Friday, August 31, 2012

The Way of the Sword

Haidong Gumdo

execute justice with the light of the sword that is as majestic and brilliant as the morning sunlight on the east sea

  Korean Battlefield Combat; One Against Many

Gumdo (pronounced more like koomdo) means the way of the sword, and is one of those things to which people have dedicated their entire lives. Because it is a martial art, it is easily transformed from simple sword fight training into a way of life. 

My little brother, receiving his first belt. (He needed a hair cut. :P Please ignore.) He's now working on number five, and my little sister just started. I almost did, too... and then started thinking about medical school and freaked out. Though SOMEDAY I'm going to learn a martial art.

One of my younger brothers  has taken both fencing lessons and gumdo training. (The other brother was more interested in archery and skeet shooting. Go figure.) Watching the gumdo lessons, the way of the sword was quite obvious - in the fencing lessons, not so much. 

Maybe at some point the difference between east and west was not so obvious, back when knights lived by their sword.  But, from what I've seen, those who fence seem to do it as a sport, while many of those who take a martial art (not just gumdo) don't find it something simply to do on weekends. 
It really is a way to live, something that must be incorporated into every aspect of  life if it is to be done correctly. 

Unless, of course, you're a Christian, and have already chosen a different way. 

The Way of the Lord. 

Watching the class and listening to the instructors made me think... So many people are Christians like the fencing students  -  it's something they do at church or when they're around others who have the same interests. Kind of a hobby, one might say... maybe even an expensive hobby, depending on how much you tithe, but a hobby, after all. It's all fun and cool, but enough is enough. I mean, you're not going to wear one of those ridiculous white fencing outfits out in your day-to-day life! 

But like Haidong Gumdo, the Way of the Lord is meant to be an all-encompassing thing that permeates every moment of our existence. Something whose lessons we use in everything we do... something that, if it hasn't changed every fiber of your being, you're not doing it right. 

[And just to clarify, my brother is taking the class with several other Christians, which means it's a whole lot more like the fencing class he took than anything else. And I'm not saying that most martial artists have chosen their martial art as a thing to worship. It's just... something you have to watch for. :) ]

Anyway, just something random it brought to mind.  :)
Beyond that, though... gumdo is awesome. It may be completely wretched of me to say so, but I found it soooo much more incredible to watch 
seriously... this isn't a picture of one of them, but random people from my town were doing this in the class!
The gym where the class was being taught felt like something straight out of a movie. I was majorly impressed.
Anyone who can cartwheel across the floor with a sword in their hand is awesome in my book. Just sayin'. :D

than this:
*giggle* I am sorry, but... the outfits... *snort*

Friday, August 24, 2012

Author Interview + Giveaway!!!

There was a once a sad point in my life where I was pretty much convinced that I had read almost every good book worth reading, and it was downhill from there on out. :) Since, then, however, and particularly in the past two years, my hope in modern fiction has been renewed, and during the next few weeks, I would like to spot-light a few of the authors I have discovered. 

Starting with the most recent and probably farthest from my typical genre - Tales from Goldstone Woods, whose author, Anne Elisabeth Steingl, has offered to do a giveaway as well!

After seeing rave reviews on blog after blog, I picked up Heartless, and then Moonblood, curious to see for myself what her books were about, and found them a fascinating blend of pure fantastical fairy tale and intriguing insights into of faith, love, and forgiveness. 

After reviewing Moonblood, I decided to interview Anne Steingl so that you (and I ;) could learn more about her and her books! And she has offered to give away a signed copy of Moonblood!

To enter the giveaway, please simply go follow her blog and then leave a comment here saying that you have done so! Also, she will be checking in here throughout today, so if you have any questions for her, feel free to leave them in a comment as well!
The giveaway itself will end on Sunday, at midnight.

And now for the Interview... :)

1. Can you give a brief idea of your books/what they are about?

The Tales of Goldstone Wood are adventurous fairy tale novels set in the realms of the Near World, the Far World, and the World Between. In the Near World, mortals go about their daily lives, for the most part believing themselves separate from the magical Far World where Faerie beings dwell. But sometimes a Faerie might slip into the Near World or a mortal might wander into the Wood Between . . . and that's when the excitement happens!

Dragons are a huge are prominent in this series, representing all the worst that humanity (and, in this world, Faerie) may become. But there is also grace, as seen through the love of the Prince of Farthestshore from beyond the Final Water, Lord of all the Faerie Folk.

2. What is the most important thing God has taught you through your writing?

Each book is a new learning experience for me through which God teaches me different things. Picking the most important lesson is awfully difficult! The theme of the manuscript I'm currently drafting is waiting on God's timing and following His path even when it doesn't make a great deal of sense from our mortal perspective. A very important message for any time of life, but one I am definitely feeling the importance of now, at this stage in my career and personal life!

The fact that these stories exist at all is testimony to God's leading and provision in my life. The idea for Heartless, the first in the series, came to me so suddenly after a writing dry spell of several years that I know it had to be God's gift to me. The story came, I drafted it within months, found an agent within months after that, who found it a publishing house within months after that!  None of this had I expected or even dared hope for . . . but it was so clearly God's work. He has called me to this task, and He will enable me to complete it.

3. What book/author has influenced you the most?

Oh, dear. So many. In the end, I really have to say C.S. Lewis and his Chronicles of Narnia. My husband and I are reading the series aloud together (the first time either of us has read them in a good ten years!), and I am amazed all over again by the blend of fantastical storytelling and godly truth contained within each slim volume. I know that everything I do now in my writing springs from a very early love of Lewis's work.

But stylistically, I would probably call my writing a blend of Robin McKinley and Diana Wynne Jones, with an occasional sprinkling of Sir Terry Pratchett. And if you haven't read any of these wonderful (secular) authors, do yourself a favor and find some of their work at once!

4. What's the craziest thing you've ever done for story research?

Heheheh, well, there's a story to that one! But I'll try to keep it brief. Due to the fencing scenes that cropped up in the drafting of Heartless, I decided I should probably take fencing classes just so I could write those scenes from a perspective of experience. So I signed myself up for fencing classes . . . the same class, as it would happen, that my own personal Prince Charming had signed up for!

Yes, I met my husband over dueling sabers. And it's been a fairytale romance ever since!

If you're curious about the rest of the story, you can go here ( where I wrote it out in detail.

5. How many stories are you currently writing?

I am busily drafting the next several books in the Tales of Goldstone Wood series. Book 5, Dragonwitch, is about to go through a rewrite, but I need to complete the rough draft of Book 6, Shadow Hand, first. I'm also putting together notes and ideas for more stories to follow, but can't say much about those just now . . .

6. Is your next story, Starflower, about Eanrin? (I really liked him XD)

I really like him too! In fact, Eanrin is my favorite character in the series as a whole, and a character about whom I've been writing since before Heartless was ever dreamed up. Starflower is his story, yes . . . or part of his story at least. There's more to the romantic poet-cat than can be summed up in a single novel, but Starflower will certainly give you a nice plunge into the depths of his character! I had a wonderful time writing it and am looking forward to sharing it with my readers.

7. Magic in your stories - closer to Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter?

I suppose Lord of the Rings. The Faeries are "magical" due to being "different from humans," but there is very little sorcery to be seen. In later books, there are a few bad characters (like King Vahe) who work evil magic spells. On the whole, however, I would say the magic is more a matter of "otherness" than it is of spell-casting. Eanrin, for instance, can change his shape . . . this isn't magic so much as what he is.

8. Bad unicorns and good goblins? Why?

Good question! Both the unicorns and the goblins are bad when they are no longer what they were meant to be. The unicorn, in its pure and proper state, is a thing of beauty and song, as hinted at in Moonblood. Only when removed from that proper state (or, in the unicorn's case, abandoning it) does it become the monster we see in the novel. The same is true for the goblins . . . but I can't go into a great deal of detail without giving away spoilers!

Both the unicorn and the goblins can be seen as symbols of humanity. In our perfect state, when we were what we were created to be, we were good, in harmony with God and nature. When sin entered in, however, we were corrupted and became evil. Full illustrating this required both the unicorn (a traditional symbol of good) and the goblin (a traditional symbol of evil). Using both these classic archetypes, I was better able to construct the parallel of fallen vs. redeemed humanity.

9. Did you mean to write an allegory or were you just writing a story?

I find this very difficult to answer . . . You see, I do set out with the hope and intention of writing allegory (or at least constructing a certain amount of allegorical symbolism), but I never start a book with that allegory in mind. I simply start with the story, and I hope and pray that God will reveal the rest as I go! So far there has always been a strong allegorical thread, usually pertaining to what God is teaching me in my own life at the time.

10. Was there ever a point where you found your characters annoying or flat-out unlikeable while writing them - or were you always able to remember enough about where they were headed to like them?

Oh, my protagonists are always such flawed people, it's hard not to find them annoying sometimes! Especially Lionheart . . . there were times I really wanted to strangle him (though I got to relieve some of that ire by throwing all sorts of terrible/embarrassing things his way). But I have to say, the more flawed they are, the more I tend to love them. Una's immaturity, Lionheart's cowardice, Rose Red's lack of faith . . . these are all characteristics to which I can deeply relate! So it's either judge them or love them, and I tend to love them.

11. Which is your favorite of your books/favorite part of one your books?

My favorite book is usually the one I just finished writing . . . or the one I'm just about to finish!
I really can't pick an absolute favorite, so I'll list a few favorite bits. I love the fencing scenes in Heartless and the climactic moments with the Dragon. I love the interactions between Rose Red and Lionheart/Leo as children in Veiled Rose, especially "Bloodbiter's Wrath" and the hunting of the postman's boy. I love the sonnet-war between Eanrin and Lionheart in Moonblood. Heheh, that's one of my favorite scenes ever! And in Starflower I really love . . . Oh, wait! Can't say yet, can I? (You almost got me there!)

12. Is there any lesson or idea you hope readers walk away from your books thinking about?

The ultimate theme of all my stories, and therefore the series theme (though through no intention of my own!), is undeserved grace. In every story, again and again, through various means and adventures, we see the undeserved grace of the Prince of Farthestshore bestowed upon my less-than deserving characters. My prayer is that readers will come to the end of any one of these little tales of mine and be left with that message in their hearts: It's not about what I deserve; it's about what I don't deserve and he gives me anyway.

Thank you for hosting me on your lovely blog, Katherine Sophia! I hope you (and all of you, dear readers) will enjoy the continuing adventures of Goldstone Wood!

It was great to have you, Anne Elisabeth! :) I am looking forward to seeing more of your work!  

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

To Kill A King...

I don’t know if any of you read/remember Jessica’s story Vengeance... She wrote it for a contest I was also invited to take part in, but school was killing me, and it just didn’t happen for me. :P 

However, after reading hers, and having a few rather interesting conversations, and also falling headlong into finals week, I found myself writing this. Playing devil’s advocate, exploring ethics, de-stressing between tests… whatever I was doing, this was the result. 

Love, war, right, wrong, and somehow almost most of all friendship… Sometimes I write because I have questions, and the only way to answer them is through a story, but sometimes I don't give myself enough space. This story touches on sooo many issues, there is no way I could resolve them all, even in  my head. 

But  I am curious – what are your thoughts? On this as a story? On what the characters do? Are any of them right, or all they all dealing with a horrible situation in a worse way? 

To Kill a King

Were I watching for attempts upon his life, how would I prepare?

I dropped my head down into my hands, closing my eyes as I wondered how it could have ever come to this. Zafeiri was my sister; nay, more than sister, she was my other self. Though there was no blood shared between us, our souls were one.

I would not kill her. I could not. 

And yet... she was sworn to guard our king, and I... I was sworn to take the life she would give her own to protect. 

It had been bad enough before. Her face was always before my eyes as we planned, and the mere thought of the danger she would be in had sent fear sliding through my veins to lodge within my heart.

Then I drew the short straw. For an instant I had simply stared at it, uncomprehending. Then I caught Wes's pitying eyes upon me, and realized that I had been chosen to deliver the fatal blow. Time seemed to stop, even as my heart began a race of utter terror. I was to be the one - the one to deliver our land, to save our people... to kill a man. To kill our king.

Wes sat with me in silence after the others left, and I knew, had it been possible, he would have taken my place. But he was far too well known as one of the rebels - I had been chosen from among those few whose descriptions were not already spread all across the kingdom as traitors wanted by the crown. 

Traitors. That's what they called us. Those of us who dared still love our land and our people, who dared give voice to the oppressed, and to stand for the freedoms that had been wrenched from our bleeding hands. 

We had tried everything, and now - now we had reached the end. Our last hope was the king's death. It was no light decision - but there was not a one of us whose heart had not been torn by the death of those whose blood could be found upon our king's red hands. The cries of my own baby sister were yet ringing in my ears - they always would. She had been too small for the labor camps, and, at the king's order, she had joined the rest of those innocents slaughtered so as not to consume valuable resources. Rebel children. They were hunted like rats and less mercy was dealt them.

At that my heart hardened, and I raised my head. There was no question as to the justice of his death. He was the murderer of hundreds of thousands of innocent people, including our late king his father, whose life he had taken with his own hands. 

No, that was not the question - we were far beyond that point now. The question twisting within my mind was how I was going to slip past her who had been my closest friend, when her job was to stop me? 

Something made me turn then, and I glanced over my shoulder to see Wes again, leaning against the doorway, watching me. I nodded to him to come in, and he did, seating himself beside me on the hard wooden bench and resting his elbows upon the rough table. Neither of us said anything, until at least he broke the silence, shifting in his seat to face me. 

"Are ye ready for this, Tanza?" he asked, the faint accent in his words increasing, as it always did when he was concerned.

Catching that concern, I swallowed, then gave a slight nod. "I was just thinking..." My voice trailed away. It would do no good to give voice to my fears - they were strong enough already without that. 

But he shut his eyes a moment, as if the thought hurt him. "The kingsguard - one of them is a friend, is she not?"


"It is my business to know the story of all those in the inner circle. I was the one who found you, remember."

I nodded, remembering the hand that had caught my own that black day I saw my sister's death, too far from her to help, and the whisper in my ear that there were others that felt as I did, and it would do no good to throw my life away in vain despairing fury, not when I could give it for a worthy cause. Remembering that, I smiled slightly, painfully, as I met his gaze.

"Here is the worthy cause, ey?"

He shook his head. "It is indeed... and yet... were I to choose, it wouldna ha'e been a woman sent to do this."

Bristling automatically, I frowned, knowing I should not but doing it anyway. "Are we not as able?"

"As able, surely, but at what cost do we who are men send those we should be protectin' out to save us?"

He was right of course. 

"It's all so wrong," I whispered suddenly. "All of it." The pointless death of one sister, the loyalties of the other lying perforce on the opposite side, the plans flying through my head for how to get around her, and the fact that all of the others hiding beneath the city to escape the killing camps had lost as much, or more, than I.

Wes's fingers folded around mine then, and I glanced at him, surprised, but he seemed lost in thought. So I merely looked at him a moment, knowing that had things been different in this life, he was such a one as I would have dreamed of loving. But they were not different, and if I was to be dead by this time next week, it was just as well I would leave none behind to mourn my absence. 
"We're fighting for the right."

I started from my thoughts, pulling my hands away as he met my eyes with his own. But he did not let go of my fingers, merely tightening his grip as he looked at me. 

"Don't forget that. We're fightin' now so that someday, someday the world will be right again, for all those comin' after us."

"With courage to fight when all others have fallen, daring to rise and find new horizons, knowing that if in this moment we falter, hope will be lost as the darkness descends..." His words were from his heart, and I was responding with the words of our vow, but he knew they were one and the same.

I had chosen those words to be the beating of my own heart, and now I took a deep breath, allowing the measured cadence of the rebel vow to calm my frightened pulse. Because good is called evil, and evil good, we must stand to protect the innocent blood... 

"Will she know, when she sees ye? Will she, perhaps, be willing to leave the way open?"

Swallowing the last of my fear before it could rise up again, I shook my head. "She knows all he has done... but her family have been in the kingsguard for centuries - and whether he deserves death or no, she will die to protect him. She said... she said he is the Lord's anointed, and his life must be preserved until God takes it - not by the slacking of her duty." 

I pushed away the memory of our last conversation, before my brother had spoken out from his pulpit and we had all been sent to the camps, for the king liked his ideas, and those who did not... died. Even the high prince was in the dungeons, if not dead, for his attempt to stand against his older brother. 
In a way, I understood Zafeiri’s reasoning - had we not always known each other's heart? He was our king, and who had placed him over us, if not God Himself, for our sins? Nor had doing evil that good might come ever seemed right to me.

But though I was to take a life in the next few days, it was taking life as a soldier in battle, not as a murderer for my own desires. Even the revenge I might have sought was overshadowed by the knowledge that this death was for far, far more than just myself. We were all soldiers, fighting the evil that had overtaken our land in the person of our late king's wicked son, choosing, as had Ehud, Deborah, Gideon, and Jael, to deliver God's people from their oppressor. 
Regardless of that, Zafeiri would not slacken in her duty simply because I was the one opposing her. But... would she actually kill me? That, I could not imagine, and I told Wes so. 

But he shook his head, saying with pain in his voice, "Showin' yourself to her might keep your life... but she'll be knowin' why you're there, and ye canna allow it in that case. Nay, if she knows where ye stand, then ye mustna let her see your face."

I nodded, though I knew I was sealing my own death warrant with that decision. I could do no other. She must not know it was me until I had accomplished my mission. 

"You said you knew how to get past the dogs?" he asked next, and I tried to smile, though I could not, not truly.

"She told me how once," I answered, and knew it would be easier to cry than smile. It was hard, knowing I was using our friendship against her. Yet, were our roles reversed, I would rather that she took a secret I had told her and use it to defeat me, rather than find herself torn apart by brutes such as those that guarded the king. There were four of them, great beasts that flanked the kingsguard at all times, snapping and snarling if someone dared so much as come within ten feet of the king. 

Some thought they simply could smell danger, others thought they had been trained to leave those wearing the kingsguard uniform alone. The first, of course may or may not have been true, but with the second there would have been the chance of someone of one dressing in the uniform and the dogs perhaps allowing them close. No, they were trained to attack any not wearing a certain scent, and, thanks to Zafeiri, I knew what that scent was. 

"It will be easily worked into my disguise," I added, once I was satisfied that I was not about to start crying at the moment at least.

"Then it's time to put it all together," Wes said, and I nodded, rising to my feet. 

"Are the others ready to go over the plan?" I asked, and then saw them coming down the hall. Jared, Mels, Cassia, and the rest who were going to do whatever it took to get me to the king's side. They were all depending upon me to take it from there, and as I turned to greet them I sent up a silent prayer for help, knowing even as I did so that Zafeiri prayed daily – for the king's life and safety.

May Thy will be done.


From my hidden perch upon the rooftop, I could see them coming, and as the band began to play, I caught my breath. There was our flag, the flag that had once stood for so much that was good and beautiful, and now merely served to announce the latest claims of our greedy king. But beneath it marched the kingsguard, surrounding him far too closely to allow the shot of an archer, with the big black dogs at the four corners of the phlanx. 

Once, they said, the kingsguard had been composed of eldest sons - for as long I knew, it had been made up of eldest daughters. Women were said to be better at guessing intrigue, more imaginative when it came to protecting, and more willing to die for what they loved, and nowhere on earth was there a more loyal group than the kingsguard. On they came, each woman's chain mail almost appearing to shimmer in the sunlight. They marched in perfect step, years of training having turned them also into incredibly skilled warriors. Each of them was nearly, if not at least, six feet tall, and together they were nothing if not a force to be reckoned with. A man would have no chance of hacking his way through them to assassinate the king.

It was a good thing I was not a man. 

As they neared, I recognized Zafeiri marching at the head, her eyes everywhere at once, and my heart leaped to my throat at the thought of what lay ahead of me. I had forgotten how good she was, and how well suited to the kingsguard, though I could never have pictured her as a common soldier. 

Which is what I had become, I thought ruefully, though it had been through no conscious choice of my own. And now here I was, an assassin and a thief, preparing to take from her that which she most closely guarded, her king's life. 

She was not the captain, but she was close enough. Even from my place high above the street, I could see the vigilance that seemed to surround her, and I knew that if she suspected something, the others would leap to obey her orders. Swallowing, I looked away from her, turning my gaze instead to our wretched king, trying to catch a glimpse of him between the guards. 

If I knew anything about him, he was wearing armor - though Zafeiri had told me of her failed attempt to convince him to wear full body armor. He was arrogant, our king. If I could only get close enough, he would be arrogant no longer. 

He would be dead.

Shuddering at the thought of death, even of his, I began to pray, eyes wide open, watching the crowd in the streets ahead begin to build up. Mels was working it, turning the silent hatred that always filled state holidays into actual anger. Sometimes the mob snapped, sometimes it didn't; today we wanted a distraction. 

Finally the last guard disappeared around the corner of the capitol square, and I shoved away my thoughts, scrambling down from my roof corner and adjusting my disguise once I reached the ground. It was simple, merely a child's formless dress, a bouquet of flowers for the king and a basket of them as well, and my face made up to appear even younger than it normally did. My hair was died black and there was a bonnet tied beneath my chin – Zafeiri could not recognize me unless she directly saw my face, and the others would see merely a young girl.

I was barely past five foot - I could never have been a kingsguard in my wildest dreams. Or rather, nightmares, since I would never have wanted that, even before the death of our late king. Sighing, I started in the direction my friend had gone. Her loyalty to the crown had been fiercely loyal, while I... I guess I'd always been somewhat of a rebel. Had we always been heading toward this moment? 

Then I heard the shrill whistle that signaled Cassia's successful barring of the forum's gates. A tiny thing, but it would be another change in the schedule, and the whistle was my cue. I started forward. 

A street had never seemed so long. I kept within the crowd, moving carefully along its very edge until I was near the tail end of the rear guards. Pausing a moment, I took a deep breath, checking for the hundredth time the bouquet I held to make sure everything was ready. Of course it was, and I rose up on my tiptoes, stretching as high as I could to see to the front of the kingsguard. Zafeiri was at the gate, her vigilance gone into hyper-alert at the change that had stopped them before their destination. So long as she was up there… 
I darted forward, holding my breath. The two dogs nearest me turned their heads, but the scent I had so carefully mixed into my flowers did its work well. It did not appear that I would be ripped to shreds at the very start, anyway. Their handlers saw me though, and instantly the guards pressed together, blocking my way. 

Sliding to a stop, I pouted. “I want to give them to the king!” I said, keeping my voice low and praying with all my might that Zafeiri would not come back yet, even as I kept my face turned so that if she happened to glance my way she would see but a child’s lacey bonnet. 

“Stand back and hand it over,” the nearest guard commanded, her voice like ice, and I held out the bouquet, clutching my basket tightly to my chest. 

Tears of thankfulness almost started for my eyes when the guard responded according to plan, reaching to snatch the basket of flowers from me, completely ignoring the bouquet in my hand, within which the king’s death lay hidden. 
Rough hands raked through the innocent flowers, and I stole a glance at the king. He met my eyes, obviously bored, and I knew he thought his guards were overreacting to everything. 

“Your majesty, this girl –” The guard holding my basket turned towards the king, and I saw Zafeiri approaching out of the corner of my eye. 

There was no more time. The guard’s turning had opened up the smallest of spaces, and I launched myself forward, crashing between the nearest two before they could close ranks and dropping the flowers in my hand. Now I held only a small syringe – but within that syringe was venom of a sea-snake, lethal enough to kill a thousand. 

Like the thousands he had killed.

  I could have cried, "Justice!" as I struck the fatal blow, but instead I found myself whispering, "I'm sorry..." as I drove the tip of the needle straight into his right shoulder, slamming down the plunger as soon as I knew it was in.

It was done. 

In that instant I met his shocked eyes, and wished I had not, for his expression of angry disbelief was not the last sight I wanted to see in this life.Then a dagger was ripping through my back and all else was pushed aside. Someone twisted it hard, and the pain sent me to my knees, a scream forcing itself from my lips - I could not hold it back. Another dagger struck low on my side, and I screamed again. I could not move; I could scarcely see. There was shouting all around me, the kingsguard pressing close against the king as they supported him, the crowd howling in the distance.

My child's bonnet was torn from my head, the ties catching at my throat and choking what little breath I had left in me. Rough hands were turning me over, holding me down - could not they see I was no longer a threat? But it was too much to ask to be allowed to die in peace. I had not expected to.


The agony in her voice almost over-matched my own, and through pain-blurred eyes I recognized Zafeiri’s horrified face above mine. She should have been at the king’s side… but she was at mine. With the last of my strength I reached out, catching hold of her wrist. She dropped the dagger she held as if it burned her, and I slid my hands down to clasp her fingers. 

"Zafeiri," I whispered, fighting back the blackness that threatened me. "Be the kingmaker. Please."

She shook her head, viciously wiping away tears with her free hand. "Don't you dare," she said, then slid one arm beneath my shoulders, holding me tightly. "You can't leave me like this! You can't!"

"I'm sorry," I gasped out, forcing myself to continue. "It has to be you that crowns the new king. And you that guards him. Please. Do it, for me. Find Wes..." But the words would no longer come. For a moment longer I struggled, and then the darkness was too strong for me. I let myself fall into it, Zafeiri’s despairing cry the last thing I heard before utter silence consumed me.     


How long that silence lasted I could not have guessed… but eventually it began to lift. Slowly, and with much muffled confusion, but eventually I could hear again – hear sound, not simply the roaring within my ears that had first come. Then there was light, dim at first, then brighter and brighter, until one morning I awoke to find myself in a white bed, its lace canopy rustling in the breeze from an open window. 

Outside birds were singing, and I lay there, too tired even to wonder at the change I felt in the very air itself. Somewhere a door banged, and then another. From my place on the bed I could see only the top corner of the door to the room in which I was, and suddenly it swung open. 

Cheerful footsteps approached, and I slowly turned my head. Something fell, crashing to the floor with a smash of pottery, and then I recognized Zafeiri. I could not help but smile at the look of shock upon her face, and the next instant she threw herself towards me, hugging me tightly. 

I hugged her back, my tiredness disappearing as I remembered all that had happened – and realized that I was still alive. 

“How…” I whispered, and slowly she released me, sitting down upon the edge of the bed and staring as if she still could not believe her eyes. 

“That didn’t hurt, did it?” she asked in sudden worry, and I shook my head, glad when she smiled. It had been so long since I had seen a smile...

“Does anything hurt?” she asked then, and again I shook my head, wondering at it. It seemed that I should feel pain somewhere, but I did not. 

“What happened?” I whispered, still working to gain control of my voice. 

Her smile disappeared, and I wished I had not asked… yet, I had to know.

“He is dead,” she said soberly, and my eyes went to the coverlets. I did not want to think of it – I had not planned on living long enough to have to think of it. But somehow I had.

“Why… why are you not guarding the new king?” The question slipped away from me before I could catch hold of it, and I could not breathe until she answered. But there had to be a new king, and she had to be his guard, else there was more to answer to than I was prepared for.

“It is my day off,” she said, and once again I was breathing.

“Then…” At last I dared meet her eyes again, and she nodded.

“The others were given leave… I begged to stay on, and one you know said it was what you would have wanted. He was the one to release the high prince, and in gratitude to him, the high prince chose me to be assistant captain of the kingsguard at his coronation. Also in gratitude to me, because I spoke for him in the peoples’ meetings.”

There was a strange soberness in her as she added, “I may not have been the kingmaker alone, but I am yet a kingsguard.”

Catching the hint of pain in her voice, I swallowed. “Who else was kingmaker?” 
Her eyes went to the window, and I felt my heart begin to beat faster. 

“I think… I think the one you called Wes would be closest to kingmaker. I am sorry,” she said then, looking back at me.

Tears were already in my eyes, and I shut them as I heard her next words.

“Afterwards… there was fighting in the end… and he was killed.”

She took a deep breath, continuing on as I tried to keep myself from crying.
“He destroyed the camps, though… and obtained the high prince’s vow to remake our land. The high prince – king – has returned our freedoms… and as he was in the dungeons at the order of his elder brother, the rebels have been pardoned; rewarded, even – as have the kingsguard, though we failed in our duty.”

I swallowed, for an apology did not seem exactly suitable. But as I opened my eyes, she bit her lip. 

“He would not say what he planned to do with you, not until you recovered.”

It was just like her, to say not a word of reproach for the thing I had done, and to instead have concerned herself with what was to be my fate. 

“I should not have recovered,” I said, thinking of those who had not. It was not right that I should live and he – they should die. 

A shadow crossed her face, and a part of it seemed to drift to me.

“What is it?” I asked, not understanding the dread that had seized me.

“The doctors said…” but she could not continue.

Frightened in spite of myself, I struggled to sit upright – and then full memory of that day came crashing down around me, and I could again feel the knife twisting in my back. My breath seemed to flee my body and I shuddered violently, ceasing my vain attempt to sit upright. For it was vain – completely. It was not a wonder that I felt no pain; I had no feeling at all below the place the dagger had struck.

I had been willing to give up my life for our people, but this… 

Shutting my eyes, I forced myself to breathe, repeating the rebel vow from simple habit. If this was the price I was asked to pay, then this was the price I must be willing to pay. If my deed had been right, there was nothing too dear to give up. 

“Are you all right?” 

Zafeiri’s hand had found mine and now she squeezed it tightly. That only reminded me of Wes, and I began to cry, this time lacking the strength to hold back my tears. She cried with me, and when our tears could no more run, we let the gentle breeze dry our faces.

There was much to mourn… yet somehow the dancing zephyr that dried our tears was a reminder of the season’s change and new beginnings. The silence between us was strangely comfortable; a reminder of our childhood and the hours we spent together, not even needing to speak. 

At last, however, I broke that silence, finding the apology I had felt so insufficient somehow now easier to say. 

“I am sorry,” I said softly, and she merely hugged me. No matter the extent of her loyalty, she had forgiven what was in the eyes of a kingsguard unforgivable. Still she was my more-than-friend.

The future lay hidden before us, with so much uncertain, so much unknown… but she was alive, and somehow I was as well. So much had been lost in these past years, and yet, strangely, I was not afraid of what lay ahead. No matter how the high prince decided my fate, it would be as God willed – and Zafeiri would stand beside me, as sister of my heart and mirror of my self. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Snippets in August...

I saw red, and if it was a bad color on Tam, heaven only knows what it did to my eyes. I slapped the prince, slapped him so hard he staggered, and I would bet you gold coins that he saw stars.
It is rather needless to say that I joined Tam in the dungeon.
~Tam Lyn

“Thanks,” he said shortly, then stepped backwards. As he’d expected, there was immediately a foot behind his ankle. But he was ready, and swung his own foot easily away, pivoting as he did so to shove his elbow in the stomach of the owner of the other foot. The boy staggered, doubling over as he did so, and Will continued his movement, smashing forward to bang his forehead into the other boy’s nose. That boy yelled and fell backwards, and Will straightened to face the first speaker again. 
“An’ ye don’t want a Liverpool kiss, don’t go flirting with a lad from Ireland by way of England.”
There was pure shock on the boy’s face, and Will smiled. Suddenly the shock disappeared and the boy threw himself at Will furiously, just as someone else slammed into the back of his legs – a friend lately arrived, he guessed, as he went down beneath them both. The boy with a bloody nose joined in eagerly, and Will found himself rolling to avoid getting his cap shoved down his throat. The one he’d elbowed in the stomach took a moment longer, but then there were four, and they were mad. 
“Go home, orphan boy. We don’t need your kind around here, foreigners and troublemakers!” the first boy hissed in his ear.
Will spit dirt out of his mouth. “Faith, but you’re one to talk!”
~Will Arrington

She was laughing again. “Oh, you can never have too many dreams!”
“Why is that?” he asked slowly, and her voice sounded puzzled as she answered, “Why is what?”
“I mean how I guess. How is it that you have so many dreams? Look at your life. What made you think you could dream?”
There was more pain than laughter in her voice as she asked softly, “What made you think you couldn’t?”
~Sons of Bretton Meyrick

“I saw a pretty girl crying and I made her laugh. Now you just made her cry again. Which of us has committed a crime here?”
For an instant the man stared at him, as if unable to believe what he had just heard. Whether it was the words themselves or the accent that threw them, he was never quite sure. Probably it was both. 
~unnamed Western sequel...

“Good morning, Will! Did you sleep well?” Mrs. Elliot asked cheerily. 
The question threw him for a moment– had anyone ever asked him how he had slept before? But he recovered instantly.
“Like a baby,” he said seriously.
Mrs. Elliot smiled again, and he immediately added, “Woke up every three hours and cried.”
Her smile disappeared and he grinned. “I’m kidding.”
~Will Arrington

“Sweet Betsey from Pike!” Dare exploded, and Tristan threw back his head, laughing out loud.
Even Blair had to smile, though he tried rather unsuccessfully to hide it. 
~Sons of Bretton Meyrick

He got to his feet then, his face going so serious that, had Zander not just seen the smile, he might have doubted the man could smile. 
“I’m the sheriff, obviously – Jim Boltaire’s the name. What on earth did you do, to set them off like that?” 
But Zander’s mouth had suddenly gone dry. How had he not seen it before? The man was going to kill him. 
Slowly, painfully, he got to his feet, wiping the last of the blood from his face with the cloth and then setting it deliberately on the desk before lifting his head to meet the man’s gaze. 
“I was dancing – with your daughter.”
~ more unnamed Western sequel...

“Drop!” Tristan barked the order, his index finger trembling against the trigger guard of his Glock 22 as the adrenaline rushed through his veins, his heart pounding in his ears. 
Abel Heinzmeyer’s head came up in quick shock, and the next instant he turned halfway around, the wrench he had been using on the engine still in his right hand.
“On the ground! Now!” Tristan repeated, taking a step forward, just barely raising his voice. For an instant he thought Abel was going to listen this time. 
The next he was ducking the flying wrench and shoving his gun back into his holster with a muttered exclamation, even as he took out after Abel’s long legs. This was getting old. 
~Sons of Bretton Meyrick

Will looked down at the ground a moment, then lifted his gaze with a whimsical smile playing about the corners of his mouth. “Will you take my daughter’s hand in marriage?”
~still more unnamed Western sequel... maybe I should name it... :P

More snippets may be found on my other posts this month on story relationships... :)
Love and Writing Part I

Visit Whisperings of the Pen for snippets of others' stories! :)  

Monday, August 20, 2012

Love and Writing, Part III

And the one I called my favorite… 

sibling relationships! 

via google
via google

A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.
He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him.
But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes.

Much more fun than parent relationships. ;) It can be hard to write sibling relationships as well, but I find it nigh impossible to kill siblings off. Parents may die in my stories with impunity… siblings… nuh-uh. Why that is, I'm not sure. :P

Anyway, here are a few of the siblings in my stories. :) 

Pyrros (Faith through Flames) has a brother that appeared out of nowhere, and where this relationship goes I truly do not know. :P

     Just then a broad shouldered, dark haired young man came around the corner, and Pyrrhos turned towards him, glowering, as he let go of his mother’s hands. Now he knew where her rare grey mood had come from. She reached out, laying her hand upon his arm as he turned.
     “Lay off the scowl, fionn. You’ll get permanently stuck that way,” the newcomer laughed easily.
    His mother’s hand tightened briefly on his arm, and Pyrrhos swallowed, obeying the gentle command. Hard though it was, his voice was civil enough when he spoke. 
    “What are you doing here, Bryon?”
    “What, is it so out of the ordinary for me to come visit my family?”
    “Considering that you haven’t been here since Father left nine months ago, yes.”

Will Arrington… (Will Arrington, Some Trust in Chariots) doesn't have any siblings. But unlike my other characters who have no siblings, he did not keep gracefully silent. No… he insisted I show what it would have been like if he COULD have had siblings, by posting this snippet for him. He does want me to add that he wouldn't normally kiss the little ones, except that he was teasing the older one, who definitely was NOT like a sibling to him… *rolls eyes* *sigh* He is a case - but I promise you, he does get better eventually. It's just that he starts out a pretty rascal. :P)

     Will glanced backwards, ensuring that the man was gone, then pulled Jenny around off his shoulders, throwing her up into the air. She screamed, laughing as he caught her and whirled her around. 
     “That’s my girl…” Will set her down with a kiss, quickly turning to Mary. “And you’re a bit big for a ride, but I can twirl you if you want.”
     She nodded, her eyes wide, though they grew yet wider as he spun her around and around, holding onto her wrists tightly as she too shrieked with mock fear. At last he stopped, staggering slightly as he brought her back down to the ground. She was too dizzy to stand, and he laughed breathlessly as he regained his own balance, suddenly tossing her up into the air as he had Jenny. 
    Putting her down, he caught Le-Le’s eyes and, looking at her, bent and kissed Mary’s forehead as well. 
    “And now…” He stepped towards Le-Le, and she ducked away from him, elbowing him in the stomach as she did so. He barely felt it, but he bent double, gasping with pain. 
     Instantly she whirled back. “Will! I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean to actually hit you!” 
     He straightened with a grin and she whacked him on the head with his jacket, dropping it on the ground and turning towards their street. 

Kefira (The Jeweled Dagger) is probably the worst sibling I've written… but oh, does she pay for it… :(

     “Who’s ready to jump in?” Kefira asked, forcing cheerfulness into her voice.       
     Four doubtful faces turned toward her, though Abi started toddling towards the sound of the cool water. Kefira caught her arm quickly, glancing between the others. 
     Now that they were actually there, no one wanted to be first, and Kefira’s shoulders slumped in annoyance. “Come on. Mother put me in charge of you. She hasn’t been out here since morning – she doesn’t know how hot it has become. Let’s swim. It’s going to be fine.”
     “But I heard her say–”
     “Jonathan! It’s not like you’re going to drown.” There was sarcasm dripping from her words, and, stung, Jonathan took a running start to leap off the bank into the river. 

Though, okay, Jamie, Derek, Blair, and Tristan (Sons of Bretton Meyrick) have major issues too. But oh, they are fun to write… XD 

     “You’re late,” he said, and Jaime jerked his arm away. 
     “And you’re not paying attention.” Tristan put his left hand on his hip, the other hanging easily, warningly, at his side. “I could have been anybody just now – you didn’t even see me coming.”
     “Newsflash: I’m not dead yet.” Jaime’s eyes went again to Tristan’s right side, though he knew his brother’s brown leather jacket concealed all it was meant to conceal. “Please don’t tell me you’re packing in the library. That’s illegal.” 
     “Tell me something I don’t know. Now shut up and get over there.” Tristan pointed to the couch, and Jaime stalked that direction, throwing himself into the nearest upholstered chair. 
     The thing creaked when he landed on it, and he crossed his arms across his chest, glaring in Tristan’s general direction as Tristan walked past the chairs to lean against the nearest bookshelf, facing the door. 
     “Okay, Blair, now that we’re all here, want to tell us what this is about?”
Tristan’s voice was low, but Blair glanced up instantly, his eyes going straight to Jaime, and then back to Tristan, reading the tension in the air like a book. 
     “Oh, give the kid a break. He’s only sixteen.”
    “Yeah, well, if I was late when I was sixteen, he wouldn’t have gotten supper, so don’t give me that.”

Josie and Caleb Adair (Some Trust in Chariots) - These two started my Western Series in an 11-page short story that was utterly ridiculous. They've moved on though, becoming best friends and even Irish Twins - Josie was born early, and they are very close to 9 months apart. Random parts of their relationship are definitely based off my relationship with my siblings, and I have had a lot of fun with them. :) And I'm giving them two snippets... unfortunately both where Caleb is being a tease. *shrug* And of course Will has to make an appearance... ;)

     Caleb rolled his eyes at Tom. “Glad I haven’t met a girl I’d fight a duel over yet.” 
     Tom frowned at him, still not quite over his shock at Western impropriety. “Surely you’d fight for your sister?”
     “Her?” Caleb looked at Josie. “Nah. Anybody who can manage to tangle up four men’s lives, dragging them two states away from home for a month, doesn’t need me to fight for her.”
     The others laughed, and Will gave him a sarcastic smile. “And you weren’t flying after her like a crazy loon before anybody else even knew what was going on.”
    “’Night, Caleb.”
    He glanced up from the leather chair where he was sprawled, glancing through a book that had been set beside it. “’Night, Josie. Hope Jamie-girl doesn’t cry tonight.”
     “Thanks. You could get up and help out if she does, you know.”
     “Girl’s work.”

Jaden and his "blood-sister," Bernadette (And it was Love) - another relationship that came out of absolutely nowhere. Bernadette (I might change her name, so soon as I find another girl name that means 'bear' XD) is one of my favorite characters in this story, even though she only appears shortly. I'm thinking I might give her a tiny short story of her own, just so I know what happens to her. :D

     “That means I can speak too, right?” 
     River glanced over, seeing a blanket now pushed aside from one of the walls, revealing a room beyond. A young woman was standing in the doorway, a baby on her hip, and the smile on her face every bit as saucy as her voice. 
     “’Lo, Bernadett.” There was sudden laughter in Jayde’s voice, and River looked at him, surprised to see the gladness on his face.
     “Hullo, Jayde,” she said, coming towards them with a laugh. The baby she held laughed with her, his round face alight with glee. She swung him around as she reached them, and then placed in the older man’s arms. 
     “Take the baby,” she laughed, then caught Jayde’s hand, swinging him around with her. “It’s so good to see you again!” she cried, and he nodded, twisting his hand suddenly and setting her spinning her around before him. 

Tyrielle's (River's) relationship with her brother Tarian (And it was Love), was definitely based off me and my older brother, right down to the number of years between us. I had plenty of material from my baby days, when I worshiped my big brother as the most amazing person ever, to draw upon, so this was absolutely enjoyable to write. And I have to say that Tarian Storm, Prince of Ilmatara, is hands down one of my favorite characters I have ever written. 

     The familiar click of the latch sent a sudden hope racing through her, but she did not turn. It might be a servant; it might be anyone. It did not have to be-
     She spun around with a squeal of joy, launching herself across the room and into his arms. “You’re back!” 
     Her brother staggered backwards, laughing. “Happy to see me, eh?” 
     He spun her around in a circle and set her on the table. “What’s up?”
     She shrugged, looking down at her hands, and then back up at him. “I’ve just missed you.”
    “Well, I guess so. But I wasn’t gone that long…”
     “Two months! And DarĂ» was gone, too, with Temira.”
     “Ah… but things couldn’t have been that bad?”
     “No, they weren’t bad – but Mother is so busy… and with both of you gone…”
     “I know. It’s lonely, isn’t it? I wish I could take you with me.”
    “Oh, don’t be silly! Who ever heard of an Ilmataran princess going off with her brother?”
     He lifted one shoulder and dropped it, smiling. “There’s always a first time.”

:) I do have other sibling sets, but these I think are the biggest... I have noticed that siblings can be almost as difficult to include as parents. :P Unless the story is about the siblings (as And it was Love was originally meant to be and as Sons of Bretton Meyrick definitely is), I find they tend to spend most of the story apart. (As do Josie and Caleb - though I like them together best - Kefira and all her siblings, and I'm pretty sure Pyrrhos and his brother as well.) 

Despite that, I have a hard time writing only children. Generally my characters have at least one sibling or half-sibling (poor Will... actually Tam is an only child as well. Weird.), though the sibling may have died before the story takes place. (I seem to be able to kill them off that way fairly easily. :P)

What is the greatest number of siblings you've ever written? How great a role do your sibling relationships play in your stories? How much do your own siblings influence your stories? :) 


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