Nov 24

Kieri’s First Command: Part X

Posted: under Background, Characters, Contents, Excerpt, the writing life.
Tags: , , ,  November 24th, 2022

Part X

One evening, coming out of the daily conference, Duke Marrakai asked Kieri to walk with him.  “The lad’s different.  I thought he’d sulk and complain and you have him smiling and cheerful.”

“He’s a good boy,” Kieri said.

“Sometimes,” the Duke said.  “And sometimes I’ve wanted to put a knot on his head.  You have no children, yet, do you?”

“No, but I watched Aliam Halveric and his wife with theirs, and I remember them with me.  I ignored your lad’s sulks and treated him as a sensible person, which he’s turned out to be.  I’m going to put him back on his horse tomorrow.”

“Well.  You should have a horse.  You ride very well and you know horses. And apparently, boys.”

“I will have again someday.  Someday, I want one of your breeding.  That horse is the best I’ve ridden.  Aliam had a halfbred of yours.  Tell me, what do you charge for the fullbred colts?”

The Duke looked at him squarely.  “They don’t come cheap.”

“No good horse does, but by accident. I will have one someday, and you can tell it will be treated well.”

“Indeed.  The Prince says he’s thinking of giving you that barren mess up north as a grant, if you do well in this campaign and another one or two.  No one else has wanted it, at any price or reward.”

“It would suit me,” Kieri said.  “In time it would thrive, with good management.  Hard at the start, of course, but are not the best horses often those difficult to train well early on?”

“You are not afraid of challenges.”

Kieri laughed.  “No, my lord, I am not.  Challenges come to all, early and late, and Aliam taught me that the measure of men is how they meet them.  Let me have some land, or a young horse–”

“Or a young boy?”

“I cannot speak of your son in such terms; he is yours, and a future Duke of Tsaia.”

“Well.  I see him as a challenge; he has been for me.  And I like what I see, Captain.  Teach him to ride better, and care for horses better, and we shall be friends a long time.”

“If you knew Aliam, my lord, he would tell you tales about me at your son’s age that would curl not only your hair but your horse’s tail.  If I am able to help him through this, I am happy to do so.”

Later that evening, the boy said, “We should not have done what we did.  I should not have done what I did.”  None of the boys had spoken to Kieri about it before but there was no doubt what the boy meant.

“You’re right,” Kieri said matter-of-factly, setting the stallion’s saddle on its rack.  “But you did, and it’s done, and you’re not doing it now.”

‘No, but I…I needed to say that.  I’m sorry I did it.  I’m sorry I spied on you.  I’m sorry…”

What would Aliam say to that?  What had Aliam said to so many of his own unwitting cruelties, blunders, thoughtless deeds, including those that got men killed?

“Listen to me,” Kieri said.  “You did something you knew was wrong, and you know that some things cannot be undone.  You can’t forget what you saw, can you?”

The boy’s head shook side to side; his eyes glistened.

“So when I was your age, and Aliam Halveric’s squire, I did things I knew I should not do, and some of those things could not be undone.  Men died, for some of my mistakes.  To be good men, when we are grown, we must learn to think.  Beyond what feels good, beyond what feels like fun, beyond what feels like it will win us points: we must learn to look ahead and think.  And it’s hard.  You have learned important things in these days: about your horse, about me, about yourself.  Now you know you can learn.  And I know you will learn.”

“Will I make more mistakes?”

“Oh, yes.  If you’re like me you will make mistakes over and over.  Men do.  Women do.  Everyone does.  It’s how we learn.  When you started riding, you fell off a lot, didn’t you?”

“Yes.”

“So as you move into adulthood you will continue to make mistakes, and when you don’t make any mistakes at all, you’ll have made the worst, because you’ll have quit learning.  Keep learning, keep failing, but then go back and get it right.”

“I don’t think I’m ready to ride my horse again.”

“Why not?”

A mischievous grin this time.  “Because I’m still making mistakes here, walking.  Because my horse shouldn’t suffer for them. Teach me to ride your way, please, and show me by riding him yourself.”

“Now that will require your father’s permission: who’s going to ask him?”  Kieri grinned back at him.

“I will,” the boy said, with no hesitation.  “I will, and he will say Yes, and then he’ll tell me he told me the horse was too much for me in this situation, and I’ll say he was right, and then he’ll say I can ride his old horse, his second.  We can ride together.”

The End

Happy Thanksgiving

Comments (26)

Nov 23

Kieri’s First Command: Part IX

Posted: under Background, Characters, Excerpt, the writing life.
Tags: ,  November 23rd, 2022

Part IX

“It’s a long story.  How much farther, do you think, and which will be first, your father’s wagon or the saddler’s?”

“The saddler’s.  Well, the Prince’s wagons of horse feed, tack, and his grooms and saddler will be there.  See that pennant?  That’s the royal one, so it’s one of those.”

The saddler, when they found him, had spare halters; they borrowed one.  Then he went to work quickly, explaining to Kieri–and Kirgan Marrakai, when reminded that this was the Kirgan’s horse–what needed to be done and why, and what exercises might help even out the muscling of the horse’s back.  Kieri and his student, as he now thought of the boy, walked along behind the saddler’s wagon with the horse, now tied to the tailboard, while the saddler worked in his shop, built into the wagon.

The boy now seemed less angry and fragile than he had earlier.  “Why is he using different colors of wool?”

“Let’s ask him,” Kieri said.  “You or me?”

Me ask?”

“Surely.  You want to know; I’d like to know.  You can do it.”

The boy did ask, and the saddler explained, even handing the boy small tufts of wool to feel: the dark, the light, the softest, the springiest.  Several times the saddle went on and came back off the horse, then the saddler said, “Now, Kirgan, time you get up and let me see how it compresses as you ride.”

The boy looked sideways at Kieri.  “If you don’t mind,” Kieri said to the saddler. “I’m a little heavier, and will compress it faster.”

“Oh.” The saddler looked back and forth at them.

“It’s all right,” the boy said.  “My father wants him to ride him for awhile anyway.”

“Ah. Well, then.”  He offered Kieri a leg up and then walked beside the horse, feeling under the saddle as the horse walked along, seemingly quite calm.  “Like you to give him a bit of trot and canter,” the saddler said, and unfastened the halter.  Kieri turned the horse out of the line of wagons and trotted him in circles both directions, then cantered, then a hand gallop both ways. The saddler checked again, made one more adjustment, then nodded.  “Should be good for today.  Bring him back to me tomorrow, after he’s ridden, or any time he kicks up again.”

“We’ve a walk to catch up with my group,” Kieri said.  “To keep our senior commander happy, I’d best ride the horse, but you can tail or use the stirrup leather if you like.”

“Tail?”

“Have you never?  When you have reason to move faster than walking is comfortable, and not enough horses for all, a horse can carry a light rider, and help along two more at least.”  He slid one foot out of the stirrup.  “Put your hand there, and see.  He will walk faster than either of us would want to.  If you were taller, you could hold onto the stirrup leather; right now it would make your shoulder sore.  You can also, going uphill, catch the tail and let one pull you along.  They won’t kick if the tail’s being pulled–smoothly, not jerking.  It doesn’t hurt them.”

The boy did that, and they passed wagon after wagon, until Kieri saw his troops again, and the prince’s wagons just ahead.  They slowed to match them, and Kieri said “It’s our secret, eh?  If anyone asks, you’re just good at walking fast,” and when the boy pulled his hand free, set his own foot back in the stirrup.  “I suspect many of your friends don’t know about the kinds of wool the saddlers use,” he added.  “Now you know some new things.  Here’s another.  Come meet my sergeant.  He used to be in Halveric Company in Aarenis and Lyonya.”

Over the next few days, the boy asked question after question, mostly reasonable ones, as if he’d been told before that asking questions was unsuitable.  Kieri and Siger–and several of the troops–answered as if he were any new recruit or squire.  Kieri, remembering himself with Aliam–at first afraid to ask anything and then, in a flood, asking questions all day long and into the night–found the boy far less arrogant than he’d thought earlier.  The boy was quick to take suggestions, and Siger treated him like a junior squire.  To Kieri’s surprise there was no sulking, no sneering, just a willingness to learn.  Why had he been so touchy before?  Had it been the other boys, or something else?

Comments (2)

Nov 22

Kieri’s First Command: Part VIII

Posted: under Background, Characters, Excerpt, the writing life.
Tags: , ,  November 22nd, 2022

Part VIII

Kieri knew that despite the acquiescence the boy was boiling with indignation: he had been humiliated in front of everyone by his horse, Kieri, the prince, his own father, and he was in no state to think clearly.  “Do you have a halter or lead for this horse, so we can take him to the saddler?”

“In my father’s wagon,” he said shortly.

“I don’t know which it is,” Kieri said.  Ahead of him, the Prince’s wagon lurched into motion and he turned to his sergeant.  “Sergeant, take over for the moment. The Prince has ordered we get this horse to the saddler.”

“Captain.”  Siger’s face was as blank as his own, he saw.  They were all on bog ground until they got the boy and the horse both sorted out.  One wrong step and they could be in it to the neck.  And no grant of land.  And a boy mired in helpless anger, and a horse mired in bad training, bad riding, bad saddle fitting.  He understood now, though he still wished it to have been different, Aliam’s refusal to hire him as a junior captain.  He pushed that aside and looked at the boy again.  “Can you take me to it–either your father’s supply wagon with horse tack in it, or the Prince’s saddler?”

“They’re both with the other horse supply wagons,” Kirgan Marrakai said, with slightly less stiffness.  “Back this way.”  They walked toward the tail of the line, the horse snatching now and then at grass.

“How old is he?” Kieri asked.  “Five?  Six?”

“Five.  He was backed last year by the trainer.”

“Still quite young, then.”

“Yes.  I thought–the trainer let me sit on him last year, because I was so light.  Then I grew, but he was a year older and also grew two fingers, so I thought–I thought I was doing well.”

“You grew taller; did your trainer explain what that does to your seat?”

“Taller?  I thought only heavier mattered.  That’s all the trainer talked about, how young horses should never carry too much weight.”

“That’s so, but when boys grow into men, they change the shape, where the weight is, as well as how much.  Where you can put your leg on a horse, how your balance changes when your shoulders broaden.  When did you start drilling with the sword you carry, instead of a boy’s shorter one?”

“Last winter; it was a Midwinter gift.”

“And have you done mounted exercises with it?  Knocking rag balls off poles?”
“Yes.”

“So you have more weight in your sword arm and as you reach out to do that, more weight shifts onto that side of the saddle and your horse tries to hold steady–with the muscles that are now developed more than those on the other side.”

The boy stopped short.  “I–I never thought of that!  The riding master never mentioned that!”

“And then after a few minutes it doesn’t feel good, so he hollows, to avoid the pressure–”

“Yes!  I know he does, and when I try to make him lift his back he bucks.”  He looked at Kieri wide-eyed.  “How do you know that?  Why doesn’t our riding master?  He just says ‘More leg, more leg, ride him into the bit.'”

“Did he tell you to wear spurs?”

“Yes. Because my legs aren’t strong enough, he said.”

“Um.  There are ways to strengthen legs, if you care to try.”

“You don’t have spurs.”

“I did.  I sold them”

“Because you don’t use them?”

“No, because I needed the money for something else.”

“What?”

Comments (9)

Nov 18

Kieri’s First Command, Part IV

Posted: under Background, Deed of Paksenarrion, Excerpt, the writing life.
Tags: , , ,  November 18th, 2022

Though Kieri Phelan, captain of Fox Company, was confident he had behaved well in the matter of raw youths spying on his bath–and just as glad it had not been a murderous attack by Pargunese soldiers–he was not at all sure the youths had really understood the magnitude of their error or his reaction to it. Of equal interest, a youth he would have expected to be with them…had not been.  Duke Verrakai’s kirgan, usually one of that group in the commanders’ tent…usually, in fact, standing next to Kirgan Marrakai and Kirgan Serrostin, sometimes between them…had not been with them.  Duke Verrakai and Duke Marrakai appeared to occupy a secondary level below that of Duke Mahieran, and slightly above Dukes Serrostin and Elloran.

A mercenary commander, Aliam had told him, must know as much or more about the power structure of employers as the employer knows about the commander.  You’ve met a prince of Tsaia, a future king, and he’s mentioned offering you a contract?  Pay attention whenever you see him among his nobles.  So Kieri had, and knew that Verrakai and Marrakai were rivals, and not friendly ones.  That Serrostin and Marrakai were friends, and Elloran was afraid of Verrakai.  That Kirgan Verrakai, whose father was not friends with Kirgan Marrakai’s father, had been cultivating Kirgan Marrakai for some purpose not yet clear, and yet…had not taken part in yesterday’s hunt.  Had the others told him?  Deliberately not invited him?  Or had he chosen not to go for reasons of his own?

He puzzled over this and the currents of ambition that swirled among the older men, not just the dukes but the counts and barons.  The nobles were not skilled at war of the type he himself knew best, but quite skilled at the methods of courtly intrigue, wielding small units of influence as skillfully as a man might use a small weapon–a dagger–to penetrate the weak points in armor. As in fighting physically, some were more direct and others more apt at ruse and guile.

Verrakai was certainly that kind.  For himself, he knew Verrakai deeply resented his having a direct contract.  His attempts to discredit the upstart mercenary were not so obvious as to catch the prince’s attention–always courteous, always mild, little corrections that weren’t, seeming deference to Kieri’s practical experience, but with little suggestions and questions that hinted at his concern Kieri–so young for such expertise but of course mentored by the famous Halverics–might not quite measure up to the task they laid on him. Under them, Kieri sensed both hostility and more military knowledge than most.  He had found the man annoying, but he found many non-soldiers annoying–a risk of his experience, Aliam had said–but now he wondered if Verrakai and his Kirgan were part of a coordinated attack…but on what?  The Marrakai family as a whole?  Or more?

………………………………………………………………………………

 

Comments (1)

Nov 14

Kieri’s First Command, Part 3

Posted: under Background, Excerpt.
Tags: , , ,  November 14th, 2022

He was wet, naked but for boots, and armed, already out of the water, partway to them, sword in one hand, dagger in the other.  His clothes lay on the grass at the water’s edge; he had stamped back into his boots without their hearing or seeing him do it. He stopped when they rose from the grass, some of them already turning to flee.  Kirgan Marrakai frankly stared; the man’s pale skin was finely striped with scars, perfectly aligned, overlain by later scars clearly from war-wounds: larger, more irregular, one or two still colored darker.  And yet the body itself–he had never seen such perfect balance of muscle and bone and sinew.  Or such a perfect mask of indifference to his situation: naked and alone before wealthy men clothed.

Then he grinned.  “Oh, come, gentlemen, as I suppose you to be.  Sons of nobility.  Surely all of you are not afraid of one man, even if he holds a sword!  Draw yours, if you would feel more comfortable, while I go and dress.  If you want to enjoy the water, I am through bathing, and the pool has been refreshed by the river’s flow; it will not taint your…purity.  And it is a perfect coolness today, refreshing without biting.”

Every syllable etched as finely as any courtier’s, with a precise fraction of indulgence, courtesy, scorn, and humor; Kirgan Marrakai felt striped by it, as the captain’s body by whatever had scarred it so.  He felt his face heat with a telltale flush, and his friends, he saw, felt the same.  Damn the fellow!  And then the fellow turned his back on them, heedless of their reaction, and walked back to his clothes.  There on his back, the same pattern of fine scars as on his front, and on one firm buttock, what could only be a brand.

Horror forced the indrawn breath he heard from all of them.  The man shrugged, pulling on a shirt, toeing off his boots, carefully holding his sword in one armpit and dagger in the other, while pulling up his trousers, his socks, fastening the belt on which hung the scabbard, and sliding his weapons home, stamping back into his boots, then turning around.

“So, then: have you seen enough? Is your understanding now complete? Because if you want to see anything else–”

What else could there be?  What other horrors?  Kirgan Marrakai felt sick, and saw that Kirgan Serrostin, his closest friend, was faintly green around the lips.  Had he actually thought of what else there could be?

“–Then we must come to blades,” the captain said.  “I think we would all benefit by not doing so, do you not?”

None of them had drawn a blade.  None of them wanted to draw a blade now.  They all, knowing each other well, had the certainty of nervous cattle that what they all wanted was to get back to the army, their safe herd, and never speak of it again, at least to anyone else.  Maybe someday, when two or three were alone together, it might be mentioned but…not now.

He gave them a long, level stare out of grey eyes feral as a wolf’s.  Then a sharp nod.  “Good.  We understand one another.  I am returning to my unit.  Please do not follow me closely.  You may go ahead, or aside, as you please, of course, but I really can commend the quality of the bathwater here.”

As he came up the rise, they parted, as for a prince, and when he had gone by they did not turn to watch, but stared at the ground awhile.  No one wanted to bathe there.  Kirgan Marrakai wondered if he would ever be able to strip off in front of his father’s body servant–or anyone else–again.  Inside his clothes, his body felt alien to him, wrong in some way.  He knew it wasn’t flabby or misshapen, but he felt ashamed even so.  It was days before he realized that what it lacked was scars.

They came back to the camp slowly, reluctantly.  Would the captain have reported their spying on him? There was nothing wrong with seeing another man bathing naked in a stream…they had played in streams and ponds naked before.  But they knew–and knew they had known when they did it–that sneaking after someone, some particular person, to peer at his nakedness, hoping to see something laughable or disgusting, was different.  Not honorable.  The Crown Prince would not, they knew, approve.  Their own fathers would not approve.  They could not approve themselves, or each other, and each one sought for another to blame. Kirgan Marrakai saw them glance at him and look away–he was the one who had told them about the captain.

……………………………………………………………………………………………

The other parts will come later this week, God willin’ and the power stays on, the roof stays on, and I get some other critical things done.

 

Comments (18)

Nov 14

Kieri Phelan’s First Command, Part 2

Posted: under Background, Excerpt, snippet.
Tags: ,  November 14th, 2022

 

“And yes, Gerry spent a campaign season studying something military with them down in Aarenis a few years ago, but that doesn’t explain it, really.”

It didn’t explain anything, Kirgan Marrakai thought.  As Kirgan, he could attend the daily briefings.  His father had a seat at the table with the other senior nobles, the lesser standing behind them, while he–and other kirgans–stood silent, backs against the canvas wall, supposedly learning something from watching their elders give way to the Prince and this stranger, this mere Captain Phelan,  who had the Prince’s ear when it came to matters military.

Well, he was a professional, after all.  A hireling soldier, fought for money: not honor, not loyalty.  Rumor, gleaned from servants, was that the man had squired for Aliam Halveric in Aarenis, that he had attended the Falkian equivalent of the Bells.  But he displayed no ruby.  Had he dropped out?  Been thrown out?  Had Halveric refused to hire him?

Arrogant young cock, thought Kirgan Marrakai, seeing the back of the man’s head tilt toward the Crown Prince.  And nothing to be proud about.  Couldn’t even keep a horse.  Probably rode as badly as any farmer’s brat.  He amused himself that afternoon, imagining how his own stallion, who regularly threw him, would throw the arrogant young cock faster and harder.

The army moved slowly, leaving plenty of time for the young men of noble families to amuse themselves with sport: hunting and arms practice and mounted competitions.  They had servants to set up and take down their tents, cook their meals, care for their horses and their clothes.  They were–barring the arms practice all their fathers insisted on, under direction of an armsmaster or Girdish Marshal–on holiday.  When they came to a tributary of the river behind them, flowing from the north, the army paused to water the stock and the people, and some of the servants went to washing clothes.  The younger men found places for water play.

Kirgan Marrakai noticed that Captain Phelan let his men take quick baths, but did not bathe with them.  Arrogant, he told himself.  He bathed every day from a tub in his father’s tent, water brought in by his father’s servants, the proper way to bathe.  He told his friends.

They noticed the red-headed captain–hard to miss that flaming hair in the sun–heading still further upstream, with a rag of some sort over his shoulder.  Too shy to bathe with his men?  Well.  It would be good sport to know why.  Maybe he…lacked something.  They sniggered over that delicate suggestion.  Maybe he was disfigured in some way not visible when he was covered neck to wrist and head to heel in cloth and leather or metal.  Perhaps he was a branded criminal and the Crown Prince would definitely need to know that.

They turned aside, walked fifteen strides back toward the army, and then back around.  He was out of sight; the stream here ran lower than the rest, and they headed that way, but at a distance, sure he could not see them, moving as quietly as dozen young men with no training could.  One would go ahead, bending low then taking quick looks, until he could see the red head and if it was moving, then signal the others.  Finally, their forward scout waved them down and forward, and they came crawling through the lush grass to where they could see a wider space of moving water.  And their target.

………………………………………………………………………………………

Comments (2)

Nov 14

Out of the Vault: A Story of Young Kieri

Posted: under Background, Excerpt.
Tags: ,  November 14th, 2022

Back when I was writing the original DEED, I often wrote extra bits from various POVs.  Side stories, I called them.  Didn’t have internet, didn’t have any place to put them, hadn’t been published yet.  Some of those stories stuck to my mind and when, in time, I had misplaced printouts of them, and was back in Paksworld, I wrote newer versions in Word.  Various times, some older, some newer.  This is part of a group of incidents involving Kieri Phelan on his first independent contract for the Crown of Tsaia (he’d been a subordinate commander to other merc commanders or nobles who needed a small unit for some reason.)   Pargun had invaded Tsaia north of the Honnorgat; this army was combined of the feudal levy and one little bitty merc group: Kieri’s.   A single cohort, one hundred.   Siger (yes, the same Siger) was his sergeant.  None of the captains you’ve seen before; not even Arcolin was there yet.  For most of the people in that army, he was a complete unknown,  with no family, no friends, no history.

………………………………………………………………………………

Kieri Phelan’s First Command

As the Tsaian army marched out of Vérella, unit after unit swung into line.  They were on the road to Pargun, to take back the land the Pargunese had invaded, and they were full of confidence and pride in their numbers.  The Tsaian Royal Guard, in its rose and white uniforms led the way.  Every feudal troop, under the small banner of its local lord, and the larger banner of its lord’s lord, and those highest lords–the dukes–following (and not exactly under) the banner of the royal house, the rose circlet of Tsaia.  All the nobles accompanying their troops rode, though except for cavalry units the troops marched.

All but one.  One small group, one hundred and one strong, infantry with short swords and shields, marched under the pennant of no land-holder at all, but a mercenary captain.  Maroon bars bordered the white center, and a small maroon fox mask smirked out at the world from the white.

Its commander marched with his men, on foot, through the dust that hung over the the whole army.  His clothes, maroon with white trim, like his troops, were coated with dust, gray or tan from whatever soil they marched over.  His face was masked in dust, his fox-red hair dulled with dust.  His armor coated with it.  And this dusty, increasingly unkempt-looking unit marched directly behind the Crown Prince’s entourage, because this unit–holding a contract directly from the Crown–ranked equal in standing–according to the Crown Prince–with any other that had contracted directly with the Crown, and the Crown Prince himself had dictated the order of march.

It was ridiculous, and many of the nobles or their sons had mentioned–with delicate courtesy–to the Crown Prince that it was perhaps injudicious to so honor a foreigner, a mere mercenary.  “If I’d known you wanted a mercenary unit, I could have hired you one,” Duke Verrakai had said.  “No need to deal with him yourself.”

Young Marrakai, his father’s Kirgan, had said as much to the younger prince, two steps farther from the throne.  “Any of us could have hired him.”

“Yes, but Gerry wanted to.”

“But why?”

“I have no idea.  I asked and he told me to figure it out for myself.  He’s a bastard, no doubt of that–no family anyone heard of anywhere…”

“Any history at all?”

“Was in Halveric Company–”

“Ahhh.  Lyonya, then.  A bastard from that family?”

“I heard it was not, but you know–bastards.  Some people don’t claim them.”  That with a sniff.  The Mahierans, at least, acknowledged theirs, which made it fashionable to do so and less fashionable–honorable, they would say–not to do so.  Kirgan Marrakai had often wondered if his father had sired any, but was afraid to ask, given the lectures he’d received as he grew into the ability.

…………………………………………………………………………………….

(Part One)

……………………………………………………………………………………

Comments (7)

Jul 26

Milestones Whizzing Past…

Posted: under Background, Contents, the writing life.
Tags: , , ,  July 26th, 2022

The New Book is now at 82,000+ words and still going strong.   It’s feeling like a “long” book, more like other Paks-world books and less like the SF books, which usually finished up around 120,000 to 130,000.   The Paksworld books, as y’all know, run 150,000-plus.   I can’t tell yet if it’s actually going to be multi-volume or not, but it keeps gaining “weight” (and so am I as I write it…which isn’t good, but I’m not going to strangle this book for the sake of dropping a size of jeans! )   Minor characters are acquiring the kind of backstory that could mean they’ll be more important in a subsequent book.   Locations are waving signs at me saying “Important things happen here!  Right here!  Look at this terrain–you’re going to need it!”  There’s another pregnant woman in this story and it’s summer and she’s uncomfortable because she may (or may not) deliver by the end of her husband’s part in this book.   She’s not major (yet; she has potential)  but her husband is a plot-mover by position;  he’s also just a wee bit OCD about some things (they don’t have OCD in their vocabulary but you know what I mean.  He wants to get everything exactly, precisely, to the nth degree right.)  There’s a horse with a problem, a family with several problems, a Marshal Judicar who remarkably learned some humility between the last book he was in and this one (he, like everyone else, is older, but I didn’t expect him to do that; I thought he’d be crustier.)  I will admit that my own once-broken ribs ached in sympathy with those of  a character hanging over a pit,  and that childhood experience in crawling along a ditch under thick vegetation plus seeing real hedges in England resulted in someone having to crawl along close under a hedge while enemies were searching for them on the other side.

So far there’s not enough food in the story (may be why I keep eating while writing??)    There are horses and a few dogs, a fire in a hay barn, weaponry including hay forks, lances, poles, sticks and stones, swords, daggers, crossbows (no longbows yet), and chamber pots.  Blame a little book in Fondren Library at Rice U., which I checked out over and over; Welsh Ballads ed. Ernst Rhys had a poem about a medieval wife who defended the home fort when her husband was out raiding, driving off the intruding force with the amount of stuff she and the other women threw down on the attackers.  It ends with a little praise of the husband’s fighting skills, and then says:  “but better still than Ievan, Ievan’s wife!”  Cities, yes.  Towns, yes.   Places where villages were, but haven’t been for years.  Ruins. Locations known by what used to be there (still common in rural areas–we were once given directions to someone’s house that included “turn onto the road just past that pasture where [name if person who used to live there] had that big paint bull.”  Roads in several Texas counties weren’t given numbers for decades, even now some are known by the name of the ranch at the end of the road (Greenwood Valley Ranch, for instance, in Real County.  That’s ree-AL County, and it means “royal.”)   That road wanders through two other ranches before it gets to Greenwood Valley where there’s a little airstrip in the narrow valley and hills all around.  Anyway, Old Forge had a forge once, and was a village, but now it’s a wide spot in a grass-and-dirt road where the Woods Way ends.  More-or-less south of Old Forge, the road meanders on, and eventually through, Serrostin lands, and more-or-less north it crosses the River Road between Verella and Fin Panir.

So far, the story’s working toward the second meeting of two characters, and this volume may end with that.   But there are floating loose ends that may bump into one another and lock on.   Where’s Dorrin, these days?   Is Torfinn still king of Pargun or did he die, and if so did his youngest son inherit or….?  Ganlin of Kostandan married the king of Tsaia’s cousin Rothlin Mahieran,  but what about Elis of Pargun?  Arcolin’s adopted son Jamis has turned out to have a gift for languages, and speaks gnomish better than Arcolin…and has also learned the horse nomads’ language…ability like that doesn’t exist for nothing; he’s going to have an interesting life one way or another, besides inheriting his father’s lands.  Will he also become a gnome prince?  Or…um…find a horse nomad girlfriend?    In the back corners of my brain, where the shadows are and shy little mouse-like ideas come out at night to see if they can find some cheese and grow bigger, there’ve been some high-pitched squeaky discussions of Old Aare, which isn’t just barren sands and heat anymore.   People are starting to sail over to take a look; some ships (not the largest) even dare to venture into the great bowl that was a shelter for multiple harbors at one time, and look at the plants now growing in the shores and the wild animals and think about moving in.

Meanwhile…it’s late and I need to write more tomorrow.

Comments (12)

Jul 11

A Bit More About The Book

Posted: under Background, Story, the writing life.
Tags: , ,  July 11th, 2022

When a horse’s cerebrum–the thinking part of its brain, small compared to the rest–is treated as an external storage device for about 30 minutes of a particular human memory by a dragon who is looking for a place to stash that memory so the human in question can’t reveal something the dragon wants kept secret, the horse is immediately faced with an terrifying situation.  The horse cannot understand human memory, but it can feel the emotional surge of that memory (it was a very, VERY emotional memory)  and it knows these new surges are connected to its owner/trainer.

When the owner is with the horse (best case) the horse has much less cognitive dissonance to trouble it.  This is a horse bonded to its human from the hour after its birth; it’s been trained by its human, and its human is a steady reassuring presence in its life.   Extra emotion is familiar (the human is a person of strong emotions.)   The horse can check in with its senses–smell, taste, touch, hearing, sight–and its excellent memory of *horse* experience–and identify the extra emotional surge as just like its owner.

The difficulty comes when the human (or the human’s father, another familiar human) is not with the horse for an extended length of time.  When the human…is sick, or injured, or forcibly separated, and the horse encounters only those it hasn’t worked with closely.  Then the emotional surge of unassimilated human memories conflicts with its own horse-memories and the horse–for want of a better word–goes crazy.  Nothing makes sense anymore.  The smell of its owner, the touch of its own, the sound of its owner’s voice, are all gone, and what’s left is the intense emotion of its owner but without the owner’s presence.  The horse wants to find its owner but it’s not allowed to go find the owner.

The dragon expected horse and owner to be together and thus made no provision for protecting the horse.  After all,  a horse’s cerebrum is small: somewhere between a walnut and a lemon in size, if you should take that layer (it’s flattish) and roll it into a ball.  Yet–to a dragon–a horse’s use of its cerebrum is limited to the simplest of “thoughts” and there would be ample room to stuff in those memories where they’d be safe, and yet unused and unavailable to the human until the dragon came along to reverse the procedure.

Why would a dragon, who prizes wisdom, do something so obviously (to us) foolish?   It’s impossible to understand dragonish motivation completely (at least for me) but dragons do like to carry out their own plans, and by their overall powers, they’re usually able to bend reality to their will.  The dragon had a plan for certain people to meet in a certain way at a certain time, and neglected to calculate the likelihood that any two humans in an urban area may, however unlikely, encounter each other.  Perfectly normal random events, strings of them for both individuals, put them in the same place at the same time.

We could say the dragon over-reacted, or was having a control-issues moment, but whatever the cause, the horse is now carrying its owner’s memory of that encounter and the owner is…in a life-changing situation.  The dragon isn’t there anymore (it’s off doing something else, and is confident the horse and owner will continue as it expects…)  The dragon has many dozens of irons in its fire and hasn’t thought it needed to revisit these two new ones (the man with a memory gap of the same length that the horse has the memory dump) for another year and a bit.

Writers are even trickier than dragons…that dragon’s in for a surprise.

Comments (0)

Jul 02

Good News

Posted: under Background, Good News, the writing life.
Tags: , ,  July 2nd, 2022

Most of you will know that four years and 5 months ago I was bucked off, landed head down, and got a concussion that messed with my brain quite a bit.  It was only about six months after the previous concussion (that one involved a mountain bike and a pothole with an overbite) and…yeah, damage is cumulative.  At first I couldn’t read more than a few sentences at a time (short simple ones) and couldn’t write anything.  Also couldn’t knit worth beans, and couldn’t read music either.

Long story shortened…it became obvious over time that although I recovered the ability to write coherent prose, I could not write fiction anywhere near my previous standard.  And after four years and–was it two, or three, failed book attempts???–I pretty much quit trying and worked harder on what I could do to recover physically and the rest of mentally.

Then, out of Paksworld,  in May this otherwise frenetic year, came an idea begging to be written.  And very tentatively, I started.  And it…moved.  Breathed.  And is now behaving like my other books, in that it pulls me forward (rather than me trying desperately to push it forward) and hands me what I need to do a scene or a sequence, and has built interior and exterior connections the way a book-length work must.  It’s at 35K words now, and shows no sign of quitting.

This book is set after the end of Crown of Renewal, and though a lot of familiar characters are in it, they’re older and in a different time of life than they were.  They’ve grown up, or grown out into new dimensions, or aren’t where they used to be.  Well, except Dragon, who lives on a scale of time and space the humans (even the half-elven humans) don’t have.  There’s Prince Camwyn, who was perhaps 15 or 16 when iynisin invaded the palace in Verella, and his friend Aris Marrakai, two or three years younger, who woke and discovered the danger but all else were enchanted.  Camwyn’s been gone for years now, in Dragon’s care, it’s thought, without any memory of his past, Dragon has told the king.   Aris, grown to be of age to squire Arcolin in Aarenis, still misses his friend and worries about him, feels guilty that he wasn’t faster that night.   Dragon wants Camwyn on the throne of Horngard, the mountain kingdom in the Westmounts  from which Arcolin fled long ago, as an abused bastard.  Horngard has declined even more since Arcolin left, a series of bad kings and worse councils has left it poor, depopulated, half-forgotten by the rest of the world…and prey to banditry and petty tyrants warring over scraps and rags.

I’m a very happy writer, grateful that if the same plot daemon isn’t back on the engine room, someone is keeping the revs up and the process going.  If you’re going through a bad patch in your work, whatever it is and whatever caused it…I hope you have a similar experience of unexpected success.

Comments (23)