My vacation has officially begun, so I will not be blogging at all for, well, a long time! Talk to y’all later!
My vacation has officially begun, so I will not be blogging at all for, well, a long time! Talk to y’all later!
You may have noticed that I’ve been silent about my manuscript, Season of Betrayal. Last word I gave out on it was a snippet of the rewritten Chapter One. Before that I had said was dismantling it and starting all over because there were core problems with the story that needed to be rewritten. But trying to rewrite it only proved that there were elements at the very foundation of the story that simply could not work. There were contradictions and plot-holes, to say the least. I was frustrated, left in a dead end, and the rest of my writing had suffered.
So, I moved on. I started writing Exiles, not interested in where it was going. I was just writing. And it was awesome. As it turns out, working on Exiles actually really helped. It gave me the time and distance away from Season to gain new perspective on it. My confidence and commitment to my writing was also restored. And, most importantly, I find myself able to let go of the things in the manuscript that need to be changed. I’ve realized what elements of the story I’m really passionate about and I don’t care about throwing the rest of it overboard. The details are still to be worked out, but I’m going to give it another shot…as soon as I find the time!
Happy Independence Day!
Finally, the moment you have all been waiting for: the first part of the first chapter of the novel I’ve just started, called Exiles.
Rolf’s breath came in ragged gasps as he pelted through the forest, trying to get as far away from the battle as possible. The clash of swords, the neighing of horses, and the screams of the wounded rang out behind him like discordant music. Scurrying behind a tree, he leaned against it to catch his breath. His halberd dangled in his grip and he knew he might as well let it drop to the ground; he had a sword, and the halberd would only impede his escape. It was far too noticeable anyway, holding its proud, glittering head high in the air for all to see. And he was a man who must hold his head low from now on.
He heard a shout to his left and he whirled around. In the open field, only a few feet away, two knights were fighting on foot. He squinted, trying to make out the devices on their armor. One had a seahawk across the breastplate: a treaty-breaking Cimbrian knight. The other was marked by a white raven, the symbol of the Ilarian allies. The Cimbrian had just delivered a thundering blow with his mace to the shield of the Ilarian, shattering it into splinters and causing the knight to shout in pain and alarm. He scrambled back from the Cimbrian’s brandished mace and tried to respond with his sword. Rolf’s heart leapt into his throat as he saw the Ilarin knight’s heel get caught on a protruding root, toppling him to the ground. The Cimbrian came in for the kill.
Rolf charged with a roar, aiming the tip of his halberd right for the chink between the chest and the shoulder of the armor. The tip plunged through the mail and right into the Cimbrian’s heart. With a sickening gurgle, the knight collapsed to the ground, the halberd still stuck fast in his chest.
Rolf turned to the Ilarian knight. “Are you alright, My Lord?”
The knight grunted and tried to stand. Rolf grabbed him under his good arm and hauled him to his feet. “Are you alright?” he repeated.
Hands shaking a bit, the knight slid back his visor, revealing kind, blue eyes. “I’ll do, my good soldier, thanks to you.” He stretched out a gauntleted hand. “It is an honor to meet such a brave fellow as yourself among my Skopje allies.”
Rolf managed to squeeze out a half-hearted smile. “Thank you, My Lord. May I help you back to your camp? That arm should be tended to. Lean on me.”
Taking the offered arm, they went slowly toward the camp. Their way was up a gentle slope and, fortunately, the fighting had moved to the west of them.
“Please permit me to inquire after your name,” the knight said as they made their way slowly up the incline.
“Yes, sir: Soldier Rolf. I am not of noble birth and I belong to no one.”
The knight smiled a bit at that. “A freeman then?”
“What part of Skopje do you hail from?”
“Okau. I doubt Your Lordship has heard of it, it is a small province.”
To his surprise, the noble nodded. “That’s near the northern border, isn’t it? I was once up there on a hunting expedition; beautiful country, pure pastureland. Nothing but shepherds, goatherds, and wild pigs. Not much money in it, I suppose, but that’s what keeps it so wild and beautiful.”
“Yes, indeed, sir. But I have not been there in…a long time.”
After a pause, the knight said very frankly, “I saw you hiding in the forest. I thought at first you were deserting. But then you rushed out to save me. And you are helping me now.”
Rolf met his gaze squarely. “I am no coward, My Lord. Nor am I a deserter.”
They both looked up as the thunder of many hoofs drew near. A Skopje entourage was flooding over the ridge toward them, with King Tarki at the head of the column. Rolf’s heart sank with dread and he ducked his head, although he knew it was useless.
The retinue pulled to a stop in front of them, their horses pawing the ground. King Tarki leapt nimbly down from his horse and gave a short bow. “King Conall,” Tarki addressed the knight. “The Cimbri have surrendered and the battle is won. A peace council is to meet at the brook in an hour to discuss terms.”
“I will be there,” the knight, apparently a king, replied with a nod.
“But, of course, before we meet with the Cimbri, we must ourselves decide—” Just at that moment, the Skopje king’s eyes wandered just a bit and he noticed Rolf for the first time. “YOU!” he bellowed. He grabbed Rolf by the hair and yanked him to his knees. “It’s the traitor! Quick, men, seize him!”
In half a second, Rolf was surrounded by Tarki’s men; his hands were bound behind him, his sword was yanked from its scabbard, the shield was pulled from his arm, and he was half dragged toward the pack of horses.
“Stop!” King Conall’s voice cut the air like a dagger and they all froze. “Lord Tarki, what is the meaning of this?” His expression was calm, but his blue eyes were hard and stern.
“I beg your pardon, Lord Conall, but this is one of my own citizens and—”
“Yes, I know he is one of your citizens, Tarki,” Conall interrupted him. “I can see that by the device and armor he wears. He is also the man who saved my life. Therefore, you must explain yourself.”
Tarki’s jaw tightened as he struggled to remain diplomatic amidst his frustration. “Lord Conall, I do not know what falsehood this blackguard impressed upon you, but he is—”
“I said no lies,” Rolf broke in.
One of the dozen soldiers surrounding Rolf struck him across the face. His face stung and he could feel his lip bleeding.
“Do not touch him,” Conall said in a dangerous tone. “Proceed, Rolf.”
He spat the blood out of his mouth and continued. “My Lord, I am an exile. Ten months ago, I was banished from Skopje, meaning, of course, that I am forbidden from touching this blessed soil or serving in His Majesty’s army. Therefore, for me to be here, a few miles within the border, dressed for war and among the troops, is a grave violation of my sentence.”
“You were here scouting for the enemy against us, weren’t you?” growled Duke Pilka from atop his horse.
“No. I am no traitor.”
King Conall gazed at him for a few seconds then turned to Tarki. “My Lord, this young soldier saved my life. Hence, I am responsible for him as if he were kin. Still, I can not overrule your laws; only you can do that, which is why I ask you to release him to me. Annul his punishment and hand him over to me and I promise to keep him in my charge. On my honor, he will never set foot in Skopje again.”
Tarki sighed deeply and tapped his fingers on the pommel of his sword for what felt like an eternity. “Very well, Lord Conall. But I must impress upon you the serious detriment to diplomatic relations that could be incurred if I ever do catch him within the bounds of my kingdom again.”
“I understand and take this responsibility upon myself.”
Tarki nodded to his guards and they released him. Rolf snatched back his sword and, sheathing it, returned to Conall’s side.
“Come to my pavilion in less than a half-hour so that we may settle what terms we will present to the Cimbri. Good day, King Conall.” With that, King Tarki mounted his horse once again and the whole host wheeled and went thundering back the way they had come.
As soon as they were out of sight, Rolf turned to King Conall and knelt before him. “I owe you my thanks and my service, Your Majesty.”
“Then I accept both of them,” he replied, stretching his hand out to Rolf. Rolf took it and kissed it in fealty. The king actually laughed. “I meant to help you to your feet, but I see you are very old-fashioned— a typical Skopje soldier. Come, let’s not stand about in this field any longer; my arm is very impatient to be mended, it would seem.”
Rolf jumped to his feet and took the king’s good arm once again. They walked the rest of the way to the camp in silence, leaving Rolf on edge the entire time. Surely the king was going to ask him more about his exile?
As promised, here is the opening paragraph of the new story I’m working on. I’ll post more of the chapter soon.
Rolf’s breath came hard and fast as he pelted through the forest, trying to get as far away from the battle as possible. The clash of swords, the neighing of horses, and the screams of the wounded rang out behind him like discordant music. He scurried behind a tree and leaned against it to catch his breath. His arm ached under the heavy shield and he contemplated throwing it away into the bushes. His halberd dangled in his grip and he knew he might as well let it drop to the ground; he had a sword, and the halberd would only impede his escape. It was far too noticeable anyway, holding its proud, glittering head high in the air for all to see. And he was a man who must hold his head low from now on.
So you may or may not have noticed that I haven’t been around lately; apologies. There was screwy stuff going on with the blog and I was trying to finish up the semester while maintaining whatever sanity I had left. But now we’re back in full swing! Very soon I’ll post a snippet of a new something I’m writing. I call it ‘something’ because originally I thought it might be a short story, but now it looks more like a novel, albeit a small one. I guess we’ll see! And I am planning out a few short stories that I will post bits of, if I ever actually get them worked out.
In other words, more posts to follow!
As promised, here is the rest of Chapter One!
The door of the depot flew open and Irzazenhoy came rushing in. Minkhoy looked up, expecting her sister-in-law to be bringing fresh biscuits, but then she saw how pale and wide-eyed she was. Irza ran straight into Koreni’s arms and held onto him as if her life depended on it.
“What is it, Irza? What’s happening?” Koreni demanded.
She took a shuddering breath. “The Union’s here!”
Minkhoy leapt to her feet.
“Why? What are they doing?” Koreni urged her.
“They’re here to arrest the Skri family for not paying the tax! They’re taking them to a debt farm!”
Just then the door to loading dock opened and Minkhoy’s parents came in.
“Father, the Union—”
“I know, I saw them coming down the street,” he replied, going to the window. They all followed him except for Koreni, for Irza held him back, her hands still shaking.
A full squadron of Union soldiers were gathered around the Skris’ house, facing outward, guns ready. As they looked on, two soldiers each dragged a member of the Skri family out of the house; first the three young boys, then the mother, then the father, and finally the grandmother, bent over nearly double but her frail hands steady on the handle of her cane. Looking at her, Minkhoy knew she wouldn’t last more than a month in the squalid farms.
She gritted her teeth and charged toward the door. With a shout, her mother grabbed her and held her fast. “No, Mink, you can’t go out there!”
“I’m not going to just stand here and watch!”
“There’s nothing else to be done,” her father said in a terribly flat voice.
Her mother’s eyes were wide with fear. “If the Union even sees you—!”
Minkhoy’s fists clenched, but she allowed her mother to drag her back from the door. She watched in silence as the Union soldiers dragged the Skri family away into the back of their transport. The soldiers filed in after them; the doors glided shut, and with a roar of engines, the transport shot into the sky and was out of sight in a matter of seconds.
The townsfolk slowly seeped back into the street now that the danger was passed. They all stared at the sky where the ship had disappeared in solemn silence. Muffled weeping echoed across the square and several women drew their veils over their faces in grief.
“Why do we just let them do this?” D’june asked in a thick voice.
Her father sighed. “Because we can’t stop them.” He placed his large hand on D’june’s shoulder. “I know it’s hard, D’june, but you’ve got to learn to just hunch your shoulder to the wind and carry on. The Union can’t be stopped, so we have to do our best to survive. That’s just the way things are.”
Minkhoy wrenched her wrist out of her mother’s grip and stormed around behind the counter. She pulled out an empty sack.
“What are you doing?” her mother demanded.
“I’m going to Beacon Hill,” she replied shortly. She shoved the folder into the wooden box still open on the counter, and gathered a box of figs and an orange before stuffing all of it into the sack. Pulling out an iron box from under the counter, she punched in a code and opened it. She pulled out a small handgun and stuffed it into her pocket.
“I’ll be back by midmorning.” She headed toward the door.
“You won’t do anything foolish, will you?” her father asked warily.
She paused, her hand on the doorknob, and smiled bitterly. “No, don’t worry. Like you said, there’s nothing to be done. There’s just nothing to ever be done, except to just keep plodding on.” She opened the door and marched down the street without looking back.
I don’t think I ever let you guys in on it, but I’ve been doing Camp NaNo, and now I have something to show for it! This is yet another revision of Chapter One; let me know what you think! (Again, I’ll probably totally rewrite this later.) Oh, and there will be more posted soon!
With a glance over her shoulder, Minkhoy turned from the lively, bustling marketplace into a shadowed alley. Her sandaled feet picked their way carefully through the prickly weeds poking through the cobblestones; this alley was little used, being too narrow for the carts to make their way through to the marketplace. Some of the weeds tugged at her pants, the taller ones tugging at the edge of her tunic.
The alley turned a corner, and on the other side a man was waiting for her. She stopped short. She had been expecting someone short and stocky, but this man was tall and gaunt with red hair.
“About time you got here, Hoy,” he said as soon as he saw her; his words were thick with a Sennodian accent. “I have better things to do than wait for you in this nothing town.”
She kept her distance. “Who are you? I was expecting Black Ragg.”
“Call me the official representative of his business. The boss has got better things to do then wait in smelly alleys for Udolian rats.”
“And you don’t?”
He scowled. “Do you want the goods or not?”
“Let me see.” She held out her hand.
He recoiled as if from a snake. He stared at the long, red scar slashed from the back of her hand, around the joint of her thumb, and ending in the middle of her palm, leaving her left hand slightly stiff. Inwardly, Minkhoy sighed; she had forgotten to put on a pair of gloves before coming out. Everyone in her town was used to her scar by now, so she had forgotten how other people reacted.
“You’re a rebel?” he asked, his tone somewhere between fear and disgust.
“Not really, but either way it’s not contagious.” He didn’t move. “Really, I swear, you’ll be fine. Just give me what you’re here for and you can go.”
After a moment, he reached into his jacket and pulled out a folder. He handed it to her, careful not to touch her.
Rolling her eyes, she opened it and bit her lip in excitement. It was a blurry but obvious picture of Queen Aidani. She flipped the photograph over; on the back was scrawled the words, ‘third day in the month of Morileal, the year 2233′. She turned it over again and scrutinized the photo. Even with the distortion, the queen was quite obviously pregnant, probably in her third trimester. She looked up at Ragg’s contact again. “Where did you get this?” she demanded. “Where did this photograph come from?”
“Chemyss,” he replied, crossing his arms. “Some old fig farmer had it and was willing to sell it so he could meet the tax this year.”
Minkhoy’s face flushed even as she tried to hide her excitement; if she showed too much eagerness, he would jack the price up. She rummaged further into the folder and pulled out another photograph, this one much clearer than the first. It was the queen again, only she was not pregnant in this picture. Minkhoy once again turned it over, only to find there was no date written at all. “Where does this one come from?”
“From right here, Henkoren. As I was told, the family it belonged to moved from this town to Port Kho-ju’ctar not long after the photo was taken, which was right before the massacre. Eventually they sold the photo to a royal family fanatic, who recently died; his family was anxious to get rid of the thing. And so now it is yours—if you pay, that is.” He held out his hand expectantly— she had to place either money or the folder in it.
“Yes, alright, how much do you want?” Tucking the folder under her arm, she reached for the moneybag on her belt.
“Fifty Kars,” he said without skipping a beat.
She paused and raised both eyebrows in disbelief, but didn’t argue; she pulled out the demanded amount and deposited it into his outstretched hand. He quickly pocketed the money and flitted out of sight down the dark alley, clearly anxious to get away from her. Minkhoy went back the way she had come, the folder clutched close to her chest.
She stepped out of the alley back into the hot market square and dusted herself off, looking around to see if anyone had noticed her return. The hot desert sun had relented some of its noon heat and the market was busy with shoppers. But none of them had noticed her, so she darted through the thick crowd toward her family’s depot.
The market ebbed away as she headed for the edge of town on the northeast side where the depot was located. Her father was unloading one lone freighter in the dock, but otherwise the depot was quiet; most shipments had already come and gone, and most people were at the market.
Heading for the office, she threw the front door wide and called, “Guys, you won’t believe what I have here!”
Korenihoy, to her right by the filing shelves, turned on her like a panther. “Where have you been?” her old brother demanded, his thick, dark eyebrows drawn low in a frown. “You were supposed to be processing that paperwork. In fact, you were supposed to be done with it hours ago.”
“I’ll get to it, Koreni, but my absence was worth it, believe me.” She marched over to the counter and deposited the folder onto it in triumph.
“What is that?” D’junehoy asked, his eyes wide already. He had been dusting the top of the taller bookshelves, but now he hopped down from the ladder and prowled over to the folder.
“This, little brother, is what I have been hunting down for three solid years now. Or fifteen, if you prefer. And this could change everything.”
Ramesahoy looked up from behind the counter where she was patching one of Minkhoy’s festival skirts. “Are you talking about the royal family?”
“There is no royal family,” Koreni said. “They were massacred fifteen years ago, everybody knows that.”
“What have you found, Mink?” D’june asked, ignoring him.
“Photographic evidence that there is one surviving member of the royal family.”
“See for yourself.” She opened the folder and handed him the two photographs.
D’june squinted at them for several moments. Ramesa leaned forward on her stool. “Well, what is it?” she asked eagerly.
“I don’t know,” he replied. “Mink, what am I looking at?”
“It’s obvious! Look!” She pointed at the first photograph. “You see the queen? She’s pregnant, right? This photo is only a few weeks before the massacre. Then this photo is taken the day of or before the massacre, and she is not pregnant. Something happened to that child between those two points.” She bit her lip. “Now I just have to find out what.”
“He must have been killed at the massacre with the rest of his family, regardless of whether he was in the queen’s womb or not,” Koreni said.
She turned to him, eyes shining. “No, he wasn’t. If you don’t believe me, believe the Union.”
Koreni frowned. “What do you mean?”
“You remember that newspaper story they printed all across the country?” she asked, going around behind the counter.
She pulled out a wooden box and opened the lid. She shuffled through several layers of papers and then whisked out a yellowed newspaper clipping. “This is the story they ran on the front page about the murder of the royal family and the sacking of Koren Hill. They mention in gory detail how they killed the royal family, listing each name individually; they list only four children, the youngest being Jacini, and she was already four years old. So what happened to this fifth baby, who should be only a few days old at most? If they had killed him, you know they would have been bragging about it.”
“Do you think he’ll come back and kick out the Union?” D’june asked.
“He might not be alive,” Koreni argued. “Anything could have happened to him; he could’ve been stillborn, or was left behind when his mother was arrested and died of starvation, or been hunted down and killed since then.”
Minkhoy nodded. “I know, but there’s still hope. And that’s enough for me.”
I realized I never told you guys that I am in fact doing Camp NaNoWriMo! I’m almost half-way through my word goal of 10,000 words, and hopefully I’ll be able to stay on track! Good luck to any fellow NaNoers!
Don’t forget Camp NaNoWriMo is coming up! It’s just around the corner in April! I highly recommend you try it!
I don’t know if I’m going to do it again this year, what with college and all, but I sure want to!
This notebook is here to talk about Dragon’s Heart, writing tips and tricks, events, upcoming books, and me. Get to know me better and learn behind-the-scenes of all my books. I frequently post excerpts from what I’ve been writing lately, so keep an eye out for that!