Journey’s End: a novel

This is the page for my newest novel, Journey’s End.  Here you will find the first chapter, and an excerpt for your reading pleasure.

Journey’s End is now available for purchase as a physical copy or ebook!

 

Journeys_End_Cover_for_Kindle

Journey’s End ©2017

By Jasmine Clark

Chapter 1 

A Day At Market

Above the hazy air of the sleeping village of Dera, the sun rose. Its rays slowly crept through the dust, and into the open window of the yurt. The gentle light caressed Naran’s eyes, as her lips gave way to a smile. Today would be a good day she thought, as her arms stretched over her cot. She sat up slowly and exhaled. Quickly and quietly, she washed in the large tub separated in the corner of her home. As she smoothed the soap on her lightly tanned skin, she stopped suddenly. Before she had time to look, a pair of small eyes and small hands had invaded her space. The sound of plzzzt and a laugh made Naran jump. The water splashed, and for a moment, she thought she would topple over onto the floor in a great big thump. The creature who startled Naran was none other than her little sister Altan.

     “Shhhh, you mustn’t be so loud!” ordered Naran bitterly.

     The young child’s toothy grin disappeared, as her eyes softened with tears. Naran, not wanting to be a mean big sister, unfurled her brows and lovingly pinched both of the child’s rosy cheeks. Altan then smiled back and put her small index finger to her pink lips. She mouthed a shhh, and closed the curtain. Naran listened for the child’s tiny footsteps as they faded to the other side of the yurt. Once finished bathing, she put on her long padded pants and robe top. She tied the top with a long sash and promptly put on her scarf. She sat on the cot and forcefully shoved her foot into the large boot. It would be a cold day in the desert, and possibly a dust storm. After grabbing her basket, Naran walked over to her parent’s cot. Between her sleeping father and mother lay a lump under the heavy blankets. Carefully, like a tiger stalking its prey, Naran reached over her father and poked the lump. It giggled and out popped Altan. Naran then whispered to the child,

      “I’ll be home in a few hours, be good to mama and pa.”

     Naran then walked outside and into the chilled desert air. For the next two hours, she walked along the sand that had no discernible path. Judging by the sun and the wind, she knew exactly what direction to take. Her small home was located deep within the Gom desert, far away from the market. Years prior, her family used to raise sheep, but since the war, they had resorted to other work. Over time the sheep were sold, and as time continued, Naran’s father worked part time seasonally in the mines. Her mother would work in town making jewels for travelers. Their family had once been prominent in the community for their sheep herding, but after rations and change of work, they lost some of their prestige. However, they always had a good reputation, and high honor. Three years ago, that all changed. Naran had only been eight years old then and was never exactly certain what had gone wrong. What was clear was that she had an older sister then, but now, she didn’t.

      Saran, her eldest sister, had been so beautiful in Naran’s eyes. In fact, Saran had been beautiful in everyone’s eyes. Although a desert girl, she had slightly lighter skin. Her eyes were actually black and not a deep brown like most people. Her face was a perfect amount of long in length, but not so much to be considered ugly. She wasn’t that tall, but she had a perfectly proportioned figure. Her voice was clear and smooth as silk mixed with velvet. She sang just as beautifully, and would often do so for the element festival. Saran had many suitor families by the time she was nine years old. At the time, that was a bit absurd. Families didn’t find suiters until the children were eleven. However, this was Saran, and every family wanted her to be apart of theirs. Naran was very different than her sister. Saran would not take to orders and often clashed with their parents. Saran always loved to sing and absolutely hated working with the sheep. When all the sheep were gone, she smiled incessantly for days.

      By thirteen, her suitor family had been agreed upon. At the time, she spent most of her days wooing the boys and making nice with the family she would be married into. All Naran could remember about her sister was that she sang and brought her along to play with her friends. It pained Naran to not know her last memory of her sister. It was as if one day she was just gone. When she did try to find out what happened to her sister, she was often scolded. So after a while, she obeyed her parents and pretended to not have an older sister. Although life was very normal without her, the slightest reminder of her sister’s past existence would make Naran’s chest feel heavy. The burden of those memories would make her emotions cave into a frenzy of crying and bouts of anger. As Naran walked closer to town, she was suddenly reminded of her sister. She stopped, and took the time to cry.

     In the market Setseg was waiting impatiently by the wooden post. She looked aimlessly into the distance and saw a small figure amongst a backdrop of sand. She ran fervently until she was face to face with a wet faced Naran. Not realizing that Setseg was there, Naran jumped and turned around.

       “Naran! Why are you crying? Your parents found a good family right?” said a sweet voiced Setseg.

       Naran sniffed up the wetness coming from her nose and used her hand to wipe off her tear stained cheeks. She breathed in deeply and then turned around to smile. Setseg was not impressed and put her hands on her hips, then straightened her back.

      “You think because I got thinner eyes than you that I can’t see when you’re sad.”

    Naran’s head drooped as she muttered the words, yes. She then looked up and squinted her eyes,

     “I really thought I could get away with it this time.” Setseg smiled and hit Naran playfully.

       She grabbed her hand and ran with her to the market. There, they looked around at all the goods. The two talked about the element festival, and boys. Setseg and Naran were going to debut their dance routine with the element, water. After buying goods for home, Naran walked with Setseg to a small patch of land near an empty horse stable. There, they practiced their dance. In the village of Dera, there were many ethnic groups. The Pochi tribe had tan skin and large moon shaped eyes. Their people were from the western region. They had a long history of being strong hunters. They were more of a nomadic people who often traveled into Dera during the winter season. The Aples tribe were similar in skin tone, but their eyes were wider and moon shaped. They were known for making intricate clothing and rugs. They had small communities further in the east. They often traded their goods outside of Dera. The Agnout tribe had the fairest skin and smaller moon shaped eyes. They were were from the northern region where the mountains appear to pierce the sky. The land was known for its heavy snow. The last tribe were the Mazi tribe. They lived on the outskirts of the village and herded animals. They spent time in the sun, so their skin was a deeper tan. Their eyes were a bit larger and moon shaped. They were known for their fleshy rose colored cheeks.

       Each tribe had their own culture and festivals. However, each year in the spring, they would all gather for the element festival. They would take the time to celebrate the four elements; water, fire, dirt, and air. The festival would start with fireworks and a large parade. Colorful displays of lanterns would be held up and cheered by onlookers. Each person would make their own noise making instrument like a small drum, flute, or rattle. There would be dancing and singing, and that was just the first day. The second day would be the grand feast. Each tribe would bring a delicacy from their region. The Pochi tribe were the strongest hunters, so they would hunt many large animals like the bint. This animal was larger than a horse and much meatier. Its features were more like a bull, with an elongated snout. They were fierce animals and often put up a dramatic fight for its life when threatened. The Aples were not known for their food as much as they were known for their clothes making skills. However, since they stayed in one area, they did tend to grow many vegetables and fruits. The Agnout tribe were from the mountain regions and mostly fished in the great frozen lakes. Fish would be salted and brought in droves. The Mazi tribe were herders and often raised sheep, goats, and pigs. Cows were also herded in some parts of Dera. Large slabs of meat would be brought from their herds for the festival. Since the war, sheep and other animals were not able to be brought from the Mazi people.

       Naran remembered vaguely how her parents used to prepare the sheep when they still had some left. Her mother would take every part of the animal and boil it for hours. When the hair was gone, it would be soaked in broth made from milk and other spices. After another day, the meat would be so tender and juicy with flavor, that Naran often tried to sneak a bite. When she was scolded for this, her sister would then try to distract her mother so she could still try again. This worked once, and it was another reason she loved Saran so much. Perhaps that is why Naran was sad this particular day when heading to the market. Remembering the festival and her sister’s antics made her miss Saran even more. Then she had a memory of one festival, perhaps the last one before things changed.

       On the third day of the festival the four tribes would sing. Each tribe would sing an old traditional song. Saran represented the Mazi people, and lead the group. As her voice echoed through the ears of the onlookers, Naran remembered looking at her sister’s eyes. They were glassy with tears. She looked so sad. Some time after that festival, her sister was gone.

       “Naran! You look sad again. Whats wrong?” said Setseg.

      Naran touched her eyes and realized she was indeed crying again. She wiped her tears and changed the subject. The girls then felt a burst of wind and looked up. Overhead was an airship from the military. As it hovered, many paper pamphlets descended to the ground. Naran picked one up and held it for Setseg to see. The girls then read,

Attention People of Davol:

The enemy is content with continuing this war. We as a people will not be so easily destroyed. We will fight as long as we breathe this air and walk this land! We will crush the enemy with our boot and show them the power of our army. As citizens of this great land, we thank you for your continued loyalty. Your cooperation concerning rations is greatly noted. When this war is over we shall thank you for your support.

Rations Notice:

For Village of Dera 1 package of food for a family of 4 2 packages of food for a family of 4 and more *We regret to inform you that food in the markets will be recovered by our army and repackaged as rations per family. Tribes that hunt, and grow their own food will be required to package the goods and send it to benefit the efforts for the war. It is required that you accept packages per family. We thank you for your continued support and cooperation.

       As Naran and Setseg read the pamphlet, all they could think about was the element festival. With these new ration provisions it was clear that the grand feast would not happen. Food was already scarce, and now it would truly be felt. Setseg picked up another pamphlet on the ground and decided to leave. They would meet again tomorrow. On the way home, Naran felt a strange sense of helplessness. She never did care for the war. It was not like her village was involved. Dera was only a small village in a much larger continent of Davol. There were more villages outside of Dera and many more cities from that. Dera was furthest out from all the villages and cities, and closest to the large gorge. The gorge separated Dera from the barren desert which led to the city of Tin. Tin was its own state outside of Davol and had its own people. Somewhere between Dera and the gorge was a lone forest. It was an oasis that no one inhabited. It was only used for the element festival.

       Being so far from the rest of Davol and its war did not keep their politics and issues from Naran’s home. It slowly crept into her life like the sun through the morning dew. It was felt faintly like a fly on her arm in the summer season. Now it was here and destroying everything. When she made it home, Altan ran to her. She hugged her warmly and smiled her toothy grin.

      “I was good to mama and pa. Did you bring me something?” she asked.

      As Naran was forming a no, she started to see the child’s eyes lose their sparkle. She then changed her response.

       “I will bring you to the market tomorrow to play with your friends and buy you a treat!”

        The child regained her sparkle and jumped up and down. She then ran back to mama and told her the good news. After giving mama the basket of goods from the market, Naran discretely gave her the pamphlet. As her mother read the message she nodded to Naran and kissed her on the forehead.

        “You’re such a good girl Naran.” she said.

        During supper, Naran ate quietly as her parents discussed the news from the military.

       “Damn these new provisions! They want to starve us,” said Pa bitterly.

       “They make us sell our sheep and give us mere coins. The mines are no good either, just another waste of time. With another winter, the dust storms grow bigger and more violent. It isn’t safe. And how are we to provide food for our daughters!” said Mama angrily.

       “There are no other jobs. I’ll have to move to the city,” said Pa.

       “And leave your wife and children here? What, do you think jewelry selling will keep up profits now that everyone will be poor? We will starve before the little money you send can get to us!” said Mama.

        “What do you expect me to do? We have no choice but to deal with the fate we are given,” said Pa.

       “Nonsense! We will go with you. My mother taught me embroidery. Maybe there is work in the clothing plants,” said Mama.

        “If we leave now what about Naran’s marriage? There are no great prospects in the city. Families here will…” started Pa.

       “We will speak about this with Dego’s family. Surely they will understand,” retorted Mama.

       “We leave now and what if we cannot afford to come back? We cannot make promises we cannot keep,” said Pa.

      “We won’t make promises we cannot keep. We will move to the city for work and move back in several years for Naran’s wedding,” said Mama.

      “I don’t accept this idea. Naran will need to get to know her married family and Dego. This is always done with time,” said Pa impatiently.

      “Then they will write letters. Dego’s parents are a lot richer than other families. Maybe they can send for Naran once or twice in the years before the wedding,” said Mama.

      “Very well,” said Pa.

      It then became eerily silent. All that could be heard was Altan’s soup slurping. Naran was happy her parents would try to keep the match with Dego’s family. Of all the cute boys, Dego was the best. He had the darkest hair, eyes the color of caramel, and the whitest smile. She was infatuated with him since the year before. Although children were never allowed to choose their would be suiters, Naran’s parents asked her which boy she liked. They took her feelings into consideration and now that it was almost complete, Naran felt a sense of relief. Tomorrow she would see Dego and hope the meeting of their parents would go well.

       At night when Naran was in her cot, she thought about her sister again. She wondered where she was and what she was doing. With the new provisions and growing poverty, her family would relocate to the city. Naran wondered if her sister was in a city far away. No one would know her there and she could make a somewhat decent living. With no family, she would have a difficult time finding a marriage partner. Perhaps she was singing in a lounge. Naran’s thoughts raced with what ifs about her sister’s life. Most importantly she imagined her sister happy, wherever she lived.

Journey’s End ©2017

By Jasmine Clark

Chapter ?? 

[An Excerpt from the book]

Naran awoke a few hours later.  The sky was turning a blossom pink, and soon it would darken completely.  With Saran’s necklace in her pocket, she ran home as fast as her legs could carry.  Breathing deeply, she pushed herself to continue before it became dusk.  Upon looking up, she noticed the aurora like colors that painted the sky.  The moon in its crescent glory was there too.  The wind chilled and all Naran could hear was her breathing starting to struggle.  She came to a stop to catch her breath.  Her mouth was dry as she remembered she brought no water.  When looking up, she realized she was a lot closer to home.  Large black smoke filled the sky around the yurt.  She was a mile off so she decided to run once again.  The closer she came, the larger the smoke appeared.  The smell of burning reminded her of that day of the purging of her sister’s things.  Yet something else filled the smell, she couldn’t quite place it.

Finally, after a long five minutes, she was a mere few feet from her home.  Flames emitted its brilliant orange and yellow.  The sky was a subdued hue of murky purple, but illuminated vastly around the burning yurt.  She stood there as her lungs became engorged with smoke.  Coughing frantically she knew the smell.  It was the smell of burning flesh!  She crouched down and from the doorway she could see a mass lump of bodies.  Crawling like a sand spider, she felt the slap of heat singe her brows and nose.  She forced herself to enter, but felt a tugging at her ankles.  Her fingers raked through the sand as she screamed.  They have me, she thought!

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