It's new release date time!
Coming to the RAD Store on April 5th...
Rani Divine's, Cedwig: People in the Vines!
To celebrate, and to get you a taste of what's to come in Rani's latest, check out this excerpt from the book — and leave a comment to let Rani know just how excited you are!
Cedwig: People in the Vines
It was the sixth night since we’d entered the jungle, and still the nights were my least favorite time. Before we’d entered, the jungle had seemed almost alive. There had been sounds of animals and wind in the trees. But now that we were here, everything seemed wrong. It made me afraid, in a way.
The animals should have at least made some sort of sound. But I hadn’t even so much as seen a fly since we’d been in the jungle. I’d spoken to Carol and a few of the other women, but they hadn’t been paying much attention. As far as I could tell, I was the only one who was bothered. Most of the women were happy that the jungle had quieted when we entered it. They’d feared the sounds and what might be making them.
But I hadn’t.
I’d been excited to see the things that were in the jungle and get to experience a whole new kind of life. I was looking forward to it.
So far, the only thing that had really changed was our location.
Papa was keeping watch tonight. I’d tried to protest and tell Jonas that he needed to keep his strength for the day, but the decision had been made. Somehow, I had a sinking feeling that my family would fall even more behind in the morning. If papa was exhausted from staying awake all night, how was he supposed to lead us? It wasn’t as though Emmett was going to step up and take charge of the machete, and I wasn’t allowed to for the simple fact of being a woman.
This was one of the times that I hated the rules imposed on women.
I was stronger than my brother. I knew what I was doing better than he did. I knew about the world around me, and I wasn’t afraid to learn more. The jungle didn’t frighten me, it didn’t make me want to run and hide. Coming here hadn’t been a problem for me. It was something that I had wanted to do, something that I had wanted to experience.
None of those things could be said of my brother.
A quiet sigh escaped my lips, and Carol took hold of my hand. We were lying on the same mat, near the center of the group of people, and lights out had been over an hour ago. Carol was usually the last one asleep, and she liked to make sure everyone was asleep before she let herself relax. She’d always been that way, even back in the plains. She cared too much. I’d heard some of the others say that she was the main reason Jonas had chosen to start this expedition. He wanted her to be in a place where she didn’t have to care for everyone around her.
I didn’t think his plan was working out the way he’d intended.
I propped myself up on my elbows and looked around, but there was nothing to see. Carol still held to one of my hands, but in the dark of the night I doubted that she could even see that I was sitting up. I didn’t see the point in having anyone keep watch if it was always this dark. There wasn’t enough light to see more than a few inches in front of my face.
There were no sounds but those made by the people around me. Some of them snored, some of them shifted in their sleep, and still others sighed as they struggled to fall asleep. This was the first night where I hadn’t fallen asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. I felt as though there was something watching me, something that I should’ve be able to see, and yet I saw nothing. Even the stars were shrouded by the thick blanket of trees and vines.
As I lay back down, I heard the first sound that I was certain hadn’t come from one of my people.
A twig snapped, and I heard one of the watchmen get to his feet. Something was wrong.
The others continued their snoring and tossing, as though none of them had even noticed the snapping of the twig. Or maybe they hadn’t thought that it was anything out of the ordinary. Maybe they’d imagined that there had been noises all along, and that it wasn’t so strange to hear a sound beyond the clearing.
I released Carol’s hand and sat up. There was no doubt in my mind that the sound hadn’t come from one of the watchmen. If it had been one of them, I knew they would’ve said something.
No, this was different.
It was too quiet.
It had always been too quiet.
Deftly, I pulled my long hair up into a bun and got to my feet. Carol whispered something, but I ignored her.
Every night, before the fires were dimmed, I made sure that I knew the fastest way to my father. I ensured that I knew how to wind my way through the people that had been placed between us. Papa was the one thing that truly mattered to me, out here in the jungle. It was only him that I thought of. It was only him that my mind was truly concerned with.
I needed to see him.
My steps were sure as I wound my way between those who still soundly slept. I lifted the hem of my skirt off the ground so as not to catch on anything, and my bare feet deftly moved over those who lay beneath me. I didn’t care that Jonas had requested that none of us leave our places. I knew what I had heard, and I needed to see papa. If Jonas said anything about it, I knew that Carol would stand by me. She understood how much my father meant to me. He was all that I had, in a way. It wasn’t as though my brother had really been a present part of my life. He liked to pretend as though I didn’t even exist, so what was the point in pretending that I might really matter to him?
I reached out my right arm at just the right moment, and I smiled when it touched the trunk of a tree. I’d put a notch in it with the knife papa had given me before we left the plains, so that I would know which tree it was. Papa was keeping watch just a few yards beyond this tree, a short ways outside the clearing.
It hadn’t occurred to me that he might not be there.
My feet carried me deeper into the woods, to the place where I was sure papa had been sitting, but no one was there. I was positive that this was the place he’d been. I’d checked and double checked before the fires had been put out. I’d done the same thing every night since we’d left the plains. I knew exactly where papa had been.
But he wasn’t there.
I spun around, my arms reaching out to my sides as I searched for my father. I didn’t dare to speak. Without knowing what had made the sound, I didn’t trust that nothing would be out here. No, I’d trusted that my papa would be here to make me feel safe—and he was nowhere to be found.
One of the torches came alight with fire on the opposite side of the clearing, and I instinctively dropped down to the ground. I don’t know why the sight of the flame frightened me, but I was suddenly aware of the trees, the vines, the branches, and everything that the fire could destroy. I lifted a hand over my mouth and my eyes widened. That fire should not have been there. No one was supposed to light a torch during the night. Unless they’d actually seen something, unless something had actually happened, that torch should not have been lit.
“What are you doing?” Jonas took hold of my hand and dragged me back up to my feet.
“I thought I heard something,” I whispered, cowering away from him. No matter how much I loved Carol, her husband was another matter. “I just wanted to see my father.”
He shoved me back toward the clearing, his nails leaving their mark on my skin. I knew that papa would be angry. He would’ve been angry about me stepping out of the clearing in any case, but to have Jonas find me was another matter entirely. It shouldn’t have happened. I shouldn’t have let myself be seen by someone else.
I stood on the edge of the clearing, and I watched the firelight. I couldn’t see anything but it, and it wasn’t inside the clearing. It lit the silhouettes of the trees, and it seemed to be moving away from us—but I couldn’t be sure.
“Freia.” The voice was loud around me, and yet no one else seemed to hear.
Instinctively, I spun around to face the trees. That voice was unlike any that I had ever heard before. It was the voice of a man, but it was not the voice of any who had joined us on this expedition. It hadn’t even seemed entirely human.
If no one else had heard it, then it couldn’t have been human.
The stories of the other villages, the ones that were scattered around the world, away from the plains, entered my mind. Stories about creatures that attacked during the night, killing all the people who’d left the plains. Stories that told of humanoid beings with power beyond that of anything we’d seen before. Stories that no adult in their right mind would believe were true, but stories that in that moment I knew without a shadow of a doubt contained at least some partial truth. There was something out there, in the jungle, and it was watching me.
“Freia,” it said again. “Come with me.”
“No,” I whispered under my breath. I slowly shook my head, and my feet instinctively carried me back into the clearing. There was no way for me to know what it was that called my name. It could have been friendly, yes, but it could’ve been the opposite. How was I to know, when we weren’t even sure if the stories were true? We weren’t even sure if any of the humans who left the plains had ever been allowed to survive.
I turned back around and closed my eyes, recounting the steps that I’d taken to get to this place. If I followed my path perfectly, I could get back to my sleeping mat before anyone else noticed that I’d moved.
(Copyright RAD Writing, 2016)