Genre: YA fantasy
Word Count: 58,000
The First 250 Words:
What little hair Magda possessed stuck up from her scalp like clumps of weeds. Scabs and age spots covered the spaces between tufts. A procession of warts traveled from behind her right ear, across her face and down the high neckline of her nightdress. With her pointed nose and glazed eyes, the old woman resembled the moles that sometimes burrowed through the walls of her underground home.
Magda's breath came in ragged gasps and shudders. She had known for quite a while that death was on her tail and now, now that she could no longer make her own breakfast or sweep out her home, now that she was relegated to the comfort of her wooden bed, it seemed time to let him catch her.
The woman's only concern was for the five girls in her care. Could they survive without her? Magda had protected them for as long as she could, but now nothing would stand between them and the beauty-obsessed citizens of Parnear. It bothered her because, ugly as she knew herself to be, Magda's five wards were so much uglier.
The girls gathered around their guardian's bed, watching with anxious expressions. Magda looked into each face and wished for the power to bestow beauty and luck. She tried to smile.
"I couldn't be prouder if you were my own blood," she said. "You are special in every way imaginable. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise."
The youngest girl made a whimpering noise and reached for Magda's hand. Magda swallowed as she felt the tiny fingers wrap around her wrist.
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