Intermission: Nil Supernum
This Long Period Of Silence is different from my usual Long Periods Of Silence, in that I actually do want to draw something and pin it up here, but can’t. Holidays, see. Oh, I promised myself I wouldn’t gloat, but…Nah, I made no such promise. Drum roll, please…New Zealand! As in, I am in it! Literally. I was just in a cave in Waitomo. Man, this whole country is just plain indescribable…which, I now realise, is a paradox, since ‘indescribable’ is in itself a description.
Anyway, wanted to fill the silence with some pointless fluff I wrote a couple ago. Figured I might as well get an opinion. This is all pretty raw, meaning that it’s just as I first wrote it – unedited, draft-y and possibly missing words or letters. It was just an idea I had and, again, I figured I’d get an opinion.
Her sister was always the first one people noticed.
Wherever they would go, Valentia was known throughout the city. Tall, stunning, all her curves in the right places, she was everyone’s friend. She always wore cloth that grabbed attention, jewels that shimmered in the sun. She was the merchant Haye’s daughter, she could afford it – and she made sure everyone knew she could. She was bold and arrogant and sexy, and everybody loved her for it – and so, by the natural forces of jealousy, her sister hated her for it. She didn’t care, though. She seldom cared about everything. That was what made Nil hate her the most.
Following behind her like a disinterested shadow, Nil was small, thin and pale. She tended to cloak herself from the sun, and wear men’s clothing. The only jewellery she wore was an earring made of abalone shell – she didn’t like telling people how she’d got it. She was quiet, sullen, sour-tongued and dagger-eyed – Valentia’s friends would call her and Nil Sunshine and Stormshine, respectively. On top of it all, Nil wasn’t the merchant Haye’s daughter. Or rather, the merchant Haye had to pretend that she was, else his family be shamed.
She was the daughter of a mariner, Santana Llars, who had stopped at the city harbour for a year, and then left – though not before getting to know roughly one third of the eligible women in the city, as well as two fifths of the less eligible ones. Nil estimated that she had twelve half- brothers and sisters in the residential Hearth District alone. How many in the Argosy District she called home, she did not know. Less than twelve, certainly – residents of the unofficial merchant’s district tended to be more respectable than the common rabble; yet less Byronic than the nobility of the Crystal District, amidst whose ranks she guessed walked a score of her blood siblings.
Of course Nil hated being a bastard, and of course she hated Llars for the man-slut that he was. That wasn’t the truly terribly awful part; Nil hated a lot of things.
The truly terribly horribly awful part was that, five years ago, on her twelfth birthday, Santana had returned to the city of Egress. To meet her.
Her mother had thrown a fit. A quiet one, though – she didn’t want word to get out any more than the parties involved, not to mention her husband, who had his reputation to think of. There was a balcony on the first floor that looked over the living hall: Nil had watched the argument from there. Santana was tall, svelte and tanned; but his hair was dark and his eyes were bright green, to match her own. He had worn his beard short, and had a blue paisley kerchief around his neck. He had looked for all the world like a vendor of the Argosy District, though his rope-worn hands gave him away.
He had told Nil’s mother that he cared about her. That she was the only one of his romances he had truly loved. That, if she wanted him to, he would take her daughter with him to learn her father’s trade. That he wanted to meet his little girl. That he wanted to see her, if only for a moment. Yet time after time, Nil’s mother shook her head, No. Finally, Santana Llars walked out the back door, and was never heard from again. At least, that’s what Nil’s mother thought.
Nil had quietly scrambled down the stairs after her father and burst through the back door as he was leaving. He had whirled around, and stared at her with what she had later come to think of as disbelief – disbelief that, standing before him, was whom he had come to see, and to whom had been formerly denied audience. They had faced each-other for long minutes, him lost in thought, her staring defiantly at him and beginning to wonder whether she had made the right choice. Finally, he took a step forward and hugged her. She was too surprised to pull back at first, but then realised with a start that her official father never hugged her: a thing whose absence she had never noticed until that moment. She had felt her throat begin to prickle and close up; but she had never cried before, and was determined not to start.
Words were never exchanged between them, but as he was about to leave, Llars had unhooked an earring from his paisley kerchief. He had pressed it into the palm of Nil’s hand, then turned and left, without a glance behind him. Nil had opened her hand. The earring was made of abalone, and shone like pale opal. It lay for years under her pillow until she finally gave in and had her right ear pierced.
She hadn’t taken it off since.
So there. The only other idea I have for this story it that Nil should have a best friend who’s a thousand times more likeable than her, because frankly, if you don’t at least mildly dislike Nil after reading this, then I don’t know what kind of books you’ve been reading but whatever it is you have terrible taste.
The idea is that the main character is so dislikeable that the reader actually grows to hate her – but they keep reading because her best friend is awesome and the writing is good. Then, near the climax, the main does something stupid or arrogant or badguyish and gets herself killed off. The awesome best friend becomes the real main character and saves the world the right way. Bam, ultimate satisfaction for readers. I know I want someone to write a book like that – maybe Neil Gaiman or Eliezer Yudkowsky, I don’t know.