A few months ago, I mentioned my book Mistlyn on Wattpad. In the last few weeks, I’ve been editing it and getting it ready to send out to beta readers, and then, to agents.
The only way thirteen-year-old Mistlyn can bring her dead village back to life is by going with a conniving Jinn to the world of the dead, the Realm of Mote.
The only survivors of their burned village, Mistlyn and her best friend, Sahria, are captured and held prisoner by Jinn. Sahria is forced to be a court dancer, while Mistlyn has been forced to sit on two eggs that are said to contain the life force of the seven races of earth. But once the eggs hatch and another three days have passed, Mistlyn will no longer be needed by the Jinn king.
Before anything further can happen to her, Mistlyn is convinced to leave with the Jinn who promises to help her escape and bring her family back to life – if she does a favor for him. But the Jinn isn’t the one Mistlyn has to worry about…
Mistlyn Chapter One
“The only good jinn is a dead jinn,” baba told me as he kicked off his muddy boots and sat down in front of the fire. My father was always saying things like that.
But that was months ago. Today, he’s dead. Burned in a fire jinns set.
The back of my throat tasted like blood as I crawled under flames and smoke. I coughed, choSheikh on ash, listening to the screaming all around. The air was heavy, and smelled like the taste inside my mouth whenever I bit the inside of my cheeks too hard.
My eyes stung, tearing up even as I squeezed them shut, trying to get dust out of them.
When I opened my eyes again, two gray ones stared down at me.
“Found one!” gray eyes called out.
Her face was streaked in ash, but the smoke curling off the ends of her hair and off her skin gave her away.
I kicked back at her just as she reached down to pluck me to my feet. My boots grazed her thick skin as if it were armor, and she smiled as she dragged me behind her
“Kill me now!” I screamed. I thought my wrist would pop off as I pulled away from her. But her hands were thick like a tree and just as strong.
“Let me go,” I screamed, searching for any other villagers. I kept expecting to see my father running towards me, shirt sweaty, with streaks of dirt, after worSheikh out in his field all day. To take me back home and put me in my warm bed, and have my mother make me my favorite soup.
But no one came, and the jinn was still dragging me forward.
“Found one,” she said again. A second jinn nodded once at her and pointed to a wagoned cage.
“Got another,” he said.
Eyes as black as ash stared at me through the cage bars. Sahria.
She shook her head at me, as if telling me to run. But the woman jinn only threw me into the cage. With a click, the door was locked.
“Mistlyn,” Sahria, my best friend said as she pulled her knees up to her chest and wrapped her arms around them. She was staring past the bars and I followed her gaze.
Two jinns whooped as they set a house on fire. The thatched roof and the wooden pillars of the house choked on flame and smoke. It had withstood the ten years since the last Suhalia raid, but within minutes, was ash and char.
“Two is all the sultan wanted,” I overheard a jinn say as he eyed our cage. “A nester and a dancer.”
He tapped the side of our wagon hard, getting the other jinns’ attention.
“Pack it up!” he yelled, “Let’s go.”
Behind him, the sky was gray and heavy with smoke. My home, with its bright red door and the horseshoe nailed over it for good luck were gone.
“They’re all dead,” Sahria said. I snapped my head to her, not recognizing her voice. It was too harsh, like an old man who smoked too much tobacco pipe.
I clenched my jaw and nodded. “They are,” I said, though I barely heard myself. I tried not to think of baba’s thick black beard, the one I would tug on to tease him. Or maman’s warm bread fresh from the oven. Or my brother’s hair that curled over his forehead, even though he always pushed it back.
I thought of the ducks in the pond behind town. I hoped they escaped the flames.
I turned to look at Sahria. She was staring at me with her wide, wide eyes. I felt jittery, my legs weak beneath me as I curled up against her. She was shivering, but she wrapped her arm around me and we held on to each other. The only ones left of our town of more than one thousand people, horses, chicks, and goats.
My hands shook as I moved to brush my hair out of my eyes. My sweaty hair lay matted on my forehead, my face. Flakes of dried blood crumbled when I pulled my hair off my skin.
“I’m scared,” Sahria said, her hands shaSheikh. She glanced past the bars of the cart. Bodies lay strewn all over the ground.
“Me too,” I said, angling my neck so I can look at her. She was staring ahead, as if she didn’t hear me. I lay my hand on her shoulder. It was tense, as if trying to harden itself against an imaginary weight.
I lurched as the wagon rolled ahead, horses clip clopping down the gravelly road. We bounced every time the wagon rolled over a stone, and before long, my back and butt were so sore, I wanted to stand.
But the wagon was just high enough for us to sit and not always be hitting out heads against it.
Jinns followed behind and around us, their glances as sharp as their swords.
“Do they think we could run off?” Sahria said, glaring at a jinn who leaned over his horse’s side to peek at us through the cage bars.
The jinn heard Sahria and laughed. “Oh no, little girl, you can’t run from us. No one can.”
He righted himself on his horse and trotted off.
The road narrowed as trees pressed in around us. We were far away now that the smoke from the fires created a hazy curtain I couldn’t see through, like a border between life and death.
“Maybe it’s true,” I said.
“The stories about the Realm of the Dead.”
“Mistlyn,” Sahria began. “You know it doesn’t exist.” She let out another sob, covering her mouth with her hand to muffle the sound.
“But what if. Wouldn’t you go to the Realm if you could?”
“Well I can’t,” Sahria said. “You know it’s not real, right?” Her eyes searched mine, eyebrows raised.
I nodded, feeling an ache rising back in my jaw, my neck. My eyes stung as warmth spread down my cheeks. A warmth that both cooled and tickled my flaming face.
Two jinns scowled at us. One stabbed the air in front of the rolling cart with his long spear.
“Why didn’t they just kill us already?” Sahria whispered. “What are they going to do to us?”
“I heard them say a nester and a dancer.”
“But what does that mean?”
I shook my head at her. “I don’t know.”
“My father,” Sahria’s said a few breaths later. She cleared her throat and sniffled. “My father,” she said again, “Used to say that the jinns took humans to use them as dancers in their courts.”
Her voices dropped to a whisper again. “I’m really scared, and we have to escape.”
“Promise me,” I said.
“Promise you what?” Sahria didn’t even look at me. Her face was turned away, eyes looSheikh down.
“Promise me that if we’re separated,” I choked, “We’ll go find each other and escape them.”
“I promise.” Her voice was flat.
“And promise me that no matter what, we’ll make sure we both get away alive. Together.”
“Together,” she said. She moved in closer to me and laid her head on my shoulder. Her breathing changed a few minutes later, growing slower, shallower.
I stayed up the night, listening to the creaSheikh of the cart, and the crunch of stones as we rolled over them.
We rode on for the rest of the day. The sun set, bleeding red across the horizon.
Sahria and I stayed huddled together in the corner of the cart, shivering against the cold of the night. The road was getting bumpier, and with each jolt of the cart rolling over stones, I felt a stab in my back and neck.
Morning came, and still my eyes stayed open.
The cart stopped once and a jinn boy stepped up and opened the door. I shot for the opening, but two other jinns blocked my way.
The boy smiled sheepishly at me and handed me two bowls of warm mush. “Your morning meal,” he said, then moved to shut the door. “I’m Farsooth, by the way.”
I stared at him until his face reddened and he glanced away.
“What are they going to do to us?” I said as he was turning away from me.
“It’s hard to say,” he said, “But they usually pick the prettiest girls,” he added with a small smile.
“I wouldn’t eat anything from them,” Sahria said behind me.
“We should keep our strength up, if we’re going to escape.”
Sahria’s face scrunched up. “I dreamt that we got to the jinn Sheikhdom and they threw us into a pit filled with snakes. And the snakes strangled me. I couldn’t get them off me, and then I heard you scream.”
“It was just a dream,” I said, crawling over to where Sahria was curled up into a ball.
“Is it any worse than what’s happened to us already?”
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