Beautiful People - Lord FitzDraco

“Three riders there are in all Plenilune none other man born of woman can match—Lord FitzDraco of Orzelon-gang, my own Lord Skander Rime, and Dammerung War-wolf.”

I already did a Beautiful People post for January, but I have done multiples before and I will undoubtedly do multiples again. There aren't any rules about that kind of thing and I should like to dig about in this gentleman's character a little and get to know him better, for he is "flagrantly unsociable" and isn't easy to know. Hmph.

Before all that, here's a reminder that we're coming up on the end of The New Year Writing Contest for The Penslayer and Scribbles and Inkstains. Rules (and prizes!) can be found on the contest's page. If you feel like joining, you still have time before the end of the month to brainstorm and scribble!

Lord FitzDraco of Orzelon-gang

1. If his house burned down and he was left with nothing but the clothes on his back, what would he do? Where would he go?

Lord FitzDraco makes for a grim master, but a good one. If his house at Gemeren (which he holds in fief to his king Mark Roy) were to burn down, a good part of the burning would be spent getting people and things out. Because he is a knight of the king he would seek residence and succour (and get it) at Orzelon-gang, but the journey would be spent in a kind of private agony over the loss of the house he had built and the difficulty of finding lodgings for his people and making sure they were cared for.

2. Is he happy with where he is in life, or would he like to move on?

Happy is not a word one could use for FitzDraco. His natural demeanour is grim, his preference solitude. He is not frequently moved to either happiness or anger; his emotions can best be described as a steadfast monotone of contentment and loyalty, loathing and hatred, depending on who is the recipient of these emotions.

He holds a fine manor at Gemeren, built by himself and named after his father; his people are unquestionably loyal to him, and he is the king’s closest friend. He is perfectly content with his position—though, even without all this, I fancy he would be unmoved by fears of future or desires for betterment. He does not merely take life in stride: he stands unmoved.

3. Is he well-paid?

He has no wants, that is certain. His manor largely sustains itself and brings in a good profit by trade, his king is very generous, and from his own conquests and those of his father the spoil of war is always rich in Gemeren.

4. Can he read?

Yes, oh yes. FitzDraco is a wolfish reader: he positively devours books, though without the slightest ruffle in countenance either for or against the content. The library at Gemeren is very extensive. I shudder and my head fairly turns to think of the tomes he has read—and understood—and retained. I think he must remember everything his reads, though one of his faults is being miser-like with it all. He very rarely divulges his accumulated knowledge to anyone. But I don’t think he does it out of spite, so perhaps I forgive him. I probably wouldn’t understand him anyway if he did try to tell me.

5. What languages does he speak?

Only his own with any luck, and that very rarely. Though Mark Roy looks to him for guidance and council, you are hard-pressed to find the man putting more than four words together in a conversation, and hard-pressed to find him putting more than four conversations together in a day.

6. What is his biggest mistake?

I don’t know what he thinks is his biggest mistake, but a fair lot of people think it was an unwise move of his to take a woman by hand-bond, and that from among a lower class. Herluin is a good woman, and as much a lady as any born among the nobility, but the fact of the matter is that she is not nobility and, though they probably wouldn’t shun her, they consider it unorthodox, and she and her husband choose for her to stay quietly at Gemeren overseeing the manor.

7. What did he play with most as a child?

FitzDraco is the sort of fellow you don’t consider as ever being a child. He seems at first glance to have always been older, with grey hairs among the brown at his temples and the cares of years in his eyes and at the corners of his mouth. He grew up at Gemeren and worked more than he played, and his play often looked like work. For all his grim, unruffled demeanour, he is a very driven soul, bound and determined to be circumspect and blameless before his people, his king, and his God. So nothing that he did ever looked much like play.

8. What are his thoughts on politics?

He is Mark Roy’s man to the last. You never have to worry about his loyalty, you never have to worry about him being discreet (he hardly ever speaks anyway). He is foremostly a council for his king, secondly a sword at his king’s side. As for the question of Overlord, he knows who he does not want, but looking round has yet to see a man he trusts can fill the role to step forward.

9. What is his expected lifetime?

I would expect FitzDraco to live a long, full life and die a warrior to have his body carried back to Gemeren and buried under the elms. Anything can happen in a fight, and no man going into one thinks he will come out again to see tomorrow (though he will hope it with bravado), but FitzDraco is renowned enough in war that he has a good chance of seeing many days before a chance spear sees him.

10. If he were falsely accused of murder, what would he do? How would he react?

If he were accused of murder, FitzDraco is the sort of man you could almost believe could have done it—but the next moment after you could be sure he had not. Because the man has no reactions to anything his countenance would be the same, and I dare say such a cat’s grim stare would knock a person out of sorts after a few unblinking minutes. Besides, one should have a care of accusing people who are the right-hand of a king. One might start a war.

"Quite," he said.

"No Lace!"

"No lace, Mrs. Bennet, I beg you!"

I blame this bit of fun on Rachel. A lot of my blogging fun can be blamed on Rachel. I don't know how she feels about that. I dare say in a year or two she'll have got over it tolerably. For her story The Scarlet-Gypsy Song she charted out clothing styles, as her story is a fantasy set in another world. I know that makes it sound terribly cliche, but her story has a lovely quirk and twist to it which gives it a fresh dimension. Abigail did this sort of post likewise in "Let Us Be Elegant or Die," and while I am pretty poor sport at coming up with original clothing, I thought I, too, might regale you with the trendy fashions of Plenilune. My post from last August, "What a Deal of Starch!", gives you a peek into my general views on clothing. Now I want to be specific and (Megan) alleviate a tiny bit of the mystery that seems to surround Plenilune.

The woman sat foremost among those in the orchestra, and in her pomp and quiet, smothering splendour, Margaret knew she was only gracing their company: she belonged among the lords and ladies. Her hair was caught up with pins of blue amber—which the light behind her was making into a furious cluster of fractalled flame—but if it had been let down it would have been long and tawny-striped like honey and a tiger’s coat, and Margaret almost hated her for the beauty of it. She was in a gown of peacock-blue, the same colour as the drenched night blue outside the windows, and her gown was chased over and over very heavily by gold threads, as if the golden harp-strings of her instrument were tied to her, and she to it—and when she glanced up across the audience from attending to her harp and the light of the chandeliers illumined the look in her eyes, Margaret was certain of it.

Throughout the different Honours of Plenilune and the varying tastes of peoples and individuals, there is one common element. The society of Plenilune likes to put on a show. They breathe heavily with pomp and splendour, colour, jewels, metals. They like to look good. Even FitzDraco of Orzelon-gang, whose most lavish colour is a hunter green, sports a heavy ring with an equally heavy aquamarine stone which (legend has it, and he has not stirred himself to debunk the legend) will turn hot-white when the wearer is righteous in fury. Even those who wear black as a habit (and there are a few), they have a way of wearing black as if they wore the very void of the universe. No matter what they wear, they wear it with style.

They like velvet. Nothing purrs quite like velvet. It can be light or heavy, solid or printed, and it has just the amount of easy pretension the Plenilune elite like to wear. This is ideal for late autumn, winter, and early spring, of course, but you can wear it in the warmer months if it is handled delicately. Furs too, furs are a splendid accessory - horsehair and fawnskin are very light and typically worn by the ladies, panther-skins are very rare and greatly admired. You are not likely to find any English floral prints in the crowd: Plenilune prints tend to be heavily organic, particularly those influenced by the nomadic antipodes, which take embroidery and brocade to a whole new level of intricate. They are almost alarmingly lackadaisical about where normal people put gems and will set them in almost anything, so long as the setting is grand enough for the jewel. Their love of bold colours is rivalled only by the nomadic peoples, who don't believe in darkening or muting and aren't the best judges of which colours ought to go together, and which oughtn't. Plenilune society may love its overwhelming show, but it is always classy about it.

And throw in some feathers! - in a lady's hair, on a lady's dress, on a masque, on the cord of a doublet-tie - make a peacock jealous! Swan, grouse, pheasant, raven, blue-jay, cardinal - anything with a plumage to show will be plucked and wind up sported at a Plenilune social gathering. Conversely, they may be particular about their cloths, but they aren't selective about their gems. If it cuts well and throws a good shine, they don't mind if it is "precious" or not.

This is all very minute. In general Plenilune style could be described as medieval hurled very hard at Victorian, and Victorian coming out the worse for it. You will not spot pantaloons anywhere (thank goodness), but trousers, though you will find variations of the doublet used with extreme flippancy. Dresses tend to be close-fitting and layered under the skirts; necklines vary with taste. Buttoned coats are not uncommon, especially among hunting paraphernalia. Hats are, however, almost unheard-of. Hoods are used for inclement weather and a woman might wrap a light shawl over her head, but it is a mark of dignity (among those who care to think about it this deeply) to go about bare-headed. And something they all wear, which cannot be cut out of stone or cloth, is that sense of dignity, of potency, of splendour and the splendour of humanity of which their heavy embroidery and rich clothing are only the bare fringes.

When I said it was like a crazy tapestry of colour and action, I was not joking. It is a giddy business, trying to write all this, and not unlike inducing a constant fever in my brain and vision. What a people to be hurled among after living twenty years in anemic, industrial, Victorian England!

She could not remember England very well, though that might have been only because her vision was running riot with whirling colours, peacocks’ feathers, light, movement, and music. All she could remember was a broken sense of hoary discontentment, a sense of living drudgery, of fighting against small, insignificant shadows of things—when here in Plenilune lived and walked the sharp-edged real things of a higher plane: the gods and demons in their palaces, dancing together on the eve of winter.

Beautiful People - Margaret Coventry

And Guinevere - call her not back again
Lest she betray the loveliness Time lent
A name that blends the rapture and the pain
Linked in the lonely nightingale's lament...

I've been busily working on Plenilune, typing and brainstorming (more brainstorming, I think, than typing), and I've been a little melancholy that I haven't been able to share much with you peeps. It's a terrible balance of keeping you informed and not giving too much away. Well! well! we get on, Margaret and I, and all the many, merry rest of us. This Plenilune cast seems to grow larger by the day. You ought to see my "wall" of notations - and I do not mean Facebook walls. My mother-in-law purchased a pack of violently pink, heart-shaped sticky-notes for me on which I have been jotting down bare thoughts and pasting to my wall so that I don't miss them in the rush of writing. My favourite notation is the single word WIDOWMAKER which, on a pink heart, is hilarious. But I digress.

Beautiful People! After a long holiday hiatus, Georgie and Sky have picked it up again. I think I will continue this January edition with Margaret Coventry still, as she is certainly a harder character to crack than her sweet-spirited cousin.

Margaret Coventry, sometime Lady

1. If the character's house burned down, and she was left with nothing but the clothes on her back, what would she do? Where would she go?

Margaret would probably understand intuitively that she had lost everything and manage from day to day with a chilly persistence at surviving. She has never not known money, but though she would not acclimate herself to scant means willingly or even joyfully, she could do it gracefully. As for where she would go, the most logical choice would be Lookinglass.

2. Is she happy with where she is in life, or would she like to move on?

Margaret is not happy where she is. She has spent her whole life not being happy with where she is and wishing to “move on.” But she is now a very grown-up twenty years of age and it has come home to her, with a very nasty clarity, that not only can she not possibly be happy with where she is, but there is nowhere for her to “move on” to.

3. Is she well-paid?

Being a lady of leisure and comfortable in society, Margaret is used to an allowance but she is never paid. I suppose the question can be best answered by saying Margaret has never lacked financially.

4. Can she read?

Oh yes, and though (as I have mentioned before) reading has a tendency to put her to sleep, she has occasion to find solace in the familiar Englishness of Shakespeare.

5. What languages does she speak?

Probably stronger than a lady ought, but Rupert provokes it. Oh, you mean foreign languages. She speaks French passably and a little German (enough to call for tea and coffee and ask where the next rail station is) and even less Italian. She did try at her language studies and French was not hard, but German, perversely, resisted her attempts to be understood.

6. What is her biggest mistake?

I don’t think I could tell you that. I don’t believe she has made it yet.

7. What did she play with most as a child?

Two dolls from Greece and a worn-out hobby-horse that had one stark brown button for an eye. The other stark brown button had long since been lost.

8. What are her thoughts on politics?

Margaret hardly knows anything about Plenilune politics. She hardly knows who is who and what office does what, or where anything is. The only two things she is clear on at all is that she hates being in them (the politics) and that Rupert must be got out of them.

9. What is her expected life time?

I don’t know whether to laugh at this question or not. Around Rupert, Margaret is never sure. She knows what sort of a man he is, but she is not certain he could actually be brought to the point of killing her. This open-ended coffin definitely keeps her on her toes.

10. If she were falsely accused of murder, what would she do? How would she react?

Margaret would say nothing, and she would maintain the most perfectly cold silence until the accuser was removed from her presence, and then she would turn to someone—probably Skander Rime—for assistance. But that seems hardly likely an occurrence. I don’t think anyone would dare accuse Rupert by association that way.

"The cow!" he growled derisively as the comitissa withdrew. "The cow would think to jump the moon!"

I Always Mistrusted His Appearance of Goodness

"Whosoever is overcome of desire and turns his gaze upon the darkness, he shall look on hell
and lose the thing he loves."

After a brief discussion between my sister and me, Abigail wrote down a good post on romance in literature. I highly recommend it, because it bears considering, and I will only summarize it by saying that she holds (as the evidence supports) that romance can be written wrongly, but that there is no one right way to do it. But let her post speak for itself. In light of that brief discussion, her post, and my own novel, we thought I ought to write a companion post on the wrong sort of romance.

Don't misunderstand me. Abigail handled romance being written right and romance being written wrong. I want to wrestle with the beast of writing, not Romance Wrong, but Wrong Romance. We are all familiar with the girl who makes some bad calls and falls for the wrong sorts of men - we hope that, in the course of the story, she learns from her mistakes and finds a good bloke to look after her. But just as it is important to know how to write villains convincingly, flesh-and-bloodly, it is important to know how to write those bad calls, those wrong romances.

Two examples came to my mind, both of them very similar. In fact, it was this idea that brought the similarity to my attention. Those examples are my own heroine and antagonist (not very well known to you just yet) and the famous example of Hades and Persephone. Now, there was a match made in hell if ever there was one. You'll find the story of the kidnapped princess everywhere, of course, but Hades is really master of them all. Riding in his chariot pulled by his fell black horses, he comes upon the flower goddess wandering a little too far from home. In one swoop he grabs her by the wrist and hauls her into his car, whips up the horses, and plunges irreparably back into his abysmal realm. It's a well-known story. But they tell me familiarity breeds contempt, and it has been such a very long time since those black horses pricked through the meadow, leaving dead flowers in their wake, that the whole story doesn't really catch us by the throat anymore. We know how it ends, even if we hate Hades for doing it. It's boring. It has no dimension anymore, warped out of life by the sheer volume of time that lies between it and us.

So how, without violating moral laws that we all hold to be self-evident, do you catch your reader by the throat? How do you write such a persistent, unswerving, inexorable passion on the part of the antagonist, or the heroine fighting him every step and turn of the way? How do you make Hades and Persephone (who only wept, stupid woman; I would have kicked and bitten him on that downward drive) - how do you make Hades and Persephone real?

You're not allowed to be missish. My antagonist really does love the heroine, but in a twisted, dark, self-centred kind of way that shows a horrible kind of mercy and a hard kind of tenderness. Just as a villain won't consciously think "I am going to do this because I think it is wrong," just so a passionate antagonist will not try to woo a woman just to hurt her. Somehow, in some confused, fallen, violent way, there is something like attraction and love in the antagonist. And it is when something good is so totally warped out of decency that it really jolts you. Margaret and her suitor, far more than Hades and Persephone, make you fear for life and limb and light because the suitor stands closer to the attention than distant mythical gods, and he really means business.

You all know how to write good characters. You know how to give them dimension, depth, purpose. You know how to make a really good hero and a really good villain. But I'm throwing another ball into the cricket match (because doesn't this all defy explanation?), and that is the depraved romance. That, too, is a fact, and that, too, as with everything else, is something we ought to be able to handle well. And to make it come alive, this often necessitates a dangerous journey into very abysmal realms of the heart. What drives the antagonist, and how much will he risk to get what he wants? How strong is the heroine, and what can she take before she begins to crack? Once you start pumping life-blood back into such stories as kidnapping, manipulation, dark, hell-bent affection, the long perspective of Hades and Persephone begins to grow some dimension - and begins to be frightening again.

That is a dour note to end on, don't you think? Even the pagan story, which was more concerned about the fact that Demeter had shut off spring and summer, didn't end there. If you ever find the need to write such a romance I am sure your motives and methods will be different. But I do hope that there is one thing similar: I hope there is a white knight with the motto tertium quid stamped on his shield to bring in the right sort of romance. But though the right romance should be that much better, and is that much more important to be sure, make sure the wrong sort doesn't suffer from missishness or neglect.

[She] laughed softly, bitterly. “You are fit to be a king,” she said, lifting her eyes to his. “But you would be a tyrant.”

As My Whimsy Takes Me

Sky and Georgie and Finvarra have been hosting a giveaway on their blogs for the past week or so and have posted several writing-related questions on their blogs. I don't intend to enter the giveaway because I'm not much of a contest person (thus improving others' chances of winning). But the questions looked like they would be fun to answer anyway and, as I am not in a position to tell you any updates on Plenilune but would still like to keep you all informed as to my movements, I thought I would yoink the questions and answer them for the mere whimsy of the thing.

Which author do you aspire to be like?

Well, myself. Naturally, I suppose I will be like other authors - Sutcliff among the foremost of these. If a writer is worth his ink he will not be too proud to take lessons from others. There is a kind of constant conversation going on between authors across all ages, an unspoken conversation, which covers reams of pages and numerous languages. I am a part of that conversation, but though I am perfectly willing to listen to the voices of others wiser than myself, I hope my voice will always be my own.

If you could meet any author from any time period, who would it be?

Oddly enough, it would probably be Jane Austen. I say 'oddly enough' because she is not my favourite author, but I somehow think she and I would get along more companionably than other authors I read. I feel as though we could talk about more than merely writing (which gets dull after awhile), and perhaps converse on more humane things, like clothing and the smell of books and the state of the social mind. I have a vague idea which might, if allowed to be a reality, be detrimental to me, and that is to get all the Inklings together (honorary et al) and be allowed to listen to their discussions. I fear for myself, however, because I rather think Chesterton would accidentally kill me with one of his violently excited gestures in the middle of a particularly heated speech.

Who is your favourite literary character, and why?

To answer self-centredly, I might have to say Rhodri. I have never written a character I liked so well as he, and though he is my own character I think plenty of people understand well enough the independent existence of characters to allow me to be that fond of a character I made. Less self-centredly, and in, perhaps, the true spirit of this question, the answer to date would probably be Tiberius Lucius Justinianus - Justin for short - and Marcellus Flavius Aquila, because the two are one and the same in everything. Yes, I dare say the hero-cousins of The Silver Branch are probably still, after all the books I have read, my dearest and most familiar literary characters.

There was a golden aura about Eikin where he sat in the last patch of light, but Rhodri had not moved in all the time they had been sitting, and there was a faint greenish hue in the shadow where he sat, his wings limp about himself. He had his arms crossed over his chest and his head back, and he seemed to be asleep. It was strange, Adamant reflected, gazing at him, how ill at ease he could appear,
even when he was unconscious.


As for why, that is a difficult - almost an impossible question to answer with any adequacy. For Rhodri, I fear I would give too much of his story away. And besides, Rhodri is not an easy man to know. He does not make himself an easy man to know. There is a moody grey mystery and dependability about him, but that is hardly a satisfactory summation of him. As for Justin and Flavius, they too describe themselves best by their own actions, their dual quietude, loyal nature, fire and determination. To describe them would make me sound sentimental, and them like pieces of poetry. But if anything is worthy of high sentiment or worth being the subject of poetry, I suppose true men must be. Funny odd thing, isn't it, how those men who are closest to the long-lived, elemental patriarchs of our race are those which words fail to describe...?

'So. It is good,' Constantius said. He looked from one to the other. 'I am told that you two are kinsmen; but I think you are also friends, which is a greater thing. Indeed, that was told me by the Primus Pilus here. Therefore I hope you may not be ill satisfied to find yourselves once again posted together.'
The Silver Branch

I am told, by people who were closer to the beginning of the world than I, that Atlas was in the habit of holding the world up on his shoulders. My giddy Athena! I have worlds in my head! I think the Titan, child of those patriarchs though he may have been, has nothing to boast about.

One Thousand Disappointments

The worth and excellency of a soul is to be measured
by the object of its love.

The Life of God in the Soul of Man, Henry Scougal

For some time now I have seen the exercise about called "One Thousand Gifts." I know my mother has the book. At least, I assume she has the book. I have seen it floating about her house, so naturally I deduce that she owns it. I have not read the book nor do I follow the lady's blog who first instituted this exercise, but I understand that it is to help believers recall the small mosaic-piece graces that God infuses into our lives every day. Now I am sitting here listening to Audrey Assad's song "Show Me" and Laura Story's "Blessings" (songs that, I think, are well-known) and my thoughts are running in the other direction. I am not going to write a book about this or start a challenge because I think my thoughts don't deserve that level of attention, but I hope that, in conjunction with the "One Thousand Gifts," these thoughts might also be helpful.

we pray for blessings, we pray for peace
comfort for family, protection while we sleep
we pray for healing, for prosperity
we pray for your mighty hand to ease our suffering
and all the while you hear each spoken need
yet love us way too much to give us lesser things

It is always very moving in the Scriptures when someone has waited long and long and begged hard for the Almighty to grant a request to get what they desire. What comes to mind especially are those who longed for a child: Abraham, Hannah, Elizabeth, among a few. Leah, too, though she did not wait long for her answer: she received a double portion of a blessing of children. It always moves me to see God's gracious hand work this way. He made a way for the righteous through the flood, he heard Abraham on Lot's behalf, he raised up Ruth and put her in the lineage of Christ. So many blessings to see, they choke me with emotion because the image that they produce is that of a just, gracious, merciful God whose heart is bent especially to the widow, the orphan, and the alien.

'cause what if your blessings come through raindrops
what if your healing comes through tears
what if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know you're near
what if trials of this life are your mercies in disguise

But I think I am moved even more so in the narratives when God says no. When he shuts up the Garden, when he refuses Ishmael, when he does not heed David's plea, when he refuses any more petitions for Israel, when he does not grant relief to Paul. It is very easy for us to remember God as benevolent toward his children, full of grace and mercy, because he is. But I think we get an uneven view of his nature when we focus only on the gifts. What about the things he has refused us? All is his to give or to take, to bestow or to withhold. Are we not told as much about him by what he does not give as with what he does? What was it that he told Paul? "No - but my grace is sufficient for you." Sometimes his refusals are more poignant than the gifts because they force us to look beyond what we ask for to the reason in the Divine Mind. If not what we ask, then what? If not our will, then whose?

what if my greatest disappointments
or the aching of this life
is a revealing of a greater thirst this world can't satisfy
what if trials of this life
the rain, the storm, the hardest nights
are your mercies in disguise

He gives graces lavishly, and it is in his nature to be gracious, but he does not give contrary to his just nature. This is not to say that all refusals preclude some sin on the part of the asking believer: was it wrong of Paul to ask the Almighty for relief? Well, perhaps that is between Paul and the Almighty. But there was a deeper lesson to be learned there: that God's grace is abundant and sufficient to be drawn from for the present distress.

you could raise me like a banner in a battle
put victory like a fire behind my shining eyes
I would drift like falling snow over the embers
but for now, just let me lie

This is a lesson that has warmed the hearts of believers time out of mind. It is not an easy lesson to learn and, unlike "your Father knows what you have need of before you ask," it is a lesson that must often be taught again and again, to each and every Kingdom-citizen. Mark what you are not given as well as what you are, and see how both attest to the person of our Lord and his dealings with his people. Whether or not it is a comfort, I do not know, but I recall Jesus himself wrestling with the horror that lay before him, asking if it might pass from him, and saying all the same: "Not my will, but Thine be done."

bind up these broken bones
mercy, bend and breathe me back to life
but not before you show me how to die

Time Seems Relative, and Dual

when owls call the breathless moon
in the blue veil of the night
when shadows of the trees appear
amidst the lantern's light
the sounds of the birds seem to fill the wood
and when the fiddler plays
all their voices can be heard
long past their woodland days

"mummer's dance," loreena mckennitt

It happened to me for the first time last spring, nearly summer, which made it all the more ridiculous. I was on a walk in the swimming buttery heat, which really should have helped my sense of reality, but evidently the psychological impact of my writing is more than skin-deep. That was back when I was seriously ploughing through editing Adamantine and, as tends to happen in the due course of seasons, it was winter (or very nearly) in the story, and as I was walking up a particularly warm street it dawned on me that I had, unconsciously and otherwise happily, assumed that the season physically around me was winter too. It took me a moment of serious reasoning to convince myself that it was spring-almost-summer not autumn-almost-winter.

Oddly enough, I took this as a good sign. I had become so wrapt in my work that it had, to a small degree, ceased to be a manuscript and had become a world into which I plunged daily, interacting with and guiding the characters - a world which dragged backwash with me when I returned to this realm. The nursery magic had turned it Real. It was an odd, pleasant discovery.

Now I am working on Plenilune, a story closely tied to the turning seasons. As I am working on the first draft this mental quirk is not so liable to happen, but on occasion I do find myself wrestling with January and November, trying to figure out which one belongs Here and which one belongs There and which one it Really Is Now. There is no hope of my catching up to the Real Month, so I expect this fight will continue until I slowly succumb to my story's view of things. It is not really helped much by the fact that the middle of January Here is feeling a lot like the middle of November There.

One could get a lot of birthdays out of this, I dare say: real ones and literary ones. But I somehow doubt anyone would fall for that.

“Time enough for sharp swords and bright spears when the cherries put on their gala gowns.
Winter is an hour of high fires and warm company.”

Now I See The True Old Times Are Dead

But the other swiftly strode from ridge to ridge,
Clothed with his breath, and looking as he walk’d,
Larger than human on the frozen hills.

Morte d'Arthur, Alfred Lord Tennyson

Having finished reading Harry Blamires' The Kirkbride Conversations, my interest took a little turn and I pulled Hope Muntz's The Golden Warrior out of the stack of books I want to read. It is a good, sturdy-looking book, hardback and royal blue, dedicated (to my heightened interest) to none other than "The Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer Churchill." I plan on reading such works as The Conquering Family and When Christ and His Saints Slept, so I thought it would be logical to start the race off with Harold and William. I am told that the beginning (which this is, strictly, not) is a very good place to start.

This is strictly not the beginning of the saga. Enormous figures have already strode across the haunted hills of England and the prologue, which I am in the midst of, is summing up the imprint of those giants. I have a suspicion that, if anyone cared, you could do a sort of Godfather-styled retelling of Earl Godwin and his family, but perhaps that is a proposition for another day... Now, in the Earl's confiscated hall at Guildford King Edward and his cousin Duke William Bastard (an un-charming if accurate appellation) have sat down to dinner and, under the natural genius of the hall's former owner, have fallen back on accounts of Godwin's heavy-handed dealings. I already know a little bit of all this so I was jigging slightly in my chair, reading along with an eye to get to the Hector of the tale (don't hit me, Abigail), when the Norman Achilles, a dark, terrible kind of figure, says darkly of the exiled Godwin:

"He is a man who will dare all things."

I am always on the look-out for inspiration. You never know where it might show up and you have to be ready for it. This, on the other hand, was a summing-up (far better than I could have done, though I tried) of my own Plenilune antagonist. Across nine hundred forty-something years I could still feel the fear, not of some over-bearing villain, but of a foe to be reckoned with. As I pen-stab at my own story, trying to translate it out of my own mind into ink, I feel among the lords of Plenilune that same worry: that the wolf, which does not sleep, will come out of the dark, and will dare all things.

So here is to Hope Muntz, and Duke William, and Earl Godwin for that matter. What a horrible time of horrible men! They make good models for stories, even if they made bad men. Well, with histories like these, who needs novels?

"I smell a rat."
Centurion of Darkling-law, Plenilune

An Opportune Time

how wearisome
eternity so spent in worship paid
to whom we hate

Paradise Lost, John Milton

This detached, experimental piece of writing is for Daddy (who knows what I am about, I think) and for anyone else who might like to see what rumblings of writing lie beyond Plenilune. Indeed, these rumblings are so far beyond Plenilune that the following is highly subject to change, but he told me to start writing the little pieces that were coming into my head, so...dig one's own grave, you know, and all that. Cheers!

* * * * *

“Ai Ring.”

Time, like claws, dragged agonizingly by while the Endless bent solitary over the tabletop, watching the riot of feverish motion before him, watching as from a very great height and from a long way off the heaving movement of kingdoms under his hands. His left hand, pale as the featureless walls of the room and as white-lit, was splayed over Cormontium and Iber and their shared sea: between two fingers was the effigy of the very man who stood just within the doorway, waiting his attention.


He slid his white gaze to the side; the movement of the table came to a halt. His hand closed over the little figure.

Jewel’s eyes, never quite willing to meet Ring’s, never quite willing to be wholly afraid, dropped to the same figure—a perfect likeness—and then moved upward again, nearly looking back into the Endless’ eyes. The Endless did not like the look he saw on the man’s face: a sickly, uncertain sort of look, as if there was something too good and too horrible going on inside that man’s mind. Almost he strode forward, impatient with a man’s need to search for the right words, and conjured the words by force out of the lisping mouth. But he did not. He waited, the chess-piece figure of the priest weighing with a tell-tale lightness in his palm.

In the wake of a deep breath Jewel began. “Sir, you told me to keep good guard in case he infiltrated our order. You told me to keep watch and to listen for any sign of him, for the least sign of him. Well.” He touched his tongue to his dry lips. “The long and short of it is—we found him.”

Oh, the sweet rage of joy! Ring strode forward three paces before he knew what he was doing, the bird-rushing thunder of his movement rattling at the fabric of the air; towering white over the little man, trailing red after himself through the air where the clock-glass had cut him and the cuts had not healed. From a distance came to him the tiny sound of Jewel’s piece falling, falling, rolling across the world’s tabletop. Jewel himself shook under that advance but, foolish and human-like, he did not back down.

“How many people know?” the Endless demanded.

Jewel risked a short bark of laughter. “No one. After the rebellion no one dares believe anything. It is far too dangerous. No one much wants to die.”

Ai Ring looked back at the table, head canted to one side, an almost tender expression playing at his mouth. “Whether by design or by foolishness, I think he could not have picked a more opportune time to walk into my hands.” There was a crack and splutter like lightning and he held up a hand, the hand which had held Jewel, to display a new effigy.

“A good likeness,” said Jewel.

A good likeness! Was there anything good about so hateful an appearance? The hair was red like flame, not blood, the countenance full of mockery even in lifeless pantomime. If Ring could he would have pressed the little thing out of life between his palms and, if it were possible, have pressed him out of life as well.

Jewel said gently, “What would you have me do?”

Ring came back out of his disquieting thoughts. “Do what you like for now. I will come in my own good time. I give you leave and power to do with him as you please, only do not touch his life,” he added, his tone so warning and awful that Jewel blanched as if in the force of a gale. “I hold that in my hand and it is mine.”

“Yes, Ai Ring.”


"Yes," said the Lion in a very quiet voice, almost (Jill thought) as if he were laughing. "He has died. Most people have, you know. Even I have."
The Silver Chair, C.S. Lewis

For some reason - no, rather I should say, for some intuition I feel this is for Rachel. I say that because I could not tell you why this passage and this girl ought to go together. Perhaps it is merely because it is high time the girl got something specially from me. How odd a thing it is to dedicate one's dreams to another!

* * * * *

I realized that for a while I had assumed he had fallen asleep, for he was so motionless and quiet, and it was the perfect place for a cat-nap. I looked up from my notebook, my left hand automatically clicking the cap shut on the pen in my right; I looked up at his face, to see if he was still with me. He had his head back against the tree on which he leaned, his face turned away. I could not tell. After waiting a moment to see if my gaze might leak into his consciousness I gave up and looked away again.

The landscape was worth the pause. We sat together on a little hillock under a bare crab-apple, a place mostly of sunshine with little swallow-tail lancings of shadow, and all around us under the warm pale sun was the gently rolling spread of an ancient cemetery. There were no roads through it, only double-wide trackways for the hearses and little stone foot-paths around the graves and mausoleums. I took in a deep breath and tugged my knees up against my chest, squashing my notebook close, pulling in the fresh scents of autumn. Everything was a flame-colour around me: green and pale blue, ruddy, rich, wine-bright. I breathed the colour in and felt the flame of it flicker through my veins.

“It is very peaceful here.”

A gust of wind blew through my hair, obscuring the world in bars and streaks of chocolate and copper. “So, you are not asleep.”

He turned his head to me, still resting it on the tree-trunk. I saw in his eyes the same as I felt: the languid sleepy richness of the open, the quiet open, which was to us like sleeping while awake. It was a good, comfortable, familiar thing to us, and he was happy—happy in that warm, half-melancholy way of his—and because he was happy I was too.

He asked, “What is it that you write?”

“Do you know what I wish?” I replied. I turned my head so that the wind blew my hair out of my eyes instead of into them. “I wish I had a quill that wrote with fire instead of ink.”

“Mm,” he purred understandingly.

There was a stream at the foot of the cemetery, quite a distance off and a thread of pure blue under the pure blue sky. I could see a little blot of darkness on the surface of it and thought how grand it must be for geese to have so many skies to fly in, overhead and on the looking-glass sky of water.

I had the habit of going outside myself, trance-like, whenever I spoke in my own familiar language, because I am shy. I did not need to do it for him, but somehow the scenery and the geese on the water and the autumnal sky pulled me out regardless, and I spoke in my familiar language.

“It is a death-scene of sorts, for it seemed a good time and place to write, here, where it is quiet, where I can think, and Death’s train is raking up the leaves behind him as he keeps vigilance.”

“Of sorts?” he queried, one brow rampant. But he folded his arms around his thin frame and hunched forward, gazing off with a pensive look that, if you did not know him so well as I, you might mistake for darkness. I watched him for some time as his eyes roved over the landscape, waking with light and quenching with shadow, and waking again; I watched him and the thoughts that ran through the light in his eyes.

“There is a deep thing in your face.” I broke the silence at last. “What do you think of?”

He continued to stare, but he was very with me when he said, “This is a good plot of land. I think I will take it.” The corners of his mouth, which always had a touch of unconscious bitterness to them, twisted the bitterness into consciousness once more. “Maybe it is the height and overlook. I’ve always felt that handicap of mine somewhat keenly.”

I frowned, but forced a smile through the frown. “What of that? So do I. But you are tall-seeming, and that is enough. And anyway,” I settled back around, sliding over to press my own tired back against the supporting tree, “I am your Bad Wolf. I give you immortality.”

The bitterness flickered away beneath his steady pulse of warmth. He scooted through the grass to a nearly prostrate position, folding his arms behind his head; I could see the sky reflected so pale in his eyes, his eyes were almost silver but for their single spots of jet. It was like looking in the blue-jay’s eye, and it made me shiver.

“I have been thinking about death,” he admitted.

I looked sidewise at him sharply.

He sniffed and canted his head on his arms, looking up at me. “Truth to tell, it’s a subject that has dogged me for almost all my life.”

I was sitting tailor-fashion, and leaned forward a little awkwardly to steal the handkerchief from his coat-pocket so that my hands might have something to meddle with. “So?” I replied carefully. “Truth to tell, it has dogged me too. I was too young then to remember it now, but my parents tell me I felt the need for God-life after my grandmother’s funeral.” I smiled wryly and gave the handkerchief a mighty tug between my hands. “Funny odd thing, isn’t it? I’ve always felt the need for things to be right. It seems right that death should have prompted my salvation.”

“Mm,” he said, and for a while we were silent.

I unfolded one corner of the handkerchief and rubbed my fingers over the shiny black thread of the monogram. I asked without looking up, “What were you thinking specifically about death?”

“After it.”

“You mean the afterlife?”

“No,” he insisted gently, “I mean the afterdeath.”

I waited patiently for him to go on, but he seemed to be thinking of this as he went, for it was rather a long time before he continued, and a cloud came across the sun meanwhile that chilled me. Thankfully it went away again, and I stretched my arms languidly in the light, like a cat.

“I mean after death,” my companion went on, stretching likewise. “You know me, Half-pint. I hate death. I hate pain. They are so uncomfortable and so wrong and so—ever-present. Death hangs over all of us. Death hangs over everything. That is the curse. Death is the midwife that brings us all into the world, the unknown certainty of death following every child to adulthood, and seen at the end of the road waiting to receive us at the end. We all expect it as we expect some horrible surgery that we cannot avoid.

“You and I can look beyond that. We can expect a life after death—or, rather, a life whose vein runs deeper than the knife of death can plunge. We look beyond death to something better. But I have been thinking, after a lifetime here of living under the looming shadow of death, who could help but look back from the other side of it with relief?”

He was a conjuror. His words, like magic, thrust into my chest and grabbed me, heart and lungs and throat. I could not breathe. I could not see through the sudden spate of tears. I hung suspended in the thinness of my limbo-state in which I lived solely on the throb of his words.

There was a moral somewhere in that, I thought.

“After all that waiting, after all that tension of waiting, what spirit would not look back on the veil, on the darkness, on the surgery, and think, ‘It’s done’? It’s done. The worst is behind. There would be yet the resurrection, and nothing will be right until the resurrection, but death will be done and over with and behind us. The last worst pain. The last worst loss. The last worst severing from all earthly constraints. The last unknown into which we must go. We can look back on it from there and say—”

“It’s done.”

The words out of my mouth seemed to send spider-fine cracks across the surface of my thinness. Any moment now they would break, and I would be bare under that cold November wind.

He sat back up, hunched forward once more with his arms laid across his knees. With the sun and the wind in my eyes everything was like looking through cut glass, sharp, distorted, blinding bright.

“It is still frightening,” I said suddenly.

He thrust both shoulders up in an admitting way. “Of course. Just because you will be on the other side of the surgery does not make the surgery itself any less frightening. But there is an end to the surgery, and there is an end to death, too.” He smiled grimly. “I wonder what death will look back on.”

“The wonders of Ozymandius,” I supplied.

“And despair.”

I nodded.

“No,” he went on rapidly, “we’ll have a new king, and a new minting, and sin’s old coinage will be obsolete.” He turned up one hand and began idly rubbing his right thumb into his left palm, as if he could feel a kind of coin there already. “It is going obsolete already. We will pay the last toll exacted from all mankind. You have never been in debt—you don’t know the relief of having the last cent paid off and your books cleared.”

With characteristic stiffness he got to his feet, groaning a little, and stood against the racing backdrop of light and shadow, his hands in his pockets, the wind in his hair. I sat at his feet still, looking first from his face, which was far from me and almost awful, and then at the landscape, outflung like the wing of a phoenix before us.

His voice was hushed and urgent. “How like Janus we are, Half-pint! How curious it is that the Everlasting Now of God is broken up for us into pasts and presents and futures. I have spent my life thinking of now, and on occasion I have looked back, and I have thought of then—” he withdrew one hand and pointed to the far horizon, west of west “—but not until recently have I thought of looking back from then. It is a curious and strangely relieving thing.”

“I have found,” I remarked, getting up and taking him by the arm, for it was nearly time to go. “I have found that God’s curious things usually are.”

His eyes flashed laughter like a kingfisher's wing. "Come, you!" he said, bending to snatch up my notebook and thrusting it into my free hand. "Finish writing the death-scene of sorts for this story before he finishes writing yours."

"I have broken the thunder of my pen," I said accusingly, "now that we have gone on so long. Besides, I don't believe death writes us out at all. That is the problem with most thought."

My companion reached back and did violence to the collar of his coat, jerking it up around his ears as the wind, now that we were most free of the low turf, blew with an angry sea-fierceness into our faces. "No, no," he said, waving me off with his words. "I have tea and small-talk to conjure. That is a conversation you and I must have another day."

I laughed and went down the hill with him, though which of us supported the other, I could not say.