Shy, Pale-Lit Things

I challenged myself to reach 100,000 words on Plenilune this week.  I did it, with time and impetus to spare, but it got me wondering: where does that place me in the plot of Adamantine?  Every now and then I like to compare and see how quick or slow the two plots move inside themselves.  On a whim I thought I would grab the text from the corresponding pages in both stories and show them to you.  (Is it only my bizarre, twisted perception, or does 100,000 not seem like a lot?)

Adamantine

Eikin got up off the balls of his feet.  “Come close to the hearth.  I will have a look round for dry wood and get a fire going.  I don’t reckon anyone will see us in this murk, and we should be safe enough.”
She crossed stiffly to the hearth and knelt down on the slate flags, shivering with her arms around her damp knees while Eikin poked about the long room, breaking apart old chairs and testing fallen beams for any dry soundness.  She watched him in a kind of daze as he returned, knelt, and began to build a little fire.  The tiny spark which caught the dry tinder-moss was the only clear thing to her: a small and shining, golden thing, a perfect petal of light.  How many memories were trapped in a single petal of flame? she wondered.  How many memories were made around fires, and caught in fires, and lay silent and secret in fires forever…
“Mind the fire.”  She was aware of Eikin getting up and standing over her, looking down at the uncertain flame that was licking along the moss and twigs.  “It will be cold for a while, until it can be built up.  Mind it.”
“Where are you going?” she asked mechanically.
“To the wood,” he replied, “to look for dry bracken, to make a bed for you.  Be quiet and mind the fire.”
He went, making no more noise than a shadow, and left her alone in the long low room that had once been the centre of a farmhouse, alone in the quiet and the drip-drip of water that came through the thin patches of thatch, and the rush of wind and rain overhead.  The noises, she felt, only added to the depth of the quiet, and to her aching lonesomeness.  She was almost too tired to remember to tend the little flame in front of her, except that it was the only thing to do to stave off the last sharp thrust of loneliness that threatened to break her breastbone.

Plenilune

Margaret took the book, then, but she took Julianna’s hand as well, hard in the grip of her long fingers.  “I will take it, but I will not let you go until you tell me what you mean.  Too often people have slipped by me, leaving me without answers.  Not this time.”
She expected Julianna to spook and bolt, and for a moment the girl looked completely abashed by the powerful fingers locking over her wrist.  Julius, linked to her, also started, drawing in a swift breath of surprise or pain.  But she held the beautiful things and would not let them go, no matter how frightened they looked, no matter how beautiful.  Finally Julius moved toward his sister, his hands going out gingerly, steadily, toward the captured hand.
“Everything makes a sound,” he said patiently, as if he was speaking to a wild animal.  “And all sound makes a pattern.  Did God not speak, and did not his voice makes the form of things?  The sound of your soul and the sound of the soul of this book make a pattern together.”  His fingertips touched the back of her hand, cold, pressing, begging her to let Julianna go.  “So we know that you are meant to go together.”
“You can see that?” Margaret whispered.  She was not sure if she believed him or not.
Black-spangled, flushed with lilac-colour, Julius’ eyes turned her.  The fingers worked around hers.  “No, but we can feel it.  We can’t often hear it, but we can often feel it.  Madam—”  His voice grew audibly pained, and Margaret suddenly let fly her fingers, letting go of the brittle wrist. 
Margaret took a step back, feeling the wings of the darkness fold about her shoulders.  Concerned, shy, pale-lit things, the twins watched her from the doorways of their bedrooms. 
“My world is flat,” she said at last.  “My world is flat like a pan overtop of hell.  We don’t believe such things.”
“You are only blind,” said Julianna, as if that was a comfort.  “Those who have eyes to see can see.”
Where had she heard those words before…?  “But I am not blind.  I keep waiting for the end of your world to come up but it keeps curving on toward the sunrise and I do not know if I can take the roundness of it, nor what the sun keeps showing up.  You live in an awful world,” she said huskily.  “How can you bear the spice of it?”
“It runs in our veins,” said Julius simply.  Then he added, “Yours will empty into ours.”
She stared at him, almost beyond wanting to understand, yet that tenacious germ of human spirit drove her inexorably on, on toward the blinding sunrise.  “I think yours must empty into mine, young sir, but either way I will die.”  

The Fierceness of Defending Life

After a long day of working on Plenilune and trying to catch up to a massive amount of work-related papers in the office, I came back home this afternoon, hunkered down at the computer, cranked up Breaking the Yearlings, and wrote another spin-off piece for Plenilune, just for the fun of it and because I've felt a little clogged lately.  It seems like spin-offs may happen at odd intervals in the future (and past) so I will probably begin tagging them "Memoirs of Plenilune."  Just so you know.  A place for everything and everything in its place, as the saying goes.  Enjoy!  It's all you're going to get until the next snippets session. Heh heh heh.

* * * * *

It was the end of the summer of my tenth year.  I had nearly caught a falcon’s baby, but had let it go to save my own hide; I had bartered chicken eggs for three small red stones that glowed like sun-fire when the day is late; and I had been with my family as far as Helming Side where, the farmers there told me, they could still plough up old boots from the war.  A farmer showed me one, loam-eaten, rattling with someone’s foot-bones still in it and the laces grown stiff with dirt.
It had been a good summer.  I leaned back on my low rock, digging my toes into the thick mossy carpet of the glen, watching while our piebald destrier Gavrielle splashed her forehooves in the stream and took a deep, long drink.  I had already been in: the day’s dust was washed off me and I had mostly dried in the patchy, late light that filtered through the leaves, and now I sat with my trousers and tunic sticking to my hide in uncomfortable places, my soul easy and full within me. 
If I turned round I could see, over the top of the glen, through the crooked alder trunks, the smudge of blue on the peregrine-blue sky that was smoke trailing from our cooking-fire.  The smell of it hung thinly in the air and tickled my nose.  There would be a whole grouse for supper tonight, stuffed with cranberries.  My stomach, which had not been filled since morning, tried to get out and roll its way back to the cart-house. 
I did not turn round.  I lazed in the old summer twilight, one eye on Gavrielle while she had her fun, to be sure she did not go off and have too much fun, and I thought about—I do not know what: odd, lazy things which were each hugely important, like the three red stones and the falcon’s baby.  Maybe I would catch one next year and train it, and sell it to some rich lady—or, better yet, barter myself and my fledgling into some land-owner’s mews and make something of myself.  I thought about that until it seemed it had really happened and the glen became confused with the rich scenery of a hunt, lazy with the end of summer, full of lords and ladies and the jewelled shadows of their laughter…
I came to with a start.  Gavrielle had cried out sharply, smashing my shallow dozing with the power of one of her dish-sized hooves.  In a flash I was up, flinging the sleep from my eyes, but before I could see clearly what the matter was, a pain exploded across my face, digging into my right brow and spilling blood in my eye.  I went down on one knee, my fist in the moss, stomach clenched as I got a handle on the pain.  One thing came clearly to me through the swelter of red and rawness: I needed to get to Gavrielle.  Stumbling up, blinking with one blind eye and looking out of the other, I saw a group of boys not much older than myself ringed round my big mare, teasing her with stones.  She was a placid, amiable girl, used to taking the rough play of children, but the stones were something new.  We had never struck her and rarely ever chided her.  She was the throbbing heart and soul of my family.  Without her there would be no cart-house, no wandering and bartering, no livelihood at all.  She was everything, and as the blood filled one eye and the sight of her being tormented filled the other, a dark, thick shadow fell over my mind and my heart seemed to well up, thick with blood, into my throat. 
I hit the boy who had flung the rock at me.  I hit him wildly, hard, heedless of the pain that shot jaggedly up my arm.  He was big and only staggered back a little, surprised, but already I had hurtled myself at the next, thrusting myself like a spear into the side of their ring, wedging and wrenching them apart.  Gavrielle was squealing and wheeking in confusion, kicking out in fits and starts, half-heartedly, not knowing if she should fight for herself or if, even now, it was forbidden to strike a human being. 
The boys began to realize that I meant business.  Several of them ranged across the stream to keep Gavrielle from running off, but the rest converged on me.  I did not see them very clearly.  My right brow was beginning to swell and I kept my lid closed lest the blood sting in my eye, and anyway we were all moving so quickly that I am not sure I would have seen them clearly even with two sound eyes in my head.  I hit and kicked and swore deliberately, my teeth set, until the biggest boy, some eight years my senior, put me in the stream on my backside with what felt like a broken collar-bone.
The cold water brought me to my senses.  Then, before I could feel the pain or think what next to do, a sound ripped through the glen: a falcon’s scream, full and golden and enraged.  Falcons never keep so close to humans, brawling or otherwise: we all whirled and looked up.
In the low saddle-top of the glen with the darkening eastern sky breaking through the trees behind them, the late light falling on bridle-bit and signet-ring, were the three young lords of the Mares.  I had never seen them before, but that did not matter: they were unmistakable.  The eldest was not over twenty years old, the other two ranged close behind him, but already they bore the fierce, cool, supercilious stamp on their faces of undisputable lordship.  They sat their horses deftly, easily—I had the impression that they were woven into the fabric of the ground under their feet and that, if they moved, the loam and moss and glen-wall would uproot with them.
Badger’s horse, catching Gavrielle’s distress, flung up its head and snorted.
His falcon-scream dying into the twilight, his eyes full of a gently veiled, latent energy, Goddgofang, the eldest, looked down on us all, gaze landing lightly on us one by one, hesitating, hovering, measuring: when their cold blue shimmer fell on me I felt something ache inside my chest, a sudden longing after the beautiful summer that lay long and broken at my back: it seemed to slip out of my hands so that I would never have it again—it seemed to recede into the young man’s eyes and hide there.
“I mislike the odds of this fight.”  His voice was low, gentle, musing, and as yet held no mockery.  “What are the stakes?”
No one spoke.  I dared not look round nor break my gaze from that terrible face, but I felt as one might feel the laced whispering of tree-leaves how the other boys were worrying among themselves, catching the scent of each other’s distress, hunting for a way to break out of a fight which had suddenly become too hot for them.  But I caught a little movement to one side of Goddgofang and found Bruin had turned his head a fraction and looked down on me, a touch of smile on his lips, a fairness and a gentleness about his face which was oddly more like a woman’s than anything else.  I realized then that they had been there for the whole thing.  They knew who had started what, and Bruin was laughing at me for not stumbling up and blurting out who was at fault. 
Goddgofang twisted in the saddle, fetching a look back at his brother.  “Nigh on a baker’s dozen boys against a gypsy’s pup and a big old girl-horse.  I mislike the odds.  You?”
Badger’s face became bright and playful.  “I mislike them too.  Dost think we even them?”
“Thin them, rather,” replied Goddgofang ominously.  With an imperceptible gesture he turned his horse a little and the late light clanged off the polished head of his sword. 
I wished I could scrub the blood out of my eye to see better, but I did not dare move.  I wished I could go to Gavrielle’s side and hush her, for she was in a bad state and sobbing softly, but I did not dare move. 
Bruin spoke up for the first time.  His voice was like his face, like his soundless laughter: gentle and light, as mocking as Goddgofang’s was serious.  It was weirdly beautiful, like the haunting spell of a dream that you know will shape your life forever.  “Nay, we overset the odds.  What are stones against gentlemen’s swords?  Come down, Goddgofang: give them a fist in the teeth.  ‘Twill suit me better.”
And Goddgofang swung down, tossing his horse’s reins back to Badger, who was also laughing in that shining, soundless way.  I could look then: the faces of the boys were very white.  They had been worried enough before: the sight of Goddgofang, brilliant in the evening light with the dark plumage of his hair made rich with slumbering gold, his pale eyes alight over his aquiline nose and despotic mouth, striding down the slope to meet them while he stripped the glove off his right hand made them realize the man was serious.  I was scared too, more scared than I had ever been in my life, but at the same time a ruthless fluttering was beginning where my heart should have been, glad beyond all measure of gladness. 
“Sir—” began the biggest boy, starting back and dropping the rock which he had forgotten was in his hand.  “Sir, I can’t—we’ll go—we can’t—you’re a land-owner—!”
“ ‘Twill suit me better, too!” cried Goddgofang happily.  He flung his glove into the moss.  “Art Magnus’ boy?  Your brother takes after him better.  I rode with him last autumn to the University.  I would stake my ring that I would never find him hurling stones at a cart-horse and a gypsy.”  His voice dropped and seemed, like a fist, to reach across and take the boy by the throat.  “ ‘Tis churlish work, and never a man’s.  Yet you are but young: show me your mettle—if you dare.”
I hated that boy, but as I watched him take the full blame for them all and stand up mute and white under Goddgofang’s falcon-gaze, without a single waver, I almost loved him; especially when he said, after a long moment and a swallow, “It’s not my place to strike at you, sir, but yours to strike at me.”
Just in time I caught the look that passed between Badger and Bruin, a little nod, a little flick of approving brow, before I was drawn back to Goddgofang.  He, too, stood a moment in silence, then he put out his bare hand, long and lean and scarred already with the fierceness of defending life, and set it heavily on the boy’s shoulder.  “There is not room for boyhood in life, young sir,” he said grimly.  “Harken to that.  Nor is there room in the Mares for men of mean spirit.  Harken to that, too, and remember that the gypsies are always welcome to us as spice is welcome to life.”
It seemed the boy could finally look away, for he dropped his eyes and blinked—as if waking from an awful dream—and said, “Yes, sir.”
How easily one forgets how young these young men are!  Wordlessly Goddgofang took back his hand and seemed to release them all with a mere thought, with an odd little pulse of his presence, for after murmured obeisance the boys seemed to melt into the dusk.  The sounds of their going rustled in the wind and the wood until it was only the stream again, clattering away, and the uneasy churn of Gavrielle’s hooves on the stream-bed.
I actually wished they had forgot me altogether.  I knew Bruin would not, but Goddgofang looked, for a moment, as if he had, staring up into the crest of the trees at the foot of the glen, listening with a strange intensity to—something, something just out of my reach.  But then he seemed to let it go and he swung round, stabbing his eyes into mine. 
“You’re a fool,” he said warmly, coming to the stream-side and putting out a hand to fetch me up, “but a strong-hearted fool with a full-blooded heart.”
His hand closing over mine was a dreadful thing.  I felt the roughness of it, the power of it, and under the scored palm I felt a pulse that reminded me of plum-coloured evenings much like this one and the sort of power one only hears about in fire-coloured stories. 
I realized I had only just begun to be afraid.
Ship-ship,” whistled Badger, who had got down and was approaching Gavrielle.  “There’s a good girl…”
An inexplicable anguish seemed to break open inside me.  “You needn’t have bothered,” I said, hoping I did not sound ungrateful and not fully aware of what I was saying.  “I would have managed.  I am sorry, for I did not mean to cause a fight.  I know that—”
His hand came down on my shoulder.  The heaviness of it shocked all through me—but the curious thing was that the grinding pain of my broken collar-bone suddenly, inexplicably, ceased.  “What do you know of us?” he asked, and there was no mockery in his voice. 
I swallowed.  Once again I felt my beautiful summer losing itself in a kind of black misery.
“When the robin can fly as high as the falcon, then he may understand the high winds that tease at his wings.  Until then, best let the falcon plot his own course.”
“ ‘Twas not for me?” I asked blindly around a lump in my throat.  Then I shook my head, beginning to see a little more clearly through my misery.  “But the robin can’t see whole things as the falcon can.”
“No, it can’t.  It flies too low.  But it was partly for you.”  The laughter came back into his voice.  “Partly because I can’t stand to see a decent mare scared out of her wits.  How is our cousin?”
He turned from me to Badger, who had fished Gavrielle out of the stream and was looking her over thoroughly and gently.  I went to her then, dragging Goddgofang’s shadow with me as if his hand still clutched my shoulder; I put my arms around the mare’s muzzle with its old-woman whiskers and snuffled reassuringly into her nostrils.  She huffed and sneezed contentedly.
“She seems right as rain,” said Badger, getting up off his heels and stepping away from her bulk.  He skritched her flank—just where she liked to be skritched.  “She has a few wounds but nothing deep, nothing that needs more than cleaning and bandaging and a few days free of road-dust.”  He looked significantly at Goddgofang and Bruin, who was holding all three horses at the foot of the slope.
Goddgofang’s lips curled and the late light caught on his dog-teeth, sparking ivory.  “The north pasture would do, I am thinking.  It is very quiet up there.”
“I am thinking that, too,” said Badger.
The eldest of the three young lords of the Mares turned to me.  “Well, sirrah,” he said mockingly, “are our walls too thick for you, or would you honour us with the shadow of your gaudy cart-wheels for as long as your mare needs rest?”
I could hardly speak, but somehow I managed it.  “Yours the honour, sir!” I gasped.  “We are the least of your servants.”
“The bloodiest,” he said, “but, I think, not the least.”  He nodded to Badger.  “Best tell the young master’s family where to find him and bring them hither.  Bruin and I will gentle them back home.”
Somehow I found myself walking by Gavrielle through the mellow twilit wood, back across rolling pastureland toward a big old house full of lights, the shadowy shapes of Goddgofang and Bruin of the Mares jinking and drumming before me.  One of them—I think it must have been Bruin, judging from the pitch of it—began humming a song as we went.  It was a road song.  A gypsy song.
It was the end of the summer of my tenth year.   
It had been a good summer.

This Unequal War of Men and Devils

The wise men know what wicked things
Are written on the sky,
They trim sad lamps, they touch sad strings,
Hearing the heavy purple wings,
Where the forgotten seraph kings
Still plot how God may die.
from The Ballad of the White Horse, G.K. Chesterton

I took an afternoon's break from Plenilune to scribble a brief bit of Gingerune that happened to come to me.  You know how that goes.

* * * * *

“So it is you who has it.  I did wonder, when I misplaced it, how I could do it so thoroughly.”
The blood shocked back to my heart and seemed to spin in it, fire-tinged; my splayed hands froze on the pages.  Somehow, as though some familiar note called out from him to me, as though some familiar touch reached across the distance from him to my mind, I knew him.  I had not imagined meeting him like this.  I flung out my thoughts through the house but I knew I was alone.  Maslin and Rowena would have no notion that the thing we had been looking for stood on our threshold, pinning me down with his awful eyes.  It was a moment before I could turn and meet them.
He looked younger and was far more handsome than I had imagined.  Taller, too: the crest of his sheeny golden hair brushed the lintel of the door and his chin was bent a little downward as if, should he straighten, he would knock his skull against the beam.  The blue of his eyes was like heaven—the irony burned in my mouth.  They looked into me and knew me and called me by name, the name Maslin used; and for the first time in a long, long time, I tasted desperation. 
The dark blue of his robe fell back; he put out his hand, beckoning to me.  I felt the force of it rattle my bones.  “Come here, Gingerune.”
“I will not come,” I said through my teeth.  “I have two feet.  I do not need two more.”
The cool, playful anger jinked from eye to blue eye.  “ ‘Twas it from her you got your churlish tongue?  Mayhap I should teach it some manners.”
The very sight of him was conjuring up in me all I wished to quench, but I said recklessly, “You will stand there, now that you have come, and give me some answers.  After all these years, I think I deserve that.”
He folded back his hand into his robe.  “I think the human—where is he, and what does he do now with your quarter-whelp?—has given you sufficient answers.  He did not lie.”
“You did,” I snapped.
He smiled, and his smile was full of fangs.  I do not know what made me do it, save that I hated that beautiful face and I hated those fangs and I hated the fire coursing through my own veins.  I hated myself, and with an agonized cry I sprang forward, ducking and sweeping upward to take him under the ribs.
But he was too fast.  He gripped my fist in his hand and jerked me forward, out of balance, snatching my other hand so that we stood, fingers locked, feet planted in the worn floorboards, eye to eye.  I found that I was terrified, trembling with terror—and he knew it: I saw in those beautiful eyes that seemed to pull me into their rich, icy depths, I saw that he knew how afraid I was. 
“Why did you do it?” I rasped.  The balls of my feet gripped the floor and I pushed, but it was like pushing against a rock wall.  He did not budge.
A little spark flickered between his teeth.  “She did not resist me.”
“Who could resist you!” I spat back in his face.  “Tell me why you did it!  Tell me what you are doing!”
I did not think he would really tell me.  He could crush me under one clawed foot and crack my bones with fire and swallow me down into hell with one gulp.  Who was I to face the Grimouder prince and demand an explanation from him?  But the very cheek of it seemed to catch him off-guard and to almost amuse him.  His fingers tightened on mine: the pain began to lance up my arms and send little lightning-flickers across my vision.  He lowered his head, his forehead nearly touching mine.  His voice was a whisper and smelled sweet in the air.
“I did it to ruin you.  Now you will always come back to us, you and your little girl; they will prick your human veins and see your human blood, but in your heart of hearts you will always be one of us, and we will set our feet upon their necks and crush them.  Almost I am sorry they have forgot the Mark.  It would make the victory that much sweeter in our mouths.”
“I will rule no one,” I told him quietly—quietly, because I meant it with every scrap of my tattered soul.  “And I will rule no one in your name.  And whatever you think of doing, you will not, by all that is holy, lay a hand on my daughter.”  I looked into those possessive blue eyes and spoke through my teeth.  “If you do, I swear I will hunt you down as no one has ever hunted you down and I will make the heavens rain fire and the earth gape and the seas burn and I will bury you—” I shook his fists, interlocked with mine.  “I will bury you.  And you will rue the day you dreamt of Anehawk and Gingerune and Rowena and turning the blood of the sons of men to fire.”
He let go one hand and took hold of the fire of my hair in two fingers.  It burned with the light that came in past him through the door, the red of it like defiance, the glow of it like hope.  He smiled, but in his eyes as he watched his fingers work the heavy ginger strands there was something like caution.  I had not expected him to answer me: it struck me that he had not expected me to defy him, he who was so beautiful, whom many who remembered thought of as a god, and he was testing the playing field.
“I see I have woke the dragon.”

Emerald and Crystal-Fire

She could hear him down below - walking, by the sound of it - singing a Te Deum as he went, and singing it remarkably well.
plenilune

It is time for Katie's monthly snippets program (again!).  Unfortunately I spent almost all of last month focusing on a single scene so I feel as if I don't have much to show you unless I dump the whole scene on you.  Which you would love for me to do and which I will not do.  I've also got to the point where I skim over documents looking for snippets, come across a really good one, and suddenly wonder - "Didn't I post that already?"

August Snip-Whippets

Malbrey’s horse, a skittish, angry white mare he called Pearl, was beginning to stoop in front of her, starting the sharp, winding descent toward Glassdale. Her own leggy grey, moving like an ill-omened shadow among the uncertain pine-light, felt like a rock under her: every jump and jar and skitter on the steep road, barely cushioned by saddle and muscle, made her pelvic bones jangle as if she had dropped them on a shingly shoreline.
Plenilune

She could see Aikin and Brand riding out together, Brand looking like a shard of sunlight and Aikin with his dark hair spiked and dyed red at the ends. 
Plenilune

Feeling more than ever alone, cold in the wide freedom of Capys’ steep fell country that seemed to mock her fiercely like the flash of the fox’s white teeth, Margaret tugged her surcoat close at the throat and turned her face toward the overlook where, through the pine trunks, through the heavy silver mists and latent banks of snow, through the flicker of crow-wing, she could see Glassdale below. For a moment she became confused, her mare jostling her thoughts out of order; as if she were stumbling out of waking into a brief dream she thought she was seeing, not Glassdale, but a fresh waking view of the Cumbrian fells that knelt their knees down to the earth by Aylesward in England.
Mother… Father…
But then a blue-jay screamed overhead and the dream ripped away like cobwebs and it was Glassdale again. The memory of England was darkened by the ugly shadow of dissention and strife that still hung around her memory of her family. Glassdale, bright as an emerald and crystal-fire, was the thing that left her aching under her breastbone. 
Plenilune

"They are men hard to swallow."
"And sooth! they taste of fire and iron."
Plenilune

Time runs into the well at the world’s end, gentlemen: we cannot keep Plenilune from her overlord forever.”
Plenilune

A thick, strangling feeling was beginning in her throat, a painful stabbing of tears behind her eyes. She pitied herself, she pitied Plenilune, but she also pitied Skander for he must be thinking poignantly that he was responsible for what was to become of her. For his sake she tried valiantly to fight past the coarseness in her throat.
Plenilune

...Rupert, etched as with stone, head upflung, put back his lips and showed her his teeth as if he could feel her between them and, like a wild animal, was savouring the moment before he ground her in his jaws. 
Plenilune

Art in my way!” Rupert barked. “Play no black marble, dragon games with me, old mother, for I am in no mood to be gentle.”
Plenilune

Her words filled Margaret with dread and a rush of blood like the scent of the last victory. She was not aware that she was not breathing. She was aware of Rupert’s face, cold, white, fixed, as close to a kind of horror as he would let himself appear with Malbrey right beside him. He parted his lips—he had clenched them—then tucked them together again, resisting the urge to touch his tongue to them. His hand lifted from the reins and stole out, silently, purposefully. The thing in his face, in his eyes, surfacing like a nightmare Margaret had pressed beneath pillows and suffocated, was clear and awful and chilling. But the woman was unmoved. She looked back into that face and smiled a little, an odd, dark softness in her ancient eyes. For a moment, wrapped against the cold in shadow and sunlight and a cloak flecked with the colours of a grouse’s wing, she looked purely beautiful.
Plenilune

"Come on, you need some wine. You look peaky."
"And you?"
He turned to her, having stepped back into the light of his tent, and held out his hand: it was shaking visibly.
Plenilune

"I do not know perdition as you do."
Plenilune

Rides Along the Road, Ephemeral

So you know that I did finish Actually Finishing Something July.  I am honestly indebted to Katie for giving me an incentive to push through that difficult scene.  Don't be fooled: published authors are human too.  The scene will need more work later, possibly a few insertions - we'll see - but that all can wait.  For now the bulk of it is done and I can move on, thanks, again, to Katie.  Now here are the last Actually Finishing Something July questions (I love answering these questions).  And then I'm going to have to let it go and accept the fact that all the questions are done and I'm going to have to be a good girl and keep writing.

Were you able to reach and finish your July writing goal?

Yes, I was.  It was a little bit of a squeak-by, which I was not expecting: my progress was such that I anticipated finishing early, and I probably could have, but July was very busy in other ways and myself very tired in other ways as well, so in the end I finished Actually Finishing Something July only a day or two before the dead-line.

What was the most difficult part of finishing something this July?

I would say it was a combination of work, which, of all the months of the year, is always most demanding in July, and the dialogue of the scene.  I had to juggle, weave, and interconnect the minds, opinions, and comments of quite a number of characters in what was, for them, a tense and awkward atmosphere.  This is not conducive for lucidity and it made progress halting at best sometimes.

Did you maintain a writing schedule?  How often did you write to meet your goal?  Did you write into the wee hours of the morning or did you wake up extra early to write?

I did not have a writing schedule.  I probably ought to because life isn't all pony-rides in May sunshine, but I don't.  To be honest, I wrote whenever I wrote.  Let me not be accused of being predictable...

List the three musical tracks that most inspired your writing this July.  Tell us why they inspired you and how they fit your story.

The three songs that probably most inspired me were "You As You Were" by Shearwater, "Show Me" by Audrey Assad, and "Sherwood" by Heather Dale.  None of them really have anything to do with my July assignment.  "You As You Were" is an almost unbelievably good fit for another scene in Plenilune, a scene which I have not reached yet; but I think the fact that it does connect with Plenilune at all helped me write while I listened to it.  "Show Me" is a helpful song because it echoes, beautifully, the same appreciation of victory and thorough sense of weariness that Margaret herself is experiencing.  And "Sherwood" is simply a gorgeous, evocative instrumental, soothing and silvan, that matched with my scene perfectly.

when you fell in the rocks at the bend in the river
with the blood from your nose running hard on your fingers
and through the rest of your life
the electric charge of a change in the weather
you were touching my arm, you were holding a feather
and then I opened my eyes
shearwater, you as you were

As you wrote, did you come across any component of your story that surprised you?  Plot-twists, Grand-New-Ideas!, new characters?

You know that feeling you get when you drop a glass on tile and it shatters, and all the bright pieces are lying all around you tiny, bright, impossibly beautiful shards, more beautiful than the whole glass could ever be?  That is what my mind did with this scene.  I dropped it, and countless beautiful shards of ideas splintered out of it.  And that feeling you get, that wonder at the beauty and the despair of ever cleaning it all up and putting it back together again?  I felt that too.

Choose and share three favourite pieces of descriptive writing you penned for the challenge.

Latimer whined softly; she had a brief, confused sense of coming out into a small clearing before the world became a riot of gold and jewel-black and an upward rush of white and surf-sound. Goldfinches burst upward from the uncut turf in a whirling cloud, circling and chittering, filling the air with a thin, fine filigree of splendour.

 It was beautiful, clean and clear with a light dusting of snow everywhere, and Margaret’s spirits could not help being lifted a little on a tenuous upward draught of pleasure: for they were a merry, handsome group in a fiercely bright, handsome land: a flicker-flame of a party, trimmed in gold and ermine riding among the snow-laden pine-boughs, dressed in scarlets and greens, and blues as clear as Lord Gro’s aquamarine ring.

To Margaret it was a strange, shining experience, at once awful and enjoyable, for the cold sharpened her senses and the quick, flashing wit of her companions, like kingfishers, darted by her and seemed to weave the circle of their hunting party with brilliance.

Share the meanest, most unfeeling line said by one of your characters from your July writing.


Skander sidestepped the remarked deftly and rushed on before Rupert could say anything else.  With a little outward flick of his hand, as though to indicate her—his ring glinting in the sunlight—he remarked, “Woodbird Swan-neck, I hear, comes also.  So then Margaret will not be the only lady in our train.”
“Nay, but I protest she is.”  Rupert’s tone was soft, but laced with that quiet, almost inaudible laughter which, when mocking, hurts the most.
Skander flung up his head, nostrils widened like an insulted stallion, and his face, so often amiable, sometimes darkened by disquiet thought, was stark-pale with rage and a quick sense of fury lashed out from him, only a moment from being clenched in both fists and made kinetic by a blow to Rupert’s cheek.  They stood a moment so, both gone pale—Rupert’s left fist closed very, very slowly—and Margaret waited tensely, her heart in the throat, expecting after each throb for one of them to raise a hand.  But neither moved, and after half a minute Skander said tersely,
“I go down now to the stables.  You’ll find your horses there.”

Pick one of your favourite character from your July writing.  Describe his wardrobe.  Share how this character would dress if he were living in the year 2012.

Oh dear.  It is struggle between Skander Rime and Aikin Ironside.  Aikin has a chance to shine in this scene and his existence in the social sphere is stamped deeply on Margaret's awareness, but I think my favourite is still Skander, so we will stick with Skander.  His wardrobe in 692 ranges all the way from grubby trousers and doggied shirt that he wears when watching over the sick hounds in the kennels to his buff, gold, and silver silk doublet he wears on most formal occasions.  His day-to-day clothing tends to be rich but subtle and medieval in as sleek a way as is possible for his six-foot-plus, broad frame.  If he lived in our time he would be most comfortable in a pair of blue jeans and collared shirt.  I have the bizarrest image of him sitting next to Sam and Abe at a church luncheon, chatting pleasantly away...  Well, we authors dream, anyway.

Pick your all-time favourite bit of July writing and share it with us.  Tell us why the passage is your favourite.

“And you wonder,” said Margaret, when they were alone, “that people do not like you!”
“I never asked for them to like me,” Rupert said.  “Liking is a small, dear door out which you pass in the night, unseen—but should any see you go out by it, anyone desirous of seizing your house knows by which little secret postern to come in and catch you unawares.  I never asked for them to like me.  I like, as to that, none of them.”
She looked hard into his cool, unblinking eyes.  “Really?  Not even Malbrey? not even Bloodburn?”
“Them less than most, because they will do what I ask—and yet for that very reason I strangely loathe them.”  He pulled down his brows and his smile, which had been bitter and mirthless, ran from his face as he turned to look about him at the people in the room.  “They are all little to me, silver- and sanguine-coloured, petty in their finery like chanticleers in their barnyard runs.  They have little thought for aught else.  They have their pride.  They have their stubborn self-wills which I will break—”
“But you will loathe them all the more because they break,” Margaret finished, finding, with a curious mingled horror and pity, that she understood. 
“Yes,” he said, a sudden melancholy catching at his brows.  “I will loathe them because of that.”

I love this passage for several reasons.  In a broad sense it sets the playing field.  It gives me a clear aerial view of where everyone is, where everyone stands, albeit seen through Rupert's twisted vision.  For now Rupert's twisted vision is what matters.  Along with that, it gives me insight into Rupert himself and, through Margaret's sudden appreciation of him, it gives me more than ever a connection to him.  He is a brilliant man who sees and thinks and loves and hates and counts the cost and gambles everything to strike a blow and win a battle in a constant clash of kingdoms.  He does not often allow such clear views into his soul: this was quite a gem for me.  And unexpectedly it was part of the glass I broke: I dropped this piece and found that it exploded into more depth, meaning, and continuity for the story. 

What was your favourite part of the Actually Finishing Something July challenge?

It was actually agony.  It was like pulling teeth to get the story to come sometimes, it was like pulling teeth to get myself to sit down and focus even though nothing was coming.  My favourite part was the glass that I dropped; my second favourite part is the fact that I finished it.   I got through it, and now I can move on, reelingly, blindly, toward some sense of plot...  Thank you so much, Katie!  Your support has been invaluable.  I am very much indebted to you for helping so many of us buckle down to what we should be sensible and mature enough to force ourselves to do anyway.

"You ought not to be," she replied tersely.  "I did not do it for you."
plenilune

The Dark Side of Plenilune

"You are one, I suppose, to know we are not all mask and gala here."
plenilune

My stories have never been completely happy.  I think they have always had a just ending, maybe a little bitter-sweet, but most of the time pleasant, but the stories themselves, not since Book One with the magic coin and the dog and the yanking into another world, they have never been safe.  My first stories were pretty dumb and very inexperienced, as most first stories will be, but I had a sense of uncertainty and danger even then, lying just beneath the fabric of friendships and shield-rings which, if the friendships and shield-rings did not keep a lid on them, would make a nasty doom for the characters in a very short amount of time.  The world is a dangerous place, the mind still more dangerous; even at the start of my writing career I knew that.

"Never turn your back on your enemy.  There's good advice in that.  I never do: I keep myself under scrutiny at all times."
adamantine

Those of you who have read The Shadow Things know that I don't always pull my punches.  Those of you who have read The Shadow Things may laugh hard and wryly at the thought.  Life can be hard.  Life can be dangerous.  No one goes through life without mishap, heart-ache, mistake, loss, and seeing the long shadow of sin falling across everything in this valley.  In The Shadow Things there were beautiful moments - there was always truth - but Indi was always going about with the feeling of a knife at his throat.  In Adamantine, with the world seen through the eyes of a naive, displaced young woman, the sense of danger is huge and formless, like the sense of a nightmare you wake from and cannot quite remember.  It sharpens into clear relief from time to time, as happens in life when providence lets the protective veil grow thin, and it sharpens sometimes quite apart from the direct thrust of the plot because life, too, is like that sometimes.  When you are pushing with your elbows into the thick of things, things are likely to push back hard, angrily, especially if you are bent on some sort of good, as Indi and Adamant both find.

I have spoken at length and with great vigour about the splendour and richness of Plenilune.  I am completely in love with the characters, the setting, the history, the story itself.  I have gone on, and I will go on, about how much I love it.  But Margaret Coventry has been thrown into an "unequal war of men and devils" (have we not all?) and she finds old wars, old goodness, old evil longstanding before she quite finds her legs.  Her new acquaintances are old friends, old enemies; she catches them at odd times with odd looks in their eyes, speaking to each other without words about things she does not understand and had not been there to witness.  She is a late-comer to the Plenilune chess-board and she does not know what the war is all about.  As she begins to creep out of her own shell of confusion, despair and self-pity, she finds everyone bears scars, a bitter twist to the lips, a veil behind the eyes which drops, of a sudden, at the merest, seemingly casual remark.  She finds wounds, heart-ache, bitterness, wariness all around her and a sense of cold, gilt hopelessness in the air.  The skeletal shadow of a familial war lies over an entire Honour.  A woman is persuaded out of an engagement, leaving two hearts broken.  A man is a domestic brute, rendering his wife a cold, cowed, beautiful husk.  A man born prematurely is considered a bastard.  A common-law wife is considered a whore.  A woman was known to be insane.  Two children are thought unlucky.  A man is stripped of his family, his friends, his body, even his name.  Turn a marble corner, push back a heavy golden tapestry, look, for one unguarded moment, into someone's face, and the angry red wound of life can be seen, waiting for the man with the healing power to wander back from Acheron's shore.

What is the secret that lies at the heart of the dark star?
What has no voice but is screaming to be heard?
When will hope wander out of the barrow?
When will death come to us all?

Guess & Giveaway: In Conclusion

Today is August 11th, the end of my Guess and Giveaway.  You all seemed to really like my list of chapter titles!  I'll be sure not to disappoint you with future books.  I know it was a lot of fun for me to see your reasoning behind your choices and what drew you to certain titles and not others.  Just so you know: I'm dropping the price of The Shadow Things here on my blog so those who didn't win the giveaway can get a copy and see what lies behind these titles!  And now for the answers!  My favourite chapter title is

Wind in the Wheat Sheaves

That's right.  I love the golden image of it, the breathiness of it, the secretiveness of it.  I also happen to like what goes on in the chapter.  Three of you guessed this title.  Using a random sorter I pulled a name, and that name is

Victoria of RainDrops & Moonlight

Congratulations, Victoria!  Congratulations, everyone who guessed! Victoria, I'll be contacting you for an address so I can send an autographed copy of The Shadow Things to you.  As for the rest of you, autographed copies are available here on The Penslayer for $5.95.  Thank you for participating in this giveaway!

beautiful people - julius and julianna

The lashes on both of them were dyed dark, 
which made their orchid-coloured eyes stand out 
with an almost appalling beauty.
Plenilune

I don't want you to think I'm vying with George R.R. Martin or Robert Jordan for the most characters (at this point very few of them are going to die, so, big difference between us), but these characters just seem to keep coming.  I like to think, but don't quite believe, that my primary cast is set.  The secondary cast, the background people, however, keep jostling out to introduce themselves to me.  Here are two more, and I must confess that the discovery of them and the exploration of them opened up whole new vistas even to me.

Julius and Juiliana of Darkling-law

Considering the huge cast I am building up, it is probably completely necessary to ask: who are these people?  How old are they and what do they look like?

“These people” are Julius and Julianna, Centurion of Darkling’s younger siblings.  They are twins, sixteen years old, and both albino.  All three of Darkling’s noble children take after a tall, slender aspect: Julius and Julianna are no exception, though Centurion will probably always be a bit rougher and sharper in appearance, the twins softer and more subdued.  Naturally they both have white hair—Julius’ is thick and full, but kept short like his brother’s, and Julianna’s, kept long, has a natural wave to it—and pale, uncanny violet eyes.  They are almost impossibly beautiful, more like Grecian statues than real flesh and blood.  They share the strange bond often found between twins and, especially when they were younger, exhibited signs of being not quite right.  They are still repelled by social interaction and do not like to converse, but if you watch them closely you will discover that they are really extremely intelligent, probably more so than even their brother.

What is their family like?

Their family is pretty small.  They have one uncle who is married and a single aunt, but their parents are both dead—their father died some years ago fighting with the Thrasymene against the Carmarthen.  Their brother Centurion inherited the rule of Darkling and manages the House of Darkling-law himself, so the heavy mantle of responsibility has largely stayed away from Julius and Julianna.  They have a very friendly, easy relationship with their little family.  They live within a comfortable distance of each other, see each other very often, and get on rather splendidly.

What do other people say about them?

Their uncle and his wife dote on them in a respectable way: they nominally realize that Julius and Julianna are grown up, but no one really minds the spoiling.  The single aunt counterbalances this by being very practical with them (she, along with Centurion, are largely responsible for their schooling).  But they all consider the twins to be very bright and probably very promising.  Because they are of a noble family Julius and Julianna are known among the other Houses, but no one knows them very well and most people are a little afraid of them.  Centurion, amiable, smooth, easy-going in most things, is fiercely protective of them and considers them, for all their brilliance, to be nothing more than lambs.

What do they say about them?

Well…nothing, really.  Julius and Julianna are a content, self-contained unit, concerned neither by what they think of themselves or by what other people think of them.  This trait is perhaps what allows them to be as brilliant as they are.

How do they feel about people in general?

In general they do not like people.  They will try to be polite because they feel Centurion would like them to be, and they try to follow the social protocols that Centurion has taught them—though they don’t really understand them, and in general they don’t really understand people.

Since they are both still young, do they have a job or do they have studies, or perhaps both?  (Doesn’t do to be idle!)

Their aunt sees to most of the matriarchal aspects of running the house—the role of chatelaine has not yet fallen to Julianna, if it ever does—and Centurion, as I’ve mentioned before, is lord of the house and oversees everything.  Julius and Julianna are largely free of responsibility but they are never idle.  They are great readers, naturalists, mathematicians, astronomers, engineers, linguists…  They are always busy, though the two of them can pass an entire day in the same room working at the same problem and not speak.  They rarely need to.

Does either of them play musical instruments?

Another thing they are good at!  They can pick up just about everything and play it passably within a week.  They argue that it is no different from learning language, and that one has only to get the basics of the instrument’s foundation down and one can begin to speak with it.  Which is rich coming from two children who barely communicate vocally.

Do they have any pets?

No.  Centurion keeps a small menagerie but Julius and Julianna don’t share any emotional attachments to animals.  They do seem to understand animal behaviour acutely and they study animals and their interaction with their habitat, but they don’t feel a connection to animals the way you and I normally do.

Where you live defines you.  What does their house look like?

Their house at Darking-law looks much like Marenov√©: it is a roughly squarish, storied building with many windows (imagine if they had a window tax!), settled comfortably on a pastoral plain.  They are well out of the fell country in Darkling and you can see for miles over the low hills from one of the top story windows.  The house is fully furnished in a rich, refined way (much more refined and far less stupendous than Mark Roy’s house), but unless Centurion is having an unusually large party much of the house remains empty.

Do they believe in anything most people consider impossible?

They have a theory that everything has a language, everything has a voice, though sometimes the voices are too low or too high or too far away for the human ear to detect, and that the universe is woven together by and in this orchestral language, and that if they could just step back and get above it they could hear what it is saying.  They consider things like mathematics and music and literature to be measurements of that fabric of sound. 

Describe their relationship in three words.

Intuitive.  Co-dependent.  Steadfast.

Vividry

Such a time it is for having new people on The Penslayer! I really almost - almost - feel quite the social butterfly. I'm not, of course. You know me better: I much prefer a good book to interfacing with strangers. But on blogs it isn't so scary and, speaking of butterflies, I had the honour of meeting a brand new blogger the other day through the button-swap hosted by Bree & Tea. I had the privilege of interviewing her; and she, in turn, interviewed me, so when you are done reading her interview here, hop on over to her blog and read her questions for me! And now I give you -

Melody of Vividry 


First of all, tell us about yourself!  Don’t tell us what you do, tell us what you would like to do.  Tell us about your nearest, dearest things that make up who you are: people, places, books, images, lines of poetry and song.  We want to know!
Music, writing, creativity, and beauty are all passions of mine, and I’m blessed to be able to do things that involve each of those! I am a pianist, currently at college preparing to be a piano teacher. I would also love to perform and compose music, as well as learn other instruments. (I’m currently learning the violin and guitar, and would love to learn the cello and flute someday.) I also love to write, and it’s a dream of mine to publish a novel or book of poetry someday. For now, my writing is simply a hobby, albeit a pretty necessary one. I absolutely love collecting beautiful, inspiring pictures (just look at my pinterest!), and also taking pictures of my own. Often reading poetry or listening to a particularly beautiful piece of music will inspire me to create more beauty in another medium.

I would go to your blog just to see how beautiful it is, and I confess to leaving it up on a tab just to listen to your selection of music while I go about my work.  But what can we expect to find you posting about?  Do you think you might expand or contract the topics you blog about in the future?
I post about a lot of things (thus the subtitle of my blog is “painting beauty across the palette of life”), but they do tend to fall in a few categories. Music is a huge part of my life (if that wasn’t obvious from my last answer ;) ), so many of my posts cover topics such as piano teaching, discoveries about my own music, and more. I also post about different topics that God lays on my heart, as well as devotional-type posts and analogies. Then there are the posts about my writing, as well as funny stories, photos, and even a few book reviews sprinkled in there. Basically, I want people to leave my blog appreciating more of the beauty that’s in the world – whether this has to do with God or music or anything else.

You have 144 followers (I was the forty-fourth) which is pretty impressive.  How long have you been blogging, and what do you find helps draw people in to engage in your blog?
I have been blogging since fall of 2009, so three years. I’ve found that writing about what’s convicting, deep, and encouraging gets the most response from readers. Even though I’m rather bad about responding to comments, I really do desire to connect with my readers (most of whom are young Christian women like myself), and encourage them in all aspects of their lives. I think the personal connection really helps to draw people in.

I have to ask.  I love the word “vividry,” but where did you get it?
I’d like to say that I came up with the word, but when I googled it I found it in the pseudodictionary as “Distinctly powerful and imaginative at the same time.” Which is exactly what I want my blog to be like.

"Vividry" may very well show up in a book of mine somewhere, thanks to you!...  Now, I know this is probably an impossible question to answer, but I’m asking it anyway.  What is your favourite instrumental song, what is your favourite lyrical song, what is your favourite fictional book, your favourite non-fictional book, and what do you most like to take photos of?
I only get one of each? This is tough! Currently, my favourite instrumental song is The Piano Guys’ version of A Thousand Years. Favourite lyrical song is Precious Again by Sara Groves. Favourite fiction: The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale. Favourite non-fiction: Crazy Love by Francis Chan. And as for photos – I especially like to take macro photography of flowers. There you go!

Personality question.  Are you introverted or extroverted?  Do you prefer rain or shine (or a moderate amount of both)?  Are you dog person or a cat person (here we all imagine you wearing varying types of tails and whiskers); do you prefer soft cover books or hardbacks? 
I am very much an introvert (from a whole family of introverts!) although being at college has helped me grow quite a bit in being extroverted. Funny you should ask about rain vs. sun – my friends all call me the “sun worshipper” because I always rejoice whenever I see and feel the sun’s warm rays. I used to be only a cat person, until we got the most adorable Australian shepherd puppy in the world. Now I couldn’t imagine my life complete without both. And as for books – I honestly have never considered which cover is superior. I like both. ^.^

If you could move your whole family and everyone you loved to any place in the world and live there, where would that be?
Hmm. There’s a lot of places I would love to visit, but not stay... so I’d probably say just about where I live now. Perhaps somewhere more in the country and away from the city noise.

Tell me now, since you are a writer and I am a writer, and writing is what we do, what are you working on?  Do you have multiple stories going on, or just one?  What genres do you like to work with?
Currently I am only working on one story, though I have many ideas that are percolating in the back of my mind (as well as a couple of stories I’m co-authoring that are in progress). My story is called Alphyri, and it’s a fantasy set in involving the intertwined fates of the crown prince Alphonzo and a poor peasant girl Phyri. Kind of like a take on a typical fairytale with a lot of twists.
I especially enjoy writing fantasy or contemporary fiction with a hint of the fantastical. I’ve wanted to try historical fiction, but all the research bogs me down and I never get very far. I also enjoy writing short stories and poetry – the word constraint seems to help me keep my thoughts cohesive from beginning to end.

Would you give us an excerpt (or several, if you like) of what you are working on?
Absolutely! Here’s an excerpt of Alphyri, written from Phyri’s perspective:

As she stepped along the bracken and weeds off the path, she wished she had brought some kind of light: a lantern, or a torch, or something. She could hardly see ahead – the only thing visible was the dark mass of trees looming like an outcropping of the city itself. The grasses brushed against her legs under her skirt, wetting and poking uncomfortably. But she pressed on. As long as she didn't think about what she was doing, she could still move forward. It was in thinking that fear lay.
The forest finally was close - the shadows of its trees stretching out to grasp at her and bring her in. She shuddered as she shivered, and bit her lip so hard she could taste the sticky sweet taste of blood. But she forced her feet onwards, forced her brain not to think, forced her eyes to look straight ahead and decipher what lay in her path.
Phyri held her basket in front of her, a strange and measly protection against anything that might lie in the shadows of the forest. At least it made her feel a little safer.
She could hardly see, as everything was pitch black in the forest. But after blinking a few times and staring ahead, her eyes eventually got used to the darkness. She had expected a tangled mass of bracken and undergrowth between the trees, and though it was a little hard to get through, for the most part it wasn't too bad. The forest more resembled a wild orchard than anything else.
Phyri ran her hands along the bark of the trees as she walked slowly, trying to decipher from the feel what kind of tree they were. A maple, an oak, some kind of smooth bark... ah, here was an fruit tree, perhaps a peach, or an apple.
Looking far up the dark expanse of it, Phyri bit her lip again, wondering how in the world she would be able to get fruit off this thing. She might be able to climb...
The determination that had spurred her on this far came alive again, and before Phyri could think twice, she had thrown off her cloak, hitched up her skirts and sleeves, and was setting her foot into a handy fork in the branches. After a little deliberation, she put the handle of her basket over her head so the basket hung behind, leaving her hands free to climb.
It was slow going, for Phyri had not climbed trees in a long time. She had a vague memory of climbing trees as a little girl - the rough bark against her hands and the feeling of hauling herself up by her arms was familiar to her. Somehow it made her sad, as if she wished she could get back that time of innocence and childish delight in all things new. She was too old, too burdened now. If only she could go back to that time.
As she grunted with exertion, she looked up, and the pale light of morning shone dimly through the leaves above her. She could feel its warmth too, and smiled in spite of herself. Who knew - this might actually be enjoyable!

(And here’s an excerpt of a story I’m writing with a friend:)
I was running, but this time through a beautiful meadow of green with splashes of blossoming color. The long grasses and flowering plants slapped against my legs as I embraced the breeze wrapping around me. This was the meadow I had often played in as a child. I was almost home.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a dark form approaching, and I halted and turned. It was Abel, walking toward me with a firm step and joyful countenance. “Alice!” he called in his special voice he used only for me.
My face filled with joy as I turned and began running towards my beloved. He held open his arms, ready to welcome me home, and I longed for the moment when I would be in his embrace.
I ran and ran, but I was getting nowhere. I couldn’t move – couldn’t get to him.
My whole body suddenly felt very cold. Pain raced along my back and down my arm, and my dream tore apart with the agony. I was not home. I could not get to Abel.
I took a deep breath to quiet my thoughts, but that only sent another spasm of pain down my back. Sudden hysteria welled up in me, and it was only with effort that I was able to pull my thoughts together and open my eyes.
My cheek was lying on loose dirt, and all around me I only saw walls. They circled me tightly, leaving barely enough room for my bruised body to crumple inside them. I turned my head upwards straining my eyes to see over my shoulder, and found myself looking at a vague circle of green light. It looked far off and unapproachable, lying as I was at the very bottom of what could only be a well.
I could feel my left arm under me, still painful and yet slightly absent at the same time. My right – I twitched my fingers and found to my relief that they did not add to the messages of pain in my brain. I took another breath, this time smaller, and put that hand to the ground. I had to get myself up and off of my left arm somehow.
Pushing until my arm shook from the exertion, I tried to lift my body off of the ground. But all I succeeded in doing was rolling onto my stomach. Dirt got into my mouth as I took another breath to calm myself. I dared not use my left arm because the immense pain made me sure it had been broken. And my legs were numb and useless. But I couldn’t just lie there on my stomach in the dirt!
Oh dear God, help me! I prayed, face scrunched up with pain and despair, anger and hurt. I bit my lip hard, willing myself to have courage. Be brave, Alice. Do what Amie would do.
I moved my left hand under me with my right, wincing as the pain shot up my arm just with that small movement. The pain increased steadily as I put that hand to the ground, and I could not help crying out. The whole arm flamed with deep, burning pain beyond any I had ever experienced before.
As quickly as I could I pushed myself up into a sitting position, back against the wall, legs haphazardly stretched in front of me. As I leaned my head back against the wall, I found that I was crying. The tears poured out of me freely as I cradled my broken arm. What do I do now?
It was wonderful having you on The Penslayer, Melody. I loved both your excerpts: very poignant, with very clear prose: you never lost me for an instant.  And everyone, I'm serious! Go check out her gorgeous blog! (And listen to the pretty music on her player!)