Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Iron Lily (Part 9)

Halthor started to look behind him at the noise of activity in the yard before the temple. The priest at his side tugged on his left wrist and Halthor returned his attention to following the man. The hallway they moved through was dimly lit by narrow windows at the top of the leeward wall of the building. Little light came in through them between the eves covering them and the storm. Despite that dim light, though, Halthor saw richly detailed tapestries hanging on the outer wall. Most were pictorial stories of the history of Ranyth. The stylized images of the First Kings and their children grew progressively more complex and lifelike as they passed through the histories up to the cloth that spoke of the founder of the present dynasty. This cloth hung beside the door into the priest's living quarters.

As they stood at the door and Halthor waited for the priest to do what ever they were there to do, he looked at the image. At the top of the tapestry, Halthor saw a lily. Unlike any lily he had ever seen, this was fashioned in what appeared to be metallic thread. He noticed that the lily was repeated down the tapestry as a central divider with each iteration being more stylized. The final version matched what he saw upon his master's hammer and the axe given to him at Wye. The door to the priest's living quarters opened and a warm rush of air caressed the traveler. The priest tapped him on the arm.

Halthor looked over. The priest's brother in service looked up from the boot he was mending. The older man set aside his awl and brushed his hands on his apron. As he rose, Halthor realized that the old priest was easily six to eight inches taller than himself, though Halthor stood at six feet even. The tall priest had a wiry strength to him that made Halthor question if he had a life of hard labor before he was called to the Storm Lord's service. "Brother Mavora," the priest said to his companion, "Why have you brought this man here?" Mavora made a flicking gesture in the air about his head and then pointed to Halthor. The man with the leather apron squinted at Halthor. "I do not see any sign of ..." he began when an errant ray of light cut through the storm's gloom and defied the building's construction to fall on Halthor.

The priest looked harder at Halthor, his expression somewhere between suspicion and disbelief. "I did not think this day would come," the man with the stone grey hair muttered, "He bears the sign of our Lord's hand but he is not marked for him. My grand-da said that the Traveler would come at the beginning of the dark days. I thought it was age addling his wits." The old priest shook his head with a look of disappointment. "Come," the tall man said, motioning towards a bench beside the fireplace, "Ewen will be here soon with our evening's fare. Perhaps your nephew, Mavora, will bring us a fish as well. The crossing should have enough open water for him to get something with that pole and raft of his." Halthor walked over to the bench that Mavora was hastily moving to where Halthor's feet could be closer to the snapping fire.

As the younger, voiceless priest straightened there was a noise in the hallway back to the entryway of the temple. Mavora started to move towards the door when the older man motioned for him to remain. The grey haired man moved with surprising grace through the doorway and down the passage. Mavora ran a hand through his curly brown hair. He looked about the chamber with a small look of dismay. His eyes alighted upon a jug sitting on a shelf against the coldest wall of the room. As the mute man found cups and set to the task of pouring out a drink for himself and his companions, the sounds of an argument came down the hallway. Halthor moved to rise when Mavora caught his eye and shook his head.

As suddenly as the argument arose, it finished. The noise of a door slamming came shortly before the elder priest returned. He walked back into the living quarters with a look of mild disgust. The tall man shook his head. "That lot will be nothing but trouble, I'm sure of it," he said as he shut the door. He looked over at Halthor. "You're in a great deal of trouble, son," he said. Halthor sighed and looked down into the depths of the cup that Mavora handed him. The elder priest returned to where he was mending his boot. He took his cup of beer from his fellow priest and gave him a nod of thanks.

His dark eyes looked Halthor over from head to toe. The iridescent nimbus that had appeared so briefly when the stray ray of light had hit him had vanished with the movement of the clouds. Now, Halthor looked simply to be a tired traveler who labored under some secret burden and sorrow. "I can not hide you here," the old man said, "The dark priests will move this to an open fight if I do. I can not say that Hyle will survive that. I have a duty to keep this village in the light. The dark priests' dogs have been causing trouble about the way. Wynnwode has fallen into their clutches. I am sure Lord Cuthbert has as well despite the oaths of his father."

Halthor's expression fell into grim resignation. A knock sounded at the door. Halthor reached for the small axe that hung at his hip, deciding that if the men serving the Banished God had come to fight he would give them a mighty one. Mavora walked over and opened the door slightly. Halthor heard to voice of the ferryman beyond it greeting the priest. When Ewen walked into the room, Halthor realized that Mavora truly did look to be a much older man then Halthor realized earlier. Ewen looked at Halthor and gave him a lopsided smile. "Much better here than the traveler's rest. If I knew you were here to see my uncle, I wouldn't have told those Wynnwode rats they could cross," he said. Ewen handed Mavora a basket covered with a white cloth stitched with blue along the edges.

Mavora lifted the cloth and gave a contented sounding sigh. He patted his nephew on the shoulder. Ewen smiled at his uncle before turning to the elder priest. "Father Moridan," he said courteously, "I hope that I wasn't too late today." Moridan scoffed at Ewen. Ewen winked at Halthor as he said, "I expect that I will be joining your company in a few years. I keep my eyes wide and alert for that holy sign you told me of." Mavora shook his head with a peevish little expression as he took the skinned and filleted fish from the crock that Ewen brought it in. As the man lifted the lid to the steaming kettle on the fire, the rich scents of a savory broth filled the air. Mavora placed the fish pieces into the bubbling broth and covered it again.

Moridan picked up his awl and sat down again where he had the best of what little light was available to him. As their meal cooked and Ewen told his uncle about the latest mischief of his relatives, the old priest stared at the leather in his lap. Moridan was keenly aware of Halthor's distress. As he examined the boot for where to punch the next hole for the lacing, the old man tried to figure out the correct words to give the man encouragement and hope. Though Moridan found himself struggling with that concept himself. It wasn't every day that you encountered the herald of doom. And he didn't anticipate said herald being so utterly downcast by it, or unaware of what his work truly was.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Oddments and such.

I'm sitting here listening to a mournful Irish tune and just spinning my wheels trying to figure out how I am going to proceed. I have finished writing down all the edits that need to be made to book two of the Umbrel Chronicle's series. I am having a hard time getting up the courage to type them up. A part of me insists that I am going to mess things up even more. It looks like the version that the printers used to produce the book was the one with out the last set of edits.

And, much to my vexation, that final set of edits and such has gone missing. It makes me wonder if I accidentally deleted it when I thought I was saving it to the thumb drive. I am not very good with technology. (It has taken me almost a month with my new phone to figure out how to use the basic phone and text functions with some degree of confidence. And it is just a very basic Samsung smart phone. It is a few years old, even. I am just not good with stuff like that. I'm still figuring out what the hell I'm doing with this laptop.)

When I am not sitting here feeling super anxious that I am about to damn my work to increasingly more awful state by poking about at it, I am honestly stuck on how to move forward with the serial stories. The Iron Lily is progressing towards the first 'major' supernatural conflict. I am, however, at a loss for how to reach that point from where I am presently at. This is a flaw in my failure to come up with a sufficiently detailed outline. And then there is the tale of Dacia's War. I erroneously thought I had completed it. And then I realized that I only told the beginning of the entire thing. Cue my freaking out a bit over how to make that work.

Creative writing has been very challenging for the last few months. Tomorrow is literally my last day where I have a large portion of my day free for writing because it is the last day of school for my boys. I am quietly panicking over how I am going to get my writing commitments done. I told someone that book two was going to be available in finalized format next month. I have a serial story that I started on an entirely different platform that I have realized that I am stuck on trying to move more into the interesting 'meat' of the story rather than fussing about with window dressing. Exposition is nice and all but it has to end at some point to get to the main details eventually.

In other news, I am making some progress on my knitting for Yule and the gifts for the celebrations coming up over the next few months. It is, however, proving surprisingly hard to locate a balsa wood airplane that flies for my eldest to have for his birthday. I think I may have to run up to the hobby shop in the city at some point over the next few weeks. I don't think, though, I am organized enough to do much of a party for the boys this year and I feel somewhat bad about that. Ah well, such is life. And even with these minor challenges, life is good.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Changing the way I do it.

I sat down and started going through the proof copy of book two of the series. As I sat there with my trusty red ballpoint pen in hand, I had an epiphany. Instead of flipping frantically through the book as I look at the document on the computer screen to make sure that my changes are in the right places, I can note down what changes need made by chapter, page, and line. Cue my grabbing a stenographer's notebook (with a bright red cover for lulz) and a mess of pens.

As I was looking at the stenographer notebook, it struck me that not only could I be noting edits to text but what ever format changes to the document at large. I think I am going to color code my changes with different pens. I may save red for changes to the text specifically (ie replacing misspelled names and such) and use blue for format changes. I have a very bright light blue pen that I can put to work on this. I am pretty sure I have enough ink left to get through the whole book. A part of me feels bad about marking up the proof. I tell myself, however, that this is what the proof is for.

My goal is to get all the final edits (which I thought I had completed already) done and the new version of book two up in the next two weeks. My target date for having it available with all corrections made is the last Monday of July. I will also be working on the second set of line edits on book three over the next two months (in between running the kids around to summer school stuff and all that). I am also working on getting all of my rough character sketches penned and in my card file. I am still at the beginning of the heroes right now. (It is a kind of long list, to be honest.)

I have seemed to have written myself into something of a hole right now on book seven. I've been taking a break over the last few weeks as I try to figure out how to resolve that plot hole. I am thinking that I need to sit down and read some fantasy to look at how other authors have tackled some of the plot problems that come up. If you have any suggestions, let me know in the comments.

Monday, June 6, 2016

The Iron Lily (Part 8)

The sky had taken on a sheen that told Halthor dawn was due. He did not wait for daybreak to get on his way. When he awoke, he bought bread from the innkeeper and a jug of ale. He was riding out of Wynnwode as the watchman was grumbling into his bowl of gruel at the opposite end of the town. Moving farther southward, Halthor noted that Wynnwode seemed a flat place at the top of a hill. When he came to the river Isben at the next valley, he swore.

Not only was he only a few scant hours away from Wynnwode, the ferry across the river was locked in place by ice and the ferryman's hut looked as it may be deserted. Halthor looked back along the slate road to Starhaven. He saw the dark blue-grey stone visible beneath the rime of ice at the water's edge. It seemed as though the road went down into the river and marched across. Halthor had no illusions that his gift pony from Wye was strong enough or tall enough to ford the river. Nor was he mad enough to attempt to cross it himself. He looked towards the east and saw the arms of the forest come up close to the water. To the west, the river narrowed and grew louder.

Deciding he may find a means to cross in the trees, Halthor took hold of the pony's halter and began to lead it along the river's edge. He had walked halfway to the trees when a voice shouted from the far side of the river. Halthor looked south and saw the ferryman hustling to the barge. "He'll probably charge me double for this," Halthor muttered but he turned and walked west to the crossing. He reached the road almost before the ferryman. The ferryman was almost a shapeless lump beneath his furred cloak and heavy woolens. He looked over at Halthor and then to his pony.

"Three groat for the beast, two for you," the ferryman said as he looked up at the weather. "Storm coming," the ferryman muttered, "Get on or go back." Halthor lead the grey pony on to the barge, noting with some surprise that it was an honest boat rather than a raft of rough hewen logs. The dog with the red ears yapped at something northward of them. The ferryman looked over Halthor's shoulder. He saw a small group of men hustling over the hill. The ferryman squinted. "Eh, one more and they'll have to wait for spring," he said, deducing accurately that Halthor was attempting to escape pursuit.

"Get on the water, I'll pay you when we're across," Halthor answered. The ferryman poled the barge away from the water. Halthor turned and motioned for the dog to come to him. The dog ran around in a circle. Halthor shook his head. Just when he thought that the dog was going to remain on the northern bank, the dog lept. When the dog landed on the barge, the ferryman started slightly and the pony chuffed with displeasure. Halthor looked sternly down at the dog. "Bad dog," he said. The dog whined and covered its muzzle with a paw. The ferryman watched the exchange out of the corner of his eye and laughed.

"Bad as a child, he is," the ferryman said with a chuckle, "Lollygag and mischief. That's what you get with the fey hounds, you know." Halthor looked over at the ferryman with curiosity. The ferryman noticed a chunk of ice drifting between them and their goal. He pushed it aside with his pole. When they came to the shore, the ferryman looked over expectantly at Halthor. The dog trotted off the barge with its tail wagging gleefully. Halthor opened his sack and pulled out five heavy silver groat coins. As he dropped them in the ferryman's hand, the older man nodded with approval. "Full groat coins," he said thoughtfully, "You're an honest man. Rare around these parts."

As Halthor lead the pony off of the barge, the ferryman motioned towards the road. "Go on a good league or two. A traveler's rest is kept by my brother not far from the cherry grove. The village here... it is an ill place for a northern man like you," the ferryman said. Halthor looked over, surprised by the ferryman's statement. "Only a man from the north would pay with full groat coins for a short trip like that," the ferryman said, "I knew one long time ago. If he kept his coins in his pocket, he'd have kept his head. It was a shame. I did like him. Harald was a foolish but good man." Halthor nodded.

He started through the village and noted that the people seemed reluctant to go about their business. At the tall temple of the Storm Lord, a goat bleated in its pen. A priest was breaking the ice in its trough with a long stick. Halthor felt the pull to stop at the temple. Thus, he lead his pony behind him to the fence. The priest looked over at him, his expression initially one of annoyance at the interruption. Then his eyes widened slightly and he blinked. The priest motioned Halthor over to the gate into the pen. Halthor approached and the priest opened the gate.

With a gesture, he motioned Halthor to lead his pony into the pen. The priest took hold of the pony's halter and lead it to the stall. He swung the door that stood open before taking the packs off of the pony. In a bit of a rush, the priest haphazardly buried them in the pile of hay at the back of the stall. He slipped the halter off of the pony and hung it up on a hook. The priest then set out a pail of grain for the shaggy haired pony. He then walked up to Halthor and gestured towards the temple.

Halthor, who had concluded the priest must have been mute, followed the old man's guidance. They walked into the great room and Halthor found it impossible to resist the sigh of pleasure at the warmth from the braziers. The priest motioned Halthor to sit in the sanctuary before he disappeared off around a doorway and down a narrow hall. Halthor walked into the sanctuary. He sat down on the bench nearest to the door. At the far end of the space, a roughly worked statue of the Storm Lord stood. To Halthor's experienced eye, he could tell that the statue was cut from a single massive piece of wood. Nearly the size of a man, the statue had a fierce air about it. The sharp, angular features of the icon seemed deliberately made to exaggerate the ferocity of the Victorious Sun.

Halthor was contemplating the statue when the priest walked up and put a hand on his shoulder. The builder looked over. The priest held out to him a small sack. Halthor took the sack and started to look into it. The priest put a hand over the opening of the sack and shook his head. He then pantomimed eating. Halthor realized that the sack held some food in it and he set it down. "I thank you, good father," Halthor said politely, "I must go farther down the road before night, though." The priest shook his head and pointed up at the ceiling. He made a gesture as though something were falling from the sky. "I know a storm is due," Halthor answered, "I want to make to the traveler's rest." The priest's expression hardened and he shook his head. He took a candle from the stack waiting for petitioners to light and place before the icon. The priest mimed blowing out the candle and covered his eyes. "Of course dark is going to fall," Halthor said, "Night comes every day."

The priest shook his head again. Again, he mimed signs of darkness. Halthor looked at the mute man in confusion. The priest looked at Halthor critically. He pantomimed holding a book. "Do I know letters?" Halthor asked, grasping at what the priest could be seeking to know. The priest nodded is grey head. "Only a little," Halthor replied, "My master taught me what I needed to tend his business." The priest gave a look of small relief. He clapped a hand on Halthor's shoulder and motioned for the builder to follow him. As Halthor followed the priest out of the sanctuary and down the small hallway to his living quarters, he wondered how a single old man could maintain the temple by himself.