Sunday, September 16, 2012

CAGI Finalist #30

Genre: YA Fantasy
Word Count: 92,000


Seventeen-year-old courier Kiel Reaux has one goal: pay off the debt chaining him to the Baron of Old Town and earn his freedom before those chains become a noose. One last job, the Baron tells him, but it goes balls up and lands Kiel in the hands of slavers.

Kiel is sold to Izzy, a young priestess na├»ve enough to trust him. On the run from her own problems, Izzy needs to travel through the Wild, a jungle of untamed magic where trees can kill and flowers can resurrect the dead. What’s more, she’s decided Kiel will be her guide and promises him freedom, only if he helps her.

Assassins trail Izzy’s every step, which is almost enough to make Kiel forget about the Baron, even if the Baron hasn’t forgotten about him. But while Kiel keeps everything under control, he fails to guard himself against the most dangerous power yet: Izzy herself. Her beauty and kind nature chain Kiel so tightly he starts to forget about his freedom. Now Kiel has a choice: forget Izzy and save face with the Baron, or trust in Izzy and her promise. Because unless Kiel can find a way to protect them both, he won’t have to worry about his liberty. He can’t enjoy freedom if he’s dead.

BREAK FREE would appeal to fans of Bacigalupi's SHIP BREAKER and Young's BLOOD RED ROAD. I have a BA in English with an emphasis in Creative Writing from the University of Minnesota and served as the fiction editor for 2003 Wayfarer, the literary magazine of the U of MN. I am a SCBWI member and my short story “Hole Ridden” appears in DARK MOON DIGEST Issue 6.

First 250:

I lost the package.

It should’ve been my final job for the Baron. The last delivery, and then I’d be done with him forever. But a stop to take a leak resulted in a vanished package, and here I found myself, empty-handed, back at the Baron’s ready to beg forgiveness. To ask for a final chance to pay off my debt – a final chance to be free.

I hesitated in front of the wrought-iron gates and scratched the stubble on my jaw. The Baron’s white manor gleamed in the sun. It almost looked pretty. It always looked rich.

My stomach twisted and dropped into my groin. What was that feeling called? Dread? Yeah… definitely dread.

The setting sun turned the dust from the road red, stretching our two shadows before us. The kid, Jal, stepped beside me and stared at me out of the corner of his eye. He brushed a lock of brown hair off his tanned forehead. “Why’d we stop?”

I shook myself and contained my worry. “No reason. Just thought maybe you needed a rest.”

His face flushed and his eyes widened. “Shut up, Kiel! You’re just saying that to make me mad.”

“Prove it, Kid.” I shrugged. “Now come on. I want to get through this as fast as possible.”

“You’re the one who stopped in the first place,” Jal mumbled. I ignored him. When he sulked, he looked even younger than his thirteen years. Too young and he’d attract the Baron’s attention, something I’d managed to prevent for a long time.

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