by Hope Ebel
140 Character Pitch:
A market thief plans to escape her penniless lifestyle, but an honor from the king may send her straight to the enemy camp instead #PitProm
Dear Agent or Publisher,
Once an outcast, a market thief is called upon to persuade a dark Prince of a half-truth that could either save her kingdom or end her life. RESILIENCE is a 78,000 word, YA fantasy that may appeal to fans of Marie Rutkoski’s WINNER’S trilogy and Renée Ahdieh’s THE WRATH AND THE DAWN.
With skin, hair, and eyes that lack pigment, seventeen-year-old Yafa looks like no one else in Hatovdon. She feeds her younger siblings by stealing food from market carts. When Yafa qualifies to participate in Apprentice Auditions, she has the perfect chance to escape her penniless lifestyle. But as she prepares for auditions, her strange appearance causes her to be selected for an “honor” in the king’s festival; an honor that requires her to be absent from auditions. Rude servants, a snotty princess, and uncomfortable dresses are nothing compared to the dark secret Yafa discovers inside the castle. With evil bearing down on the kingdom, and a king who’d rather focus on festivities, Yafa finds worrying about her future may be the least of her problems.
I am a middle school teacher from Littleton, CO. I am active on Twitter (@hopeebel) and am growing my writer’s blog at heebel.com. I have an MA in counseling and enjoy putting Myers Briggs type theory to use in creating characters.
Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you.
First Ten Pages:
Nothing sounded worse than the hum of the market place on a day when Yafa’s pockets held no coins. She couldn’t get caught. Not today. Not when Apprentice Auditions were only four days away. And not after Instructor Ciero had filled her head with dreams of actually being selected.
Dust blew off a merchant’s cart and stung her eyes. She pulled her cloak tighter, cinching the black fabric under her chin. A child huddled next to his father’s stand. His innocent eyes stared at her, questioning. His black hair curled around his ears just like her brother Ronan’s.
Not this one.
She bypassed the cart and scanned the next ones in line, less noticing the types of vegetables, bread, and fruit on display and more the type of person guarding the wares. A tall woman with tight lips perched in front of a wagon loaded with melons. She tapped a wooden baton against her hand. Each precious fruit in her cart was likely logged carefully on the tattered scrolls that peaked out the top of her apron pockets.
A bald man stretched his long arms behind a cart of sausages. The tattoo of a dragon flashed on his forearm with the shift of the sleeve of his robe. He scowled, and she moved on.
She knew better than to loiter in front of a meat stand.
The easiest prey were foreigners - the carts that stayed for a few weeks and then passed on. But traveling merchants hadn’t been to the market for months, and today was no exception. Half the booths stood empty with scattered hay and broken awnings.
A woman laughed and leaned over the wall of a neighboring merchant’s stand, her large breasts barely contained in her tight corset. Yafa swiped four apples from the woman’s table. On a good day, she could have gotten a fifth. The woman never even looked up.
Apparently, the short, pudgy man who owned the of bread next to her station should have been a king’s fool. As the woman snorted at his antics, Yafa slid her cloak across his table, snatching a loaf of bread in the process.
The weaver lady sat in the corner spot she always occupied on the far end of the market. Her wrinkled fingers crafted a green basket, and she smiled as she hummed an old tune.
Yafa hesitated. Of all the people in this dirty market, the weaver lady was the easiest to take from. But Yafa hated stealing from her the most.
“Any pheasants today, miss?” Yafa put her knee against a crate in front of the old woman’s booth. She flipped her cloak on top of the potatoes that lay inside.
“No, my child.” She smiled. “As I told you last week, I only have pheasants on Thursday.”
Yafa flushed. The weaver lady remembered her. Her mama sent her to do a fool’s task twice in two weeks. Of course, they would all remember a girl with colorless skin. Yafa pulled her cloak down farther on her face.
“I have many other fine products to sell today, mind you.” The woman dropped her gaze and continued weaving.
Yafa couldn’t believe her luck. Underneath her cloak, she snatched as many potatoes as her hand could hold. She stuffed them into the half-full bag that hung between her legs and bound to her waist beneath her cloak.
“May your day be beautiful and full of love,” the weaver lady said.
Yafa cringed as she scampered on. She would have rather the woman socked her in the stomach.
Her heart caught in her throat as she rounded the corner.
She needed one more thing. Her mamma wanted kulta leaves today, and only one merchant would have it. The grouchy man sat in front of his station arms crossed. He glared at her from down the street. She had hoped a crowd would be around him to make her task a bit simpler. But of course, on the most popular market day of the week, not a soul was near his rickety cart.
She half considered walking past and returning home with all but the kulta leaves in her bag. But mama would be furious, and Yafa tired of explaining the bloody marks on her hands and wrists to her prying classmates at Louiver’s Learning House. She had plenty of other things to be embarrassed about without them knowing her mama had a bad temper.
She pretended to search among the man’s crates of potatoes that rested in front of his feet. The kulta hung in a long row of bunches from an awning above his head.
“What’ ya want?” He growled while his fluffy brown hair hung limp at his shoulders.
“Please sir, I wondered if you might tell me about your potatoes. They seem oddly colored.”
“What’ ya talkin’ bout?” He jerked up from the barrel he sat on and picked up a crate of his potatoes.
Yafa shot to her tiptoes and snatched a small bunch of kulta near the end of his hanging treasures. One that wouldn’t be easily missed. Flipping it behind her back, she stepped closer to him. “I thought potatoes were gray.”
“Are ya daft? These here is red potatoes.”
“I see that. But I want gray ones.”
“Well ya won’t get none of those here. I only grows the reds. They taste better, they do. Ain’t nobody deny it.”
“Hmmm...I don’t know. I don’t want to buy something I won’t like. What about those over there? Are those kila berries?”
The man stared where she pointed while she stuffed the kulta inside her cloak.
“Kila berries? It ain’t the right season. What ya even pointin’ at?” His back to her, he looked around at his wares rubbing his chin.
“Well, I guess I’ll have to find someone else who has them. I really need those. Thank you for your help.” Yafa gave him a curtsy and continued down the road.
Yafa froze. He couldn’t have seen her hide the kulta.
“I got ‘leven bunches of kulta leaves up there. Now there’s only ten.”
Yafa attempted to keep her breath even. He didn’t look like someone who kept close count of his wares.
“I’m sorry. I don’t know what you mean, but I must be on my way.” Her chest tightened, but she gave him a blank stare before whipping around. She tried to keep an even pace and not break off into a run.
A hand encircled her arm and ripped her backwards. “Ya get back here now, ya little thief!” Sweat dripped from his forehead and lodged in his beard. His breath in her face smelled of kulta and onion.
“Please sir.” Yafa attempted to free her arm from his grasp.
“Just wait ‘til the Baron hears ‘bout this. I hope yer arms ‘n neck are prepared to spend a night in the stocks!”
“You must be mistaken. I’ve done nothing wrong.”
He ripped her cloak away, exposing her bag of stolen treasures. She twisted away from his grasp, and turned toward the market center. If she could get to the fruit carts, maybe she could hide among the wine barrels.
But he caught her from behind. He slammed his hand between the cord and her back. Her breath caught as the bag’s cord squeezed against her stomach.
Tears welled in her eyelids. Her bag would break soon, spilling out her bounty for all to see. She’d be marched to the stocks. Put on display. Spit on. Splattered with rotten food. And the next day forced to walk home in shame and banned from the market. The Baron would see to it that her benefactors no longer provide the money needed for her to attend Louiver’s. She’d never attend classes there again and would lose her one chance at becoming an apprentice.
A small crowd gathered. Vendors. Woman holding their wares. Children pushed to the front to get a good view. Even the puppeteer had stopped his rhymes to leer at her. His puppets dangled limply from where they draped over his arm.
The whole group cheered when the cord broke free.
Yafa trapped the bag against her waist in one last attempt to protect the contents. The man pushed her to the ground and pulled at the bottom of the bag. One more tug would do her in.
“Open the gate,” someone shouted from above them.
A crowd of people ran past them, causing all eyes to shift to the city gates. They’d been closed for weeks at the king’s orders. No one was allowed in or out.
“It’s a messenger from Rhodes,” a city guardsman called down from the wall.
Gasps ignited through the market and people bunched to try to get a better look at the gates. The City of Rhodes was their neighboring city and closest ally.
The man dropped Yafa’s bag and took off running toward the gates. “They can’t open the gates. What ‘bout Yerzerhara?”
Feet trampled around Yafa, and she crumpled into a ball. She secured her bag and leapt up from the ground.
That was a close one. She needed to be more careful. It would just be her luck, to successfully steal for years and then get caught the week of Apprentice Auditions. Four more days. She just needed to avoid trouble until Friday.
People rushed past her, their murmurings filling the marketplace. How could the soldiers be opening the gate? The king ordered it closed amidst all the rumors that the evil Yetzerharan army threatened their borders.
I need to get out of here.
This crowd would remember her evil deeds just as fast as they had forgotten them.
But her feet turned the direction of the city gates. She ran along with everyone else. Not a single good thing could come through those doors in a time like this.
A group of guards turned a large wheel to crank the gate open. People pushed and elbowed against each other. Yafa fell against a large man, and she was shoved back and forth like a shuttlecock in a game of battledore.
“I’m sorry.” She squeezed into a small space next to a cart and climbed on a box as she strained to see the gate.
Two men slouched over their horses entered the city. The horses’ heads hung so low their manes dragged on the ground, and they walked through the dirt as if they trudged through sand. The men wore heavily soiled armor, and the city of Rhode’s emblem was barely recognizable on the side of one of the horses’ saddles. One soldier tried to dismount but fell to the ground.
The other spoke. “The great city of Rhodes has fallen. Yetzerhara has burned her to the ground. All are dead.”
Nedsname leaned his arms against a castle balcony. A parade of soldiers marched below returning from the raid. The men marched in unison chanting a victory verse. Heads held high, they gripped their spears displaying their muscles to the crowd of onlookers.
As if their mission was successful. Doubtful.
His father, King Haman, rode into view atop his prized steed. He raised his fist in the air. The people cheered and lined his path with palm branches.
Nedsname searched his father’s face, but the king’s expression gave nothing away. If his father had found the treasure he sought, all would be forgiven.
But they wouldn’t have found it. His father had been searching for years to no avail. Too many incompetent men. If the king would allow him to be in charge, Nedsname would remove all the sloths.
Nedsname nodded for his bondservant to follow and went down the steps to meet the army. His father couldn’t stay angry at him forever.
Nedsname covered his nose as the smell of roasted boar invaded his nostrils. The servants had murdered the beautiful creature the night before. His protests meant nothing to them as soon as they knew the king was coming home.
The roar of the crowd deafened his ears as Nedsname neared his father.
“Nedsname,” the king yelled. “Come walk with us.”
The king put his arm around Nedsname and marched through the center of the market lifting his arms and encouraging the crowds. The women threw flowers from the balconies.
“You found it?” Nedsname said.
“Not here, Nedsname.” His father shook his head. “Later.”
Nedsname nodded. But his father’s face lit up in a way he hadn’t seen often. They’d found something.
“We wiped out the whole city,” his father said with a turn of his head. “Their army was no match for ours. They had gold, furs, and some of the best linens I’ve seen.”
“Where are the prisoners?” Nedsname said. A crowd of soldiers poured into the gates carrying treasure boxes, leading animals, and all manner of fine silks and furs.
“No prisoners.” His father scoffed. “We got enough slaves from Galgasi, and they caused us more trouble than they were worth.” He glanced sharply at Nedsname’s bondservant who followed them at a short distance. “Why do you ask? Did you want a new slave, Nedsname?”
Nedsname swallowed. Of course they’d killed everyone. Why had he even asked?
“I don’t need any more slaves,” Nedsname said. “I’m more interested in the gold.”
“Don’t worry then,” the king said. “We brought back a lot of gold.”
The king motioned toward some soldiers from the back of the group. “I did get one thing for you. I think you’ll like it. We saved one prisoner.”
Nedsname squinted at what struggled between the two soldiers who came toward him. A young girl with black curls. She shrieked and spat on the ground. The ball of saliva landed right next to his sandal. The king laughed.
“The princess of Rhodes,” the king said. “She was much too beautiful to kill. I have more than enough concubines. She will be yours after you marry.”
Nedsname set his jaw as the soldiers around him chuckled. He didn’t want to marry and would never share his father’s love of women. His father had a whole harem full of women from strange places he’d either conquered or destroyed. He didn’t seem to mind they all hated him. Nedsname had better things to do with his time. Like fix his father’s mess of an army. If he was in charge, they’d have found the treasure ages ago.
“I’ll marry when I finally find a girl good enough to rule a kingdom that stretches farther than the Bendigo Sea.” Nedsname lifted his chin and ignored the chuckles from the soldiers. He was the prince of the most powerful kingdom on the whole continent. He didn’t need to care what the soldiers thought. He made his own rules.
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