A Snippet from the Future

Posted: July 6th, 2014 under snippet.

I’ve been working on the Cracolnya story, as much as I can–mostly cleaning out the typos and first-draft awkwardness that I usually don’t bother with until later, but work on when stuck.   And I’ve been visiting various forums where I’m registered but where the old computer system had become incommunicado (“your browser is out of date; please update to the current version…”)   So there I was on Book Country, where I’ve dabbled in advice to those who ask for help with something, and decided to post a bit of dialogue, as the forum leader suggested people do.   It’s only fair that you folks get to see it too.

This is the beginning of the story, and is set in the town where Cracolyna (the family name) grew up.   He was “Oktar” as a boy, the closest Common-speakers could get to the horsefolk name.

“Again?” Oktar’s mother glared at him. “Bloody nose, black eye, shirt torn, a complaint from the judicar–you’re a disgrace!”

“They said we were dirty stinking horse–” he paused; the word they’d used was forbidden. “–droppings,” he finished.

“You should ignore them,” his mother said. “They are ill-bred; you should not dirty your hands with them.”

Oktar’s hands, bruised and bloody as well as his nose, were at his sides, half-hidden by his long horsefolk shirt, but he knew she knew.

“Who hit first?” she asked.

“Tam Togirdsson.” He touched his nose.

“And you did not duck away. And you hit him–”

“The others were already hitting me.”

“Well. Come and I will clean your face.”

During that painful process–for she insisted on scrubbing out every raw scratch–Oktar took no heed of her words, but went on thinking how he would get back at Tam and the others. It was not his fault. It had never been his fault. He could not help having a horsefolk name, a horsefolk face, living in the neighborhood where the small group of horsefolk in this town lived clumped together for protection. He’d never stolen anything, but if one of the others stole a fruit from a stand in the market on the way home from the grange, he was the one accused. He’d never lied…well, almost never…but he was the one called a liar, if another boy wanted to make trouble. Which they mostly did.

“There,” his mother said finally. His face stung with her scrubbing. “And now you will stay inside until your father comes, and he will deal with you. You are beyond a woman’s strength to beat.”

His father. O Mare of Plenty, if his mother would not merely switch him with the horsetail that hung behind the kitchen door…if she actually meant for his father to punish him…he counted up the days in his head. Yes. He was indeed six days past the divide his father had set, and thus…

“You will polish every pot in the kitchen,” his mother said. “And then the floor. And there is no supper for you, until after.”

After what, he dared not ask.

Oktar is clearly a boy estranged from his culture of descent, and marginalized in his culture of adoption…the townsfolk have scant respect for the horsefolk beyond their ability to train horses and maanage horses.   For one thing, they smell different., so they’re considered dirty (and given their habit of sewing themselves into their winter clothes for the winter…yeah.)     For another, they spoke a language no one else understood, and learned as little of Common as possible–though Oktar, as a child, has learned Common and rather despises the family members who barely speak it.  He has not learned any more of the horsefolk language than he had to.   He is very different from the adult Captain Cracolnya, who has made a success of himself in the Duke’s Company, speaks all the languages he needs fluently (including a fair bit of Pargunese),  and is considered a fine upstanding member of the Company, the equal of other captains.  Except, to me, he always seemed a little remote…withholding himself and his backstory and his ambitions, if any.    The first hint of those was his one snappish remark to Arcolin (startled Arcolin, too…it was not typical of Cracolnya.)   It was a hint to the writer that maybe, at last, this character was willing to have a story told.

When I decided to look back into his life, beyond adulthood, to see if I could figure him out, the angry youngster burst out immediately.   Angry, frustrated, seeing no good future for himself, resentful of his family for putting him in an impossible situation (as he sees it) , refusing to be either a good horsefolk son or a good townsfolk boy.   He doesn’t even ride a horse.  Yet.  About to become a major liability to the horsefolk community in that town, and to himself.   I’m beginning to find out more about the family–the grandfather who was kicked out of his tribe for being a source of bad luck (he has a withered arm caused by…something, I can’t yet see it…that convinced the tribe he had to go.)    He took his son and his son’s pledged bride with him.  Grandfather is the very conservative, old line horsefolk guy…he knows all the culture, speaks the secret language of horses,  and though he had to make the move, he has never given in a fingersbreadth to townsfolk ways beyond absolute necessity.   Oktar’s parents are the bridge generation–they learned the local language, though with an accent; they get along as well as horsefolk can with the townsfolk; they sent Oktar to the grange with other kids in the hopes he would fit in.    There are 8-10 horsefolk-related families living in the same small neighborhood,  assimilated in varying degrees.  But they all “look like horsefolk”  to the townsfolk and are–like it or not–socially isolated.   Besides the look and the smells, townsfolk believe that horsefolk’s secret horse language allows them to control others’ horses, including make them act up (thus needing a trainer’s services) and stealing them away.

The story…wants to be a story (which is good) and the young Oktar Cracolnya is a viable character.  But.  This was intended to be a novella, something 30K or less, to be a bit of backstory.    And I’m 43oo words into it and have covered only three days.  The story needs to cover a quarter to a half year, and by extrapolation…either I leave out a lot, or it’s going to be a lot longer than 30K.   So far, the kid’s been purged, stuck on a horse led by his grandfather, and taken out of town before dawn.  He has no idea where he’s going or even where he is (by the time he can see any distance, they’re out of sight of the town.)  He’s fallen off, gotten wet, discovered that grandpa expects him to survive on a handful of raw oats once a day, fallen off again, been hailed on by a storm he’s afraid his grandfather called down to punish him.  He’s sore, hungry, scared, miserable…but he’s not thinking about how to get back at the gang of boys who beat him up.   He has more pressing problems.     Out here, knowing the secret horse language can save your life, but he’s ignored everything grandpa tried to teach him, until now.   The horses–the one he’s riding and grandpa’s–listen to grandpa, who says that Oktar would know if he only listened.

I know some of what’s coming, but not all of it.  It feels bigger than a novella.


  • Comment by Nadine Barter Bowlus — July 6, 2014 @ 10:54 am


    Thanks for this glimpse into the beginning of Cracolnya’s “back story”. It is kind of like being introduced to a newborn, with the expectation of being able to watch as the baby (in this case, a story) grows and develops. A process I’m enjoying in real life with our grandchildren.

  • Comment by Abigail Miller — July 6, 2014 @ 2:31 pm


    Three days, huh?

    Sharon Lee is, or was, a large part of the way through her current book. She recently posted on FB or somewhere, after a read-through, “Noooo! This whole book CANNOT take place on Tuesday afternoon!” Rewrite time…

  • Comment by Tuppenny — July 6, 2014 @ 3:37 pm


    Sounds lovely so far. Whatever length you and the story gods negotiate!

  • Comment by GinnyW — July 6, 2014 @ 4:20 pm


    Whatever the final length, I’ll be happy to read it. The beginning, and the sketch of what might be the middle, sound great! This glimpse of horse nomad culture, within the context of rural Tsaia, is tantalizing.

  • Comment by Kaye M — July 6, 2014 @ 4:43 pm


    I already want to read it. Hope I live long enough.;-)

  • Comment by Susan — July 6, 2014 @ 7:01 pm


    Sounds fascinating, and I can’t wait to read more (as always with your work!) Is this the same secret horse language that the Marrakai use?

  • Comment by Sharidann — July 7, 2014 @ 2:24 am


    Really interesting, can’t wait to read more about that one.

    And yes, Cracolnya always seemed more aloof than the other captains.

  • Comment by Richard — July 8, 2014 @ 2:51 am


    Nothing surprising about such a boy going for a soldier when grown, but what qualities and training did mercenary commanders in general, and the younger Kieri Phelan in particular, look for to make a captain, over and above a sergeant?

  • Comment by elizabeth — July 10, 2014 @ 10:38 pm


    Richard: Someone who has all the qualities of a good NCO plus the ability to see beyond the next task and the next level of command. A grasp of tactics and–for the senior captains–strategy. Intelligent, quick-witted, sufficient background in military science to “read” their usual enemy forces. Physical health, stamina, lack of vices that affect operations, including working with civilians (drunkards, lechers who attempt the wives of prominent citizens or the women of the Company, liars, thieves, embezzlers, blabbermouths, gamblers beyond the odd game at rare intervals…all a bad risk, not only in war itself, but in the Company’s relationship to its employers and other civilian populations.)

    In the period which this story covers, literate officers–who can read, write, and do simple accounting–is necessary, and Kieri prefers those who speak at least two languages, because it’s a mobile army that crosses borders–the captains need to be able to communicate.

    And of course–on top of the physical health, the fighting skills, the knowledge, the character…he wants natural leaders who can inspire troops in battle. It’s an era in which leadership is personal, on the field, and an effective captain must have a degree of charisma.

    Kieri has not demanded that his captains be knights (partly because he wasn’t)…he’s willing to promote NCOs that show the ability directly. He has hired knights as captains, but he’s also hired captains he then had to fire, especially in his younger days. And some were killed, like Sejek and Ferrault.

  • Comment by Joyce — July 11, 2014 @ 6:22 am


    My son, a Marine Corp officer who just got out after 11 years of service, has commented on the elusive quality of leadership. Sometimes, he says, an excellent NCO, experienced, capable, and seeming to have every quality of a good officer, will go to Officer Candidate School……do well, but then drop out. A good officer, he says, must be willing to step up and take responsibility in a crisis: “Okay, here’s what we’re going to do.” Some will, some won’t. An inherent quality perhaps, because leadership principles can be taught, but knowing what a leader is does not mean you are a leader.

  • Comment by Daniel Glover — July 12, 2014 @ 6:21 pm


    Just saw this making the face book rounds:

    “If you hear voices inside your head, and they talk like you’re not even there …

    You’re probably an author.”

    Sounds like some of what our good hostess has described.

  • Comment by GinnyW — July 14, 2014 @ 9:28 pm


    I wonder how Cracolnya came to meet Kieri, and how the bond between them came to form. It is obviously there, (e.g. Cracolnya’s reaction to Kieri’s sudden departure and Arcolin’s command.) but we don’t know anything about it. Some of it must be long association, but Cracolnya apparently talked Kieri into a mixed cohort, so there must have been a degree of earned trust and respect that went “above and beyond”.

    I hope all is well on the health/welfare/writing front.

  • Comment by Iphinome — July 16, 2014 @ 8:43 pm


    Only mildly off-topic but has your ladyship seen these sets of swords and armor for barbie dolls? http://bazaar.zheng3.com/item/53b1678aa1416c0e6c682ad7

  • Comment by elizabeth — July 16, 2014 @ 9:10 pm


    Iphinome: Yes, I saw them on Twitter…yesterday I think, or the day before. Something else, aren’t they! (Swords & armor always good, even if impractical.)

  • Comment by Wickersham's Conscience — July 16, 2014 @ 10:29 pm


    I think there must be a sub-industry of Barbie accessories; a few years ago my wife, a former bird bander, found Bird Banding Barbie, which just goes to show.

    I hope your recovery is proceeding well, Ms. Moon.

  • Comment by boballab — July 17, 2014 @ 4:24 pm


    Baen released the e-ARC of the anthology ‘Shattered Shields’ which has a new Paks Universe story in it:

    Included are seventeen new tales from top authors such as Glen Cook, Elizabeth Moon, and David Farland writing in their bestselling Black Company, Paksenarrion and Runelords universes, respectively.


  • Comment by Mike D — July 17, 2014 @ 5:44 pm


    Elizabeth Moon’s story being

    First Blood (Paksenarrion) by Elizabeth Moon

    Shattered Shields – eARC now available $15

    To be published November 2014

    Complete contents

    Ashes and Starlight (Runelords) by David Farland
    The Fixed Stars (October Daye) by Seanan McGuire
    The Keeper of Names by Larry Correia
    The Smaller We Are by John Helfers
    Invictus by Annie Bellet
    Rising Above by Sarah A. Hoyt
    A Cup of Wisdom by Joseph Zieja
    Words of Power by Wendy N. Wagner
    Lightweaver in Shadow by Gray Rinehart
    Hoofsore and Weary by Cat Rambo
    Vengeance (Frost) by Robin Wayne Bailey
    Deadfall by Nancy Fulda
    Yael of the Strings by John R. Fultz
    The Gleaners by Dave Gross
    Bonded Men by James L. Sutter
    Bone Candy (Black Company) by Glen Cook
    First Blood (Paksenarrion) by Elizabeth Moon

    Mike D
    Little Egret in Walton-on-Thames

  • Comment by Sharidann — July 25, 2014 @ 7:09 am



    What Story did you write for J.J. Adams “Operation Arcana” anthology ? 🙂

  • Comment by elizabeth — July 25, 2014 @ 8:03 am


    MikeD: And as people will notice when they read “First Blood” it was carefully designed to fit into the time period of CROWN without spoilering anything had that anthology come out before the book did, or being spoilered by the book if the anthology came out later.

    Sharidann: So there’s a title now? I managed to miss any email telling me that’s what it was to be called. I suggested two titles; I think he went with “Mercenary’s Honor.” It’s set some years before the original Paksworld books, using some characters you’ll recognize in their younger days and one you won’t, who has now muscled himself into *another* story, if I can ever get that one finished. And Vonja was already not the most ethical city-state in the Guild League.

    As with all my short fiction (almost all) both stories are only part of what’s going on.

  • Comment by Sharidann — July 27, 2014 @ 11:11 pm


    Elizabeth: he posted the title of the anthology on his blog.


    Now to cope with the waiting time … grrmmble! 🙂

  • Comment by elizabeth — July 28, 2014 @ 10:44 pm


    Sharidann: Oops. I missed it. Of course it was right after that when my father died, so maybe it just vanished from memory.

  • Comment by DavidB — August 8, 2014 @ 6:50 am


    Elizabeth – I’ve not been to your blog site for a couple of months. When I first thought that Limits of Power was going to be the end of the Paladin’s Legacy series, I was very disappointed. I had thought from your blog that the series would go five or six books.

    Seeing that you are going to pursue Cracolnya’s story gives me new hope. Thank you for the introduction – I eagerly await the full story when you have told it! I am also looking forward to your anthology of short stories this fall. Keep up the good work!

  • Comment by elizabeth — August 8, 2014 @ 9:45 am


    DavidB: Paladin’s Legacy finished at five books, as you now know. I’m having a difficult time right now because of the vision problems–eye strain headaches from working very long at a time. But things will improve; they always do eventually.

  • Comment by Patricia Lanigan — November 22, 2014 @ 5:31 am


    Thanks for all the Paksworld books. They really caught my imagination! I’ve been reading this blog occasionally and do appreciate the sharing.

    After emergency gall-bladder surgery, to take my mind off my various woes, I spent some happy hours trying to imagine Horngard and the young Jandelir Arcolin – who was his mother, and grandfather? what kind of culture did Horngard have? How did he get into Halveric company? meet Aesil M’dierra? convert to Girdish faith? grow into a trusted sargeant in Halveric Company? get recruited by Phelan? What was his role in building up a successful mercenary company?
    It was fun taking snippets from various books and trying to extrapolate backwards – and has given me the greatest respect for the hard work of writing novels. And I wasn’t even trying dialogue, just a time-line.
    Thanks again!

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