The Elements of Harmony

the mane six: applejack // rainbow dash // twilight sparkle // pinkie pie // fluttershy // rarity
I know I get some criticism for having a children's show as my all-time favourite thing to watch, but bear with me.  Blessings come in odd disguises, and sometimes they come in the guise of techni-coloured ponies.  Lately (and please don't take this as an attempt to garner pity - far from it!) I've been feeling the pinch of my own uniqueness in my personal sphere, which pinch generally manifests itself in the shape of loneliness.  Introvertedly, I failed to notice the profound uniqueness (and subsequent loneliness) of the people around me; having noticed has made the loneliness much easier to bear, but it also helped to readjust my perspective on my own life.  And that is where the ponies came in.


"I wish we could all be ponies," I said miserably.
"Yes," he admitted; "but even ponies have their problems."
Since that was part of my point, I retorted, "Yes, but they always sort them out in twenty minutes."

When Tim or I need something light and sweet, the best thing to do is watch Ponies.  We're all caught up on the show, so naturally the only thing to do was to go back and watch from the very beginning.  Misanthropic - (can I use that word?) - misanthropic, bookish Twilight Sparkle, out to save Equestria from Nightmare Moon (whoever she is) with the six Elements of Harmony (whatever they are and wherever they may be): the last thing she wants to be told by her royal tutor is to make friends.  Ain't nopony got time fo' dat.  Enter five ponies in turn, all irritating Twilight and getting in her way with their kindness, generosity, faithfulness, cheerfulness, and straight-up honesty.  Fine, whatever, they can tag along, but Twilight has the Elements of Harmony to find and the fate of Equestria rests in her hooves.  Then comes the climax: when her magical spark seems to be a dud and the Elements remain lifeless, and Nightmare Moon has seized the day, enter the five ponies whose friendship (although at first unwanted) is genuinely appreciated by Twilight in her moment of need - and the spark of magic is ignited.  With the living manifestations of the five Elements - honesty, loyalty, laughter, kindness, and generosity - the magic created in their newfound friendship is powerful enough to defeat Nightmare Moon.
I cried when Twilight Sparkle heard her friends coming to save her.
Yes, I know, I'm a sentimental sucker, but I realized that those six ponies, all extremely different and all having vastly different strengths, created a bond that nothing could break.  It was the strength of their cumulative virtues, bound by friendship, which defined them, not separated them, and made a very powerful magic which is not relegated to the techni-colour screen. They are all strong characters (yes, even Fluttershy), but instead of letting their strengths and their differences separate them, as ponies alone and aloof (now there's a sentence I never thought I would construct), they came together and became stronger.  And that was something I needed to see: that in skill and strength and difference, there need not always be loneliness.  Instead, there can be harmony.
and this is why I watch My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic

And the Road Goes On, Seeming Ever Longer on the Way to Mandalay

talldogs
Summer has been ushered in with strawberry picking.  "Caravanserai" is strumming its haunting notes from the second-generation speakers of my computer.  I have a candle burning on my desk beside a bouquet of flowers produced by magic from the hand of my husband.  I am (have I mentioned?) at the twelfth week of pregnancy and wondering if I am really going to be sick this morning or if I am just in for quietly nauseating misery. 

I was asked specifically if I could give an update on my writing, but I thought a general update would not go amiss.  Naturally, I have been exhausted and emotional to degrees I have not thought possible, so I have been doing less writing recently in a trucking-along kind of way, and a lot more plotting.  All things considered, Talldogs, which is my work in progress, is coming along nicely, and is currently weighing in at 76,637 words.  I am enjoying the process, when I am not so tired that I can barely care.  There is very little room for my enthusiasm after the story has been written; the writing process itself is what I love best, and the gradual exploration of characters and plot.  I could wax lyrical, but I feel shy about trilling my own excitement, so I don't believe I will.

My other stories do not keep quiet.  They take turns, with no rhyme or reason to their rhythm, piping up with scenes or plot ideas for me.  I have done a little scribbling on Drakeshelm recently because it gave me a monster of a scene and I did not dare ignore it for fear I forgot it, and I finally had a touch of a break-through with Lamblight the other morning while I was more or less comatose in the bath.  I had a break-through on Cruxgang, too, after a fashion - in that large chunk of night through which I can no longer seem to sleep - and that was encouraging.  I am very excited to begin that story because I love the colour and the feel of it, and lured by its aesthetic siren manipulations I keep scootching back to it to fiddle with research and daydream about scenes that are about as fantastic as they are ridiculous. 

I have three additional novels that are so far off that they aren't really within my sights yet: Amaranth, Ampersand, and Dondonné; they are pretty quiet, so I don't say much about them.  (Actually, I don't say much at all, do I...?  I was once told I was rather tight-lipped about all this, or held my cards close to my chest, or some such analogy.  I never considered that.)  You might catch a line or two from these three in my snippets posts.

Someone asked if I actually bought a house, or if I was joking.  No, I actually bought a house, and it is under renovation at present.  I can't tell you when we will be able to move in, but then I am not typically concerned by time, much as I sometimes should be, so I don't sweat it.  Tim says that it is not in the rurals, it's in the suburbs, but I still stand by my view that it is somewhere in between those two areas - this view backed by the fact that a chanticleer goes off every once in a while in the near district, and we saw a hen crossing the road.  No joke.  The house itself is a bewildered old ranch-style with an extended kitchen out the back and a large sunroom attached to one side, and now that the cramped wall-plans have been altered and much of the living space has been opened up by the magic which is my brother's renovation company, the whole place shines with sawdust and light.  We have nearly two acres of weedy construction-churned landscape, and the previous owner allows us use of his easement to get back to the river.  All this to say, I am really excited for this house.  I like to think we are one of the nicest things that could have happened to the poor thing.  I may even bore you with pictures later on, we'll have to see.
oh, and i'm working on self-publication for plenilune

In Which the Details of Things

drakeshelm
I don't always cross the streams, as it were, between my writing blog and my fashion blog, but on a whim the other day I did up my make-up in the style of one of my Plenilune cultures, and that started a ball rolling.  Before I launch into this month's snippets (hold on - no jumping the line - just wait a second and hear me out), here are a handful of links to some very fun Plenilune looks done by myself and three of my friends.  (And by all means, if anyone is inspired, join in!  It's a lot of fun and, naturally, it kind of makes my day.)


Almost at once sound broke back on the scene. Someone was hollering for a water-line, cursing the gods and Hades and the slowness of the foot-soldier, and Alwin breathed again, knowing that the business would be taken care of.
drakeshelm

I followed the line of his arm and marked, not merely the doorway, but that the elegant quilting on his silver sleeve was stitched in gold thread—real gold thread: my blood tingled with the closeness of the magical element.
dondonné

...it had been a new and curious thing, even a little alarming—her eye dropped to the mauled side of his face and something quivered a little in her middle—but at the time it had been only a fresh excitement. Now she was conscious of Sophia sitting far off from her, and never quite coming back.
 maresgate

Her lips pursed and spread in a straight, mirthless smile of contemplation. “Right into Commander Herro’s thigh-bone. Rummy luck!” She sniffed and looked round the battery. “Where did the baby go?”
drakeshelm

But in the forefront of her mind she was thinking vividly about Number Eight and the sickening quickness with which it must have whirled round on its handlers. Like a feral pup that goes back to its kind when it is old. She stepped into the stairhead and shivered her way down the cold passage. In a quick, conversational way, she added, Good God! How easily it might have killed someone, too.
drakeshelm 

"You did not reckon on Golightly. No one ever reckons on Golightly: that is what I love about him."
maresgate

"The end of gods and giants himself!"
drakeshelm

Out of courtesy Raymond extended his hand, and [she] deftly slipped her long, freckled hand into his—the fingers squeezed with remarkable power before detaching.
“Good morning.” The green eyes flashed daggers.
talldogs

And in one of those odd little moments in which the details of things seem to stand clear and seem vitally important, Alwin noticed also that the man wore a shoulder-pauldron—like any other pauldron, save that it was stamped in tiny relief with the pattern of the planta prunellier, and he knew at once who the man was.
drakeshelm

Only once or twice!” mazed Avery. “And with such woods as these to prompt! I tell you what: Amaranth is plain-set, and we have no close woods like these to lure us in. It is old, well-mannered country down in Hol-land.”
talldogs

I am pretty well grateful that you are taking the brunt of their fire from me, he considered a little exasperatedly, but there is no call to go making a Sabine of her!
talldogs

Eleud began to writhe in his grip like Tam Lin.
talldogs

But it was the figure on the creature’s back which interested him most, and he, too, lifted his head a little, eyes hooded, to examine the superb being perched tailor-fashion on the narrow flat saddle. It was helmed in a round, ribbed cap of metal, with a thick brow and a mesh of silver coins lowered over the neck and swept up round to cover the wearer’s face to the bridge of the nose. Only the eyes showed through, a calculated dark amber rimmed in black, couched between the silver-coin veil and two glossy red antlers, split into two tines at each end, which sprouted from the helm’s brow. Beneath her headdress—it was a woman’s pair of eyes, he noted—she wore a curious fusion of masculine and feminine garb, robed in a silken gown printed over in golds and reds and rusts, and wrapped close about the waist by a long scarf of vibrant cinnabar-colour. From amidst the belt hung a very beautiful and notably serviceable sword, and beneath the billowing folds of the gown were tucked a pair of trouser’d legs, plumed in loose linen and tied tightly into the mouths of a pair of buckskin boots.
cruxgang

This drawing was good—superb, even—but it was not an accurate depiction of the original work. Small things had been twisted, and twisted so horribly that even though the master had painted a pagan picture, the result of this imitation was truly blasphemous.
lamblight

She laughed gaily and prattled with him toward the door, leaving Raymond and Avery alone in the hallway. His hands free, and put into his own pockets, Avery lounged abbreviatedly to Raymond’s side, eyes narrowed as he watched the young lady taking the shepherd off under her wing. When they were out of earshot, and the steward had shut the door, he turned to Raymond and asked,
“Do you still think Geoffrey is having an affair with Illia Mara?”
talldogs

The Title At the End of the Reader's Patience

pascal campion
Everyone once in a while, Abigail and I trawl through book covers on Goodreads - for whatever reason - and part of the ritual is to make commentary on the titles, covers, and synopses as we go by.  We tend to be critical people, for good or ill, and while it is generally considered taboo to hold a negative opinion about anything, there are some truly regrettable book titles out there, among other maladies in the trade.  I thought I might share with you a few good ones I ran across, as well as some typical bad ones - and it should be said that my opinion about all of these titles in no way reflects the content of the books.  Let us proceed.

hush, hush
A unique title, with a good cadence.

graceling
Again, unique, it has a good sound, and when you say it you want to know more.

fire
What.  You did so well with Graceling.  What happened?  Fire?  That's it?  Sit tight and you'll see a glimpse of the fiery competition that your title is up against.

eyes like stars
Your character can have eyes like stars, but not in the title.  While it may be totally pertinent, it says amateur romance.

the hunger games, mockingjay
Both of these are evocative and unique.  The Hunger Games?  What is this curiosity?  "Mockingjay"!  Just feel the way that tingles when you say it.  Alluring use of curiosity and cadence here.

shadows of the realm
Everything the light touches is part of our kingdom, but that shadowy bit over there is the elephants' graveyard.  ...Just wait: "shadows" is totally hackneyed.  You really have to know what you're doing to pull that word off.

betrayed
Well, I guess I don't need to read the book, then.

poison study
Not great, but also not lousy.  You have an immediate idea that there is a mystery here, you know generally what you are getting into, but the title does not try to cram the entire synopsis of the book down your throat.  It leaves room for the mystery of the plot itself.

gardens of the moon
Here is a case of a title rising up out of the ashes of hackneyed title nouns.  Gardens on the moon?  Tell me more!

son of ereubus
First of all, "offspring of - " is also hackneyed.  If the character cannot carry off the reader by the strength of his own personality and purpose, but has to depend upon his pedigree (which is a form of deus ex machina, as the circumstance was completely out of his own control), then why do I want to read about that character?  And that isn't how you spell "Erebus."

daughter of the forest
This could mean anything.  Is she a Native American?  Is she a fairy?  Why she ain't got no parents?  Not enough information - I'm not interested.

the name of the wind
Another case of interest in the face of hackneyed nouns.  I want to know why the wind has a name; who knows this? how did he find out? what can you do with this knowledge? 

darkspire reaches
Excellence was within your grasp, and you literally overreached yourself.  "Darkspire."  Sounds interesting.  What does that mean?  Is it a name, or a place?  "Darkspire Reaches"?  Now it's just another fantasy novel.

ombria in shadow
I realize that darkness is a legitimate, accurate depiction of evil, but the only seriously scary "shadow" I have ever read was the opaque, deadly, sentient Shadow of A Wrinkle In Time.  Otherwise most shadows just seem lame.  And hackneyed.

the fox woman
There are lots of werewolves and vampires and changelings and shape-shifters out there, but a simple little "the fox woman" is not trying too hard to pull you in - one almost feels it is the nameless name given to a local legend that no one dares speak about too closely.  Less is more!

my name is rapunzel
"I know my name! Get on with it!"  Everyone (including Rapunzel) knows Rapunzel's name, and Rapunzel's story.  You are not assuring me that you have conjured up anything remotely unique here with this bland title.  Why would I want to pick this book up?

his majesty's dragon
Okay.  Whoa.  Hold on.  His Majesty's what now?  You got me.  What lies behind this delectable morsel of title-flesh?

born in flames, embracing the flames
One of these is impossible, the other is very inadvisable, both are cliche.

the doom guardian
How do you guard doom?  How do you say that without laughing?  And how well does that pay? are there benefits...?

sabriel
This doesn't really tell you anything about the book, but it's simple, quick, easy to remember, and it's a pretty name.  Props!

glimmerglass
If you think about it too hard, it could sound dumb, but mostly it's just a lovely series of sounds that conjure up vague but magical images that you would like to hunt down further.  It's a good title.

the pillars of the earth, world without end
Well, Scripture is a good place to steal from.  These are strong titles, evocative of power, and while they may not tell you much about the books themselves, the titles stand alone without any apology.

shadows return
Which means my husband will need to put in new light bulbs.

fire of stars and dragons
Do all the fantasy things.

the broken destiny
And more of the fantasy things.

everneath
They were trying to make a catchy fantasy title, but they tried a little too hard.  What does "everneath" even mean?  It does not sound intelligent enough to warrant further investigation.

legends reborn
Legends and birth.  More classic fantasy tropes.

the god engines
What is this - this - this violent meeting of "spiritualism" and "materialism"?  Here are two often incongruous ideas brought together in a title!  You have my attention!

caged in darkness
...and you lost it again.

the looking glass wars
There is a whole pack of good cadence, action, and scintillating fantasy in one sublime title.

the legend of witchtrot road
This escapes falling into the "legend" trope by the delightful tongue-in-cheek springiness of the addition of "witchtrot road."  I kind of just like saying it.  "Witchtrot."  Okay, I'll pick up the book.  What happened there...?

the way of shadows
Typically you have an opaque or translucent object upon which you shine a light, and since the light does not wholly penetrate the object, it leaves a hollow on the other side, without light, and that hollowness we call shadow...

spell hunter
Not only is this cliche, but how on earth do you even do that?  It does not sound sensible.  I'm moving on.

the stolen moon of londor
Where is Londor?  It has a moon?  And how was it stolen?  More importantly - by whom?  Tell me more of this picturesque image.

dawnsinger
Oh yes, my favourite: Noun Gerunds!  This must be one of the oldest fantasy cliches in the book (I saw this pun coming, even though I didn't intend it.)  Now, unless "the stars cast down their spears // and watered heaven with their tears," this just sounds lame and amateur.

city of a thousand dolls
Alarmed, interested, immediately picturing cities populated by dolls.  The cadence is good, and the subject matter is intriguing.  I would pull this off the shelf and actually look at it.

king of thorns
That is not a good prize.

darkness rising
You again?

divergent
This is totally fun to say, and just vague enough that I might actually ride the wave of the pretty word enough to overcome my apathy and pick this book off the shelf to find out more about it.

the gathering darkness
I swear by my pretty floral bonnet, if I see the word "darkness" one more time...

the whirlwind in the thorn tree
Okay, this is a good title.  Nobody's asking anybody to rule over a weedy hedge, and it is reminiscent of, I don't know, Thomas Hardy and other classic writers that are actually rather terrible but somehow won acclaim.  And isn't that an awesome mental picture?  The whirlwind in the thorn tree...

the chains that you refuse
This is not only an excellent use of cadence, but it draws the reader in immediately.  What chains did I refuse?  What does it mean for me?  What am I going to do?  Tell to me my fortune!

daughter of smoke and bone
"That doesn't seem like a very good mating."

the half-made world
Good cadence; and who made the world? why is it half-baked? who lives there? what does it mean for them? how do we finish this world? 

the body finder
...is always the jogger because they are out alone in the early morning.  Also (red flag!): NOUN GERUND. Dun dun du-u-un...

stormdancer
You will get struck by lightning and the grammar police.  NOUN GERUND.

vampyre kisses
First of all, I was going to let it go on the virtue of truth in advertising, but then they replaced the "i" in "vampire" with a "y," and that is just uncalled-for.

artemis fowl
Is just a straight-up shindigging fun name to say.

paladin of souls
I didn't know that was a job, and I don't know how you do that, but I can tell it has its teeth sunk deep into the fantasy trope.

casket of souls
I...I am really having to suspend my disbelief that this could work - by a slender thread over a fatal drop.

sword of the deceiver
I can't tell if this is literal, metaphorical, suggestive, or what.  It does not sound as though it would do justice to the reader's intelligence.

gemini of the emreiana
Did any of you read that last word?  Did any of you pronounce it?  Neither did I.  Next book.

everlasting embrace
...is going to get awkward when someone has to use the restroom.

crown of shadows
I don't know how you would do that, unless you were deep into an introspection in a shabby armchair in a shabby smoking gown puffing away tug-boat-like upon a pipe.  And I don't think that is the image they want to conjure.  It's fantasy, anyway; we got that much: "crowns" and "shadows" and all.

the war of the flowers
First of all, this was a real thing, and it sounded better under the original title "The War of the Roses."  I have no idea what this book is trying to sell, but it sounds totally bloodless and cheap.  Possibly hippie.

lightborn
Unless this is a spiritual metaphor, this is impossible.  Stop using "born."  

lake of sorrows
You should probably move.

sunrunner's fire
Get all the fantasy noun-gerund tropes in there!

eyes like sky and coal and moonlight
This is my favourite.  I don't know what things happened to this title, but an editor was not one of them.

the throne of fire
Do not sit on that throne.

A good book title is extremely important, as I hope we can all see by now. I think a lot of people sense that, but then try too hard.  It is important, and you should definitely put a lot of thought into the title of your novel, but whatever you do, avoid being chintzy, try not to take yourself too seriously (this is mostly fantasy, after all, which is a genre bloated to the exploding point with material and ponderous self-worth), relax, and just be sensible.  And enjoy the ridiculous nature of the genre as well, because sometimes you really have to laugh to keep from crying.

The Casual, Independent Existence


"Your worlds shrug. They exist apart from the reader's imagination and the reader must jump in as best he can."
rachel
"It wasn't Atlas that shrugged; it was the world, in this case."
jenny

The Headwaters of the Himmajol

this world is as wild as an old wife's tale,
and strange the plain things are,
the earth is enough and the air is enough
for our wonder and our war;
but our rest is as far as the fire-drake swings
and our peace is put in impossible things
where clashed and thundered unthinkable wings
round an incredible star
g.k. chesterton
I don't think "dedication" is what I want, and "acknowledgement" sounds a little dry, don't you think?  But whatever word I want (am I a writer, that I should know these things?) my parents are both responsible for this Chatterbox in their own very different ways.  If it weren't for a particular lecture of my father's (and one small, tangential remark which struck me with a very potent mental image), and if it weren't for my mother's dedicated (there, I do want that word) tutelage throughout my wee homeschooling years, I don't believe this story would have come to be.  And I am pathetically (in both senses of the word) nostalgic just at present.  You will have to forgive me for that.  And you'll have to forgive me for the overabundance of parenthetical statements: I've gone well over the recommended limit for a single person.
the headwaters of the himmajol

It was still early morning, and somewhere beneath the humid layers of sunlight there was still a prickling of cold dew; beneath the boy’s palms, the slate slabs that bordered the pool were so chilled as to feel damp.  The harlequin nature of summer temperature amused him, quietly—soon enough the last touch of damp would be gone and the harsh bronze sun-disk that was rising out of the heaped-up hills would cut cleanly at any scorn, gentle or otherwise, that the dew-flecked soul of man might harbour.  He trilled his bare calves noiselessly in the water at the pool’s verge, his toes tangling with the low-lying hornwort and plucking a little, idly, at the stems of the great blue lotuses which peppered the pool from one long end to the other. 
A long blink of yellow body emerged from the black depths: he stilled his legs a moment, flesh sparking with delicious apprehension, and the languid koi, half curious, half ambivalent, brushed its whiskered face against his foot before passing on.
“Of the Arzachel Mountain range, Delepnir is the largest and most prominent peak: its perpetually snow-topped heights can be seen across the steppes for leagues.  No one has ascended its height; it is only known that somewhere in its insurmountable slopes are the headwaters of the great Himmajol.”
At his back, seated among a froth of gold-embroidered cushions that masked the presence of a simple wood-slatted chair, the woman read patiently from the browned text of a large dolphin-skinned book, one leg slung over the opposite knee: her suspended foot jigged a little, and the boy could just see its far reflection bobbing silverily in the water.  The head was bent, the dark brown hair coiled and hazed with the morning light.  The voice hummed on, delightfully husky, as if God had made it out of the same ethereal stuff of this early summer moment.
“The Himmajol’s course, once it cuts its meandering way around the Arzachel’s foothills, has been charted from antiquity.  It waters the Five Valleys, and runs beneath the walls of the old, old city Mazadin—named—” the voice suddenly detached from the text “—after the war-lord who founded it.”
The boy nodded absentmindedly, for he remembered that from some other piece of text which he had been privy to: he could not remember where or when, only that the legendary thrill of the character had possessed him with its dragon-faced plates of armour and the springing step of the hunting cat.  A long time ago, Mazadin had been.  But the name still stood, strong as forever.  It still sent shivers through the blood of a southern boy whose civilization had ever been at odds with that of the war-lord.
They had long shadows, he thought pleasantly, and his eyes wandered to the long muted shadow of the white crane which stood motionless among the striped rushes.  And their foundations last, even to this day.  Man is dreadfully mighty, even without God.
The woman’s voice purred thoughtfully toward the cypresses, as if sharing with them: “I recall something somewhere—I do not remember where—something about a river beneath a city, and the floodwaters dammed back so that an army could invade through the water-ducts…  Perhaps Mazadin did not know about that story.  Anyway, it does not seem to have come back around to bite him.”  And she picked up again where she had left off reading.
“Once the Himmajol leaves behind the Five Valleys—the Telmu, the Bax, the Serro-Vulga, the Jochi, and the Temüge—it skirts the raised, level plain of Batu, upon which stands Mazadin, and at the southern foot of Batu it divides into the three major northern rivers: the Timmin, the Ghir, and the Inganid.  Bruin, darling.”  She interrupted herself again.  “Would you like to see the map?”
A large fluffy cat, dun-coloured with a seal-point face and devilish blue eyes, had slunk from the black taro and sat poised across from the crane: together they watched the koi flickering in the water.
“No, thank you, Mamma.”  He began to move his legs again.  “I can see it in my head.”
“…The Ghir, running almost directly west, divides what were once the southern Carmarthen ‘gang-lands’ from the high steppe country in the north.  The steppes benefit very little from the river valley, nor are they much watered by the Himmajol on its way down, for it passes on the east side of Batu.  The nomadic peoples of the steppes are but distant cousins of those settled folk who populated the Five Valleys and who, through the strong House of Mazadin, built up the land of Orzelon-gang in the days before Auxoris.”
With a little involuntary widening of his eyes he could see them very clearly: the long pool became the rigid banks of the Ghir, the crane and cat and sleepy koi became the living icons of past war-lords.  The cypress trees that bounded the garden were the far mountains that ringed in the northern world, flashing, not with dew, but with the everlasting snows.  Something hurt in his chest, and he did not know why.
“The Inganid diverges eastward, coiling tightly through the countryside until at last it cuts down into the sea.  The land is rather mountainous, and steppe-like it is very arid, so that the effects of the Inganid are limited to its own valley.  But the landscape of the valley is very lush, and some of the best coffee growing has followed the green ribbon of the Inganid for time out of mind.”  The woman chuckled softly to herself, and the boy heard her lift the little bronze-embossed coffee-cup off the table to drink from it.  She gave a little cough, as if she had swallowed too fast for herself, and set the cup down hurriedly again.  “And here we are, my littlest fox—the Timmin!
“Like the Inganid, the Timmin meanders heavily west and eastward, descending by degrees through the territory of Orzelon-gang.  It is the major river of the area, and eventually diverges into the southern rivers of the Glass at the Lookinglass Falls, and the See—which is our own river.”
He was staring at a webbing of lotus plants, sparked in cerulean like the massive cities and castles which had grown up around these rivers, and it was like looking at the veins of a living body, pumped through with the life-blood of the great rivers, descending from the inscrutable slopes of Delepnir and the thunder-charged torrent of the Himmajol.  The land was alive with these rivers.  He clenched his hands on the cool slate.  Could anyone else see that?  And if these rivers, slowly, inexorably trickling away into smaller and smaller channels, still spread their peacock-coloured wings over the long-boned, hot-blooded peoples which walked through the midst of his life, what race might live among the headwaters of the Himmajol? 
“The Timmin, old and domestic, with its flood-plains well demarcated and its valley known through antiquity for its fertility, continues to enrich the valleys of Orzelon-gang, and has been a source of political contention throughout the years of Orzelon-gang’s existence.”
What must the gardens of the Himmajol be like, if the gardens of the Inganid and the Ghir and the Timmin were so lush?  Who tended those cedars, or coaxed the shapes of the cypresses which would, on those slopes, bear no imagery of death?  The mists would hang perpetually about the place, watering the plants; the blossoms would flash through the silvered gloom like jewels—the birds would weave the air with their golden wings! 
If only I could go there, he thought, and his chest hurt again, horribly.  If only I could go.
No reason, no pride or exploitation, only he hurt in a deep, desperate way, and to see the garden slopes of Delepnir would be the only way to dispel the pain.
“If you look out between those two cypresses, darling, at the end of the pool and the little lawn, you can see the steam coming off the Timmin.”
He looked and saw the cypresses like black door posts, and a crystal haze of sky, broken up by distant hills, steamed with the steam of the long river as it coiled through the land…  And between the garden door posts, and the trees which had for centuries been the sentinels of the classical barrows, hung a shivering, shimmering, throbbing picture of spirit beauty, sinuous body woven into a kind of star-like knot, and casting down the length of the pond a glow of yellowed firelight that skipped and danced upon the dark surface. 
The boy came immediately to his feet, shaking and trying not to show it.  “Mamma,” he gasped.  He swallowed, trying to steady his voice.  “Mamma—look!  Do you see the dragon?  Look, there is a dragon!”
The woman, robed in blue tabbied silk, as if God had painted the tiger the same colour as the lotus, turned a page and murmured, “It is a long chapter, this chapter on the rivers.  I do not know that I can read the whole thing, darling…”
The dragon’s featureless eyes were watching him, piercing through the desire of his heart.  He stood with a naked soul beneath its glare, and knew he would never get to see the headwaters of the Himmajol: it would not let him by.
The crane was gone; the cat was gone; the koi had become reflections of the dragon’s light. 
It hung its head at the base of its star-knot and began suddenly to thrash it about in wordless warning, as if thrown into an agony of urgency.  Its jaws snapped open and shut, and every time its furnace-mouth gaped a blade of flame stabbed outward from among its fangs.  It cut across the surface of the pool, lifting the water into a rage of smoke—it shut, quenched, opened again and set the lotus alight into tall blue plumes of flame.  The boy clenched his fists against the terror of it and somehow stood his ground.  Already the steam was obscuring the sight of it, save for where the shining eyes and the tongue of flame cut through the gloom.  A roaring as of the roaring of many waters began mounting in his ears…
The woman heaved the large book shut upon her knees and twisted on the palette of rugs and silken pillows.  A single lamp hung suspended from a silver chain overhead, and by its light she could look down into the quenched face of the boy cocooned within the long silk sheath of blankets beside her.  His breathing was not yet even, for he was still lingering within the shallow dreaming world, but her voice was tired of reading and he was by all accounts asleep. 
Putting aside the book, she leaned upon her hands and bent down through the soft sleeping-breathing and the lamp’s scent of olibanum, to kiss the smooth pale brow.  He had a comfortable, indescribable scent, and he was pleasantly cool to the touch of her lips.  And the touch must have come through to him wherever he was in his dreams, for his small hand closed lightly but determinedly upon the front of her blue tabbied gown and she could not sit back up without drawing on the clutch.  A small, soundless laugh escaped her parted lips.
A panelled door slid open, a square of light flashed upon the tiled floor, and she turned her head to see her husband stepping noiselessly through the deep brown gloom to join them.  Putting back the gauze hangings of the bed, he stood looking down at the little tangle—and he laughed huskily at the expense of them both.
“He has only just fallen asleep,” she whispered.  “As you can see, he is still a little master of his surroundings.”
“That is my boy,” said the man coolly, and he, too, knelt among the pillows across from her.  He put out one long, fine-boned hand to stroke back the dark fluffed forelock of the small sleeping master.  His spare hand strayed to the little fist on the woman’s gown and gently detached it, folding it back at the boy’s side.  Then he, too, kissed the brow with his own paternal magic and swept back on the balls of his feet, coming upright.  “Come away now, darling,” he bade the woman, reaching out for her.  “He will sleep now.”
She found her legs somehow in the great tangle of her skirts, surged like an encumbered blue heron to her wings, and stepped over the little body in the bed.  The pillows slid beneath her bare feet and her husband’s hand beneath her own became necessary for support.  Together they turned within the waterfall of gauze and waited breathlessly as the boy’s small, aristocratic face trembled a moment in sleep, bereft of the accompanying geniuses of his parents, and softened again, finding some inner comfort apart from their presence. 
“What do you suppose he dreams about?” his mother whispered.
The harsh profile of the father creased, a thoughtful smile driving back the lines into his cheeks.  “Oh—Nimrod,” he whispered back in a precipitate tone; “and loaves and fishes.  Come away.”