Below is a messy first-draft excerpt from my current fantasy novel work-in-progress, which is rooted in cajun and voodoo mythology:
Nik sat on the bed of the boathouse that had been set aside for him as a guest. He rubbed the soreness out of his arm where the javelin had bit into the meat. It still hurt more than he cared to admit.
Therese had come around again earlier. The swampwitch had dressed the wound with moss to absorb the blood. The moss was cool to the touch of his skin, and had given him some welcome relief. The traiteur had been gentle. She taken a paste of ground herbs and traced it over his wound in the sigil of Gran Bois, then prayed over it in some Traiteur tongue that sounded a lot like marsher creole but wasn’t.
The whole procedure had been different from what he’d expected. No heathen rituals or blood sacrifices, just herbs and a prayer. He reflected on that a bit as he spooned a mouthful of muskrat stew from a dented tin cup. The stew had come from the town’s canteen, and wasn’t nearly as hearty or as creamy as the one that Amity made. Still, he was hungry enough that he scraped the cup clean, then set it aside on the drawer.
He got up from the bed, which swayed from cables hung to the rafters. Something about keeping the crawlers from getting into bed at night, which wasn’t exactly something he wanted to think about. He went over to the dresser and removed his old shirt, which came off with considerable pain as his shoulder flared up. From outside came the tune of a out-of-tune harmonica.
Outside, there were footfalls on the boardwalk. Probably Therese coming to change his dressings, or else one of her apprentices to take away his dishes. For a moment, he considered putting his shirt back on for propriety’s sake, but decided against it because of the pain. Besides, Therese had seen enough of his broken body to no longer be squeamish.
He heard the animal-skin covered that served as a door peeled away. With his back turned to the entrance, he heard a voice ask, “how are you?”
“Just fine, doc, except the broth you gave me moved my bowels something fierce. What sort of herbs did you put in that thing?”
Therese didn’t answer. But he heard someone snicker.
Nik turned around. To his surprise, it wasn’t Therese at all, but Sophy staring at him, gaped mouth. “I really didn’t want to know that,” she said, “But at least you look comfortable.” her eyes flickered up and down across Nik’s chest in a way that made him feel quite violated.
“And you look…” He searched for the right words. It was hard, because the woman standing before him no longer looked like the hard-bitten marshjack-turned-unwilling captain of the Zydeco. For one thing, she wore a long black dress with frills across its impractical skirt, a piece undoubtedly borrowed from her sister. There was a satchel strapped across one shoulder. Sophy’s normally tied-back hair was now bound up in a bun, leaving two strands to frame either side of her surprisingly attractive face. A cloth covering was bound over her hair in the way of the other Traiteur women. “You look…” Nik stalled, still not able to find the words. Sophy crossed her arms, daring him to say it. “…different.”
“Says the man standing there with his shirt off. You know that’s very improper right? Even for a parcher.”
I just took a javelin to the shoulder! He was starting to protest but saw the curve of his mouth, indicating a rare sign of a joke from his normally humorless captain.
“That arm giving you any trouble?”
“A little pain,” he said, rotating his shoulder cuff. “But the salve is working wonders. Your sister is a miracle-worker.”
“Says the man who called her a heretic.” Again, the smile to show that she was joking. Nik was seeing her teeth more often in this one conversation than he’d seen on their entire journey together. It was unsettling.
“Point taken,” he said, then added, “something you need? Is it Juana? Is she doing alright?”
“Juana’s fine,” Sophy said. “The girl keeps pushing herself even though I tell her to rest. Didn’t know she had it in her.” She fell silent and stared out the window for a moment before pulling herself back. “I wanted to bring you something,” she slung the satchel off her shoulder and pulled it open. “Therese said that your little poncho got ruined in the attack. So I got you a knew one.” She pulled a folded piece of cloth out and started unraveling it.
“You got me a new serape?”
“Sure, you can call it that.” She held up the fully unraveled cloth out and held it level with his shoulders for sizing. It was some sort of heavy wool, darker than the fabric of his original, and there were little markings all across the surface.
“Vaudoux sigils,” she said. “And the fur is boghound fur. Not as light or comfortable as raquin-skin, but it’ll do the job. What is it, parcher? Why are you gaping at me like that? Don’t tell me that you object to this gift.”
“What no, of course not, it’s just… I’m surprised you’d let a Vaqueran wear one.”
Sophy set the serape down on the bed. “This isn’t a peace-pipe, Navarro. It’s a thank you for saving my niece.”
“She saved herself mostly. I just showed up at the right time. Shame about the boy though.”
Sophy nodded. “She’s beside herself about that. Tibee was close to her, it seems. She keeps telling me she could’ve done more. That it was her fault Tibee died.”
Another silence. Nik coughed, then asked, “which Loa do these sigils belong to?”
“Ogou, the armorer. Figured a duelista like yourself would appreciate clothing that can protect you from bullets.”
“Sophy, I can’t wear a bulletproof cloak to a gunfight. That would be dishonest!” He said with a laugh, then added in a softer tone, “thank you.”
That could have been the end of the conversation, but Sophy was different about Sophy that day and Nik had noticed it. Instead of leaving, she rose from her chair and said, “come with me, I want to show you something.”
Nik hurriedly pulled on his shirt. She helped him navigate the sleeve around his injury, and he could feel her body pressed against his as she pulled the shirt down. She smirked, “a little arrow-wound to the chest and suddenly you can’t even dress yourself anymore? Some gunslinger you are.”
“It was a javelin, not an arrow.” But Sophy was already out the door, skipping across the plank walkway with her skirt pulled up around the knees. It was an odd sight and Nik had to blink twice to take it in. “I really don’t understand women,” he said, and somewhere he imagined La Bendita Selena sticking her divine tongue out at him for the comment. Then he ran off after her.