In keeping with the tradition of posting from wip, here's my 1179 words, taken from The Iron Curse. Since my website has almost all of the opening chapter, I thought I'd post a pivotal scene early on in the book. Some background: Garryd is about to undergo Selection, a ritual that marks the turning point from childhood to adult. For a week before this point Assessors from the city have been interviewing every person in his village, including all those who will undergo the ritual. It's important, as their society is tightly controlled, and their professions will be selected for them in the ritual, and a brand imprinted on their wrists, marking them forever. Naturally each person has worked hard to try to ensure they will be selected for the one they most desire, but the needs of their society sometimes means they are selected for another. Garryd has already discovered he has an affinity for iron, a prized rarity in his world. The Iron Curse The girl at the front of the line stepped forward and Elder Goodman closed the door behind her as soon as she was through. The silence descended again. It wrapped itself around you, isolated you, despite the closeness of people nearby, and I felt cold. I convinced myself that being at the back of the line made it worse. Elly’s head turned to me. I saw how pale she was. I looked at her, and shifted my belt round so the knife was on my left, her side, and I gripped the handle. She watched me as I did this, and a small, brave smile showed on her lips. Her right hand covered the brooch, and she stroked it. The unspoken communication helped. The quiet continued, and then we heard a swelling of noise, a rising sound of murmured expectation. It died away and then rose again. It faded once more, and then rose to a crescendo. Applause and cheering suddenly overwhelmed us, startlingly loud after the silence. Margaret had passed Selection. The applause went on for some time, and I tried to visualise what was happening Eventually the noise subsided and Elder Southern rang the bell again. “Jonathon Kingsby.” I mentally wished him fortune and he stepped through the door. We waited in silence while the same process happened. I vowed to make sure he drank lots of wine, later, now he was an adult. “Emily Cutler.” Some of the Assessments went quickly, and others took longer. The tension that rose with the protracted ones was heard as the sounds rose to fever-pitch before cheering broke out. I became more and more nervous as the others passed through, and found myself wiping my damp hands on my breeches. I smiled at Elly, and she at me, but we weren’t convincing. I could see the hem of her dress shaking. I wanted it to be over. “Ellyanna Fairstaff.” My heart lurched in sympathy, and her face was white as she shot a glance at me. I kissed my fingers and blew it to her, but she’d turned away. I’ve no idea if Elly’s assessment took the longest, but it seemed like it. My heart was pounding and I could feel it shake me with each beat. Tingling started in my hands, and my breathing raced. I wanted to lick my lips, but my tongue was arid. Sweat trickled from my underarm. The desire to run was almost overwhelming. Then a loud burst of cheering rooted me to the floor, and relief flooded through me, for Elly. I heard whistling and clapping and it went on for a long time. As it died away, my legs trembled. “Garryd Westmaine.” I almost fell on the first step forward, as the muscles in my legs had turned to water. I took another step and another, and some strength returned. I stepped through the door, and it closed behind me. It was pitch-black; I could see nothing. Then a patch of light appeared a small distance in front of me. As I moved towards it, I felt the cloth hangings pressing in, making the way smaller. I had to hunch to progress further, and as I got closer to the light the walls bore down further, and I was crouched double. I emerged, blinking, into the brightness of the massive tented pavilion, and straightened. The walls and roof of the tented pavilion were covered with designs of flowers, hundreds of them. They moved with the breeze that made the canvas swell in and out slightly, a dazzling display of colours, quite breathtaking. A wide channel of grass lay before me, stretching away to a raised dais, where a long table extended to both sides. A wooden tripod stood on the grass in front of this table, with a richly embroidered cloth draped over it. Assessor Collins waited at the end of this table to the left and Assessor Littlefield on the right, dressed in robes identical to the Elders. To my right, row upon row of chairs were laid out, with the men standing, facing me. To my left, the same, with the women. Every person had their left arms in the air and their armlets removed. A sea of brands waved at me, and I was stunned. I knew I was to walk to the Assessors. But something was wrong. As soon as I’d entered, the smell of iron assaulted me. But this smell was tainted, like rotted meat and burning sulphur. It almost overpowered me, and I thought I was going to vomit. I tried to shake off the nausea, and Granny Coldstone’s words came unbidden to my mind. Iron-cursed. I gripped the blade at my side and the smell receded, but still lingered. I tried to swallow, and walked forward. As I got closer, neighbours, friends, Marcus and Leif, and my father alongside Alastair, came into view. I glanced to my left, and there was my mother and grandmother, and so many women of the village. And in the very front row, was Elly. She looked radiant, and her left wrist gleamed with the imprinted brand of a house. She’d got what she’d been praying for, and my heart swelled with love and pride. But the smell was worsening. I tightened my grip on the knife, trying somehow to ward off the stench. And I became aware of an underlying vibration, like the lowest note of a fiddle, if someone had loosened the string further. It sounded a long way away, and I ignored it; I assumed it came from outside the pavilion. I walked on. Then Assessor Littlefield was beside me, and the rustle of clothing and creaking of chairs told me everyone had sat down. He looked very stern; no welcome showed in his eyes, and I supposed the gravity of his role made him thus. He motioned me to the tripod, and I knew the smell came from whatever lay under it. The cloth covered a bulky object, about the size of a plate, but it protruded upwards in a dome. The Assessor pulled the cloth clear. A shaped rock, rounded to a point, like a cake that had risen to a peak at its centre, was revealed. Deep patterns were ingrained into every visible surface. The patterns were intricate; triangles interlaced with squares and pentangles. I don’t know how I knew, but I understood with complete certainty: it was connected to the Ancients. Assessor Littlefield gestured, and I placed my left hand on the relic. Something jolted into me; through my hand, up my arm, across my shoulder and into my chest. Immediately, the reek of rotted meat was gone. I was immensely relieved, and believed this was the final part of Assessment. Littlefield stared at me with an intensity that made me uncomfortable. Then his face cleared, he covered the relic with the cloth, and took my right arm. He led me to the end of the table, on the right, and I sensed the anticipation build up in those watching; Selection was upon me.