As I’m getting closer to having Where Now the Rider, I thought I’d release some of it into the wild. I also think it might be interesting to you if I annotated some of my thoughts as to why I made some of the choices I did.
This first snippet is the start of Chapter 1. I’ll add annotations indented and in italics.
Early Morning, 1 Hjerstmoanne, 1712 MG
Many of you will remember that The Eyes of a Doll ended on 30 Heamoanne. This is the very next day. I could, obviously, have chosen a different day to start, but I think this scene is important for Edward, as you’ll see.
Unfortunately, that provided me with a challenge. Edward is wounded at the end of The Eyes of a Doll and he cannot have healed fully in a day. That meant that whatever his next adventure would be it required him to be capable of handling while not fully healthy, at least at the start. I actually have 10-15k of the next novel written because what I started with required him to be fully healthy at the beginning. Where Now the Rider became a completely different story because of this challenge.
I gripped the hilt of my saex tightly, tensing to draw it and let blood run along the water pattern in the steel.
“You’re a fool, Sevener.”
I originally chose to design Edward’s homeland after the Heptarchy, the time in Anglo-Saxon history when they had seven different kingdoms. After I switched it to plain English and called it the Seven Kingdoms, I was pleased to find the epithet “Sevener” come so easy to the tongue.
The rage that filled me blocked the words so that I barely heard the familiar voice. Rage at my lover, who had betrayed me. Rage at my friends, who had betrayed themselves. Rage at the emperor for corrupting them. And rage at myself, for—, well for reasons I could not fathom, but rage nonetheless.
The voice spoke again, “Edward?”
This time the voice penetrated enough that most of the rage slipped away, leaving pain in its place. Pain on my left where a blade had nicked my kidney but a few days ago. Pain in my shoulder when a different blade had slid past the bone and through the meat. Without magic, I would be dead, but magic could only do so much. I almost welcomed the pain, given my rage, but even then I knew how stupid it was. I slowly released the hilt and moved my good hand to rest on the parapet in front of me. Without my right arm twisted around my back, my left shoulder and side relaxed and much of the pain went away.
“You really are a fool, Edward.”
“I had to send her away. Gibroz will kill her if he can.” I looked over the wall above South Gate in Achrida. The wall’s crenellations hid the face that had been speaking to me. It mattered little, though, because I knew the sardonic smile that Hecatontarch Piriska Mrnjavcevic wore right then.
Gibroz, by the way, is one of the few names that I did not pull from a list of real names. It’s completely made up, though it is based on something in particular. One of my inside jokes, actually, that I will encourage my readers to figure out.
“Not that, idiot. You explained all that last night while you cried into Ragnar’s rakija. No, I mean standing here right now.”
Rakija, like all of the food and drink in my novels, is real. As a foodie, one of the fun parts of writing is scouring through traditional dishes to add, for lack of a better word, flavor to my novels. I actually intend to put recipes for things like ajvar and zelniks on my wiki entry for those things one of these days.
Off in the distance, I could still see two tiny black shapes kicking up dust in the dry summer morning. Then they turned past a hill and I would never see my lover again. I had no need to watch the caravaners jockeying for position or listen to their vicious cursing at each other, so I straightened up. The wound on my side protested again. I desperately wanted to scratch it, but fortunately the sling holding my left arm prevented me from scratching it.
As I said, I think this scene is important for Edward. He has to physically watch Gabrijela leave. I may be wrong, but I also think it’s important for my readers to see her leave.
One of the reasons I think that’s true is that Gabrijela is not out of the overall story of Shijuren and the Empire of Makhaira. She’s too interesting of a character to simply let her go. What her adventures will be is yet to come, however.
“I guess…” I reached back again, this time just to caress the hilt of my saex. The one constant in my life. “I guess I just needed to be here.”
I’ve used “saex” a couple of times already in this snippet. This is a place where my editor and I disagreed. I came up with that particular spelling as a transliteration of the aesc vowel that is the proper vowel in the word. It’s how I spell every aesc when I don’t actually use the proper letter, the squished “ae” you might be familiar with. However, Kellie told me the proper spelling now is “seax.”
I liked my spelling better so I kept it, even if I’m wrong.
Gabrijela had seen me standing on the gate as she passed through, but she had done nothing. I would not have known what to say if she had. I had sent her away because I loved her, but I could never trust her again. Nor could I trust the Emperor that had ruined her life simply to serve his madness.
Now I saw the sardonic smile as Piri turned to me. “I didn’t say it was the wrong choice, only that you’re a fool.” She had earned that smile on dozens of battlefields and in years of training new warriors.
I nodded sadly. “I suppose.” I looked back over the wall. “I just didn’t know what else to do.”
Piri said nothing as she led me down from the battlement. My bencriht thegn, Maja Mrnjavcevic, waited for us, restless as always. She started to say something, but Piri quelled her with a sharp look and led us back up the Trade Road.
Maja is an interesting character to me. I really like her potential for growth and someday she might be an even bigger character in Shijuren than Edward, assuming I don’t kill her off. I don’t plan to, but I might change my mind. And accidents happen. I’ve already killed a character in I Am a Wondrous Thing that I didn’t mean or want to. However, circumstances dictated it.
I followed the hecatontarch in silent thought until she turned off from the road. Given that we had miles to walk before getting to the Square of Legends, I glanced at her.
“We should go visit my uncle now.”
My anger spiked again. “He can wait.”
“You know better. You have to see him, and it should be sooner rather than later.” She laughed. “Especially since you’re likely to just wallow in the Faerie all day, surlier than even Karah on a bad day.”
I just want to make it clear that Karah is *not* modeled on any server that I know. Certainly not the ones at Brewbaker’s that routinely take care of me even though I sit here for hours working whenever I can.
“She has good days?”
“Why don’t you ask her that.” Piri laughed again. “Let me get a beer and get comfortable first, I want to watch that discussion.”
The thought of antagonizing the perpetually grumpy Karah, daughter of Ragnar Longtongue and barmaid of his inn, broke the mood.
“You’re probably right. Vukasin is just the most powerful man in this province. Not near as dangerous as Karah’s wrath.” I smiled wryly. “After all that he has done for me, think he’d appreciate me calling him uncle too?”
She laughed. “Absolutely. He especially enjoys it when hare-brained foreigners take him for granted.”
Overall, I tried to make this opening portion contain a goodly amount of summing up from what happened in The Eyes of a Doll without being pure exposition, while also setting Edward up as somewhat adrift. Part of the challenge writing Edward is that, for my purposes, he needs to stay in Achrida so I can continue to write these novels, but all along I’ve been working to make him have a reason to stay.
In the most simplistic form, A Lake Most Deep trapped him in Achrida for a moment, The Eyes of a Doll cut off his original plans, leaving him adrift, and Where Now the Rider will give him an actual reason to stay.
The rest of Chapter 1, by the way, is the meeting with Vukasin and some hints of what’s to come in this story. I’ll leave that portion for later.