The following is a sample from the first part of our soon to be released fantasy novel series, The Twisted World.
The Aframi are from Afram, also known as the Dark Continent in the world of Su Nobieta. The world of Su Nobieta is interesting because it bears not one, but five moons that orbit it. Because of this strange phenomenon, Afram happens to be positioned in just the right place to where it is cloaked in almost perpetual darkness year round, save for a small seasonal window. Normally the Aframi live in caves deep below the surface of their land as it is safer, but the most vicious of creatures retreat during that seasonal time, and the Aframi come top side.
The Aframi people are very similar to elves in other fiction, with some key differences. First, all Aframi are a very dark skinned people. The continent of Afram has some of the most dangerous creatures in the world. Being trapped in this dark, it is to your advantage to blend into the environment as much as possible. Because the Aframi spend so much time in the darkness, they are blessed with tapetum lucidum, allowing them to see in even the lowest of light conditions.
Aframi come in all different shapes and sizes. Unlike some typical elves, they do not live forever, although they are MUCH longer lived. A 60-70 year old Aframi will appearance wise look to be in their 20’s. To help non-Aframi tell how old they are, they use a piercing system in their elongated ears to remove such confusion. Piercings in one ear denote single years, and piercings in the other ear denote decades. It goes without saying that an Aframi with a lot of piercings is very old!
The women of the Aframi have two unique biological features not found in any other species on the planet. All Aframi women are born with not one, but TWO sets of vocal cords. Originally, this served as a method of self-defense against creatures in the dark of Afram, as they would be able to project their voices in multiple directions at once, in order to make it seem like their numbers were much higher than they were. Over time, they realized that they could use this ability to be amazing singers.
The Aframi have an incredible gift of highly acute memory, and so they tend to be historians. The Aframi pass down their knowledge of history through song, and so the women take up this honorable task.
The second unique feature of Aframi women, is that they only give birth once in their lifetimes, and it is almost always triplets. Births of 4 or 5 have been recorded, but of course are uncommon.
One of the main protagonists of The Twisted World is one of these Aframi, Sadah from the clan of Loc. Once, Sadah was a beautiful singer of Aframi song, and an adept hunter. After a mysterious “accident”, she was left not only without the ability to sing, but even speak. Find out more below!
Sadah’s mother, Maloryn, was the clan’s pride. Sadah had expected to eclipse her this year, to take the lead when Clan Loc added its voice to the whole of Afram. She had expected to cover her like a moon. Now Clan Loc depended on Maloryn again.
The last few months had been difficult, Sadah allowed herself to admit. The accident had been like the coming of the floods. One moment, Sadah was young, in love, and a powerful singer with an amazing memory. She had been taught from birth the history of Afram and of the Overworld beyond. She had been born a perfect, round baby, and even cried in two melodic voices. She had been coddled like a princess, given the best her clan had to offer, the best of everything. She’d been courted like a queen, suitors banking on what she would be, the honor she would bring. She was groomed for beauty and performance, taught to move and look and intone just like her beautiful mother. In her sixty-second year, it was all washed away, like the flood water. She was drowning in the lack of it.
The adjustment was …ongoing, she decided as she looked down at her feet. Between her black leather shoes, the winking jagged glass sparkled up at her. It was change. It was possibility. It was an accident.
Only it wasn’t, and she knew it, and neither had her accident been, and she knew that too. The old beast, rage, peeked its head out and bit her, hard. Lately the only way to send it back to sleep was to break, to rend, to tear.
She closed her wet eyes and breathed slowly through her nose, out through her mouth. She willed her petulant, angry heart to sleep once more. The sensible, quiet heart awoke slowly, slower than she would like. Sadah realized now that she’d been spoiled, and it had damaged her ability to endure. Her task now was to learn how to feel and yet persist, how to endure what she shouldn’t have to endure. Feelings could get you killed, she knew now, and she resisted the urge to touch her scar.
She pushed her wavy black hair behind her long, pointed ears and knelt, picking up each shard and tucking it into her apron. Her hand paused over a long, curving angle of clear glass. A smile twisted slowly across her lips as her fingers tightened on it. She finally dropped it in the apron with the rest and dumped them in the waste bin. She swept up the tiny glitter left on the floor, and ran her palm over it again and again, making sure no little bits were left. The pleasure had faded and now there was only regret.
Now that the glass was cleaned up, her hands were restless. She wrung them on her apron, tense and irritable. Her family would be walking from the tunnels into the Chamber now. It would be filled with the warm light of gas lamps. They would be descending the carved steps of the amphitheater, to their row, about halfway down. They weren’t at the base with the poorest of them, and not the top rows that only the oldest and richest families could afford. They would take their places on the smooth, deep sandstone seats, tucking their finest clothes around them. They would listen while the surplus was announced, while the highest officials of Afram addressed the collected families and clans, while they decided how many would stay and how many would go.
Then the gas lamps would be turned low, and their voices would raise. First would be the singers on the floor, often the infirm or the poor singers, or those afflicted with only one voice. Then the first rows would join in, stronger singers or slightly wealthier families, blending their voices into the mass of sound rising from the floor. The huge cavern deep underground would fill with sound, palpable and vibrating. The higher rows, with their double voices would fling their tones around the base note, until the whole of Afram had opened its mouth and expelled pure magic, beginning another Song Season while the floods raged overhead.
They would be singing, thought Sadah, and I should be with them. She untied her apron and resisted the urge to throw it, instead folding it neatly and laying it on the sandstone table. She brushed her hair back from her face and wished her fluttering hands to still, to not touch her scar, to not break and smash and rage.
The accident had happened in the early summer. The clan was still on the surface then, gathering and planting, preparing for the flood season. It was easier then. The clans were spread out all over the island, working before the floods. There had been fewer people around, so fewer stares, fewer sympathetic comments and pitying looks. There was, however, her father’s complete lack of acknowledgment, and her mother never stopped the litany of “A woman can live without”. She heard it so often, Sadah soon came to believe that a woman could live without anything, perhaps even her own life.
She pushed through the main room curtain and into the low chamber of her sleeping cell. It was just large enough for her thin mattress and the brass-bound chest she kept at the foot of the bed. Inside was her new collection of short scarves, purchased by her mother from the Overworlders. Her mother never said they were there to cover the hideous, curving scar on Sadah’s throat. She didn’t have to.
A filmy green scrap folded thin and tied neatly in a bow around her neck highlighted the deep color of her skin and eyes. Whether she wanted to admit it or not, she felt cleaner somehow with the scar covered.
She smoothed her dress and tried to still herself. The accident could not be undone, nor could she go to the Chamber and dishonor her family or her clan. There was nothing she could undo, and many things as yet undone.