The Princess and the Paladin

paladin-epub

The Princess and the Paladin comes out in just one week! Editing is done, proofreading has been condensed into one master proof, and I should have my final manuscript by Monday! Now all that remains is the book cover, the synopsis, and the author bio (ugg). As for the first of the three, I think I've got that nailed down at last. What you've seen up to this point have been renditions of what I intend to be the print cover, but it occurred to me only yesterday that there is no reason why the print and ePub versions must be exactly the same. In fact, there are many reasons why they should not. A printed book is based upon 400dpi (in my case) and will be a static size on printed paper, while the ePub will be viewed strictly on screen, which therefore will be 71-200dpi (depending on whether you're using an old school monitor or an iPad, or anything in between) and must look good both as a greyscale image, and as a thumbnail down to an inch tall. Therefore, I present the following. --->>

Visual Aids and Setbacks

In light of recent unperceived events we’ve decided to postpone the release of The Princess and the Paladin until February 1st, 2013. This will ensure that we have all the time we need to iron out all the wrinkles and release the best product possible. However, the book will be into proof-reading stage before the new year, and we’re looking for beta readers – both for print and device (kindle, iPad, etc.).

Synopsis

Summarizing a book in few enough words to fit on the back cover can be more difficult than actually writing the book.

Here’s my latest and (I feel) most successful attempt:

The Empire is failing. The old king knew it, and did his best to aid the changing of the time, but his son has other ideas. The new king of NaRasch begins to strengthen his armies and oppress his subjects. He undoes everything that his late father has done, including imprisoning Gail, his half-sister and queen of Gaeline, though she is queen only in title and has never so much as set foot in Gaeline, let alone issued an order as queen.

Imprisoned against her will on false charges, Gail is just beginning to think things can’t get any worse when they do. She is ‘rescued’, or perhaps ‘stolen’ would be a better word, by the horror called Paladin, and sold to Bandets to be offered as ransom to a brother who has no wish to buy her back. Somewhere between three enemies which all want her dead, she must escape their grasp and make her friends wherever she can find them, from Pirates, to Prophets, to Kings. She must survive, she must run. She must find out exactly what her sword Maroward does, and she must either flee or face the Paladin. At some point she must find out whether or not she really is the queen of Gaeline, and perhaps she must help her allies in their desperate plan to bring about the dethroning of her brother and the fall of NaRasch.

Act Two – Scene Five: The Outcoming

Well, I’ve said it on facebook, so I might as well say it here. I’m hoping to release The Fall of NaRasch part one this Christmas. Yes, I realize that’s only a month away. I think I said “hoping”…

It was about a month ago now that I was pondering my inability to get anything done in the way of writing, when I decided to drop what I was doing in and about chapter twenty-three, and go back to Vestrodge in hopes that another editorial pass might spark my interest in the story again and give me the momentum to push on through NaRasch. I was somewhere in the middle of Arme when it suddenly struck me like a hundred pound (I know, we’re metric. I’m trying, really I am. It would be a little easier if I didn’t have to use an imperial tape measure at work. Carpet and linoleum still comes in 12′ rolls, you know) meteor. I don’t have to release the book all at once. Tolkien did it, hell ‘A Christmas Carol’ was released in five parts originally. So, taking a moment to solemnly swear to myself that under all circumstances I would NOT allow this book to become a trilogy (I hate the phrase – Lord of the Rings is really six books, you know. It was never intended to be three, or to have the three dumbass names that the publishers tagged onto them. I’m still in search of a hard-cover leather bound six part edition) I set out to divide The Fall of NaRasch squarely in half. To my surprise, as I continued reading, I found that I had unwittingly already created my dividing point. I came to the end of chapter 19 and the incident of the Paladin (perhaps I’m giving too much away now that I’m about to release it) and, finding Leordon laying on his back in the dirt unconscious, I had on my last alteration been unsure how to transition to the next day and simply ended there. Chapter twenty begins with a sweeping description of Soptrod and the Bandets. It was perfect. I made a few last minute changes, and began sending it out to my editors.

I’ve toyed with a few different title ideas, but I think I’ve settled on Part One: The Princess and the Paladin. It seems somehow fitting.

I’ve also updated the site – you hadn’t noticed – so if there’s a few places where my old html doesn’t quite fit properly I apologize for that. I’ll be going through and changing stuff around. My old design was a little bit rebellious toward the blog format and the whole css thing. I’m learning slowly to let rules be rules and live by them, so you’ll start to see things fit together a little better in the weeks to come. The first step is to actually write my posts in html, like I’m doing now. Can’t tell the difference? That’s okay. I Can.

Act Two – Scene Four: Deckels and Dermitology

I don’t know if I’ve spelt this right. I won’t humiliate myself by attempting to retype the word. Henceforth I will stick to the more simplistic and modern ‘tattoo’. Thought, it should be noted that that’s not what this post is about. Perhaps it’s only the grapes talking, or perhaps it’s twenty minutes into the new day, and I’m still awake.

My last post was the breaking of a long stand of what must commonly be referred to as writer’s block. Sadly, this is as well.

“Project Phoenix” was supposed to be quick and simple. It has been neither of those things. I think that perhaps my greatest downfall was in going back and re-reading my work. In the past I would have highly recommended this to myself, but when I did it this last time, it seemed to me that every conversation that Mal had with (Wow, I totally can’t remember her name right now. First prize to the person who can tell me) was somewhat unbelievable. This led me to the realization that I would eventually need to go back and rewrite those conversations, and I think it got me so discouraged, that I haven’t been able to come back to the keyboard since.

Of course, I have other excuses as well, but I think my point still stands. On a side note, I seem to set myself to writing these messages just after midnight when I’m half asleep. I shall have to come back at some point when it’s the middle of the day and I’m in my right mind to see if they even make sense…

Anyhow, I suppose this post is me attempting to revive my writing habit. I should also note that I wrote nearly a paragraph in Project Phoenix before I came here, which right now is a big deal for me, so perhaps there is hope. Besides, I have a shiny new set of hard and soft ware (including windows 8 which I could write more than a few rants about) so I really have no excuse not to write.

Well, that’s it. That’s all I got.

Goodnight.

Act Two – Scene Three: Where Convict Defined

Writer’s Block

This is a highly complex word that lazy people use to describe a certain form of laziness that causes them to loose all ability and desire. I have spoken.

Inspiration

A momentary lapse of writer’s block. Transversely, a lack of this is what lazy people use to explain away the realization of their laziness. I have spoken.

Creativity

A constant – a thing which exists always and must be brought forth by sheer force of will – not a puppy that sometimes comes out to play and other times does not.

Dicipline

A wild animal of the distant northern wilderness, of close relation to the grizzly bear and the elusive yellow dragon. I have spoken.

(As a side note, blue is the only of the six main colors – including black and white which are not colors but, for the purposes of crayon manufacturing and this argument, are – blue is the only color of dragon that doesn’t sound completely badass.)

Thus have I taken this opportunity to write on the subject of not writing. I hope I have not glorified the matter as writers so often tend to do. My purpose here really has not been to discuss the matter, but to enjoy the feeling of my Apple keyboard beneath my clean fingertips and the sight of large and crisp AOC 22″ monitor which until this moment has been sadly neglected. This in describing the above words I convict myself. I have spoken.

ps. I am reminded once again that anything that can be said using ‘ly’ words generally sounds better after they have been omitted.

Act Two – Scene Three

Part Two: Sight and Circumstance

The mess hall was chaos. It was the very nature of a school to take the students with the least organizational skills and make them organizers. The school board and the planning committee called it democracy. Maleoke called it school spirit.

An impressive effort had begun to transform the plain hall of function into a festive ballroom in preparation for tomorrow evening’s party. The tables had been strewn about the floor in a haphazard fashion and nearly all of them were overflowing with gaudy decorative materials. Several of the high ranking members of the student body were busy running about, shouting orders to everyone and no one in particular. Maleoke grimaced as he entered the chaos, consoling himself that it was a relatively straight shot to the opposite door and his dorm beyond. It would take hours, he knew, but eventually this madness would morph into a somewhat respectable looking party, and he was content to wait for it, so long as it would allow him his  shortcut to peace and quiet. He gained the other door at last, and emerged into the open air like a boat shot from some perilous rapids to drift victoriously in the calm beyond.

“There you are,” said a voice from behind him. Maleoke nearly jumped at the words. He whirled around and found Embyr behind him. She was leaning against the wall just behind the open door, her right leg crossed behind her left and her hands folded behind her back. Her head was tilted to one side, and as soon as he saw her Maleoke knew she had been waiting for him, knowing that he must eventually pass this way.

“Don’t you have something better to do?” asked Maleoke, turning to resume his walk.

“I heard you were in to see the head Master,” said Embyr, pushing herself from the wall and coming at a light run to catch him up.

“You hear a lot of things,” Maleoke retorted irritably. “I was in the library all day.”

“You’re a terrible liar, Maleoke Parphonette!” she said with a laugh. “I heard from a friend who saw you there! Rumor has it there’s a big wig from the MPA here, and I’m betting you met him, didn’t you!”

“I was in the library,” repeated Maleoke, “studying for my exam in the morning.”

“Hogwash! You know those books off by heart! So what’d the Alliance want? Looking for more drones?”

“Yes,” Maleoke said, his stride unbroken and his gaze fixed on the building across the laws – the one which she was forbidden to enter and he was not. “They’re considering me for a position in the Prophetic Alliance – a full position.”

“And you told them to drag their starched robes back the way they came of course!” said Embyr.

“I most certainly did not.”

“Maleoke!” she said, giving him a slap as though she were his mother and he had used a cuss word. Then he re-evaluated. No, her slap was not intended to hurt.

“It’s good money,” he said, his tone becoming defensive despite his best efforts. “It’s a secure position with good renown, and the Alliance looks after their own.”

“At the expense of the rest of us!” exploded Embyr. “I wouldn’t have thought you would sell out for so little. The rest of this rabble, sure! But you?”

“Oh, shut it,” retorted Maleoke. “You’d take the money in an instant, just like the rest of us.”

“I most certainly would not!” It was difficult to tell how much of her offense was real and how much was staged – the better portion, he guessed. “Those pompous overlords have nothing of any remote interest to me! I’m going way higher than any of them have ever dreamed of – and you could too!”

“It’s a little late for freshman fantasies,” said Maleoke, a bit more harshly than he intended. “You can chase pipe dreams all you like, but this… this is real money – money that I can hold and spend – and it comes with the respect due a Prophet. Call that selling out, if you like.”

“Who’s in charge of the Alliance?” demanded Embyr.

“What?”

“Who runs it? Who’s the boss? What about his councillors?”

“It’s run by Prophets,” said Maleoke.

“Yes, but which Prophets? What are their names?”

“I don’t know…”

“Exactly!” she said triumphantly. “And neither does anyone else. They’re shadows – formed into the mold of the Alliance. Maleoke, those men had to be someone to get there. They had to be really remarkable or really manipulative – so why aren’t they famous?”

“Maybe they don’t want to be?”

“Don’t be absurd! Everyone wants to be famous.”

“I don’t.”

“You’re an idiot, and yes you do. You’re a bigger idiot if you expect me to believe that. Maleoke!” she had stopped walking. He kept going, until she called his name again, this time making it a command that he could not safely ignore. He stopped and turned to look at her. “Mal, they haven’t got names because the Alliance took them away – traded them for gold. You can sell your name easy for money, but all the gold in the world won’t buy it back.”

“What do you know?” Maleoke muttered.

“I know you, mister!” she replied. “I know that you’d go there and do brilliant things and those nameless apes at the top would get rich and fat off of you. But you – you’d never see a coin of it, save what they put in your weekly pension. You’d grow old before your time in that system, given to a life of luxury and paid only enough to survive it, smiled at by a few bureaucrats, and remembered by none. Twenty years from now they’ll be saying ‘Maleoke who?’ and you’ll be explaining to them ‘that’s my name’.”

“And I guess you have a better plan,” said Maleoke.

“I’ve got ten plans better than that,” she replied, “and one or two of them might make better money. But how would you know when you’re too scared to try?”

“Scared?”

“Yes, I said scared!”

“Try ‘smart’ on for size,” he snapped.

“Mal!” She fairly yelled the words, bringing the conversation to a standstill. “You always were a brick,” she said after a moment. Her voice was changed. She was calm, speaking quietly now, so quietly that he had to come closer to hear her. “You are smart, but sometimes it’s in all the wrong ways.”

He wanted to retort then and there, but her changed tone denied it. “All I’m trying to say is you’re worth more than what they’d give you,” she went on. “You’ve got it through your head that you’ll be happy once you’ve got a bit more money and a fancier badge on your robe but you won’t. You’re a terrible liar, and the only one still believing you is yourself. You’d hear the truth if you’d just shut up and listen for a minute – if you’d be honest with yourself.”

“You never liked the Alliance,” Maleoke said.

Embyr ignored his accusation. “Do you remember,” she asked, “two years ago after the end of summer when you’d been in Morvan? Do you remember that night after the autumn feasts? That place in the woods?” Without his realizing it, she had taken his hand in hers.

“I do,” he said, “what of it?”

“Do you remember what you said to me?”

“It was a long time ago,” Maleoke said defensively.

“Oh, shut up! You remember.” And he did. He had spent the semester before chasing Embyr about the campus, covertly lining his classes up with hers and manipulating his way through study groups, just to spend a little more time with the fiery redhead who had captured his attention. He had been oblivious to the social situations, of course, so preoccupied had he been with his pursuit, but she had seen every minute of it, watched his every advance, and waited for him. Then, a week before he was to leave, he had finally worked up the courage to ask her out, and their relationship had burst into bloom.

It was the stuff of schoolyard legends – the best of rumors that everyone sees coming and feels as if they’re somehow in the know of some juicy secret when it finally happens. It had lasted for exactly a week, and then he was gone, whisked away to Morvan for an apprenticeship with a subsidiary of the Alliance. They kept up their relationship through letters, and by the time summer ended and he returned to Coreson he was unquestionably, unapologetically, head-over-heels in love.

He had come back to the autumn feast, and she had been waiting for him, there to resume where they had left off. After the last night they had gone walking in the woods. He remembered how excited he had been – how his mind was fit to explode and how his hands shook, just knowing she was there walking beside him.

Of course, it had all fallen apart a week or so later and it was the testament of two years and a lot of social discipline that found them friends now, but try as he might Maleoke could not forget that night, and whenever he recalled it he would nearly fall in love again just from the memory.

“You made a promise to me, Mal,” said Embyr. “You said you’d wasted your summer and you should have spent it with me. You said you’d never do it again.”

“Yeah, and look how that turned out,” Maleoke said with a chuckle. “I said a lot of dumb stuff back then.”

“You didn’t say that for my sake,” Embyr retorted. “You knew something then that you’ve forgotten. You knew that the Alliance couldn’t make you happy – that their money couldn’t make you happy. Maybe we hadn’t figured out what we wanted, but Ancients, we knew what we didn’t want.”

“We were delusional,” said Maleoke, but now he didn’t even believe it. He could feel his mask cracking, and he knew she saw it too. “Things change – people change.” He wondered if it sounded as lame to her as it did to him.

“Not us,” she replied. “We’re the same short-sighted idiots we were two years ago. You’ve got to see that. I don’t care if you’re honest with me,” she took a step closer staring him in the eye so he couldn’t look away, “but promise me you’ll be honest with yourself before you pack your bags.”

“I’ll think about it,” Maleoke muttered.

“You’re incorrigible,” she said. Standing on tiptoe, she kissing him lightly on the cheek.

“And you’re a nag,” he replied. Then he stepped back, breaking her grip. He no longer felt like being stuffed up in his room. Turning his back on Embyr he moved off the sidewalk and made for the corner of the dorm.

“Where are you going?” she called after him.

“Somewhere quiet,” he replied, “where I can think in silence!”

The School of the Prophets was old – older than anyone remembered. The library still had on display a few old documents from the founding of the school, but these were so weather worn that they could hardly be read, even under a glass. The dates in them were in an archaic mode that some claimed to understand but that no one could agree upon, and the few translations that the library offered were a close approximation at best, and highly flawed at worst. The school had always been in this valley, but most of the buildings had been burnt down so many times that it was doubtful that they were anything like they had been. Only the library was unchanged. It was built of great pieces of stone, so great that even the technologies of Morvan could not have managed them, and the air within its walls would not abide any flame to exist. So the library and its contents had stayed, but the rest had all been transformed, probably many times over.

The school was laid out in more or less a diamond pattern, with the fountain and its circular highways at the center. The library was directly to the north of this, and the road lay to the south, though it wandered a little west as it went. The teacher’s houses were on the west of the fountain, and the mess hall and dorms were on the east, with various other facilities sprinkled among the layout. Behind the dorms lay a park which took up about a third of the valley and ran up to the cliffs which surrounded the valley on three sides, making it impossible to get in or out save by the road.

Maleoke made his way into the park. He wandered aimlessly at first, following the few paths that went this way and that, but after a time he abandon these. It was only after he had been walking for some time that he found himself heading steadily toward the north-eastern corner of the grounds. There a small shallow lake lay between the wood and the cliffs, fed by a small stream that ran from a gap in the cliff. He had been there many times before, though not for a year or more. It seemed a little strange to him, now that he thought about it, that it had been so long. But he supposed it only made sense. His studies had been demanding, and he had given himself fully to learning, especially after his ill-conceived relationship with Embyr. But now it was true what she said. He knew his text books by heart. The best thing he could do now to prepare was to relax and rest, so there was no time better than the present to visit an old haunt.

He came at last to the lake by an indirect route. It was a bit muddier than he had remembered it, and more weeds grew about the shore. But it was also a matter of days until the school would be drained of students and operating staff alike. Then the groundskeepers would have the place all to themselves for two months. It only made sense that they might let a few of the less important tasks slide in these last weeks. Well-kept or not, seeing the lake after so long felt a bit like coming home for Maleoke.

He made his way along the shoreline toward the cliff on the right. There, where the cliff met the lake, the stream flowed through a gap a little wider than the dormitory hallways, falling over steps that had been carved from the earth in some forgotten age. For some two hundred steps or more it climbed, back away from the valley to a sort of hidden sanctuary in the cliff. Maleoke came to the mouth of the stream and stepped in the water. The steps were placed well apart, but he made the climb with two strides to a step and so came to the top.

The sanctuary was perhaps the most interesting and remarkable piece of the Coreson School, but it was also a carefully guarded secret. To Prophets across the land it was a fond memory, but to the rest of the world it was a thing of vague legend – a secret easily kept because one would not understand the draw it had until they saw it for themselves. It was more or less circular, with a diameter of about twenty meters at the bottom. The floor was a carefully groomed lawn with a few stone benches and choice shrubbery set about the edge. There was a fountain here too. It was set in the center of the circle, and it was about three meters across, a shallow basin not much deeper than the height of a shoe. A stone phoenix perched on the rim opposite the entrance with wings folded and leaned over the water. The fountain came from its mouth and poured into the center of the basin. From there it poured out evenly over every edge and ran in a sandy stream to the staircase.

The walls of the sanctuary were riddled with tunnels. It was difficult to say whether these were natural or made by men. They were not formed, and certainly looked like the work of weather, but they all connected flawlessly one to another and from several openings on the ground one might walk by many winding ways up many levels to balconies set in the wall at different places, open to the central room. Grass grew within these balconies, though they were not open to the sky. It was most commonly believed that the rocks of the valley could reflect the virtue of the sun, and sometimes at night the basin would steam and fill the entire valley with dense fog, so the grass flourished without ever seeing sun or rain.

This sanctuary, like the lake outside, had seen some neglect in the past weeks. The grass, normally well trimmed, had grown long, and many of the shrubs had become ragged. None of this bothered Maleoke though. It meant that it had been some time since anyone had been here. It meant that he would be really alone without the need for climbing to one of the higher balconies. He moved to one of the benches along the wall and sat down.

The fountain soon drew his attention. It was not as steady and comforting as the one at the center of the school. Rather, this one had an uneven flow – almost a throbbing pulse like something alive. He recalled at times past that it seemed to mimic a heartbeat and serve to calm the nerves, but not so today. Now as he listened it sounded almost a frantic noise, like a flighty thing that ran from pursuit, or the kinetics professor’s steam turbine set free of its load to turn as fast as its own weight allowed. It seemed to match the turmoil within his head, though he could not define his own thoughts in such clear metaphors.

Maleoke took a deep breath, and tried to clear his head. This was no time to be analyzing fountains. He needed to be objective in his thinking. He needed to sort things out – to reestablish his position. Embyr had shaken his conviction, but deep down in his core he knew that she was wrong. He’d be cheating himself if he allowed his emotions to cloud his vision now. There was a certain way in which these things worked – the smallest idea could grow and fester and change one’s entire perception if it were permitted to, and these ideas, so deeply rooted in emotion, must not be allowed to grow. He was willing to concede that there was a small measure of truth to what she said, but it must be seen as just that – a small measure.

For starters, there were a dozen or more reasons why the leaders of the Alliance should remain nameless. The foremost was humility. Any man might be willing to forgo recognition for the greater good of humanity. Men such as the great Prophets would embrace such a notion. The second likely reason was safety in anonymity. The Alliance had many enemies and it was only in its best interest to keep secret the identities of those most important to it – those who would be seen as targets for its enemies. On that point alone Embyr’s entire ideology fell to pieces. She, unlike him, was driven by a need for recognition. How had he not seen that before? Hadn’t her father worked for the Alliance? Perhaps there was some bitterness there that he had passed along to her. There were endless possibilities, and all of them explained why she should hold a grudge against the Alliance. There were reasons why it was the oldest and strongest entity in Moran. What the MPA was doing worked, which was more than he could say for Embyr.

He continued mulling the matter over and gradually as his mind sorted out the tangles his head began to nod. Several times he found his eyes closing and fought it, but at last he realized that he really had nothing better to do and nowhere to be, so he laid himself down on the bench and fell asleep.

Act Two – Scene Two: Project Phoenix

I realize that nobody really reads this stuff, but as always input is appreciated. Unfortunately a free site membership is required in order to comment (for spamming reasons) but if you got here from facebook you can drop a comment on Arlen Bresh Publishing.

 

PART I

THE BUREAUCRAT

The lobby was a thing of elegance. It was almost as if it were built specifically to intimidate the students of the Coreson School of Prophecy, with its high vaulted ceiling dominated by a crystal chandelier and the indoor stream snaking its way through a plant garden that covered three walls of the room. The final wall was set like the front of a cathedral with the bookkeeper at his desk in the middle dwarfing the door to the left which led down a long hall and eventually to the study and private library of the School Master. The grand waiting area must have cost a small fortune to build, and it all seemed to be for the purpose of reminding the students that waited there of their position in life. To be commanded to wait here was either an event of great excitement or foreboding.

For Maleoke Parphonet it was the former emotion. He had taken his seat here nearly an hour ago, and watched as the minutes of his appointment fell off the clock, and still every name was called but his. But still he waited, for he had been summoned and that meant that he would not go ignored forever. Someone wanted to see him, and as far as he knew he had done nothing worthy of reprimand. In fact, if he were honest with himself, he had to admit that several of his recent accomplishments were quite remarkable for any prophet, much less an un-graduated intern; nearly-graduated, corrected himself. So if all his recent actions had been positive he must only conclude that this audience was to be equally positive. He did not presume to make any assumptions, but he was hardly what might be considered worried.

“Mister Parphonet,” called the bookkeeper. “Approach the front.”

Maleoke rose from his seat, picking up his book satchel, and straightened his uniform. It was the nearly nondescript grey assigned to the fifth-year interns with the school-standard Sun Shield embroidered on the breast. The loose fitting tunic fell to just above his knees, for it was only upon graduation that he would be permitted to wear the full-length robe of the Prophetic order – the robe that would grant him access to a life most people only dreamed of. But for the moment he straightened his tunic and made his way toward the desk.

“The master will see you now,” said the Bookkeeper, without so much as looking up when Maleoke came near. It was always the way with him. It was said among the students of Coreson that the school Master and the bookkeeper had a way of speaking to one another through walls and without words. The master would dismiss a student even as the bookkeeper admitted another, and when the student returned from his meeting the bookkeeper might have some special instruction for him that the master had not bothered to give. It only added to the sense of grandeur that saturated the head Master’s office.

Maleoke stepped through the door into the hall beyond. He had been here only once before – a week after his arrival at the school. Then the head master had called him in to welcome him, and to address the matter of some small feud between Maleoke and another student – a feud that neither he nor the other student had spoken of to anyone. Yet the headmaster had more insight into the matter than either intern, and had settled it quickly, making punishment to fit crime and causing each boy to consider seriously his future with the school. It was a meeting Maleoke would not soon forget.

The long hall was just as he remembered it. The roof stood about three times higher than it needed to be, dwarfing the various doorways that broke through the wall in ornate frames. There were perhaps ten or twenty of them, and that number seemed to change each time he recounted. They all stood closed – locked – and of all the conversations Maleoke had ever heard about the head Master and this hall he had never heard of anyone opening any door but the one through which he was directed – the one at the end on the left.

There was never any confusion because this door was bigger than all the others, and the carved frame was wider and more elaborate. Unlike the others, this door had no handle. One walked up to it, and when it opened, one entered. Maleoke stood outside the door and tried to catch his breath using a rudimentary mental practice taught early in the Prophetic teachings. He had not realized how excited he was – how out of control his emotions were, and he must be in control of himself when he appeared before the Master.

“Come in, Maleoke,” said a voice from behind the door, and slowly the great portal began to open, swinging silently upon its hinges without the physical influence of any man. Maleoke stepped through into the school Master’s study.

Beyond the door the masters study appeared as it might be expected to which, considering, was in contrast to the rest of the building. It was certainly grand, and the furniture that filled it and the paintings that decorated the walls were all fit for the palace of a king, but everything here felt a little more to scale. It felt as if this might actually be the office of a living breathing human. Maleoke found himself breathing a little more easily.

The study overlooked the school ground by three windows which stood at angles to one another and so made a sort of alcove in one wall. While the sun was up one could stand at the windows and look out over the teachers’ offices to the fountains beyond and the circular pavements that connected the major buildings of the campus; the cafeteria and mess halls, the dorms, the library, and of course the teachers’ offices and training grounds. The head Master’s office was the highest building on the campus, but now the sun had set and all that could be seen through the picture windows was the faint distant lights coming from dorms and the library.

Before the great windows sat the Master’s desk, and behind it was his chair, but he was not in his chair. Neither was he at one of the several couches that sat in the left-hand corner of the room, for what purpose Maleoke could not imagine as they had never to his knowledge seen any use. Instead, the school Master of Coreson was standing on the near side of his desk, and with him was another man.

This second individual was clearly not a teacher, or any staff member Maleoke could recognize, and from his bearing the young intern knew that he was none of the staff members that he could not recognize. He was a little taller than the head Master, and though he had on his hand the marking of the Sun Shield that distinguished him as a Prophet, he wore no robe but instead dressed as a dignitary or a bureaucrat might, in a tunic and pants with an ornamental sword at his side. He had hard features, as though all the kindness had been chiselled off of his face, though it was not that he looked particularly unkind. His hair was coal black, and cut short so that it stood up on end, and even through his clothes Maleoke could tell that this bureaucrat was as strong as a young bear.

“There’s someone here I’d like you to meet,” the head Master was saying. It seemed like an unnecessary thing to say, but the intern took no notice. He was glad of any speech that might make the meeting less awkward. “Would you like to sit?” asked the master, almost as an afterthought. Maleoke nearly answered, but then he realized that the question was not directed at him.

“I’ll be fine,” said the bureaucrat. His voice was surprisingly low. “I won’t take long, and then I must be about my business.”

“Maleoke,” said the Master, “I’d like you to meet Sir Kandace Longshod from the Morovian Prophetic Alliance. He’s here in search of potential recruits for the alliance, and I suggested you to him.”

“It’s an honor to meet you, Mister Parphonette,” said Longshod. “Your master tells me great things about you.”

“I am humbled by his kind words,” replied Maleoke, accepting a little reluctantly the hand that was offered him and shaking it. The bureaucrat’s grip was like steel. “And the honor is all mine.”

“Yes of course,” said Longshod. “Now, Maleoke, I have a notion you’ve got some idea of what the MPA does…”

“Of course,” replied the intern without hesitation. “You’re archeologists. You manage the diggings in the tunnels of Morvan.”

“That’s part of it,” said the bureaucrat, a little amused. “A small part, mind you. What we do is not all digging. We search out the secrets of the old world, and we relearn them. Most importantly, we protect them.”

“Yes, I know,” said Maleoke. “I’ve read everything the library has on Morvan and the work that the Alliance does there.”

“You have an interest then?”

“Oh, very much so!” said Maleoke. “I’ve always been fascinated by the old world. My uncle was a member of the Alliance, and so was my grandfather.”

“Yes, they were,” said Longshod, “And great Prophets too. Maleoke, I’m here, as your Master said, to seek out new recruitment for the MPA. Do you understand what a big deal that is?” Maleoke nodded quickly, but the bureaucrat continued anyway. “The Alliance has around a hundred members stationed in various cities, mostly in Morvan. Normally we only accept two or three new members each year, and they are almost always seasoned Prophets with twenty years or more of experience, and then only the most outstanding applicants get accepted. In the long history of the Alliance only once before have we accepted a member as young as yourself. The fact that I’m here having this conversation with you says what tremendous words your Master has spoken in your favor. My purpose in coming to Coreson is to see if his words are true. Do you understand?”

Maleoke nodded, but he could not make his mouth open or coax words from his suddenly dry throat. His mind was exploding behind his closed lips.

“Good boy,” said Longshod. He gave the intern a smile that did not quite make it to his eyes. “Now, I’ll be in the city for two days, until after graduation. Then I’m going back to Morvan. When I go I want you to come with me and perform the tests for application to the MPA.”

Maleoke opened his mouth to speak, but the bureaucrat cut him off. “I don’t want an answer from you now,” he said, though it seemed plain that he knew what the intern’s answer would be as well as he himself did. “You have until graduation to make your decision, but I have faith in you to make the right choice.”

Maleoke nodded and then stood waiting. A long moment of silence stretched out, and then the school Master spoke. “That is all, Maleoke,” he said. “You may go now.”

The intern nodded again. “Thank you sir,” he managed to say, and this time when he shook the bureaucrat’s hand his grip was not so firm. “I won’t disappoint you.” Then he turned, and nearly fled the room. The door closed behind him silently.

“Are you sure about this, Andrew?” asked the bureaucrat from Morvan. His eyes were still on the door where Maleoke had been a moment before.

“I’m sure,” replied the head Master. “If it’s anyone in this rabble it’d be him. He’s the one you want.”

“I have ten other leads I could be following right now,” said Longshod. “You’d better not be wasting my time.”

“And I have fifty-six interns to graduate tomorrow,” replied the school Master a little hotly. “You’d better not be wasting mine. You’ve got no more to lose than I, I remind you.”

Act Two – Scene One: Into the Grey

It’s been about a month since I’ve sat down with a word document and produced anything. I’m back, and my resolve to finish this book… again… is redoubled. I’ve still got my best draft of my cover sitting on my writing desk, cut to size and folded around my warn copy of “The Two Towers” and every time I see it, it sets me itching to have something other than Tolkien in that book block. I’m sitting on three hundred dollars of hardware and so far all it’s done is print recipies for my wife (not at all a waste, by the way).

Our adventures in the world of surrogate parenthood at the beginnig bled into the holidays for me, and that combined with my brother-in-law staying in my office pretty much chocks up to my excuse for having done nothing on here in a month. But since my absence I’m sporting an extremely tiny USB to Bluetooth adapter in the back of my tower – which now means I’m typing on my shiny apple keyboard – which makes me happy.

On a side note: I write on a PC. In reguards to the Mac/PC wars I am quite willing to admit the relative supremacy of the former. I love my iPhone and you couldn’t pay me to trade it in for a windows phone of equal or greater value. I’m even using an apple keyboard, and I’m loving it, but the sad truth is that apple has yet to creat a word processor to compete with the wonder of Word 2010, and the Mac version of word is laughable. That is all there is to it. Perhaps this should have been in ‘Grinds my Gears’.

On another side note: It IS true what they say – BlueTooth DOES make EVERYTHING better.

Now back to… whatever the heck this was. If you noticed that my illconceived title numbers have progressed to the second act you should know that I had two reasons for doing this. The first is that as I write it has progressed to December the 30th and in 48 hours from now it will be a new year. If this is not enough reason for a second act I have also that I feel my repairing endeavors have moved through something of a transition.

What I mean is this: Up to this point I felt that I understood clearly the changes that needed to be made in Garawain. The story had already been written twice before I got my hands on it… again… and by now I know what I like and what I do not like. But with Gail’s arrival in NaRasch my endeavors become a little less cut and dry. As I recall from this point on my original draft was VERY different from the second (Garawain), and this third rendition is liable to be as different from the second as it was from the first if I am not careful. But though I’ve got some vague idea of what will still do and what must be changed, I come to the solemn realization that I’ve moved into deep water, so to speak, and from here I may have to put in a lot more work per chapter.

I think my chief challenge is in creating back story. It’s bad enough when a reader has a question about some particular that I am unable answer, but I begin to run into problems when I’m not even able to answer my own questions about things. In the past I’ve always given myself back story by writing and rewriting stories (thus this being the third draft of this story). The concept and outline thing that they tried to teach me in highschool never worked well for me. I always ended up making my outlines based on my finished essay.

So perhaps in all of this what I’m saying (what i’m figuring out as I write) is that perhaps what this book needs is some more short stories, concerning other segments of the Fall of NaRasch that will not be in the book but which impact it. Perhaps I should be writing more about the Karbaan, about Gomarden and the Irithol, about that strange king what’s his face, and about Whince Badural, the Barron, The Watch and Shadokoep (Poorake depreciated). Perhaps. In the mean time I’ll wander allong my way. More to follow soon. I think I’ll post whatever drama is to befall Gail in NaRasch when I’ve figured it out. Until then, I’ll be admiring my shiny keyboard and loosing myself in productive rabbit trails.

Act One – Scene Thirteen: The Passing of Titans

Here is my re-rendering of the death of Hayley (was Hasnove). I’m not entirely sure if I’ve done any good here, but considering matters, I’m not sure I could have made it any worse. At any rate, the rip-off line from Chronicles of Riddick is probably the one sentance I have written that I have regretted the most, so at any cost I am pleased to be rid of it. After all, it wasn’t as if it even made sense or did anything for the plot…

As a forward to the snippet I should note that I’ve reordered events so that Hayley and Alken leave the company directly before the rest arrive at Kanedon, so that as they fight in Craharn Gail has become engrossed in the Geldrin school of warfare as a means to pass time. Hayley on his return would therefore logically be heading to Kanedon.

When the sun set Gail was exhausted. She was more sore and bruised than she remembered ever being before, even on her first days with Anne. She stayed at the school that night. She could have gone back to her room at the keep, but it Lecia Geldrin offered her a bed, and it seemed better to her to stay here among her classmates. She was put in a room with the only three other girls in attendance there.The next day passed in much the same way, and the next after that. From sunup to sundown the princess of NaRasch was kept busy with various fighting scenarios, always pushed to expand her understanding and improve her reflexes. Her muscles hardened, and she found herself performing motions she had not been able to accomplish before.

 

 

The morning of the fourth day came as the two had before it, with a simple breakfast and then the resuming of practice. Gail had hardly faced off, however, when Arlen Bresh came riding into the grounds. He rode right up to here before dropping from the saddle.

“Hayley has returned!” said the Pirate breathlessly. “I came as soon as I heard! Come with me!”

Lecia Geldrin was with the queen that morning, and Taylor was teaching nearby. Gail looked automatically to the master of defense, and he nodded, giving her his leave – not that she would have needed it. Arlen Bresh remounted his horse, and held out an arm to pull Gail up behind him. When she had mounted he turned the steed about, galloping back to the keep.

They passed beneath the queen’s house and rode down through the city. The traffic of the morning scattered before them and in minutes they came to the front gate. There, a little beyond the gate, stood a horse, wounded and covered in blood and dirt. Beside the horse lay Hayley, himself every bit as battered as his steed. He was cut in many places, and an arrow protruded from his arm. Freyn was there, kneeling over her grandfather. The old man was shaking his head determinedly.

“Father, we must get you to the physicians!” Freyn was saying. “There is very little time!”

“There is no time at all,” replied Hayley, even as Arlen and Gail were dismounting. “My daughter, I am wounded far beyond what the eye betrays. There are few bones in my body which are not broken, for I was astride Bruno when a dart struck him down. I fell far. I am wasted – let me be.”

“You underestimate the skill of my doctors,” pleaded Freyn. “Come, and find comfort.”

“There is none left for me,” said Hayley, choking on his word. “I am thinking now for your safety. Know this now – that Craharn has fallen, and the royal house is dead. Your loyal warrior Alken died in defense of the king, and he did not throw his life away lightly as you commanded him. I escaped only when all those I had gone to protect were slain, but I was struck as I ran, and I have been pursued by the Watch. I must not pass your gate, or let it be known that you have been friends with the empire. Say, rather, that I came and you refused me sanctuary. Shut your gates!”

“I cannot do that!” insisted Freyn.

“You must!” replied Hayley, “for you and for your people! They will raise this place and burn your children alive! I am nearly spent. In any case they will not find me alive. Freyn, promise me you will leave me here.”

At last the queen nodded her head, accepting what she knew to be true. “I promise,” she said.

“I have loved you, dear one,” said Hayley.

“And I you,” replied the queen.

Then the old man turned his attention to Gail and Arlen. “Pirate,” he said, his voice rasping. He choked, and spat out blood. “The sword…”

Arlen brought the Sword of Anne Gretnert from his back in a fluid motion, and presented it to the old man. “Keep it,” said Hayley. “And bring it when you may to lord Gretnert, or return it to Vestrodge.”

Arlen nodded his acceptance of the charge. “Thank you,” he said, “for everything.”

At last Hayley addressed Gail. With a feeble movement of his good arm he beckoned her closer. She came, kneeling beside Freyn.

“I am sorry,” said her grandfather. “I have made many promises to you, and now I leave them all unfulfilled.”

Gail had nothing to say in response, so she took Hayley’s hand and held it. Tears welled up in her eyes as she looked into the battered face, and saw pain there.

“Don’t stop,” Hayley went on. “…not ever. You will find a way… they will need you now. They will all need you…” He broke into a series of coughs, each one more shallow than the last. When at last he caught his breath his eyes were unfocused, and his body relaxed. “Spektare,” he said with his last breath. Then he died.