Querying, forging your own path, and how to learn from others with Armarna Forbes

This week we chat with Armarna Forbes about querying, forging your own path and process, and how (and what) to learn from what you read and watch, amongst lots of other things.

Find Armarna on Twitter, and as a special treat we present here a snippet of her work-in-progress.

On the eve of the execution, an old woman hobbled through the gathering dark, cloth bonnet pulled low, eyes sheltered in shadow, gaze fixed on the wooden plank sidewalk beneath her feet. When she passed one of the townsfolk of Fort Jericho, she lowered her oil lamp before grunting out a curt greeting. She didn’t need the light to see, of course, but the less attention she garnered, the better. Even one blunder would complicate the situation further. The last thing she needed was her own head added to tomorrow’s list.

A shack at the end of main street was the woman’s destination. With the grand skeletons of the unfinished courthouse and county jail looming behind it, the small structure appeared to have been pieced together with random scraps of various materials. It was a wonder the crooked shape hadn’t collapsed under its own weight.

The old woman exaggerated the stoop in her back as she approached. Keeping her eyes cast downward, she clutched one of the posts supporting the shack’s overhanging porch and began to climb the short steps, bending her wobbly knees in an attempt to embellish her struggle. Upon seeing her performance, the teenage boy standing guard rushed forward and grasped her wrinkled forearm with care.

“Awful late for ya, ain’t it, Mrs. White?”

“Thank ye for the help,” she rasped. “It’s the divine will of the Almighty that I deliver a final supper, no matter the hour.”

“Mighty charitable. Hope ya ain’t made somethin’ precious. That thing in there ain’t deservin’ of anything fine.”

“The Lord shall judge him, sonny.”

“I reckon,” the boy agreed. He smiled at her before knocking on the flimsy door. “Abraham, sir? Visitor for the accused.”

A hacking cough penetrated the walls. The door creaked open to reveal the second guard - a barrel-chested man, his plump, crimson face sheened with sweat, the crook of his elbow covering his mouth. The old woman’s keen ears could hear the damp rattle in his lungs. She could even smell it. An infection. A bad one.

“Evening, Mrs. White,” he managed. “Brung the feller some grub?”

“Yes, Abraham.” With her gnarled fingers, she unfastened one of two leather pouches tied to her belt and passed it to him. “This here’s for that cough of yourn.”

“Obliged.”

“Bread there, too. For you and the youngin’,” she said. “Best you get yourself some fresh air, now. Fill your belly. I’ll not be needing you while I give the man his supper.”

“Can’t. Preacher’s liable to string me up, too, if I were to leave you unattended with,” he pressed his fevered lips into a line. “Whatever that feller is.”

“Oh, bosh. He won’t harm an old woman. Especially with the threat of a strong man, like yourself, right outside.”

“He spooks me, ma’am. It’s that weird gleam of his,” Abraham said, glancing over his shoulder into the dimly lit room. “I suppose I could rest for a spell, but it ain’t right to leave ya alone at length.”

“I’ll holler if anything goes amiss.”

Though concern was still painted on Abraham’s fleshy face, he swung the door open the rest of the way and allowed her to shuffle past. She kept her head bowed. This close, the risk of her own shine being seen was too great.

Reluctantly, Abraham stepped out onto the sidewalk planks. “We can keep the door ajar if’n you want. Safer.”

“That won’t be necessary. Better it remains shut. Too many intrigued folks about, I’m afraid.”

Abraham nodded. “If’n you’re sure, Mrs. White.”*

He closed the door. When the latch clicked, the woman placed her oil lamp in the middle of the lone table, sat down in Abraham’s abandoned chair, and raised her head. Though none of her whispers would be heard by the guards outside, she knew fine well that the cocky bastard sitting across from her would be able to hear each word, loud and clear. His ears worked just as well, if not better, than her own.

“You stupid idiot,” she said. Her own strong, young voice replaced the feeble one.

“And a most glorious evening to you as well, Kitt.”

“You stupid, stupid idiot.”

The man adjusted the oil lamp wick until a strand of sooty smoke swirled up the glass chimney. As he turned it down enough to make the smoke dissipate, he grinned, and the brighter light danced on his white teeth and made his rugged features more mysterious. When he leaned back in his chair, his eyes flicked back to Kitt. Reflective like polished metal, his wide, round pupils were haloed in a yellow-green chartreuse glow.

“Be cautious, little sister. The orange slit of your pupil is shining.”

“You know I hate it when you say that, Jackal. Besides, you shouldn’t be the one to talk of caution. You should have selected someone unassuming in the first place.”

Jackal laughed. “Oh, like you, you mean? By the way, how are those aged body aches and pains treating you lately? Arthritis keeping you awake?” He tsked. “Poor thing.”

“I chose someone who would not draw attention!”

There was a subtle knock on the door. “Mrs. White?”

“All’s well, Abraham,” she called in her feeble voice. “Just dropped my parcel.” They waited as the man’s heavy steps retreated back down the steps. After a pause, Kitt continued at a quieter volume. “This isn’t like the other times. They’re going to kill you, Jack.”

Her brother laughed again. “Never have before.””


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