nothing really plot-significant.  Also, any non-English words in italics are a language I've created for this story!)


Legends say that no one innocent has ever entered the Adelwood.  I doubt it, but it’s true that nothing pure ever lives long here.  The trees wear thick armor and reach their knotted branches toward the sky as if to capture the sun.  Tangled briars twine along overgrown trails, adorned with colorful berries like drops of blood.  The only thing brighter than them is the red hood drawn over my face.


My breath forms little clouds in the brittle air.  Last night’s snow muffles my footsteps as I amble through the forest, down a path I’ve long since memorized.  The only thing preventing placid silence is the keening of a wolf, deep and melancholy.  It is answered by others, until the unseen beasts form a heathen choir.  I’m almost tempted to join them in their song.  As night begins to fall a silvery fog falls with it, a light cloak over roots and brittle leaves.


My wandering eyes fall on a small, furry red-brown shape under a nearby bush.  A rabbit lies in the undergrowth, its side caked with dry blood and its eyes vacant.  A token of some hunt, no doubt, but strangely abandoned.  Leaving it would simply be a waste.  I can sell the pelt, and the bones may prove useful for other things.


The task takes longer than I expect and when I am finally done the moon is high in the sky.  Deciding it too late to continue on, I turn and head back the way I came.  I don’t fear the woods, but nothing good comes from traveling late into the night.  Howls continue to echo around me but now they take on human voices.  Sacrilege, they cry, sinner, murderer. “Ancha,” I mutter sharply, bidding them to leave me alone.  They have no real power, and yet they taunt me.  I could poison their elders and doom their kits, and yet they taunt me.  Stupid mangy beasts.


The lights of home glimmer in the distance and my jaw unclenches.  A cottage comes into view, with broken shutters and moss growing on the roof.  Hanging from the rafters is a single lantern lit by a flickering white flame.  The shingled rooftops and illuminated windows of Adelgate are barely visible through the labyrinth of trees, just close enough for comfort.  I rinse my hands and the rabbit bones in a bucket of cold rainwater and hang the hide to clean later before opening the house’s door with a creak.


I’m greeted by long shadows that stretch across the dirt floor.  Moonlight seeps through the windows, casting the room in a slight glow.  I shrug off the red cloak from around my shoulders, pluck a stick of charcoal from a bundle of the burned branches, and toss it into the fireplace that is empty except for ashes.  I murmur a few words, coaxing the stick to burn, and the hearth flares with orange fire.  My home now filled with warmth and soft light,  I turn my attention to the day’s gains.  Winter berries are wrapped in a thin cloth and left to dry for a few weeks, smooth stones are set on a stained wooden workbench, and the bones are placed in a satchel that rattles with tens of others.


My work completed, I shed my thick cotton bodice and skirt for a lighter gown.  I swiftly finish a small meal of bread and vegetables before lighting the tall white candle on my windowsill.  I arrange some of the holly branches I’ve collected around it and silently recite a prayer for protection and guidance.  Then I settle into bed, with the cries of wolves still echoing in my ears.

submitted by Sterling, age they/them, nation of Vasila
(March 17, 2024 - 2:30 pm)

Ooh this seems really well written! I love the discriptions, and it definitely has such a mysterious appeal! I can't wait to hear more! 

submitted by Hawkstar, age Not today, today we will survive
(March 17, 2024 - 3:36 pm)

Ooo love it so far! Especially the descriptions...

submitted by Moon Wolf, age lunars, A Celestial Sky
(March 17, 2024 - 11:37 pm)

Wow! I love the way you add bits of imagery in so effortlessly and casually, and use that to move the story along! This is like super good!!!!!! I do have like one rather (really) petty thingy if you're open to any constructive criticism? But if you're not, that's fine too! Looking forward to more parts!

submitted by CelineBurning Bright, Also love the title!
(March 18, 2024 - 11:53 am)

Thank you!  And yes, I'm totally open to constructive criticism - this is my first draft, after all!

submitted by Sterling@Celine
(March 18, 2024 - 3:20 pm)

Oh my! Sterling this is wonderful! The descriptions are beautiful, so vivid. It reminds me a bit of Little Red Riding Hood, which I love so very much. I do hope you choose to post more parts! I love it so far <3

submitted by GloomyBear
(March 18, 2024 - 4:32 pm)

Thank you so much!  Funny you mention Little Red Riding Hood, because this story is actually loosely based off of it!

submitted by Sterling@GloomyBear
(March 18, 2024 - 6:45 pm)

Ooh, this is so good! I really got sucked right in!

submitted by Jaybells, Lost, somewhere
(March 19, 2024 - 9:04 am)

Chapter 1 part 2!  Thank you so much for the kind words, everyone, it really motivates me!  I'm not as happy with this section and plan to rewrite it in further drafts, but here it is anyway.


It takes me about an hour to untangle and brush my thick hickory hair in the morning, and the sky is already bright and blue.  I quickly dress, leaving my hair a bit wild, and rush to gather my things.  My steps are fast and purposeful walking the well-trod trail toward Adelgate.  The chilled dawn air leaves goosebumps on my skin and a flush in my cheeks.


Trees thin, turning into shrubs at the town’s border, and wood-paneled buildings with proper windows and roofs rise up.  Smoke billows from a multitude of chimneys.  The sounds of trade resound - a clanging anvil, busker’s music, and of course bickering voices.  I pass more inns than houses on my way to the town square, as well as a number of shops.  The square itself is where all of Adelgate’s dirt paved roads meet, with an ancient and practically forgotten well at the center.  Market stalls crowd the space, carts and tables of wares.  A crowd has congregated here, from Adelwood trappers and hunters to swindlers to merchants all the way from Belvor.


“Raisa!” A deep voice calls my name.  A raven-haired, bearded man waves to me from his perch upon a stack of unmarked boxes.  He leaps down to welcome me. “We missed you yesterday, how are you?”


I’m fine, I was just preoccupied,” I tell him. “You remembered to save a spot for me?”


Marc laughs, hearty and loud. “What, you don’t trust me anymore?  Of course I did.  It’s over here.”  He leads me to a small booth, partially hidden in a shadowy corner of the square, with an awning of red cloth. “Listen, you let me know if you need anything.  I’ll be at Spinster’s.”


“Oh?” I question as I begin arranging my table.


“Yeah, I’ve got a buyer already believe it or not.  Some rich old coot from Belvor.  Good luck today!”


“You too!” I shout back as he walks away.  My booth set, I glance over my inventory once more.  I don’t need much, just a few catalysts - stones, herbs, candles - and any specific objects I might need for requests.  After all, I'm selling my skills, not goods.  Witchcraft is profitable because everyone has something they want, and one can’t simply buy things like health or strength.  I hum a song while I wait for customers.  It doesn’t take long.  A woman approaches, leaning on a walking stick. “Hello, Baba Gretel,” I greet her. “What can I do for you?”


“Ah yes.  Hello, dear.  May I ask, do you have anything for a bit of vitality?  These old bones of mine are so weak these days.”  her voice creaks like ancient wood when she speaks.


“That I do,” I tell her with a smile. “Take a seat.” I light a single candle with a spark of flint and steel, and sprinkle a few leaves of dried sage into the flame.  The air fills with a smoky, herbaceous aroma.  I breathe it in, gathering my strength.  As the candle burns I take the woman’s hand and imagine sprouts springing out of the earth, the laughter of children, the warmth of the sun.  The moment passes and I let go.


My shoulders slump and it takes a minute to catch my breath, but the woman’s wrinkled face breaks into a smile.  Tears pool in her eyes. “Oh Raisa, thank you!  I haven’t felt this well in years!  I know what they say about witches, but I don’t believe it.  You’re a wonderful young woman.”


Of course I am, I think.  The day passes like a whirlwind.  I perform similar spells, promise to prepare more complicated ones, and tell a few fortunes.  The baker offers me a whole bag of piroshki for giving him a protection charm, which I gladly accept.  I meet Marc again at the nearest tavern when the sun is sinking below the horizon.  He already looks half-drunk leaning against the bar, a wide grin on his lips. “Good day?” I ask, sitting down next to him with a sigh.


“The best,” he replies and takes a swig from his glass of vodka. “You?”


I shrug. “Typical.  I’ve made at least enough to get me lodging in Anastona, so that’s good.”


“Hey, actually, before you leave… I’ve got a commission for you.”

submitted by Sterling, age they/them, nation of Vasila
(March 19, 2024 - 4:22 pm)

Ooh! I love the magic healing in it, and the settings. You are a wonderful story teller!

submitted by Hawkstar
(March 20, 2024 - 1:27 pm)

Onto Chapter 2, part 1!  This is still very much the introduction of the story, but the plot will be picking up very soon ;)

“Don’t be stupid, you don’t need anything from me,” I scoff.


“It’s not for me.”




“I said it’s not for me,” he repeats.


“Then why do you have to ask me about it?” I ask.  He doesn’t answer, instead taking a long drink. “Marc, you know I don’t perform spells for people I don’t know.  It’s too risky.”


“Listen, I can vouch for her,” He finally says. “She’s an old friend.”


I sigh. “Fine, tell me.”


“She needs an arrow that can’t miss its target, one that’s instantly deadly.  Think you can do that?  I’ll pay you 50 crowns for it.”


“50 crowns?” I ask with more than a bit of incredulity. “And just one?”  Marc nods. “Alright.  But give me the money first.”


He laughs. “You know me too well.”  The metal coins clang as he tosses a pouch of them onto the counter.


I mull over the request on my way home.  It’ll require blood, no doubt.  I haven’t made a weapon in years, not since I left Baba Sofiya.  I light the hearth as always and set aside my basket of market purchases on a low shelf.  Reaching up to a higher one, I cough at the dust that’s gathered on the nook in the stone wall.  A thick book lies there, bound in leather dyed red.  I slide it off the shelf and blow even more dust off of it.  The red cover, decorated with a border of thorns and leaping wolves, shines in the firelight.  It opens with a low creak to reveal thin, brittle pages discolored with time.  The first reads, in twisting handwritingt - "grimoire of the witch Sofiya, may the spirits remain". In a neater script below Sofiya is written, and Raisa.  I quickly flip past it and almost tear the page.


I skim the book until I find what I’m looking for.  Listed are instructions for carving and fletching arrows, as well as general guidelines for enchanting them, all written in that familiar almost-illegible script.  Having gotten the information I needed, I put the grimoire back on its shelf to collect dust again.

I all but forget about this project in the haste of the next few days.  I only have so much time if I want to arrive in Anastona before the Solstice.  This means I spend most of it gathering supplies for travel, packing my bags, and casting protection and luck for myself.  It isn’t until the day before I plan to leave that I set out into the forest in search of a branch fit for an arrow.  Only evergreen trees still thrive in the depths of winter and dead wood is too breakable, so I’ll have to settle for what I can find.


To my surprise, I discover a freshly fallen mistletoe branch with flexible sprigs.  I send a silent prayer of thanks to Anastia as I cut away the excess wood.  Snowy owl feathers will suffice for fletching, and I purchase an iron arrowhead from a blacksmith in Adelgate.  I finally sit down at my workbench and begin carving.  Wood shavings fall to the floor as my hands work, and my thoughts wander.  What is the city like, I wonder?  I’ve heard tales of lavish parties, towering palaces. And even streets of gold.  These images sparkle in my mind’s eye.


I attach the arrowhead and fletching with string and seal them with sap.  Now the real task begins, the reason why only I can do this.  Only I have the capability and willpower to channel this magic, I think, smiling to myself.

submitted by Sterling, age they/them, nation of Vasila
(March 23, 2024 - 9:35 pm)

Ooh, love this part!! I wonder what's happening with Sofiya, and why Marc's friend needs that arrow...

submitted by CelineBurning Bright, hmm
(March 23, 2024 - 11:45 pm)

Omg I did NOT mean to go a week without posting, sorry!  Anyway here's Chapter 2 part 2!  The plot will be picking up very soon so I hope you lizards are still interested.


I feel ten feet tall when I leave into the forest again, the newly-made arrow in my hand.  I don’t stray from my set path, my steps deliberate.  The light of dusk falls onto my skin like a gown of gold.  The wolves howl as they always do, but tonight I follow their voices.  I hear every cry, every songbird’s trill, every padded footstep.  And there ahead of me, hidden in the dark undergrowth, is a lone beast.   It crouches in the thicket, ears folded back.  Its yellow eyes stalk the grazing rabbit in front of it - a young hunter, healthy and strong.


It yelps and turns its head to me, jaws snapping.  I can't afford to hesitate - enchanting a deadly weapon requires death of its own.  Its teeth tear the hem of my dress as it charges towards me, but before its sharp claws reach my skin, the beast finds the arrow I was holding now imbedded in its flesh.  The wolf collapses against the brush with labored panting and blood seeping from its wound, arrow lodged in its furred throat.  As the pitiful creature draws its last breaths, I dare not move.  Then comes a sudden stillness, complete silence, and I know the ritual is complete.  I wrap my cut hand in my cloak and pull the white-fletched arrow from the wolf’s cold flesh.  The blood covering it has already dried, seeping into the wood.  I leave the corpse in the undergrowth.  Some trapper will collect it, or a larger creature will eat it - none of my concern.


The twilight forest is all the more beautiful as I make my way home.  I’ve been relieved of any fatigue I might have had, and the stars shine down.  Snow is slowly falling, flakes of it dancing through the air and powdering my cloak.  A frigid breeze rattles the trees.  It grows into a tempest that wails and pounds against the windows of my house.  I toss and turn in bed, but sleep refuses to come.  I finally rise, stoke the fire, and set a pot of broth over it.  I take out a few vegetables and a hearty amount of potatoes, chopping them with fervor.  The methodic action and savory aroma now wafting through the room ease my restlessness.  


When the broth rises to a boil I add chunks of vegetable and potato and sprinkle in a bit of dried herbs.  I stir the pot until every ingredient has swirled together into a rich golden-brown stew and the night has become a warm blanket that wraps itself around me.  I pour myself a steaming bowl and cut a thick slice of bread to go with it.  I don’t as much eat as sit in the comforting, aromatic air and watch the flurry of white outside.  My eyelids slowly fall and a yawn escapes my lips, so I set aside the rest of the stew and climb back into bed.  With a heavy fur blanket wrapped around me, I drift off to sleep.

A/N: Sorry this was a shorter part, the next one will be longer!  Also, I had to cut out a teensy bit of this section to make sure it was CB-appropriate so if something sounds awkward, that's probably why. 
submitted by Sterling, age they/them, nation of Vasila
(March 31, 2024 - 7:36 pm)

Oh, I loved this part so much!! The descriptions were beautiful and everything was so comforting~ and yes, definitely still interested!! And don't worry about the wait! :)

submitted by CelineBurning Bright, age fervor, inspired to draw
(March 31, 2024 - 8:19 pm)