An Undramatic Person

when I look at you, boy // I can see the road that lies ahead // I can see the love and the sorrow // bright fields of joy // dark nights awake in a stormy bed // I want to go with you // but I can't follow // so keep to the old roads // keep to the old roads // and you'll find your way
andrew peterson, you'll find you way

Joy asked me if I would do a dramatis personae list for Talldogs.  Unfortunately, I feel that if I did that, several key aspects of the plot would be spoiled.  But I thought a little character fractalling for my main character Raymond St. Jermaine might be fun, and appease you.  I picked up the following series of questions from another blog and thought I would share the link and my results in case anyone was interested in either. 
physical/aesthetic characteristics
1. What colour is his hair? The author of this questionnaire asked for the answer to be specific. Raymond’s hair is an ‘ebony brown.’ As a bonus, I will add that he keeps it Roman-cut.

2. What colour are his eyes? Again with the specifics: Raymond has ‘honey eyes,’ which are the lighter spectrum of the common brown eye pigmentation. …He does not have metaphorically honeyed eyes. That’s another character…

3. What colour is your character’s skin? Naturally Teutonic, if left indoors Raymond’s skin would assume the colour of morse ivory: a pale set, slightly greyed with the presence of very small brown freckles. But since his skin is outside more often than it is in, he has a decidedly nutty cast.

4. What special aesthetic characteristics does he have? With his Equestrian lineage, Raymond has excellent form and bone-structure, especially in his face, but he is not abnormally gifted in either height or breadth. To be honest, he is rather average for the men among his set.

5. Does he have any piercings or tattoos? The author said that if the answer was no, then to specify why not. It is not unheard-of for men to have rings and tattoos, but not among Raymond’s strata, and not from his demographic. While he does not hold anything against people who do have them, he would be very uncomfortable to have either himself.

6. What is the sexiest physical characteristic of your character? What a lark! He’s a handsome buck, a bit in the common way for young Equestrian gentlemen, but he cuts a good figure nonetheless and he has a ram-rod set to his spine which makes him stand out in a crowd otherwise at ease with itself.

7. What is the ugliest physical characteristic of your character? I do not like avoiding questions, because then it looks as though I am being lazy. Suffice it to say that the answer to this question is not available to the public as yet.

8. What does Raymond wear? From the foxies up! Trousers, usually in brown, grey, or black cloth—buckskin-coloured for special occasions—neatly fitting and tapering to the ankle; shirtsleeves in white with braces overtop; doublet of a complimenting colour with the trousers, varying in weight according to the weather, fastened up the middle with buttons, low collar, short skirt. Footwear invariably a pair of riding boots with a gentleman’s spur-and-sword set to round it off.

BONUS: Why does he like wearing that outfit? Raymond is a quiet, heavy-set personality and does not choose to draw much attention to his person, for other diverse reasons, through his clothing. He dresses to the fashion and will never appear dated, but his most flippant adornment may be a stamped floral pattern in the crushed velvet of a particularly dark doublet, no more.
expressions of emotion
9. When your character smiles, what does it look like? Raymond’s smile is a straight-lipped affair, very quick and usually done while he is not looking directly at you. If you did not know him well, you might mistake it for a consciously long-suffering expression.

10. What does his laugh sound like? If you can get a hearty laugh out of him, it will ten to one be completely soundless. If you catch him with some piece of gammoning unawares, he might give a little chuff.

11. What is his normal style of speech? “Like a tiger speaking in a cello.” Raymond is not very talkative, but he is a perfectly competent speaker. I have noticed that (if he knows you well) when he becomes agitated or upset, he will lash out at nothing in particular and give a highly intensified version of a report of whatever has irritated him, and after that he will lapse back into a disapproving calm. His voice is otherwise very pleasant to listen to: I sometimes think his best friend coaxes him into speaking just to hear the comforting sound of his voice.

12. How does Raymond express and/or handle anger? On that chiseled face, it isn’t hard to tell when he is disapproving. His brows contract and his pupil shrinks, his lips draw shut in a tight line. He becomes even more reserved, even if he cannot leave the room, throwing up a kind of wall between himself and whatever has offended him. He does not usually express his anger violently: he learned long ago to hold that in check.

13. Does your character cry? No, not since he was a very young boy.

14. How easy is it for other people to read Raymond’s emotions? For strangers, not at all. He is generally mistaken as being judgmental, cold, and proud—and he may very well be all these things, but in company he is readily a gentleman, if not a gregarious one. If you care to get to know him, and he takes a liking to you, it is not hard to see which way the wind is blowing with Raymond.
character beliefs
15. Is your character religious? The questionnaire author asked, “If so, what faith and to what level of devotion?” The answer is Christianity, and I do not know how to gradate “levels” of devotion in it. Raymond, like any other man, remains dependent on God, but has a very firm faith and a very strong heart. He has got over that trying stage of worrying about his own salvation: forgetting what lies behind, he presses on to the goal which is in Christ Jesus.

16. How does Raymond view those of other faiths? In this Raymond is both judgmental and tolerant. He will not press the matter. You’re wrong, but he will not press the matter. :P

17. What are your character’s core values? What, above all else, does your character feel must be conserved in the world? His own soul and the souls of his friends.

18. How willing is Raymond to fight for those values? It would not require a second thought. I don’t believe it even require a first.
character likes and dislikes
19. What is your character’s favourite food? The small forward cuts of the tenderloin filet, the filet de bœuf, flash grilled and rare, served with a slice of sweet cheese and a sauce of pepper-laced, Madeira-type wine.

20. What is his favourite colour? The colour of a full-bodied red. There is something rich and sleepy and blood-stirring about that particular colour…

21. What are your character’s sleeping preferences? Raymond would put off going to sleep if he could. He prefers the air to be cool, and he prefers to have someone in the room with him to wake him if that should be needful.

22. What is your character’s sexual identity? He is heterosexual. I think that, while he can intellectually tolerate homosexuals, if he were placed in close proximity with one and made aware of the circumstances, he would be very uncomfortable. He would be civil, because that is his nature, but he would be no more comfortable than you would be if you had twisted your ankle, or had a bad taste in your mouth.

23. What are your character’s sexual preferences? He would have to be married (!) and rather comfortable with his spouse. Again, for strangers, he is not easy to get to know, and he is aware of his reserved appearance, which can be very daunting to a woman. He does not easily give his affections, either. But all in all, barriers being surmounted, I think he would be a rather tame player.
character introspection
24. What is your character’s biggest goal in life? In this present life, Raymond needs a frame of reference, a place to belong, something he can put his hand to.

25. What does he believe is his greatest virtue? His honour.

26. What does your character believe is his greatest vice? Bitterness.

27. What motivates your character most? “Yea, sirrah, we have a code of honour, the motto of which runs ‘Be ye holy, as your father in heaven is holy’!”

28. Is your character objective-oriented? “Get a crew. Get a job. Keep flying.” I think that if anyone other than Kipling had written If, it would have been Raymond’s father. Raymond is a hard worker, conscious that even though he is a gentleman’s son and has every right to throw his pedigree around, if he wants any respect he must earn it. He is civil to all, works hard with his hands, applies himself to his studies, and has always in mind the good of his family and his estate. Those are the things that matter to him.

29. Would Raymond rather be a great person or a good person? Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Jesus with her sons, bowing down and making a request of him. And he said to her, “What do you wish?” She said to him, “Command that in your kingdom these two sons of mine may sit one on your right and one on your left.” But Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” [The sons of Zebedee] said to him, “We are able.” He said to them, “My cup you shall drink; but to sit on my right and on my left, this is not mine to give, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”

30. Would your character rather be hated for being who he is or loved for pretending to be someone else? One thing Raymond despises is duplicity. Whether loved or hated, he will always be himself.

31. Is Raymond an introvert, extrovert, or ambivert? Raymond is naturally introverted. I do not know if I clarified that he is not shy. I am shy. Raymond is austere. But when he is among his friends, that pleasant, assured Raymond comes to the fore and he is a little less like stone.

32. Is your character creatively expressive? Not in the sense that he paints, or sculpts, or writes literature. He works with his hands and keeps his mind sharp through reading and physical labour.

33. What is your character’s disorder? Everyone has to have a disorder. You’re not normal unless you have a disorder. It is likely that, with Raymond’s natural tendency to be introverted, he has added a now-subconscious desire to self-efface himself due to how he perceives himself. He does not really care what other people think of him, but he assumes that everyone else sees him as he sees himself, and that is never nice, no matter how self-assured you may be on a certain level.

34. What is Raymond’s standard emotional state? At home, harassed. Among his friends, tranquility.

35. Is your character materialistic? Not really, certainly not if you pressed him about it, but ownership and possessions are very important to his station and the way in which his family is viewed by other gentlemen’s families, and he does take great care of the material wealth of his life.

36. What is your character’s major learning style? Raymond is a mixture of auditory and kinesthetic—depending on the circumstances, he relies heavily on one or the other.

37. I am a _________. How would Raymond complete that sentence? A St. Jermaine.

38. Life is an act of _________ing. What verb would your character use to complete that sentence? Taking: taking up one’s cross. Dying: dying to one’s self. Pressing on: pressing on to the upward goal of the prize which is in Christ Jesus. Forgiving: forgiving, for one has been forgiven much. Loving: loving, for without love one is not a son of God.
What do you think? Would you be friends with him?

Fly Away Home Release!

Rachel Heffington
About a month ago I had the honour of showcasing here on The Penslayer the beautiful cover of Rachel Heffington's debut novel Fly Away Home.  It is an absolutely gorgeous cover - as Mr. Warne says in "Miss Potter," it must really stand out from the other books on a shelf.
and it's releasing today!
now I have the honour of introducing you to Fly Away Home and Rachel Heffington with her author hat on!
First of all, about the name Fly Away Home—is this from a song or a piece of poetry, or was it simply born out of the novel itself?
A bit of both, I suppose. I had the story in my head without a title for some time, and as the plot came together the name sort of wafted onto it. The project on which Callie Harper (the protagonist) is working takes its name from the Mother Goose rhyme, "Ladybird, Ladybird," as does the title of the entire novel. And there is a double-meaning...Callie has been trying to outrun her past when what she might need to do is give it a second glance.

Give us a brief summary of the book—the kind you find on the back cover!
Callie Harper is a woman set to make it big in the world of journalism. Liberated from all but her buried and troubled past, Callie craves glamour and the satisfaction she knows it will bring. When one of America's most celebrated journalists, Wade Barnett, calls on Callie to help him with a revolutionary project, Callie finds herself co-pilot to a Christian man whose life and ideas of true greatness run noisily counter to hers on every point. But when the secrets of Callie's past are hung over her head as a threat, there is space for only one love, one answer: betray Wade Barnett to save her reputation, or sacrifice everything for the sake of the man she loved and the God she fled.
I like the sound of that!
What other books is Fly Away Home like?
This is a good question. In pacing, I'd say about like Ann Howard Creel's "The Magic of Ordinary Days"...with a soupcon of dry wit à la The Importance of Being Earnest...  It's really a hash of comedy and poignancy; hence, the odd pairing.

What makes Fly Away Home so special?
I think it's a new take on historical romance. First of all, it's written in first-person and while tied on every corner to 1950's NYC, has less to do with historical events as it has to do with life for a woman in the world of journalism at that time. Most stories about young women in the professional world are about becoming glamorous and successful--the very things Callie craves. Fly Away Home takes a step back and looks at the definition of success, and what we'll sacrifice to "make it".

What three words best describe the feel of Fly Away Home?
Wit. Warmth. Glamour.

What inspired the plot of Fly Away Home?
The plot was inspired by a piece of flash-fiction I wrote one day and posted on my blog. It got a lot of interest and everyone including me wanted to know who these characters were. The character of Wade Barnett was partially inspired by Gregory Peck's portrayal of "Joe Bradley" in Roman Holiday. I kind of turned that role on its head, but I first got the idea for him (as well as Mr. Shores) from a particular scene in that film.
I love the film "Roman Holiday," so props for finding inspiration there!
What age-range would you place Fly Away Home in?
16-30. I assume anyone would enjoy Fly Away Home (including guys; I made sure to run the whole thing through a council of manly men to make sure I had the male characters down pat) but the themes of the book probably apply most to readers who are in the middle of stepping out and making their way in the world.
Stepping out into the world is a scary business, one we all have to do.  Encouragement is always appreciated.
What genre is Fly Away Home?
Historical/inspirational romance. Technically. I really dislike romances that are nothing but fluffery so there's actually quite an interesting plot that is just as important to the book as the romance. There is intrigue...villainy....and a darn good friendship.

Can we expect other genres from you in the future?
Always. I feel that the mark of a good author is his/her ability to craft words in many different genres. So far I have tried my hand at children's historical fiction, children's fantasy, and contemporary as well as a bit of historical drama and mystery.

Do you have another book lined up to be published in the future?
I have several completed novels on the shelf waiting to be edited/rewritten as well as at least three in mid-stages. The three mid-stage are a children's fantasy, a contemporary, and a 1930's mystery. I can't say quite yet which will emerge first, but I am definitely planning to release more titles in the future.
Hip! hip! huzzah!
If you had a dream book-reading list, composed of your favourites and books you think you would really enjoy, what books would be on that list?
You had to ask this, didn't you?
A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken
Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A.Milne
With Fire and Sword by Henryk Sienkiewicz
The Wind in The Willows by Kenneth Grahame
Bleak House by Charles Dickens
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Plenilune and Ethandune by Jennifer Freitag (RELEASE them, I say!)
Anything Wodehouse
The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy
James Herriot's vet stories
Sherlock Holmes stories
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (I hated and loved it simultaneously)
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis
An Old-Fashioned Girl by L.M. Alcott
Dead as a Scone by Ron and Janet Benray
The Secret Dialogues of the Inkling Club (No, that's not a real book, but I wish someone had taken down in shorthand everything that went on at that genius table.)

That is a very good list.  I see several books I have already read and love, and quite a lot of authors whom I know.  That Jennifer Freitag character sounds familiar, but I don't know if I have come across any of her books.
Thank you so much for joining me here on The Penslayer, Rachel!  And followers, be sure to support your local author and grab this book!  I know I'm going to.  So off with you!
Rachel Heffington is a Christian, a novelist, and a people-lover. Encouraged by her mother to treasure books, Rachel's favorite pastime was (and still is) reading. When her own library and her cousin's ran out of interesting novels, twelve-year old Rachel decided she would write her own; thus began a love-affair with word-crafting that has carried her past her teen years and into adulthood. Outside of the realm of words, Rachel enjoys the Arts, traveling, mucking about in the kitchen, listening for accents, and making people laugh. She dwells in rural Virginia with her boisterous family and her black cat, Cricket. Visit Rachel online at

Things in Heaven and Earth

"None of these costumes is truly scary.  No one ever dresses as crippling self-doubt."
I have said it before - aloud, and probably here on The Penslayer as well - that I am the worst judge of my abilities, be it in writing, in fashion, in society, in whatever.  I am always criticizing myself, and not often constructively.  I think people know that because they don't often criticize me themselves.  I think back to my early endeavours at writing and fashion respectively, and my heart shudders at the things I did.  Why on earth did no one say anything?  I would not have wanted them to.  It would have crushed me probably beyond redemption if they had - but still! the provocation was so severe! It astounds me that no one around me dropped even the slightest hint of disapprobation on my sensitive ears.  It is almost too much just to deal with my own destructive self-doubt.
things in heaven and earth: february chatterbox

With an achy groan I eased my battered, stiff body into an arrow-backed chair.  The heat from the stove beat against my cheek like an angry falcon’s wings and I revelled in it, softly, quietly, every limb suffering the barrage with happy complaisance.  The world outside was raw and black—even where I sat, down a flight of steps and round the back end of the kitchen wing, I could hear the wind rumble in the stones and whistle white-tipped across the battlements.  I placed my hands palm-flat on the tabletop and stared at them with good-tempered moodiness.  It was good to be within-doors in a chair missing half its back slats, listening to the grumble of my stomach and my companion—for a soldier’s stomach is never full and a soldier’s companion is never silent.
“It is like the great ones to turn us out on a night like this—it is like the great ones to visit us on a night such as!”  Emeret folded his darkly-clad body into a chair round the table’s corner from me.  “God forbid they should come on a clear day, nor at noon.”
“Nay,” I grumbled pleasantly.  Emeret tossed down a tin of tea, a spoon, and a brewing ball with a disharmonious clatter.  “They come like Christ, of a sudden an’ in the night.”
“Aye, aye…”
He wrenched off the lid and began chiselling at the contents with the spoon.  Watching him sleepily, my mind toyed in slow fascination with the scenes of the past two hours.  The front rider had come first, tearing through the windy, rainy dark with his sealskin cloak ring-streaked by mud and caramel-colour, his horse foaming at the breast.  I had not caught the message, I knew only that within the next five minutes I was plunging up to my shoulders into my clothes-kist and yanking my best cloak from the depths, half-running with Emeret and our swords up the bunk-way passage, stabbing my fingers with my cloak-pin as I went.  A scent of delicious urgency coupled in my nostrils with the doggish rebellion against being forced to stand in the elements when it was not my hour to do so.
I had heard the Black Prince’s name flung whisper-like down the ranks.
The heavy north-facing gates had swung outward upon the road, giving a small firefly glimpse of rain-spattered torchlight and the tossing heads of numerous horses.  Shoulder to shoulder with Emeret in the lines, I had been able to spare the newcomers only sidelong glances from around the cheek-pieces of my helm.  Sodden horse after sodden horse clipped by us along the parade ground, leather squeaking, metal pieces clanking—and somewhere a man barked an order which was not meant for my division. 
I had caught a glimpse of the Prince in all of it—a fleeting, uptossed image of helm and horsehair plume, black and glistening in the torchlight, and shot through with a streak of white like lightning against a summer night sky.  To me, several rows removed and standing on two feet upon the roughshod cobbles of the parade ground yard, he had seemed to me a world and a heaven away.
Rainwater had run down my neck.
“Still,” remarked Emeret as he toiled over his tea, “the likes of such a man can afford to go from garrison to garrison as it please him, at whatever hour suits his soul.”
I reached back and dragged my palm along the length of my nape.  “Aye?” I replied sleepily—then, as I heard his words clearly in my brain, “Aye, I suppose he might.  A man to cast weird stories about his shoulders, the Black Prince.”
The ambery face of my companion blinked upward in the lamplight, smiling and curious, coaxing.
I sniffed rhetorically and settled into my seat.  “I am told—through third and forth hands and hearsay,” I waved my hand dismissively, “that magic runs in the veins of the whole family—not just the Prince himself.  I am also told that ice-water runs in their veins, and that they can be cruel, calculating people, heavy-handed and high-horsed.”
“Verily,” said Emeret soothingly, digging away at his tea-leaves.  “There are many tales of the same sort among my folk.  I mind my mother—may she rest in peace—telling me some story about the She-wolf and death and something oddly-linked about a dragon.  It was great fantasy, to my mind, those old tales she used to spin…”  He looked up whimsically at the low ceiling of the room, a pleasant smile on his face.
I interjected a cough and resumed.  “Aye, well, stories be stories.  Sometimes I think they would as lief trample the wheat fields as watch them grow.  When hast a powerhouse of that nature, what is like to come out of it!”
Emeret put down the corners of his mouth and nodded.
“They say the Black Prince,” I continued in full spate, “is the worst of the brood.  And small wonder!”  I cast about for my words on the tabletop.  “When the sire, they say, holds life and death in leash, and legend has it the dam has died and come to life again, is it to be marvelled at that the cub should put his hands into the ether and pull them out again, and not have the flesh blasted from his bones?”
“Surely stories be stories, and yet they make for good hearing.”
Both Emeret and I turned at the newcomer’s voice in the doorway.  He wore a battered sword and the red weals of a soldier who has just laid aside his accoutrements, and in his dark hair lingered spatterings of the rain.  There was a cool, sleepy interest in his eyes as he took us in—somewhere back of the icy blue I saw the unmistakeable look of a man who is bone-weary.
“Well, an’ sure,” I replied casually.  I got up from my chair, not sure of the rank of him.
He put out one hand with a dismissive flutter and turned his head away, cat-like.  I hesitated halfway out of my chair and did not know what to say.  But then, having turned, he seemed to see what Emeret was doing, and I saw a little light of interest bloom in his face.  He came off the doorframe and slipped noiselessly into the room.  As Emeret’s hands left the tea-tin one of his came forward, outstretched, fingers fine and decorated beneath one knuckle with a battered charm of iron-work set with a flawed blue gem.  He seemed to coax the tin into his hands and lifted it to his nostrils.  He sniffed—I saw Emeret’s head turn and peer quizzically up at him over the curve of the soldier’s elbow. 
“A very long ride?” he asked conversationally.
The soldier turned his head a fraction, languidly, and perused Emeret with an askance brow.  Then he snuffed softly, horsewise, with a little feathering of humour, and a shy smile struck up at the corners of his mouth.  “Aye.”  He reached for the spoon and stepped round the end of the table.  “A longish ride.”
As he passed me I caught the scent of pepper and musk.  “Have you far to go in the Black Prince’s train?”
He reached the stove and suddenly spun back upon me, his head up, eyelids widening a moment and his mouth slashed with harsh laughter.  “Aye, that also.”
I glanced aside at Emeret; he, too, had looked at me, and as the soldier had dropped his gaze to the tea again, my companion flickered his fingers promptingly at me.  Achy, warm, and as ready to drink tea made by Emeret as by a complete stranger, I crashed sidelong back into my chair and cast back into its rough embrace, kinked round to smile crookedly at the newcome soldier.
“I hear he crisscrosses the landscape.  Does he drag you about much, sirrah?” I asked laughingly.
The expressive brows lifted.  “Rather!  I hardly sit down but he is off again, hauling me along with him.”
“And dost thou know him well?” asked Emeret.
But the soldier shook his head.  “I would not say so, no.  But then,” he added, drawing his gaze up from the tea-tin, “I never found him an easy man to know.”
I brought my palm down soundlessly on the tabletop.  “It is what I was saying to my friend Emeret.  The Black Prince and his like are high and mighty—like the pagan gods.”
“Betimes,” added Emeret, “I am overcome with the notion that they fancy themselves deities.”
The soldier pried open the little oddments cupboard and began to make himself acquainted with its contents.  “Many a man often will, in his mind.”
I chuffed.  “When the wide world is your hunting ground, a pebble kicked is a powerful thing.”
The lean, tall figure backed up from the cupboard and straightened; with another of his little light spins he rounded to the table and began to set down his newfound accoutrements.  To the tea-tin and the warped spoon he had added Emeret’s precious teapot, jade-coloured and free of blemish, and two round handle-less cups such as we use commonly on the frontier.  His long hands moved with effortless grace—and so swiftly! it was like being enchanted to watch them.  He cupped the brewing ball in one hand and passed his other palm over it: like a flower it blossomed open.  But before he began spooning the tea into the ball, he picked his own pockets and withdrew a small packet of coarse powder that hit the nostrils like a peppercorn between the horse-teeth.  With smooth deliberation he measured out a portion of his own mixture and added it to the flat black leaves of Emeret’s tin.
My companion fluttered his fingers indicatively at me.  “When thou stood in the doorway like Charon, didst overhear Angelyst mark to me that it is not to be marvelled at that the Black Prince—it is spoken—can play with the ether as washing-women play with the waters of the Ghir?”
The soldier began to measure his new blend into the ball.  “Surely that is to insult the washing-women.”
Emeret kicked back his head into his soundless golden laugh. 
The soldier turned to the stove and flung back the latch of the door, opening it to emit a fulgurant glow and a breath of heat.  From where I sat, it seemed to me that the fire kicked up like a dancing girl at his approach.  “I don’t suppose it is to be marvelled, when you put it the way Angelyst put it.”  He twisted his profile over one shoulder and nodded at me—by way of greeting, I supposed: a little baffled, I nodded back. 
Emeret laboured out of his chair and threaded his way through the small, cluttered room to the pipe-head.  As he ran the water, I conjured up the sense to ask,
“From what you have seen of him, what do you make of the man?”
“Ah, thank you...”  The soldier took the water from Emeret and began to heat it over the stove.  He put his lean backside against the edge of the table, shoving his feet against the dented toe-kick of the stove, and folded his arms, settling in with the sleepiness of a cat.  A little fireglow and lamplight played on his face.  Emeret propped himself, also, against the table where he could see the soldier’s profile.
“If you have not met him,” the man said at length, still smiling his little shy smile at the stone flags underfoot, “I must say the rumours paint a candid picture of him: hard, unpleasant, and reserved.  He is a harsh taskmaster, and I have not known him often to speak his mind.”
“And so he is hard to know,” mused Emeret.
The soldier nodded.  “And so he is hard to know.”
Candid or not, there was something about the blunt way in which the soldier depicted the Prince which brushed the hair on my neck wrong.  I was good-tempered by nature: it was one thing to idly repeat rumours as I had heard them, but hypocritical as I admitted it was, I disliked hearing a man cut down behind his back.  I twisted my lips stubbornly and struck out blindly—God knows why—in an effort to be charitable. 
“So he is tight-lipped and unsociable.  So!”  I flung up one hand.  “Is that also to be wondered at?  They lay about them hard on the power scene, these folk, and they carry the weight of more things in heaven and earth than I can imagine upon their shoulders.  I do not think it adverse to a man’s character if he be careful of his council and not too quick to make friends.”
The soldier yanked a harsh smile round at me: his dog-teeth glinted sharp in the light.  “Do you think so?  Perhaps I misjudged the man.”
Emeret flung out his hand at me.  “It is in my mind that Angelyst composes a valid point.  In a position such as the Prince’s, it would not do for him to be lax or too open-handed.”
The water began to boil.  Again, as if his body weighed no more than a leaf, and made as much noise as a puff of kitten’s fur, the soldier pushed off the table and folded the water, like so much silvered paper, into the teapot.  Steam feathered the air around his hands.
“You do not think that way merely because he is a great man, and you sit in a broom cupboard on the windy edge of the steppes?”
“Huh!” I grunted, indignant.  The rich scent of scalded tea and pepper hit me in the nose.  “Not like!  Great statesman or belly-crawling low, a man is a man, and ought to fill his station as best he can.  I think,” I held up my hand rhetorically, “that, from what hearsay has come my way, it seems likely that the young man holds his position in high regard and himself in careful check.”
With two exquisitely long fingers slipped through the bent bamboo handle of the pot, poised in midair, the soldier dropped his gaze upon me from what felt like a very great height.  For a moment he stood perfectly motionless, unblinking—only the steam moved against the rain-streaked darkness of his doublet.
Fiends of hell! how pale his eyes were!
“It seems to me that they see themselves as gods,” he remarked softly.
Shaken a little by that chilling stare which I could not wholly fathom, I responded in strong defence.  “Nay, that is a thing we said—and perhaps we were speaking at random and out of turn.  Soldiers are fools, and likely to do such.”
The man broke off his gaze and smiled his shy little smile at the teapot as he coaxed its contents into the two cups.  “Perhaps statesmen are fools also, and the Prince is mindful of that.”
“Upon that point, if it be true, it seems to me likely that he should come across to thee with reservation,” Emeret put in gently.  “Be not quick to judge him harshly.  It is God’s place to judge, in the end.”
With upflung head and gentle smile, the soldier handed to us the several cups.  I took mine in large, chapped hands: my fingers momentarily brushed his and felt the kid-skin softness of the backs, the incongruous harshness of the tips.  As I stared into the swirling black depths of the pepper-laced tea—which was a stiffer, better tea than I had drunk in months—I heard him say,
“It is a good thing to remember.  I will try, in the future, to be a little gentler in my opinion of the man.”
A moth-wing quiet dropped over us, stiffened with a sudden inexplicable shyness which I felt the soldier did not himself share—then a sound of hobnails crashed on the steps outside and we were jerking our gaze round to see the doorway graced by a curious, lithe figure, a girl of not more than eighteen with a harsh jawline and ferocious eyes.
I noticed the eyes.  They were icy blue.
“Uncle!” said the girl, half withering, half laughing.  “I followed you to the scent of tea.  Do you come?” 
The soldier put down the teapot with the gentleness of one tucking a fledging into its nest.  “Aye, Filly.  I come.”
She yanked an odd-shaped, shining thing from underneath her jewelled cloak and hurled it underhand at him.  It came whirling, whispering and shining in the uncertain light, and the soldier caught it deftly by a strap in one hand.
It was a helm, plumed in black horsehair and streaked at the fore with white.
The sound of my blood in my own ears was loud in the interminable time that followed.  I felt the man’s tread on the stone flags; felt his hand drop, heavy, upon my shoulder as he passed.  The tea burned my palms through the pottery.  The girl turned in the doorway and flashed a swift, familiar smile at the man’s face.  Emeret looked whiter to me than he should have.
But then the man turned in the doorway, having pushed the girl on before him, and that soft smile of his with which he was so deft came to me across the rainy dark and lamplight like a touch—very kind and oddly grateful.
A feathering of smile and lightning horsehair.
The Black Prince was gone.

At the Cusp of Dust and Deity

It was September of 2011 that I began writing Plenilune.  If I remember correctly, it took me roughly a year and a half to write.   I trust Talldogs will not take quite that long, but some days I do feel as if I am elbow-crawling my way through the plot.  But I think - I think - I have got through some kind of barrier and I feel a little less as if I am walking in the dark.  Writing has been mingled sporadically with reading; between my conglomerate stories and The Conquering Family, I have enough kindling to keep the lights burning.


"Any man who has walked over the skin of the man he was yesterday is a man who knows humility and grace."

She put her hand down in the joint of her hip and swung round, leaning forward to see across Raymond. “Le seigneur de Darkling! Paugh! You tread about so quietly for being miniver-caped.”

"I can see the lines of a hard providence in your face."

"God and his angels keep you," murmured Bruin, and he slipped both pouch and letter away in the safe place of his heart.

Goddgofang came out on top. Badger’s shoulders slowly relaxed as with a conscious effort, and though the young man bent his head like a sullen horse, he said, “I hear you.”

God! He tossed the comb down and stared brutally at his mauled reflection. I do not know what to do! Lend my hands some tool with which to fix this broken mess. I have a sword: I have not yet a trowel!

Something in his blood thrilled against his design: it would be marvellous, on a morning like this, to be swinging into the saddle beside Avery or Goddgofang, the yard aswarm with dogs, and the sweet notes of the hunting-horn calling the pack onward and upward into the wooded aisles of the Marius Hills.

"The trick is to be angry and be wise, which two things are like holding together the small things of the world from flying apart between hands made of clay."

"That is a powerful oath, one which I do not envy. I will honour it."

"Acquaint yourself with the whole of the scriptures. How can you know what will be needful in each season of life if you have not first made yourself knowledgeable of the tools to hand?"

They stopped and stood aside to watch the leopard palfrey rolling through the mist toward them. The roar of hooves elevated; the whip came out, cracking on the beast’s flanks. She will not stop, thought Raymond. The palfrey’s neck was flat out, tail kinked high and streaming in the wind of its going. In a moment it was upon them, hurtling by in a blur of tawny white, showering clods behind it. Under his feet the earth trembled, his ears rang with the drum of hooves and the blink of time which had been full of the scent of leather and the single jink of a buckle. His eye flinched shut momentarily—he did not know if it was reflexive or a form of habitual salute.

Why should I be always pestering people’s souls? They have the Holy Ghost for that. I am not anxious that the people of God also should hate me. The world is good enough at that business.”

"...back he would come at full tilt—I do not think he stopped to open the door, but like Jesus passed clean through it..."

"Sing, goddess, the wrath of Achilles, son of Peleus!"
"Badger!" snapped Goddgofang; "you are not helping."

"Now I do not remember what I was saying. Verily," [his cousin] growled, digging his fingertips into his eye sockets, "speaking with you requires herculean efforts at concentration."

He thrust back off the divan and swept the gentlemen with an unpleasant smile like raw steel before it is tempered into a sword. “I have once cobbled together one match. I can tear apart another.”

She cut all the things he would have said to her out of his mouth and hurled them in a bloody splatter into the bath tub. It hurt.
But not enough to wake him from the nightmare.

Mar—!” The thing took him full in the front: he was catapulting backward, the world a blur of darkness, with the sensation of a compass kicked and spinning. Pain rained down his back. He had nothing to grab, nowhere to turn; empty-handed, he felt water crash around his shoulders and close in over his face, hammering into the spaces above his nose, filling his mouth with muddy panic. The light—! His clenched eyes tore through the bubbly gloom. Where was the light—! The compass bounded, tearing through the space between the stars. He wrenched at the water—it resisted him. He tugged at his body—somewhere between a lion, a leopard, a sea-monster, and a spray of filigreed things like diamond dust, it crashed back into the fragile thing inside of which his spirit was fluttering like a bird dying at the bottom of its cage. Columns of air rocketed around him, closed off from him by inches of water. The light was going out. The darkness and a searing like fire were plunging knives into his body. He gave one last desperate twist, something in him crying out with a power he hoped would span the spheres of the universe to the last and highest heaven.
Elements—! Tempests—! Almighty God—it is going to kill me!
A lungless voice reared above him and dug its heel into his chest.
Is this how the Master of Death chooses to go out?